Born: 30 November 1874 at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
First entered Parliament: 3 October 1900
Age he became PM: 65 years, 163 days; 76 years, 331 days
Maiden Speech: 18 February 1901 in the debate on the King’s Speech on the Boer War
Total time as PM: Eight years, 240 days
Died: 24 January 1965 28 Hyde Park Gate, London
“Finest Hour” speech
Listen to this excerpt from Churchill’s famous “finest hour” speech. It was recorded on 18 June 1940 while Hitler was considering the French request for an armistice.
Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt in Yalta
This film from 15 February 1945 covers the Yalta Conference – a meeting between Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt . You can watch more history videos here .
Facts and figures
Education: Harrow and Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Family: Churchill was the elder of two sons. He was married to Clementine Hozier, and had one son and four daughters
Interests: Painting, polo, board games
Winston Churchill was a politician, radical, soldier, artist, and the twentieth century’s most famous and celebrated PM.
His father was Lord Randolph Churchill, a nineteenth century Tory politician. He was educated at Harrow and at Sandhurst Royal Military College, after which he saw service in India and the Sudan, and acted off-duty as a war correspondent.
Churchill left the army in 1899 to take up politics, but first travelled to South Africa as a journalist. Although taken prisoner by the Boers, he made a daring escape and returned to safety despite the price on his head. His consequent fame no doubt aided his success as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Oldham in 1900.
Churchill was instinctively independent, willing to work with any side agreeing with his goals. His stand against protectionism led him to join the Liberals in 1904. As President of the Board of Trade in Asquith’s Liberal government he set up labour exchanges and unemployment insurance.
As Home Secretary in 1910 he improved safety in the mines and prevented the employment of child miners, though disappointed radicals by deploying troops in Wales during a miners strike.
In 1911 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, and ensured the Navy was ready for the outbreak of war in 1914. However, he was blamed for the failed Dardanelles Campaign in 1915, and was demoted in the coalition government.
In 1916 Lloyd George appointed him Minister for Munitions, where he developed the use of the tank in warfare.
He returned to the Conservative Party in the 1920s and spent five years as Stanley Baldwin’s Chancellor, but again fell out with his party. Unpopular and ostracised for a decade, his warnings from the backbenches of Fascist imperialism went unheeded. His influence, it was said, had ‘fallen to zero.’
However, Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement failed, leading to his resignation and the vindication of Churchill’s position.
George VI asked Churchill to form a government in 1940 at the age of 65. Asking the House of Commons for its confidence in his small War Cabinet, he said: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
His evocative and stirring rhetoric, employed in many famed speeches, is seen as representing the spirit of wartime Britain, and was essential to raising national morale.
He was renowned as a great character and a great leader but was a paradoxical man. Possessed of astonishing vision, he also made disastrous mistakes – chiefly over the First World War battle at Gallipoli. Nevertheless, he brought Britain to victory against Germany on 8 May, 1945.
Following the Labour landslide in the post-war 1945 election, a surprised Churchill found himself leading the Conservative Opposition.
The second Churchill administration some years later did not realise his hopes of ending the Cold War. In contrast to the stark choices of the second world war, he found the problems facing post-war Britain elusive and intangible.
Frustrated and in poor health, he resigned in 1955, aged 81. After his death in 1965, Churchill’s body lay in state for three days at Westminster Hall before his state funeral, attracted millions of mourners.
Since his death, Churchill’s stature has grown. Recently he was voted ‘Greatest Ever Briton’ in a major BBC poll, beating the likes of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Princess Diana and Charles Darwin.
There was uproar when the ‘greatcoat’ statue in Parliament Square was defaced by anti-capitalist demonstrators, although some have wondered whether the young radical in Churchill would have raised a wry smile at the mayhem.
In 2005 a dedicated Churchill Museum was opened by the Queen within the Cabinet War Rooms in London.
On the RAF following victory in the Battle of Britain: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”
Did you know?
A complete digital record of his paintings can be viewed at the new Churchill Museum in London.
Extract from the famous ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ speech in May 1940
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind, We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask: what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – 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.”
Clementine was tall, stately and handsome and enjoyed her social life. She was quite shy but stood out in company.
Her advice on personal matters was usually followed by Churchill and her political judgements were often wiser and steadier than her husband’s.
Their children each had a special nickname – Diana (Puppy Kitten), Randolph (Chum Bolly), Sarah (Bumble Bee) and Marigold (Duckadilly).