Lord Randolph Churchill left behind him a great heritage to the British people. This was?
Lord Randolph Churchill left behind him a great heritage to the British people. This was his elder son. In Winston Churchill the family tradition of service to King and country may be said to have reached the ideal.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on 30th November 1874. Like John Churchill he spent some of his early childhood in Dublin, where his grandfather, the Duke of Marlborough, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and his father was acquiring his intimate knowledge of Irish affairs.
At the age of seven he was sent to a preparatory school at Ascot and afterwards to a school at Brighton. Bright and intelligent, fond of English literature, history and tales of adventure, he learned much poetry by heart and loved it. His military tastes were already revealed by a mighty collection of lead soldiers, with which he planned campaigns by diligent stamp collecting, and he correspond with Rider Haggard, the author of King Solomon's Mines. His aunt, Lady Leslie, described him in 1888 as "really a very interesting being," though, she added, he was "temporarily uppish from the restraining parental hand being away in Russia."
In 1887 came Harrow School, the school of Byron and Sheridan, and of four Prime Ministers: Spencer Percival, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, Lord Baldwin. He early decided to adopt the profession of arms, and his last years at Harrow found him in the Army Class, and the winner of the Public Schools Fencing Championship.
Sir Winston has always cherished a deep affection for his old school, and even in the strenuous days of Premiership returned every year on Speech Day to join with the boys in singing the old school songs.
In 1895 Winston Churchill was gazetted as a subaltern to the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. He became proficient at polo and played the game for many years. But the life of peace-time soldiering was insufficient to satisfy his boundless energy. Active service was his goal, and in November 1895 he managed by extended leave of absence to volunteer for service with the Spanish Army in Cuba. Twenty years later he received from King Alfonso XIII the medal for the Cuban War. Not a very exciting campaign, yet it gave the young soldier his baptism of fire.
Back in England in 1896.... and off to India with his regiment the same year. Out there he played polo, but in his off-duty hours mostly occupied himself in serious studies -- history, economics and philosophy. In history he followed his father's example by reading Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," and followed up with Macaulay. Thus we laid the foundation of his unsurpassed mastery of the English tongue, so much part of his speeches and writings in the years to come.
Home on leave in 1897.... and news of fighting on the North-West Frontier. But his regiment was not to be there. Once again the lure of action was too much, and once again Churchill obtained special leave - this time to go as a war correspondence for the Daily Telegraph and the Allahabad Pioneer. He was posted to the 31st Poniab Infantry and mentioned in Bispatches.
In 1898 he described the campaign in his first book, "The Story of the Malakand Field Force," based on his letters to the Daily Telegraph. Churchill was nothing if not frank in his opinions; and his criticisms gave offence to certain senior officers and Sir Herbert Kitchener, Sirdar of Egypt, even though once asked by Lord Salisbury three times refused to include Mr Churchill in the expeditionary force which he was leading to attack the Khalifa in the Sudan. If Kitchener had remembered his English history, he would have known it was hopeless to attempt to prevent a descendent of Joh Churchill from fighting for his country. Churchill got his way - he was attached to the 21st Lancers for the campaign and arranged to send letters about the war to the Morning Post.
In 1899 Winston Churchill left India and his regiment to begin his political career. But in the autumn the Boer War broke out, and Churchill felt he had to be in South Africa. He went out as war correspondent for the Morning Post and travelled in the same ship as Sir Redvers Buller and his staff. Adventures are to the adventurous, and Churchill was not long in garnering his share of them. He was aboard an armoured train when it was set upon by Boers and overturned.. Churchill joined officers and men in a spirited resistance, but the position was hopeless and he yielded himself prisoner to Louis Botna and was taken to Pretoria. He escaped and ended up arriving at Delagoa Bay in a freight train concealed among bales of wool. The Boer authorities offered a reward of GBP25 for him, alive or dead.
He was in action at Spion Kop, and at the relief of Ladysmith. By now the war was coming to an end, and Churchill began to scale the slippery heights of politics. At the "Khaki Election" of 1900 Winston Churchill was triumphantly returned for Oldham. Joseph Chamberlain came to Lancashire to speak for him, and Churchill himself was invited to support Balfour and Chamberlain in their constituencies. He thus entered Parliament at the age of 25 under the highest political auspices.
A lecture tour in the United States gained for him to sum of GBP10,000 which enabled him to enter the political arena without financial anxiety. He had to protest, however, when a prophetic but over-emberant manager introduced him as "the future Prime Minister of Great Britain."
Queen Victoria died 22nd January, 1901. It was the end of an epoch and the birth of a new -- the coming of the new wealth, the breaking of social barriers, the cult of sport and pleasure, the glorification of Empire and the revolt against conventionality in manners and behaviour -- characteristically termed Edwardian. Winston Churchill made his maiden speech on South Africa Affairs in the first Parliament of King Edward VII. He showed much of his father's independence. He was a friend of Lord Rosebery and never hesitated to criticise his party leaders in debate, when he considered it necessary.
In 1903 Joseph Chamberlain came out as an advance of protection and Imperial preference and resigned from the Government to take country. Churchill, a convinced Free Trader, saw that Mr Balfour's reconstituted Cabinet were secretly in favour of Tariff Reform, and in 1904 crossed the floor of the House to join the Liberal Opposition.
In 1903 Campbell-Bannerman, a dying man, resigned, and Mr Asquith became Prime Minister. It will be long before so brilliant a Ministry will be seen again. It was a ministry of all talents, including great statesmen and brains commanding intellect. Asquith was an intellectual giant, Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Grey, Foreign Secretary, Mckenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Haldane, Secretary of State for War...... there was added to this galaxy a new and rising star in the person of Winston Churchill, who took office as President of the Board of Trade. On his own merits and through recognition of his genius, Churchill had attained to Cabinet rank at the early age of thirty-three. He had already won renown as soldier, writer and statesman, and was well-known to his fellow-countrymen. When political difficulties arose in 1911 there was a song going the rounds of the music halls in which the refrain "If they'll only give us Mister Winston Churchill" was greeted with boisterous applause. The wise British public had realized that their future leader had appeared, and few in those days could have imagined that the time of waiting would be so long.
After being rejected at N.W. Manchester, Churchill was elected for Dundee. In Sept. 1908, he married Miss Clementine Hozier, daughter of Colonel Sir H.M. Hozier, K.C.B., at St. Margarets, Westminster. Lord Hugh Cecil was his best man. There have been four children of the marriage, one son and three daughters.
Churchill was zealous at the Board of Trade. His tenure of office was marked by the Trade Boards Bill, the setting up of labour exchanges and the initiation of unemployment insurance. When in office, Mr Churchill, like his father, never considered himself restricted to the duties of the department over which he presided. He had inherited his father's interest in social reform and was outspoken in defence of the people's rights and of the need for improving the conditions of the poor. Those were the days of the growing pains of the National Conscience, and the conservatives suffered for their neglect of the principles of Tory democracy with which Disraeli and Lord Randolph Churchill had endeavoured to imbue them. Uneasy because they had been at fault, the Conservatives attacked Churchill bitterly for deserting his party. All this has long been forgotten, and is only recalled to show that Winston Churchill had to combat much ignorant and prejudiced opposition from his contemporaries.
In 1910 Churchill was at the German manoeuvres, and after the general election of that year, at which the Liberals gained a great victory, he became Home Secretary. Much concrete work was done in prison reform, the Shops Acts and safety in mines in Churchill's term of office.....but in the popular mind it was chiefly memorable for his direction of the siege of Sidney Street. Some foreign anarchists had barricaded themselves in an East End house and were resisting arrest and firing on the police. The Scots Guards operations. The news sent an electric thrill through London, and everyone who could hurried to the East to watch the fray. Eventually the besieged house went up in flames and all the criminals perished. Churchill was criticised for his personal intervention, but there seems to be no doubt that his presence on the scene stopped the London Fire Brigade from heroically, but suicidally, going into action to save the burning house and so prevented much loss of life.
King Edward VII died in 1910, and King George V reigned in his stead. It was not very long before war clouds began to loom over Europe. The German Emperor was sabre rattling and sent the Panther to Agadir. Lloyd George voiced a stern warning, and war for a time was averted. Churchill was very conscious of the German menace and became a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence. He penned an able memorandum to Asquith on "Military Aspects of the Continental Problem," in which his forecast of operations was almost identical with those that took place in 1914.
A strong man was needed at the Admiralty, and in October 1911 Mr Churchill became First Lord. He brought new blood and new life into the department, and in those crowded and strenuous years of preparation substantial advances were made for the protection of the realm. He had already realised the great power that the airplane was to play in future war. He initiated the Royal Naval Air Force; and in days when flying was hazardous he flew over Southampton Water. Every ship and weapon of naval defence engaged his anxious and personal attention. Every moment of leisure was spent with the Fleet.
Germany's hostile attitude continued, and our relations with France grew closer. It was agreed that France would assemble the bulk of her fleet in the Mediterranean and we would concentrate ours in the North Sea. Things went from bad to worse, and on 24th June, 1914, the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated at Serajevo ..... the first world war had begun.
Churchill took every possible step for the protection of the British Isles. He kept the Fleet in readiness. After Germany's declaration of war in Russia, on his own responsibility he mobilized the Fleet, promoted Admiral Jellicoe to the supreme naval command and made Beatty leader of the Battle-Cruiser Squadron. His energy and swift decisions made the sure shield of the British Navy doubly certain. He was responsible for the rapid and safe transport of the British Expeditionary Force to the Continent.
The war dragged on and in 1915 Mr Churchill brought forward a plan for, forcing the Dardanelles. The Turks would then be defeated as a European power. The road would be open to supply Russia with much needed supplies. Although a failure, the Dardanelles campaign was an epic of heroism. The year 1915 brought many troubles and crises at home. Churchill was removed from the Admiralty and became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was a bitter low and an unmerited set-back in a brilliant career. With a high sense of public duty Churchill remained in the Ministry for a few months. Then, when he found himself shut out from inner War Councils and the direction of the war, he decided to serve his country as a combatant. He resigned, and took a King's Commission as Major Churchill of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry and went to France. After Training with the Guards Division, Churchill commanded the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers and was stationed in Flanders. His friends, however, never ceased to remind him that his services were more needed as a statement than in a subordinate position in the Army. During 1916 he was more often in his place in the House of Commons and spoke on Naval estimates, on the need for an Air Ministry, and on military questions.
Altogether 1916 was an unfavourable year for the British cause. In December Mr Asquith resigned after nine years of unbroken office, ceased to be Prime Minister, and Mr Lloyd George formed the second Coalition Government. At first there was no place in it for Mr Churchill, but as the months went by the absence of his energetic driving force was felt, and he was recalled from France to become Minister of Munitions 1917 went by - a time of national peril. In March 1918 Russia signed the humiliating treaty of Brest-Litvak and was now out of the war. This created a crucial problem for Britain. West German forces which had been stationed on the eastern front were now available to stiffen the forces on the western front. The British Government wished to remain on the defenci??? until the Allies were reinforced by the arrival of the American armies. Churchill protested vigorously against this policy at a time when Germany was massing her augmented forces for a great offensive in the west, but in vain. As so often has been the case, Churchill's warnings were justified. On March 21st, the Germans began a full-scale offensive. The Fifth Army was driven behind the Somme, casualties were enormous, and Petain contemplated deserting the British and retreating southwards towards Paris.
It was the gravest hour of the war. Churchill was of the greatest help to the British Government. He visited France, conferred with Clemanceau, Foch and Haig, and paved the way for the conference at Beauvais which Lloyd George attended. As a result of decisions taken there, by 26th March, the British forces had rallied and the of invading Germans were flung back. The British stood, as Haig said in his famous General Orders of the Day, with their backs to the wall, and once more the invaders were brought to a stand. The end was not far off. By the end of September large areas of northern France had been liberated and the Germans thrown back to the Hindenburg Line, their armies broken, demoralised and incapable of opposing the Allied advance. The Armistice was granted on 11th November. The Kaiser fled to Holland, and Germany set up a republic. The forces of freedom had successfully withstood, Germany's first attempt to over-lord the world....and Winston Churchill had played no inconsiderable part in the achievement of success.
After the war was over an immediate General Election followed, which resulted in the return of a large number of Conservatives. Lloyd George reconstituted his Coalition Government. Mr Winston Churchill - though he at first preferred the Admiralty - at the Prime Minister's request, took the War Office in January 1919. The post included the duties of Minister for Air. For the next six months Mr Lloyd George was busily engaged with representatives of the Allies in drafting the Peace Treaty, which was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles on 30th June, 1919.
To Mr Winston Churchill was left the onerous task of clearing up the aftermath of war. It should be remembered that many of the problems with which he had to deal, and for which he was adversely criticised, he inherited without having had any say in their inception. Demobilisation and the maintenance of an Army of Occupation in Germany were his first concern.
In the summer of 1919 Churchill visited the Army of Occupation in the Rhineland. While at the War Office he suggested the amalgamation of the Fighting Services Departments - Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry - under one Minister of Defence.......but he had to wait until he became Prime Minister to achieve his aim.
In 1921 Winston Churchill became Colonial Secretary, and found a great number of urgent and pressing awaiting him there. He had to plan the unification of the Middle East. And true to his principle of selecting the best man in defiance of official convention, he prevailed on Colonel Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia", who knew and loved the Arabs, to help him as a temporary Civil Servant.
In spring 1921 Churchill attended a conference in Cairo and indulged his artistic gifts in painting the Pyramids. During his absence Bonar Law resigned. It was generally anticipated that Churchill would succeed him as Chancellor of the Exchequer, but instead Sir Robert Horne was appointed.
Southern Ireland was once more causing grave concern.. there was a state of active rebellion there. The Government were faced with the alternatives of either undertaking a large military expedition to conquer Southern Ireland or of negotiating with the rebels for a settlement. King George V, in opening the parliament of Northern Ireland, pleaded earnestly for agreement, and his appeal had great effect. In this he was ably seconded by Winston Churchill, as Colonial Secretary. The Irish Free State was established with Dominion Status in December 1921. Success was largely achieved through Churchill's personal efforts.
Winston Churchill's part in the events between the two World Wars has been subjected to considerable criticism, and at times feeling in all political parties has run high about it. In 1922 the Coalition Government ended. Lloyd George resigned and a Conservative Government took office under Mr Bonar Law as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill failed to win Dundee. He remained out of Parliament for two years, and found time to add to history with two volumes of "The World Crisis." The year 1922 saw the rise of dictatorship in Italy. Mussolini's Fascists marched on Rome and their leader became head of Government.
In 1923 Churchill contested West Leicester as a Coalition Liberal but was defeated by a Socialist. In 1924 Mr Ramsey Macdonald formed the first Labour Government with Liberal support. Mr Churchill's political position was now somewhat isolated for he could not agree with the Liberals in their support of the new Government. However, he had not long to wait to return to office. In autumn 1924, the Labour Government fell, and the consequent General Election brought back the Conservatives with Baldwin as Prime Minister. Churchill, who had been elected for Epping, became Chancellor of the Exchequer.
As a result of the war of 1914-18 and of rising prices and declining production, there was unemployment in Great Britain. The whole capitalist system was subjected to serious questioning. Industrial, unrest was rife. There were strikes in rapid succession, including the mines.....the miners strike of 1926 was followed by a general strike which lasted for nine days and then collapsed. During the general strike, when daily papers were suspended, Churchill was made responsible for the British Gazette, in which the public were informed of the Government's attitude and policy.
Churchill in his term of office produced five budgets. In the autumn 1929 came the great slump with its world-wide repercussions. It began in the United States. The international trade of the world diminished. In Germany the unemployment figures rose to six millions and in Great Britain from one million to three children. World currencies were in a chaotic conditions and in 1931 the financial crisis came to a head in Britain. The Labour Government resigned and a National Government was formed by MacDonald with the cooperation of Baldwin and the Conservatives.
The distress and unemployment in Germany helped Hitler to attain supreme power as Dictator. He overcome industrial unemployment by pressing on with armaments and preparations for the Second World War. In spite of several international conferences, universal disarmament proved impossible to attain.
For ten years, from 1929 to 1939, Winston Churchill was out of office, but he was no spent force. He lectured at Oxford, went on lecture tours to the United States. This period of enforced freedom from official cares he devoted to enhancing his reputation as biographer and historian. In the House of Commons his career as a statesman underwent a temporary eclipse, chiefly on account of his opposition to the Indian legislation introduced by the Labour Government and adopted by the National Government.
Many considered that he was out of touch with the trend of modern democracy. By February 1931 he had resigned from Mr Baldwin's Shadow Cabinet, and now spoke as an independent member in the House. Churchill's criticisms of the Government were resented and his warnings of the German menace to Britain were disbelieved. Future historians may well regard these years during which Churchill stood alone and dared in his teeth of much unpopularity to warn his country to prepare for war, when all around him were prophesying smooth things, as one of the most heroic periods of his career.
It is only possible here to outline very sketchily the successive events which occurred in this country's relations with Germany, from the fall of the Weimar Republic and Hitler's rise to power in 1933, up to the British declaration of war on Germany on 3rd. September, 1939, when Poland was wantonly invaded by the German armed forces. The policy of successive British Governments between the Wars was only to give the impression to Germany that Britain was a declining Power. Yet it may be found that those who to Germany that Britain was a declining Power. Yet it may be found that those who directed this country's affairs after Hitler's rise were not oblivious to the German menace and that certain steps were taken to meet it. That they were inadequate steps it is certain, but it was feared that if more over steps were taken war might be precipitated at a time when the country was ill-prepared, and when there still seemed to be chance of preserving the peace of the world.
But Churchill had no illusions, and true to his independent principles repeatedly warned the Government and the nation of the growing threat. In performing this stern role Winston Churchill trod an unpopular path. It was idle, he said, to cry peace when there was no peace and when the German nation was once more clamouring for "Der Tag." He was assailed with unmerited abuse, was decried once more as a warmonger, with many other taunts. Gradually, however, he made headway, because his facts were incontrovertible, and the successive aggressive acts of the Dictators confirmed his forebodings. The nations began to realise that he spoke from convictions.
In 1935 Mr Baldwin had replaced Mr MacDonald as Prime Minister. In 1936 Mussolini was allowed to conquer Abyssinia. King George 7 died after a memorable 25 years of wise kingship, and Edward VIII succeeded his father. Then followed the sad story of the abdication and the accession of King George VI. Mr Baldwin resigned, and Mr Neville Chamberlain became Prince Minister in May 1937. Still no place was found for Mr Churchill in the Cabinet, although every month the war clouds grew darker. Appeasement was the prevailing policy. Churchill, while wanting peace, know that the Dictators were bent on war and could have no part in a policy of appeasement.
The Spanish Civil War was a spark in the powder magazine of Europe and served as a testing ground for Germany, Italy and Russia, to experiment with new weapons of war under the guise of volunteers. The Non-intervention Committee formed by the British Government did succeed in limiting the conflagration, and here Mr Eden was untiring in his effort. The Brussels Conference, which was concerned with the Far East problem, and the aggressive designs of Japan on China was a failure and represented the complete and final collapse of arbitration under the auspices of the League of Nations.
With the coming of the eventful year of 1938 the tempo quickened. Chamberlain decided to negotiate with Mussolini, and Mr Eden, the Foreign Secretary, resigned. In March Austria was overrun by German troops, and annexed as a province of Germany. Britain's and France's unpreparedness for war prevented any definite stand being taken on this renewed evidence of aggression, and Mr Chamberlain pleaded in vain for a Four Power Pact to Preserve the peace of Europe.
On 5th May Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, in which he criticized the policy of the Government in handing over the ports of Eire to Mr de Valera's Government, thus depriving the British Navy of the use of these ports as bases in the event of war. Next came anti-Czech propaganda by Hitler, and his "protective mantle" was thrown over the Sudeten Germans, Mr Chamberlain, discarding all considerations of personal prestige, negotiated personally with Hitler at Berchtesgaden and Godesberg. Those conferences were most unsatisfactory....and Europe stood on the verge of war in September 1938.
The Munich pact was not one which redounded to Britain's credit....but it gave the country a much-need year's respite to prepare for the struggle which now seemed inevitable. Mr Churchill continued his attacks on the Government's policy of appeasement. He said in the House of Commons that we had sustained at Munich "a total and unmitigated defeat, and France has suffered even more than we have."
And so events moved on.......by the end of August Hitler was in Poland, refusing with characteristic truculence to listen to appeals from Great Britain for a conference between the five powers, Great Britain, France, Poland, Germany and Italy, on the dispute about Danzig and the Polish Corridor. On Sunday, 3rd September, a two hours ultimatum was sent to Germany and expired. Britain and France were again at war with Germany, a War Cabinet was formed....and to the great satisfaction of the nation, Mr Winston Churchill was included in it as First Lord of the Admiralty, the office he had held at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.
In the early months of the war there was a pause, while the armies of France and the British Expeditionary Force under Lord Gort faced the German forces on the French frontier. Unity of command had been immediately achieved by the appointment of General Gamelin as Generalissimo. Italy remained neutral and the threatened "blitzkrieg" did not come. But if the armies stood relatively inactive, the British Navy, under the competent and experience direction of Winston Churchill, bore the brunt of these early month of war. Once more the U-boats appeared and attempted to cut Britain's life-lines, and to destroy the Merchant Navy.
Despite pre-occupations with Naval administration, Churchill made time to encourage the nation in this anxious time of waiting with a famous series of broadcasts, which in their prescience, eloquence, breadth of view and statesmanship revealed the born leader. It was not long before Mr Chamberlain resigned, and with the unanimous support of all parties Mr Churchill became Prime Minister of a Coalition Government. At long last, after many years of waiting, the nation had called Winston Churchill to supreme leadership in its hour of peril. On the very day that Churchill took office Hitler invaded Luxembourg, Holland and Belgium. In his first speech as Prime Minister in the House of Commons, he said those memorable words: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat......."
Thus Churchill's statesmanship and intimate knowledge of warfare in all its branches were available to the nation during this testing time. By 17th May, 1940, Holland had been overwhelmed; the Germans had outflanked the Maginot Line: Brussels, Louvain, and Malines were in German hands. Mr Churchill flew to Paris to consult with the French Premier, M. Reynaud. He was again in Paris in 22nd May in conference with Reynaud and General Weygand, who, had succeeded Gamelin. On May 28th King Leopold surrendered the Belgian Army, and the left flank of the British Army was suddenly exposed, and the only thing left was a rearguard action in company with part of the French forces towards the coast.
By the end of May the epic evacuation from Dunkirk had begun. These were anxious and strenuous days for Winston Churchill
Throughout June the tragedy of France was completed. By 14th June the Germans had penetrated extensively into France, Mussolini had declared war on Britain and France, and a distraught and divided French Government had moved to Bordeaux. Through all this Churchill went about everywhere among the troops, sailors and airmen.....on the beaches, aboard ship, and at airfields.
It was obvious that after the fall of France (Marshal Petain no 22nd June signed an armistice with Hitler at Compoigne, in the same railway coach in which Foch had received the German delegates in November 1918) all the forces of the enemy would turn on Great Britain, the sole remaining bar to Hitler's conquest of Europe. On 4th June, immediately after Dunkirk, Churchill issued a clarion call to the British people to defend their island home against invasion, which included these words: "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidendo and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." ......with these invigorating words ringing in their ears the British people prepared to meet the German onslaught.
Through Churchill's swift action the greater part of the French Fleet was kept out of German hands. An agreement was signed with General de Gaulle, leader of the Free French; the Home Guard was increased in strength; the civil war air defence services were augmented: the Navy patrolled the seas and protected the convoys; and the Royal Air Force awaited the expected onslaught from the skies, at the same time raiding military objectives in Germany and the occupied territories.
July and August saw the first stages of the Battle of Britain, in which the R.A.F. successfully defended this country against the bombing raids of Goering's Luftraff???, the designed prelude to German occupation, for which invasion barges were assembled in French, Dutch and Belgian ports. The battle developed....the British fighter defence was so good and so many raiders were destroyed by the R.A.F. that the Germans switched to intensive night attacks and the indiscriminate bombing of London and other large cities in the hope of shattering civilian morale.
At the height of the blitzkrieg Winston Churchill had this to say.....SOF.
Mr Churchill summed up the Battle of Britain in a few famous words: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." It was, he said, "Britain's finest hour." In the chequered story of 1941 there was much light and shade. The air raids on Britain continued, and the civilian population endured them with wonderful spirit and courage. Throughout the "blitz" Mr Churchill made frequent tours of badly hit areas to meet the people and give encouragement to those who, in many instances, had lost loved ones, their homes and possessions.
The grave responsibilities of Winston Churchill as leader of the British Nation in the critical year of 1941, cannot be exaggerated. It was a colossal burden. The Battle of Britain had saved the country from imminent invasion, but with the ports of France and the Low Countries dominated by the Germans the peril of a renewed attempt was ever present. Affairs in Greece and the Balkans in this year had called for hazardous and important decisions. The Mediterranean was a sea of troubles, relieved by Naval victories. In Asia and Africa there had been victories and setbacks, Japan, the third member of the Axis, was another growing threat to our far-flung Empire. By the beginning of June, 1941, Britain, led by Winston Churchill, still stood alone as the sole obstacle to German world domination, that tyranny of blood and tears. With her limited but growing resources Britain had acquitted herself honourably in the struggle, but her peril was still extreme. By what seemed a stroke of Providence she was to find in that very month of June a powerful and unexpected ally.
The unexpected tidings came on the morning of Sunday, 22nd June, when the British people heard that Hitler had violated another treaty and invaded Russia from East Prussia, Poland and Rumania. Churchill had always appreciated Russia's difficulties and problems. The German invasion was no surprise to him, for he had warned Stalin of what was coming. At this critical moment it was well for the cause of freedom that a great statesman led Britain. There was no fumbling or delay. On that same Sunday, Churchill, in a broadcast speech, announced that His Majesty's Government would give whatever help they could to Russian and the Russian people. The news was heartening indeed. Great Britain became allied with a European Empire processing a powerful army. On 12th July Britain and Russia signed in Moscow an agreement to give each other all possible support in the war and not to make a separate peace. In August Britain and the United States were arranging to send munitions of war and other supplies to Russia. Thus another milestone in the course of the war was set in place.
Not the least of Mr Churchill's many great qualifications for leadership of his country in this war was that of being half American by birth. He knew the people; he understood them and realized their point of view; and he had travelled in the United States. Already he had some acquaintance with Mr Roosevelt and had written an appreciative study of his in "Great Contemporaries." It was an introduction which was to lead to an understanding and intimate friendship in the fateful years of 1940-41, when Britain stood alone. Came Land-Lease, making the United States the main "arsenal of democracy." Churchill ranked it with the three other climaxes of the war -- the Fall of France, the victory in the Battle of Britain, and the German invasion of Russia. His broadcast to the American people in favour of the Lease-Land Bill included these words: "Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and blessing and, under Providence, all will be well.........."
The signs of British-American collaboration increased steadily. America was approaching nearer and nearer to active participation in the war, and the time had come when the two great leaders of the democracies of the world must meet face to face and take counsel together. The undertaking was hazardous, fir the U-boats were active in the Atlantic, and the enemy would make every effort to sink the ship carrying Churchill to the United States. Secrecy was therefore the watchword, though the simultaneous departure of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain for unknown destinations could not long be concealed. Mr Churchill, ever courageous, had no hesitation in setting out on another adventure and sailed in H.E.S. Prince of Wales.
On 10th August the leaders met in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, Mr Roosevelt having come there in the U.S. battleship, Augusta. They had much to discuss, and they ranged the world in their deliberations. The great outward and visible sign of the conference was the promulgation of the Atlantic Charter.
Mr Churchill returned in safety to British, having accomplished a great step forward. The subsequent pressure of events demanded a further conference; and, in December, Mr Churchill went to Washington, where he addressed Congress and was Mr Roosevelt's guest for Christmas. His address to Congress was in the best fighting Churchillian manner.............SOF.
By then the war clouds in the Far East had broken in sudden and treacherous tempest. On 7th December, when negotiations were proceeding between the United States and Japanese envoys for a peaceful settlement of differences, the Japanese, without any declaration of war, attacked Pearl Harbour and bombed the United States Fleet which lay at anchor.....Next day the United States was at war with the Axis Powers.
These were still anxious times. But Winston Churchill retained all his confidence and resilience. His was a familiar figure - very often in the attire so popular during the war, the siren suit. When on his travels, which at this time are frequently by air, he loved to fly the aircraft - he spent some time forward in the pilot's seat (smoking the inevitable cigar) when he returned from his visit to Washington.
The year 1942 was another strenuous year for Mr Churchill. The Russians had done well in their winter counter-offensive, but faced the threat of further German advances in the ensuing spring and summer. In the Far East disaster followed diaster. Mr Churchill was in the United States conferring once more with President Roosevelt, in June, when Tobruk fell. He arranged at once with the President for supplies of heavier artillery and of Sherman tanks to be sent to Egypt. Then he hurried back to Britain, to face a barrage in the House of Commons and a motion of "No confidence" in the central direction of the war. He delivered a powerful speech and the motion was heavily defeated. There was no rest this summer for the Prime Minister. By early August he was in Cairo organizing the Egyptian front and infusing by his presence and energy fresh spirit into the gallant 8th Army. He took drastic decisions. General Sir H.R.L. Alexander succeeded General Auchinleck as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and Lieut-General B.L. Montgomery took over command of the 8th Army.
Churchill then went straight to Moscow, to meet Stalin. On his return journey he stopped off in Cairo for further conferences, the results of which were reflected in the ensuing battles. The years sit lightly on Mr Churchill's broad shoulders, and neither distances nor danger nor outworn traditions of diplomacy kept him from crossing seas and continents for the war effort. Therefore, when, in August, a lesser man might have prolonged his, stay in sunny Cairo, engrossed with responsibilities for the perilous situation on the Egyptian frontier, having arranged the future plan of campaign, the Liberator bomber carried him on to Moscow to visit Marshal Stalin in the Kremlin. It was a critical time for Russia. Great issues hung in the balance. His presence, the arrangements he made for further help from Britain and America in munitions of war and supplier, and the closer coordination of Allied strategy were most welcome to Stalin at this time. The leaders of Russia and of Great Britain spoke frankly together and liked each other. "The old war horse," as Stalin termed Churchill, was a man after his own heart in stoical endurance and vigorous prosecution of the war. The visit promoted at once a better understanding between Russia and Britain.
The year 1943 opened with favourable auspices for the grand strategy of the Allies. Their strength was increasing in every theatre of war. Winston Churchill saw this encouraging prospect and realized that to promote it there was much further work for him to do. There was need for closer and more detailed planning between Britain and her Allies. The series of conferences at Casablanca were the result, when Churchill and Roosevelt met together.
The tide of battle was turning in the Desert. The victorious 8th Army had reached Tripoli; and in May Churchill was again in Washington for further combined staff discussions with President Roosevelt. And for the second time he address both Houses of Congress. By now the British and American forces were in Tunisia. Mr Churchill visited that theatre of war on his return and reviewed elements of the 1st Army. As the year went on the great strategic plan deliberated upon and approved by Roosevelt and Churchill at Casablanca unfolded itself in wonderful results. The main attention of the Allies was to be devoted to assailing the Axis in Africa and Europe. In the Far East the Allies were to stand chiefly on the defensive, for the time being. In the European theatre of war the Russian armies were to keep the main German forces occupied while the British and Americans, after throwing the Germans and Italians out of Tunisia, were to occupy Sicily and invade Italy.
The 8th Army swept through Tripolitania, stormed the Mareth Line and linked up with the last Army. On 7th May Tunis and Bizerta were taken. This was the end...the Desert Victory. The remaining German and Italian forces in North Africa surrendered.
Italy was subjugated, and on the Russian front the Red Armies conducted a victorious offensive against the ruthless invaders of their country. The German 6th Army, encircled at Stalingrad, surrendered on 31st January.....and soon a vast succession of Russian cities were freed.
Mr Churchill, President Roosevelt and their Chiefs of Staff had surveyed the practicability of an Allied landing on the coast of France for many months. There had to be months of organization and planning, preparation of ships, equipment, food, and munitions. The Germans expected the invasion. Hitler despatched his crack troops and fanatical Nazi divisions who would fight to the death to defend the fortifications of the Atlantic Wall, which was said to be invulnerable, Marshal Von Runstedt and Marshal Von Rommel were in command. The British and Americans were to be thrown back into the sea if they attempted to invade.
At length D-Day, the memorable 6th June, dawned. General Eisenhower had entrusted the command of the invading armies to General Sir Bernard Montgomery. The German had concentrated their forces at the Channel ports and were taken by surprise. The Allied landings were made, not at the strongly defended ports, but on the open beaches between La Havre and Cherbourg. A might armada of 4,000 ships conveyed the force to the French shores, under a powerful air umbrella.
On 12th June Mr Winston Churchill visited the new front to see the result of his victorious planning, and was received with enthusiasm by the troops and the liberated French inhabitants. By the early part of September five-sixths of France had been liberated and the greater part of Belgium. By the middle of the month the Allies and invaded Holland and penetrated into Germany. The military strength of Germany lay shattered, but the Germans were urged to maintain a hopeless resistance.
The Germans hoped that the British public's flesh could be made to creep by threats of deadly instruments of war which had been prepared in ascending scales of frightfulness.......the flying bombs and rockets. In July Mr Churchill spoke in the House of Commons about this new threat to British civilians. He assured the public that all possible measures of defence were being taken, but did not minimize the threat. Londoners responded bravely to this appeal, but considerable feeling was aroused at this fresh revelation of German inhumanity.
Apart from a temporary setback on the Western Front, 1944 had been a wonderful year. The turn of events had been sweeping and dramatic. At the beginning of the year Germany held sway throughout Europe, While Japan held conquests in the Far East and controlled the Pacific Ocean. At the end of the year Germany's night was shattered in France and Italy, and the tyrranous Raich had been thrown back on the defensive on its own frontiers. The dreaded war on two fronts was in active progress, for the Allied armies stood at the eastern and western gates of Germany. Japan had been defeated in a series of battles on land and sea, and her islandconquests in the Pacific were being wrested from her.
If 1944 marked the "End of the Beginning," the early weeks of 1945 marked the "Beginning of the End." In the first days of January Mr Churchill visited France, where he met General Eisenhower, Marshal Montgomery and General de Gaulle. This was a preliminary to fresh travels in his country's service.
Once more the march of events made it necessary for the three Allied leaders to meet in conference. The place selected was Yalta, in the Crimes, for Marshal Stalin, as Generalissimo of the Russian Armies, as well as Head of the Government, was not inclined to leave Russia at this momentous stage of the war. Mr Churchill and President Roosevelt joined forces at Malta on 31st January and journeyed together to Yalta and met Stalin in conference from 4th to 11th February.
On 19th February Churchill was back in England, having journeyed back via Greece and Egypt, and having accomplished much to assure the success of the war. In this short space of time events had moved rapidly in the West. By the end of February German resistance in the Reichenswald had been overcome and the whole front was moving towards the Rhine.
In the first week of March Mr Churchill visited the Western Front. He inspected units of the 1st Canadian Army and the U.S. Army and visited parts of the Siegfried Line. He talked with Generals Mark Clark and Patton.
On the night of 23rd March the Rhine was crossed with the aid of a large-scale landing of airborne troops. Churchill, of course, was again present in Germany at this decisive moment. He crossed the Rhine to visit Allied troops in the bridgeheads won on the eastern banks, and cruised up and down the river in an amphibious Buffalo tank within range of the enemy artillery. Churchill spoke on this occasion........SOF.........
With dramatic swiftness the end of April saw the closing stages of the war in Europe; and all German forces in N.W. Germany, Holland, and Denmark surrendered unconditionally to Field-Marshal Montgomery at Luneburg on 4th May. Germany's final submission was made at Rheims on 7th May. But the German debacle was universal; no Government existed in the Reich; whole armies hastened to surrender; the surviving guilty leaders of the Nazi Party either gave themselves up to stand trial at Nuremburg or, like Himmler, and Hitler, committed suicide.
The people of Great Britain had endured six years of Churchill's promised "blood, toil, tears and sweat;" now the victory he had promised them had come. The 8th May, 1945, V.E. (Victory in Europe) Day, was probably the proudest day of Winston Churchill's life, for his King, Parliament and the British people all acclaimed him as the great national leader, who had lead them out of the valley of disaster to the heights of victory.
Immense crowds had gathered in Whitehall, and Churchill received a great ovation as, after broadcasting to the people, he went to the House of Commons. He was the guest