Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (November 30, 1874 — January 24, 1965). Knight of the Garter, Order of Merit, Companion of Honor, Territorial Decoration, Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Fellow of the Royal Society, Nobel Laureate, first Honorary Citizen in United States history, and almost the Duke of London. British Prime Minister from 1940-45 and again from 1951-55. Best known for helping win World War II; he even won a Nobel Prize for writing about it in a six-volume doorstopper.
A Prime Minister very much beloved in Britain, he is famous for his constant wit (e.g. Bessie Braddock MP: "You, sir, are drunk!" Churchill: "And you are ugly. Tomorrow morning, madam, I shall be sober."), his cigar-smoking (his scowl in the famous portrait, shown above, is because the photographer took his cigar away) and the Victory salute ("the bird" inverted, although he didn't invert it).
Many of Churchill's quotes are legendary (with his insults even more legendary; Cracked.com once described him as "handing out third-degree burns like some sort of reverse fireman"), including (as well as our page quote):
- I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma, but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.
- I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
- If the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'
- From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent.
- In time of war, when truth is so precious, it must be attended by a bodyguard of lies.
- One can always trust the United States to do the right thing, once every possible alternative has been exhausted.
- Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few.
- A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
- An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
- If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.
- History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
- And so many more. You can get a lot of chapter titles from his quotes.
However, he also had a dark side frequently overlooked in British popular history. He held racist white-supremacist views (including the concept of an Aryan master race) and supported eugenics (at one time suggesting 100,000 Britons should be sterilized), and was involved in a number of atrocities in nations ruled or invaded by the British Empire, including the Bengal famine of 1943 (where millions of Bengalis died), concentration camps in Kenya (with up to a million Kenyans detained), and massacres in Sudan and Afghanistan. In former British colonies, particularly those of the Indian subcontinent, Churchill is remembered in a negative light, in contrast to his positive reputation in Britain.
- The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898)
- The River War (1899)
- Man Overboard (1899)
- Savrola (1899)
- London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900)
- Ian Hamilton's March (1900)
- Mr. Brodricks Army (1903)
- Lord Randolph Churchill (1906)
- For Free Trade (1906)
- My African Journey (1908)
- Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909)
- The Peoples Rights (1910)
- The World Crisis (19231931)
- If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg (1930)
- My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930)
- India (1931)
- Thoughts and Adventures (Amid These Storms) (1932)
- Marlborough: His Life and Times (19331938)
- Great Contemporaries (1937)
- Arms and the Covenant or While England Slept: A Survey of World Affairs, 19321938 (1938)
- Step by Step 19361939 (1939)
- Addresses Delivered in the Year 1940 (1940)
- Broadcast Addresses (1941)
- Into Battle (Blood Sweat and Tears) (1941)
- The Unrelenting Struggle (1942)
- The End of the Beginning (1943)
- Onwards to Victory (1944)
- The Dawn of Liberation (1945)
- Victory (1946)
- Secret Sessions Speeches (1946)
- War Speeches 19401945 (1946)
- The Second World War (19481954)
- The Sinews of Peace (1948)
- Painting as a Pastime (1948)
- Europe Unite (1950)
- In the Balance (1951)
- The War Speeches 19391945 (1952)
- Stemming the Tide (1953)
- A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (19561958)
- The Unwritten Alliance (1961)
These included the abortive eugenics initiative proposed above. Churchill managed to become First Lord of the Admiralty and masterminded the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915, resigning upon its failure. He lost his seat in 1922, but returned in 1924 and rejoined the Conservatives. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) for the next five years, where he made a disastrous decision to reintroduce the gold standard. Churchill described this as the biggest mistake of his career; it contributed to high unemployment and mass strikes. He was isolated within the party in the 1930s, but made a political comeback after his opposition to the appeasement of Germany was vindicated.
Churchill took over as Prime Minister after Neville Chamberlain resigned in 1940 after the Nazis invaded Norway, and invited the Labour Party to join his government. From the 21st of June 1940 to the 22nd of June 1941, the UK was the only country apart from Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India, and a host of Asian and African protectorates and puppet states fighting against Germany. Many members of his own cabinet suggested not-so-discreetly that Churchill should just sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler, let the Nazis have their way with mainland Europe, and focus on building up the UK's defences enough to make invading the island an unappealing prospect.note Churchill was unswayed, however, and with the support of Labour leader Clement Attlee and Liberal leader Archibald Sinclair, was able to persuade his party that they should continue the war. Churchill drafted, practiced, and performed some of his most famous speeches around this time with the aide of just two speechwriters and a handful of typists. These are rightly considered brilliant works of oration, and are credited with maintaining the entire Commonwealth's fighting spirit. The situation improved after Operation Barbarossa and Germany's declaration of war upon the The United States that December. Churchill became a close friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt, though his fondness for Roosevelt was undoubtedly much greater than Roosevelt's for Churchill, and he managed to work effectively with Josef Stalin despite his hatred for communism.
In 1942 Churchill finally acknowledged the long-term impossibility of holding India, after two years of attempting to undo promises to the effect that India would soon be given full political independence as a 'Dominion' (like Canada, Australia, etc). After the rejection of diplomacy with the Indian National Congress, British attempts to suppress the consequent rebellions and terrorist acts had been relatively successful and had been achieved at a minimal cost in British lives (thanks to the relative reliability of Indian police and troops). However, in the long-term India could not be held against the will of its millions-strong middle- and upper-classes. To his credit, Churchill was eventually persuaded that he had to acknowledge this reality - even though the maintenance and expansion of The British Empire was very dear to him.
By mid-1943, Churchill had correctly (in a pragmatic and self-interested sense) decided that acting to save Europe's Roma and Jews from destruction by the Axis powers was against Britain's national self-interest. Military historians maintain that this was the correct Realpolitik decision for Britain, though they do not argue about the moral price of non-intervention. Churchill astutely kept the paper-trail on this and all other similarly controversial matters to an absolute minimum by discussing them verbally in meetings with trusted associates. In early 1944 British efforts to prevent the destruction of the European Jews from becoming common knowledge among the British people began failing, whereupon Churchill astutely created a paper trail which implied that his attempts to save the Jews had been stymied by a callous RAF. In his memoirs he claimed that he had not known of The Holocaust until mid-1944, and claimed that the RAF had opposed his efforts to save the Jews because they said that they were physically incapable of disabling the Auschwitz-II/Birkenau facility.
Famously, his party were routed by the Labour Party on the 5th of July 1945 general election, just two months after victory in Europe. He appears to have campaigned on the basis of his own personal popularity, and was not seen to have adequately acknowledged the popular mood favouring state programmes to care for the crippled, wounded, ill, impoverished, under-educated, and elderly. While many voters considered him a fine wartime leader, they seem to have been sceptical about his ability to govern the country in peacetime (which mirrors the view historians have of him). More generally, the Conservative Party wasn't helped by voters still remembering Stanley Baldwin's dismissive attitude towards those affected by The Great Depression, along with what at the time were seen as Neville Chamberlain's failed appeasement policies. Churchill later recovered and won a second term in 1951note , serving until his retirement from frontline politics in 1955. (During this time, Elizabeth II became Queen.)
His second term as Prime Minister is generally regarded a lot less favourably than his first. Internationally it was marked by appeasement of German nationalists and militarists, through cooperation with the Americans to further water down the already febrile 'justice' meted out against Axis War Criminals. In 1953, Churchill ordered (in his capacity as Acting Foreign Minister) the illegal release of Albert Kesselring and Erich von Manstein - who had neither been acquitted of their War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity nor served their sentences. In Australia Churchill's second term is best known for Britain's successful development of nuclear fission bombs in 1952, as the testing in Western Australia induced cancer in an entire generation of Australian farmers (care for the survivors cost 400k AUD in the 2016 federal budget). Under his leadership the British government also conducted its first studies into the likely effects of a nuclear attack upon their country, began their Cold-War policy of making no provision for the survival of the British population in the event of a nuclear exchange, and worked to prevent the dissemination of information about the effects of nuclear weapons. This was done because the non-provision of shelters and information was deemed necessary in order to save money and prevent mass-panic, demoralisation, and nuclear-disarmament sentiment.
Churchill died in 1965, three months after retiring from Parliament, and his state funeral became one of the most watched and attended funerals in history. He is buried in a churchyard in Bladon, Oxfordshire. Up until the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005, his funeral was attended by the most heads of states.
Helping beat the Nazis, having a gift for words, and writing your own history will get a lot of people to forget your less popular policies — and some were very unpopular. Gallipoli and the gold standard are mentioned above. Although, to be fair, the failure of the Gallipoli/Dardanalles campaign was hardly his fault alone; he was just the delicious scapegoat for it. He made a number of blunders as First Lord of the Admiralty in the opening of World War One, largely due to his inexperience with issuing naval orders and his tendency to resort to unnecessarily colorful language, which confused their recipients. He was again isolated in the 1930s due to his opposition to Indian autonomy and the abdication of Edward VIII.
Furthermore, in 1943, while PM, he was at least partly responsible for the famine in Bengal, which eventually killed 4 million people. Though the direct causes of the famine could be said to lie with local British authorities in India rather than with him personally, his policies exacerbated the famine (such as draining too much resources from Bengal, and diverting emergency supplies away from Bengal), increasing the death toll by millions. He did not seem bothered by it, but responded by saying he hates Indians and expressed disappointment that Mahatma Gandhi had not died, having previously expressed disdain for Gandhi, suggesting he should be brutally executed for being a "seditious fakir". Critics of Churchill have argued that the Bengal famine was a "genocide" or "holocaust", and compared him to Hitler. Churchill was also responsible for atrocities in Kenya, where up to a million people were detained in concentration camps, many of whom were killed or tortured (including the grandfather of future US president, Barack Obama), as well as massacres he was involved in as a soldier in his younger years, during British invasions in Sudan and Afghanistan.
He was also notably racist, like many people at the time. He held white-supremacist views, including the idea of an Aryan master race (an idea he shared with his enemy, Adolf Hitler). He was also known for supporting eugenics, at one time even suggesting that 100,000 "degenerate Britons" should be forcibly sterilized or put in labour camps. He was also especially known for supporting the British Empire. Both have to be taken in the context of the time, however, with eugenics being wildly popular until Nazism showed the dark side of it, and that most Brits of the time were pro-Empire.
He also loudly denounced the Amritsar Massacre in India, a bolder move than expected since many British imperialists defended it.
He also never won the popular vote in a British general election: in the 1951 election, Labour actually polled a quarter of a million votes more than him, but the Conservatives won by 26 seats and Churchill took the victory.
He'd been in the army before going into politics and was also a war correspondent. He served in both The River War and the The Second Boer War, playing minor but conspicuous roles in each. In the former, he charged with the 21st Lancers at Omdurman; in the latter, he escaped from a Boer POW camp and traveled 300 miles to neutral Portuguese East Africa. He even served briefly in World War I after his resignation from the Cabinet. As well as his Nobel Prize-winning book on the Second World War (not the most reliable source, but an invaluable memoir), he wrote a history of the English-speaking peoples and a largely forgotten political thriller called Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania.
He once had a meeting with Franklin D. Roosevelt while he was taking a bath, had little awareness of social mannerisms and sometimes wandered around his house naked. He more or less had a drink with him at all times, thus the "You, sir, are drunk!" quote. He also suffered from depression, which he called his "black dog". He was also obsessed with what he called "the soft underbelly of Europe" in the Mediterranean, leading to results that varied from disastrous in World War One (Gallipoli/Dardanalles) to merely wasteful (the Italian campaign) in World War II. One little known aspect of this "soft underbelly" is the fact that after supporting ELAS (the Greek Partisans of the resistance against the Nazi Occupation of Greece, comprised of several communists), he immediately turned on them after liberation and tasked Lt. Ronald Scobie to arm and support Greek fascists and their collaborators to hunt down the partisans citing fears of a Communist takeover in the Mediterranean. He later justified it as part of a pre-emptive move during the Cold War but the Greeks saw it as an unjustified act of betrayal from people who had willingly allied with them against the Nazis.
Churchill was notably a child of a binational marriage; his mother Jeanette Jerome was an American socialite from Brooklyn. A study of her biography, and that of her father Leonard Jerome, makes it very clear which side of the family Sir Winston got his resiliency from.
In 1963, he became the first person to be granted an honorary citizenship of the United States, and one of only two given this honor while they were alive (the other being Mother Teresa). Including Churchill, there are only seven honorary American citizens. He is also one of the very few non-American citizens to have a U.S. naval vessel named in his honor. (Appropriately, the USS Winston S. Churchill has a Royal Navy guest officer assigned to her company and flies the White Ensign below the Stars and Stripes.)
- He plays a major role as UK leader in the early part of Über, before he is decapitated in Sieglinde's terror raid on London. His portrayal, in keeping with the Deconstructor Fleet nature of the work, is surprisingly even-handed compared to his idealised depiction in many UK and US WWII works, with such characteristics as drunkenly making tactical decisions, talking disparagingly about the British lower classes and battling depression to match his clear heroic leadership. In Invasion #14, Stephanie even alludes to the controversy over whether his wartime policies caused the 1943 Bengal famine.
- Gets a Historical Villain Upgrade as England's boss/dictator in All He Ever Wanted, in an alternate history in which the UK joined the Axis Powers.
- Makes a short appearance in Inglourious Basterds, during the planning of the Bastards' final attack.
- In The King's Speech, about the abdication of Edward VIII and the ascension of George VI to the throne, Churchill was played by Timothy Spall. He appears to encourage Albert to take on the role of king, and also shares how he too once had a speech impediment. Spall also played Churchill in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games.
- The Eagle Has Landed was a fictionalized account of a real Nazi plot to kidnap Churchill on his native soil.
- Churchill: The Hollywood Years is a satire of Hollywood History were Winston Churchill is actually an American commando attempting to stop Hitler from marring into The British Royal Family. The Churchill the world knows was just an actor called Ray Bubbles.
- The Young Winston, a 1972 biopic of his younger days directed by Richard Attenborough.
- Played by Gary Oldman in Joe Wright's biopic of Churchill, Darkest Hour.
- A throwaway line in Kingsman: The Golden Circle implies that Churchill was one of Kingsman's founders.
- In The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman, set during World War One, Churchill makes a brief appearance as a member of the War Cabinet.
- The young war correspondent Churchill guest-stars in the Time Wars novel The Khyber Connection, and is attacked by time-travelling assassins.
- In the Time Travel / Alternate History novel The Proteus Operation, people from a different United States go back in time to the 1930s to save the world from the Nazi Empire which defeated Britain. They need to find someone in politics to work with to save the UK. When the name Winston Churchill comes up they are about to dismiss him as all washed up and his career over. Then they think more about it and realize that he is untarnished with the defeatism and appeasement of so many others.
- Frequently mentioned but rarely seen in the Timeline-191 Alternate History series by Harry Turtledove. When Britain allies with the Confederacy and loses the First World War, he becomes Prime Minister in a coalition with Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts on a platform of revanchism. He is forced to resign when London, Brighton and Norwich are destroyed by German atomic bombs and the British counterattack is defeated. Every time he is mentioned, characters reflect on his gift of the gab (EVERY TIME).
- Yet another Time Travel novel, Lightning by Dean Koontz, ends with a time-traveling ex-Nazi returning to just after World War II and persuading Churchill to finish off the Soviets as well, creating a much nicer world.
- Ken Follett's Doorstopper novel Fall of Giants features Churchill during World War One.
- The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series imply that he was a son of the Big Three; Hades, Poseidon or Zeus. Its Wiki reveals that he is the son of Poseidon.
- Jack L. Sawyer, one of the twin protagonists of Christopher Priest's The Separation, is assigned to Churchill as an aide-de-camp. He gradually comes to believe that this is a stand-in and not the real Winnie. (Doubles and imposture are a continuing theme in the novel.)
- When the cast of Are You Being Served? camps out on the floor one night, Mr Grainger does an impression of Churchill giving one of his famous speeches.
- Appeared in "Victory of the Daleks", the third episode of the 2010 series of Doctor Who. He and the Doctor are apparently old friends, and he keeps trying to swipe the TARDIS key from the Doctor. He also turns up in the season finale "The Wedding of River Song" in an corrupted version of the universe where every time is happening at once, where he intrinsically trusts the Doctor due to feeling echoes of their friendship in the proper timeline. Interestingly, in the latter, he is not prime minister; he is Holy Roman Emperor.
- On Parks and Recreation, after Leslie had to pull down her pants on TV to prove her innocence in sex scandal, she says this in a Confession Cam:
"It's gotten a lot harder to work in government. You think Winston Churchill ever had to pull his pants down and show his butt? No. But would he have? Yes. Now could he have? Well, maybe not towards the end of his life. But he would have. Because he loved his job."
- In Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle one sketch focused around the fact that Churchill was in fact a pig. A trained pig whose mouth was controlled by remote control and the V-peace-sign was purely because with a cloven hooves there weren't many other type of gestations available. This sketch was curated by a "historian" called Alan Moore.
- A young Churchill comes to Toronto in Murdoch Mysteries to give a lecture on his time in the Sudan during the Mahdist War and becomes the chief suspect in his best friend's murder. It's not him, but a fanatical follower of the Mahdi who saw the friend take part in the descration of the Mahdi's tomb.
- He appears in his Secretary of State days in Peaky Blinders, where it's revealed that he's overseeing Campbell's investigation of the BSA robbery personally, as they both believe it's tied to the IRA. Campbell's terrified of him. Later, at the end of Series 2, it turns out that the Unionist paramilitaries Campbell had sent to "take care" of Tommy Shelby were actually Churchill's men, and were under orders to let Tommy go free. They weren't nice about it, though.
- There is a duology of TV biopics made by The BBC and HBO, released in 2002 and 2009: The Gathering Storm (named for the first chapter of his book), and Into the Storm (2009) (named for one of his war-time speeches), the former talking about his "wilderness years" in political exile in the years before the Second War as the threat loomed on the horizon, and the later about his greatest moments in the war and through it. Churchill is portrayed by Albert Finney in the first film and Brendan Gleeson in the second.
- He's portrayed by Michael Gambon in the 2016 TV film Churchill's Secret. The titular secret is a serious stroke Churchill suffered during his second term as Prime Minister.
- In the first season of the 2016 TV series The Crown, which depicts the early reign of Elizabeth II (which coincided with Churchill's second term as Prime Minister), Churchill is played by John Lithgow. It's an unusually critical portrayal, showing him as a doddering old man who's hopelessly out of touch with the changing world of the 1950s, though he does get a spotlight episode that's more sympathetic. There are also a couple of flashbacks to his Glory Days during the Second World War.
- He was voted the #1 "Greatest Briton" on 100 Greatest Britons.
- "There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag, he used to be a British flag. Plastic bag, What a drag".
- The Rousing Speech at the top of the page was sampled and placed in the beginning section of Supertramp's 1977 anti-war epic, "Fool's Overture".
- A playable leader in Civilization IV (added in the Warlords expansion). His traits are Charismatic/Protective—which boost "happiness" (a rough stand-in for home-front morale during wartime) and defense respectively. This makes him pretty good for turtling.
- Assassin's Creed II gives him a Historical Villain Upgrade, in which he was a member of The Knights Templar and actually helped masterminded World War II along with FDR and Hitler. However, he appears in the special side missions of Assassin's Creed: Syndicate as an ally of the assassin Lydia Frye.
- Churchill is an unlockable character in Medal of Honor's multiplayer mode using the code FINESTHOUR.
- Appears in Time Squad, in which the main characters must go back in time and stop him from being a nudist.
- Appears during the Family Guy episode "Road to Germany". Turns out his wit is a little bit overblown by history.
Stewie: And look, there's Winston Churchill! Maybe we'll get an up-close look at his legendary wit.British Woman: Oh, Winston. Drunk again, I see.Winston: Yeah, well, you're a fat bitch.Stewie: Hm. I guess history's just whittled it down to the gems.
- In an episode of Animaniacs that shows the Warner siblings past exploits, he appears in a scene where the three protagonists show up at his meeting with FDR and Stalin, ltting them playfully jump on his stomach. (And cinching the meeting.)