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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-45, and then again from 1951-55. Churchill was born to aristocratic parents: Lord Randolph Churchill, a descendant of the First Duke of Marlborough, and Jennie Jerome, an American heiress. Due in part to poor performance at prep school, Churchill eschewed the traditional upper-class schools of Oxford and Cambridge, instead opting for Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
After his graduation, he worked as a member of the House of Commons, fighting for progressive social reforms under a Liberal banner. In 1911, Churchill was appointed as the First Lord of the Admiralty (equivalent to Secretary of the Navy,) a position he occupied throughout the First World War. After several unsuccessful military campaigns, Churchill vacated his post at the end of the war.
Between the wars, Churchill worked various government jobs, eventually returning to politics as a Conservative. He consistently warned his colleagues about the dangers of the growing German nationalism of the 1930's, though his forewarnings were not heeded at the time. In May 1940, after Neville Chamberlain vacated his post as Prime Minister following Germany's invasion of Poland, Churchill ascended to the position he would hold for the duration of World War 2.
On June 4th, 1940, Churchill gave his "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, signaling to the British public their nation's intent to battle Germany to the very last. Two weeks later, Charles de Gaulle would give his famous "Appel du 18 Juin" in London, after which Churchill would recognize him as "Chief of the Free French." Despite this initial vote of confidence, Churchill's relationship with de Gaulle was, rather typically, strained. He is said to have held great respect for de Gaulle, yet also great frustration with his fervent patriotism and difficult demeanor. De Gaulle, speaking of Churchill in 1941, epitomized this mutual disdain when he said "When I am right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time."
Post war, Churchill was swiftly removed from office by a war-weary populace. He spent much of the rest of his political career battling against communism in the East, even coining the term "Iron Curtain" to refer to the Soviet sphere of influence in eastern Europe. He served a second term as Prime Minister from 1951-55, trying unsuccessfully to negotiate amiable relations between the East and West. He died in 1965, only a year removed from serving in Parliament.
Letters Sent by Winston Churchill:
Churchill to De Gaulle, 12/07/41
History.com Staff. Winston S. Churchill, History Channel, 2009, www.history.com/topics/british-history/winston-churchill, 17 October 2016.
"Winston Churchill." Wikipedia, last modified 17 October 2016, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill, accessed 17 October 2016.
Image Source: United Nations Information Office, New York - Library of Congress, Reproduction number LC-USW33-019093-C. Public Domain
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