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Notable Britons in History

Winston Churchill 1874 - 1965


"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. 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 confidence 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, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, statesman, soldier, and author.

After completion of his education at Harrow and Sandhurst, Churchill became an officer in the 4th Hussars. He served in India and in 1898 fought at Omdurman in the Sudan under  Kitchener. Having resigned his commission, Churchill was sent to cover the South African War by the Morning Post, and his accounts of his capture and imprisonment by the Boers and his escape raised him to the forefront of English journalists.

Winston Churchill was elected to Parliament as a Conservative in 1900, but he subsequently switched to the Liberal party and was appointed undersecretary for the colonies in the cabinet of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Under Asquith, he was initially president of the Board of Trade, then home secretary, and championed innovative labour exchange and old age pension acts.

In 1908 Churchill married Clementine Hozier, granddaughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie. They had five children, four of whom survived into adulthood. The marriage was to prove a long and happy one, though there were quarrels.


As first lord of the admiralty, Churchill presided over the naval expansion that preceded World War I. Discredited by the failure of the Dardanelles expedition, which he had championed, Churchill lost his admiralty post and served on the front lines in France. Returning to office under Lloyd George, he served as minister of munitions and secretary of state for war and for air. As colonial secretary, he helped negotiate the treaty that set up the Irish Free State. After two defeats at the polls he returned to the House of Commons, as a Constitutionalist, and became chancellor of the exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government. As an advocate of laissez-faire economics, he was strongly criticized by John Maynard Keynes. However Churchill was not a financial innovator; he basically followed conventional advice from his colleagues. Nevertheless Churchill's decision to return the country to the prewar gold standard increased unemployment and was a cause of the general strike of 1926. He advocated aggressive action to end the strike, and thus earned the lasting distrust of the labour movement.

Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill wrote and remained in the public eye with his support for Edward VIII in the abdication crisis of 1936 and with his vehement opposition to the Indian nationalist movement. He also issued unheeded warnings of the threat from Nazi Germany. When World War II broke out, Neville Chamberlain appointed him first lord of the admiralty. The following May, when Chamberlain was forced to resign, Churchill became prime minister. He was one of the truly great orators; his energy and his stubborn refusal to make peace until Adolf Hitler was crushed were crucial in rallying and maintaining British resistance to Germany during the grim years from 1940 to 1942. He met President Franklin Roosevelt at sea before the entry of the United States into the war, twice addressed the U.S. Congress, twice went to Moscow, visited battle fronts, and attended a long series of international conferences.

The British nation supported the vigorous program of his coalition cabinet until after the surrender of Germany. Then in July, 1945, Britain's desire for rapid social reform led to a Labour electoral victory, and Churchill became leader of the opposition. In 1946, on a visit to the United States, he made a controversial speech at Fulton, Mo., in which he warned of the expansive tendencies of the USSR (he had distrusted the Soviet government since its inception, when he had been a leading advocate of Western intervention to overthrow it) and coined the expression "Iron Curtain."

As prime minister again from 1951 until his resignation in 1955, he ended nationalization of the steel and auto industries but maintained most other socialist measures instituted by the Labour government. In 1953 he was knighted, and awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for his writing and oratory. He retained a seat in Parliament until 1964.  Churchill was undoubtedly one of the greatest public figures of the 20th century. Extraordinary vitality, imagination, and boldness characterized his whole career. Critics maintain that he had his weaknesses, such as his opposition (except in the case of Ireland) to the expansion of colonial self-government. But his strengths, evidenced by his brilliant war leadership, sprang from the same source - his overwhelming will to maintain Britain as a great power and a great democracy.


My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.

In those days he was wiser than he is now -- he used frequently to take my advice.

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.

There is only one duty, only one safe course, and that is to try to be right.

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

When I am abroad, I always make it a rule to never criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.

They are decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.

I have never accepted what many people have kindly said-namely that I inspired the nation. Their will was resolute and remorseless, and as it proved, unconquerable. It fell to me to express it.

True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.

The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong.

Personally, I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.

The empires of the futures are the empires of the mind.

The maxim of the British people is "Business as usual.".

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Never, never, never, never give up.

I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks.

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read a book of quotations.

Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.

If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use the pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time; a tremendous whack.

If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find we have lost the future.

Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.

I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant.


From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.


Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin