Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill KG OM CH TD DL FRS RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer (as Winston S. Churchill), and an artist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
Churchill was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer; his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite. As a young army officer, he saw action in British India, the Sudan, and the Second Boer War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and wrote books about his campaigns.
At the forefront of politics for fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty as part of Asquith's Liberal government. During the war, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign caused his departure from government. He then briefly resumed active army service on the Western Front as commander of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. In 1921–1922 Churchill served as Secretary of State for the Colonies, then Chancellor of the Exchequer in Baldwin's Conservative government of 1924–1929, controversially returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure on the UK economy. Also controversial were his opposition to increased home rule for India and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII.
Out of office and politically "in the wilderness" during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His steadfast refusal to consider surrender helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the war when the British Commonwealth and Empire stood alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured.
After the Conservative Party lost the 1945 election, he became Leader of the Opposition to the Labour Government. He publicly warned of an "Iron Curtain" of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity. After winning the 1951 election, Churchill again became Prime Minister. His second term was preoccupied by foreign affairs, including the Malayan Emergency, Mau Mau Uprising, Korean War, and a UK-backed coup d'état in Iran. Domestically his government laid great emphasis on house-building, and introduced safety and sanitation regulations for housing and workplaces. Churchill suffered a serious stroke in 1953 and retired as Prime Minister in 1955, although he remained a Member of Parliament until 1964. Upon his death aged ninety in 1965, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history. Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, consistently ranking well in opinion polls of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom.
Family and early life
Born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the noble Spencer family, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, like his father, used the surname "Churchill" in public life. His ancestor George Spencer had changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill in 1817 when he became Duke of Marlborough, to highlight his descent from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Churchill's father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, was a politician; and his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jennie Jerome) was the daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome. Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, two months prematurely, in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
From age two to six, he lived in Dublin, where his grandfather had been appointed Viceroy and employed Churchill's father as his private secretary. Churchill's brother, John Strange Spencer-Churchill, was born during this time in Ireland. It has been claimed that the young Churchill first developed his fascination with military matters from watching the many parades pass by the Vice Regal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland).
Churchill's earliest exposure to education occurred in Dublin, where a governess tried teaching him reading, writing, and arithmetic (his first reading book was called 'Reading Without Tears'). With limited contact with his parents, Churchill became very close to his nanny, 'Mrs' Elizabeth Ann Everest, whom he called 'Old Woom'. She served as his confidante, nurse, and mother substitute. The two spent many happy hours playing in Phoenix Park.
Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill generally had a poor academic record in school, for which he was punished. He was educated at three independent schools: St. George's School, Ascot, Berkshire; Brunswick School in Hove, near Brighton (the school has since been renamed Stoke Brunswick School and relocated to Ashurst Wood in West Sussex); and at Harrow School from 17 April 1888. Within weeks of his arrival at Harrow, Churchill had joined the Harrow Rifle Corps.
When young Winston started attending Harrow School, he was listed under the S's as Spencer Churchill. At that time Winston was a stocky boy with red hair who talked with a stutter and a lisp. Winston's nickname at Harrow was "Copperknob" for his hair colour. Winston did so well in mathematics in his Harrow entrance exam that he was put in the top division for that subject. In his first year at Harrow he was recognized as being the best in his division for history. Winston entered the school, however, as the boy with the lowest grades in the lowest class, and he remained in that position. Winston never even made it into the upper school because he would not study the classics. Though he did poorly in his schoolwork, he grew to love the English language. He hated Harrow. His mother rarely visited him, and he wrote letters begging her either to come to the school or to allow him to come home. His relationship with his father was distant; he once remarked that they barely spoke to one another. His father died on 24 January 1895, aged 45, leaving Churchill with the conviction that he too would die young and so should be quick about making his mark on the world.
Winston Churchill was a member of the freemasons and a member of the Loyal Waterloo Lodge of the National Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Churchill had a lateral lisp that continued throughout his career, reported consistently by journalists of the time and later. Authors writing in the 1920s and 1930s, before sound recording became common, also mentioned Churchill having a stutter, describing it in terms such as "severe" or "agonising". The Churchill Centre and Museum says the majority of records show his impediment was a lateral lisp, while Churchill's stutter is a myth.
His dentures were specially designed to aid his speech (Demosthenes' pebbles). After many years of public speeches carefully prepared not only to inspire, but also to avoid hesitations, he could finally state, "My impediment is no hindrance".
Marriage and children
Churchill met his future wife, Clementine Hozier, in 1904 at a ball in Crewe House, home of the Earl of Crewe and Crewe's wife Margaret Primrose (daughter of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, and Hannah Rothschild). In 1908, they met again at a dinner party hosted by Susan Jeune, Baroness St Helier. Churchill found himself seated beside Clementine, and they soon began a lifelong romance. He proposed to Clementine during a house party at Blenheim Palace on 10 August 1908, in a small Temple of Diana.
On 12 September 1908, he and Clementine were married in St. Margaret's, Westminster. The church was packed; the Bishop of St Asaph conducted the service. The couple spent their honeymoon at Highgrove House in Eastcote. In March 1909, the couple moved to a house at 33 Eccleston Square.
Their first child, Diana, was born in London on 11 July 1909. After the pregnancy, Clementine moved to Sussex to recover, while Diana stayed in London with her nanny. On 28 May 1911, their second child, Randolph, was born at 33 Eccleston Square.
Their third child, Sarah, was born on 7 October 1914 at Admiralty House. The birth was marked with anxiety for Clementine, as Churchill had been sent to Antwerp by the Cabinet to "stiffen the resistance of the beleaguered city" after news that the Belgians intended to surrender the town.
Clementine gave birth to her fourth child, Marigold Frances Churchill, on 15 November 1918, four days after the official end of the First World War. In the early days of August 1921, the Churchills' children were entrusted to a French nursery governess in Kent named Mlle. Rose. Clementine, meanwhile, travelled to Eaton Hall to play tennis with Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, and his family. While still under the care of Mlle. Rose, Marigold had a cold, but was reported to have recovered from the illness. As the illness progressed with hardly any notice, it turned into septicaemia. Following advice from a landlady, Rose sent for Clementine. However the illness turned fatal on 23 August 1921, and Marigold was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery three days later.
On 15 September 1922, the Churchills' last child, Mary, was born. Later that month, the Churchills bought Chartwell, which would be their home until Winston's death in 1965.
After Churchill left Harrow in 1893, he applied to attend the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He tried three times before passing the entrance exam; he applied to be trained for the cavalry rather than the infantry because the required grade was lower and he was not required to learn mathematics, which he disliked. He graduated eighth out of a class of 150 in December 1894, and although he could now have transferred to an infantry regiment as his father had wished, chose to remain with the cavalry and was commissioned as a cornet (second lieutenant) in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars on 20 February 1895. In 1941, he received the honour of being appointed Regimental Colonel of the 4th Hussars, an honour which was increased after the Second World War when he was appointed as Colonel-in-Chief; this privilege is usually reserved for members of the royal family.
Churchill's pay as a second lieutenant in the 4th Hussars was £300 annually. However, he believed that he needed at least a further £500 (equivalent to £55,000 in 2012 terms) to support a style of life equal to that of other officers of the regiment. His mother provided an allowance of £400 per year, but this was repeatedly overspent. According to biographer Roy Jenkins, this is one reason why he took an interest in war correspondence. He did not intend to follow a conventional career of promotion through army ranks, but rather to seek out all possible chances of military action, using his mother's and family influence in high society to arrange postings to active campaigns. His writings brought him to the attention of the public, and earned him significant additional income. He acted as a war correspondent for several London newspapers and wrote his own books about the campaigns.
In 1895, during the Cuban War of Independence, Churchill, and fellow officer Reginald Barnes, travelled to Cuba to observe the Spanish fight the Cuban guerrillas; he had obtained a commission to write about the conflict from the Daily Graphic. He came under fire on his twenty-first birthday, the first of about 50 times during his life, and the Spanish awarded him his first medal.:17 Churchill had fond memories of Cuba as a "... large, rich, beautiful island ...". While there, he soon acquired a taste for Havana cigars, which he would smoke for the rest of his life. While in New York, he stayed at the home of Bourke Cockran, an admirer of his mother. Bourke was an established American politician, and a member of the House of Representatives. He greatly influenced Churchill, both in his approach to oratory and politics, and encouraging a love of America.
He soon received word that his nanny, Mrs Everest, was dying; he then returned to England and stayed with her for a week until she died. He wrote in his journal, "She was my favourite friend." In My Early Life he wrote: "She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived."
Churchill came to Bangalore in 1896 as a young army officer, before leaving three years later for the North West Frontier to fight in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. In his book, 'My Early Life', he describes Bangalore as a city with excellent weather, and his allotted house as a ‘a magnificent pink and white stucco palace in the middle of a large and beautiful garden' with servants, dhobi (to wash clothes), gardener, watchman and a water-carrier. It was in Bangalore he met Pamela Plowden, daughter of a civil servant; she became his first love.
In 1897, Churchill attempted to travel to both report on and, if necessary, fight in the Greco-Turkish War, but this conflict effectively ended before he could arrive. Later, while preparing for a leave in England, he heard that three brigades of the British Army were going to fight against a Pashtun tribe in the North West Frontier of India and he asked his superior officer if he could join the fight. He fought under the command of General Jeffery, the commander of the second brigade operating in Malakand, in the Frontier region of British India. Jeffery sent him with fifteen scouts to explore the Mamund Valley; while on reconnaissance, they encountered an enemy tribe, dismounted from their horses and opened fire. After an hour of shooting, their reinforcements, the 35th Sikhs arrived, the firing gradually ceased and the brigade and the Sikhs marched on. Hundreds of tribesmen then ambushed them and opened fire, forcing them to retreat. As they were retreating, four men were carrying an injured officer, but the fierceness of the fight forced them to leave him behind. The man who was left behind was slashed to death before Churchill's eyes; afterwards he wrote of the killer, "I forgot everything else at this moment except a desire to kill this man." However, the Sikhs' numbers were being depleted, so the next commanding officer told Churchill to get the rest of the men to safety.
Before he left, he asked for a note so that he would not be charged with desertion. He received the note, quickly signed, headed up the hill and alerted the other brigade, whereupon they then engaged the army. The fighting in the region dragged on for another two weeks before the dead could be recovered. He wrote in his journal: "Whether it was worth it I cannot tell." An account of the Siege of Malakand was published in December 1900 as The Story of the Malakand Field Force. He received £600 for his account. During the campaign, he also wrote articles for the newspapers The Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph. His account of the battle was one of his first published stories, for which he received £5 per column from The Daily Telegraph.
Sudan and Oldham
Churchill was transferred to Egypt in 1898. He visited Luxor before joining an attachment of the 21st Lancers serving in the Sudan under the command of General Herbert Kitchener. During this time he encountered two military officers with whom he would work during the First World War: Douglas Haig, then a captain, and David Beatty, then a gunboat lieutenant. While in the Sudan, he participated in what has been described as the last meaningful British cavalry charge, at the Battle of Omdurman in September 1898. He also worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. By October 1898, he had returned to Britain and begun his two-volume work, The River War, an account of the reconquest of the Sudan which was published the following year. In this work, Churchill warned against what he considered to be the dangers of the influence of Islam: "Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step, and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome." Churchill resigned from the British Army effective from 5 May 1899.
He soon had his first opportunity to begin a Parliamentary career, when he was invited by Robert Ascroft to be the second Conservative Party candidate in Ascroft's Oldham constituency. Ascroft's sudden death caused a double by-election and Churchill was one of the candidates. In the midst of a national trend against the Conservatives, both seats were lost; however, Churchill impressed by his vigorous campaigning.
Having failed at Oldham, Churchill looked about for some other opportunity to advance his career. On 12 October 1899, the Second Boer War between Britain and the Boer Republics broke out and he obtained a commission to act as war correspondent for The Morning Post with a salary of £250 per month. He rushed to sail on the same ship as the newly appointed British commander, Sir Redvers Buller. After some weeks in exposed areas, he accompanied a scouting expedition in an armoured train, leading to his capture and imprisonment in a POW camp in Pretoria (converted school building for Pretoria High School for Girls). His actions during the ambush of the train led to speculation that he would be awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award to members of the armed forces for gallantry in the face of the enemy, but this was not possible, as he was a civilian.
He escaped from the prison camp and, with the assistance of an English mine manager, travelled almost 300 miles (480 km) to safety in Portuguese East Africa. His escape made him a minor national hero for a time in Britain though, instead of returning home, he rejoined General Buller's army on its march to relieve the British at the Siege of Ladysmith and take Pretoria. This time, although continuing as a war correspondent, he gained a commission in the South African Light Horse. He was among the first British troops into Ladysmith and Pretoria. He and his cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, were able to get ahead of the rest of the troops in Pretoria, where they demanded and received the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp guards.
In 1900, Churchill returned to England on the RMS Dunottar Castle, the same ship on which he had set sail for South Africa eight months earlier. He then published London to Ladysmith and a second volume of Boer war experiences, Ian Hamilton's March.
Territorial Service and advancement
In 1900, he retired from the regular army, and in 1902 joined the Imperial Yeomanry, where he was commissioned as a Captain in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars on 4 January 1902. In that same year, he was initiated into Freemasonry at Studholme Lodge #1591, London, and raised to the Third Degree on 25 March 1902. In April 1905, he was promoted to Major and appointed to command of the Henley Squadron of the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars. In September 1916, he transferred to the territorial reserves of officers, where he remained until retiring in 1924, at the age of fifty.
After his resignation from the government in 1915, Churchill rejoined the British Army, attempting to obtain an appointment as brigade commander, but settling for command of a battalion. After spending some time as a Major with the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers (part of the 9th (Scottish) Division), on 1 January 1916. Correspondence with his wife shows that his intent in taking up active service was to rehabilitate his reputation, but this was balanced by the serious risk of being killed. During his period of command, his battalion was stationed at Ploegsteert but did not take part in any set battle. Although he disapproved strongly of the mass slaughter involved in many Western Front actions, he exposed himself to danger by making excursions to the front line or into No Man's Land.
Lord Deedes opined to a gathering of the Royal Historical Society in 2001 why Churchill went to the front line: "He was with Grenadier Guards, who were dry at battalion headquarters. They very much liked tea and condensed milk, which had no great appeal to Winston, but alcohol was permitted in the front line, in the trenches. So he suggested to the colonel that he really ought to see more of the war and get into the front line. This was highly commended by the colonel, who thought it was a very good thing to do." (Near the end of his life, a new MP asked the former prime minister if he would like some tea. Churchill replied, "No. Don't be a bloody fool. I want a large glass of whisky!")
Political career to the Second World War, 1900–39
Early years in Parliament
Churchill stood again for the seat of Oldham at the 1900 general election. After winning the seat, he went on a speaking tour throughout Britain and the United States, raising £10,000 for himself (about £970,000 today). From 1903 until 1905, Churchill was also engaged in writing Lord Randolph Churchill, a two-volume biography of his father which was published in 1906 and received much critical acclaim.
In Parliament, he became associated with a faction of the Conservative Party led by Lord Hugh Cecil; the Hughligans. During his first parliamentary session, he opposed the government's military expenditure and Joseph Chamberlain's proposal of extensive tariffs, which were intended to protect Britain's economic dominance. His own constituency effectively deselected him, although he continued to sit for Oldham until the next general election. In the months leading up to his ultimate change of party from the Conservatives to the Liberals, Churchill made a number of evocative speeches against the principles of Protectionism; ‘to think you can make a man richer by putting on a tax is like a man thinking that he can stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle.' [Winston Churchill, Speech to the Free Trade League, 19 February 1904.] As a result of his disagreement with leading members of the Conservative Party over tariff reform, he made the decision to cross the floor. After the Whitsun recess in 1904, he crossed the floor to sit as a member of the Liberal Party. As a Liberal, he continued to campaign for free trade. When the Liberals took office with Henry Campbell-Bannerman as prime minister, in December 1905, Churchill became Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, dealing mainly with South Africa after the Boer War. As Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1905 to 1908, Churchill's primary focus was on settling the Transvaal Constitution, which was accepted by Parliament in 1907. This was essential for providing stability in South Africa. He campaigned in line with the Liberal Government to install responsible rather than representative government. This would alleviate pressure from the British government to control domestic affairs, including issues of race, in the Transvaal, delegating a greater proportion of power to the Boers themselves.
Following his deselection in the seat of Oldham, Churchill was invited to stand for Manchester North West. He won the seat at the 1906 general election with a majority of 1,214 and represented the seat for two years. When Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded by H. H. Asquith in 1908, Churchill was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. Under the law at the time, a newly appointed Cabinet Minister was obliged to seek re-election at a by-election; Churchill lost his seat but was soon back as a member for Dundee constituency. As President of the Board of Trade he joined newly appointed Chancellor Lloyd George in opposing First Lord of the Admiralty Reginald McKenna's proposed huge expenditure for the construction of Navy dreadnought warships, and in supporting the Liberal reforms. In 1908, he introduced the Trade Boards Bill setting up the first minimum wages in Britain. In 1909, he set up Labour Exchanges to help unemployed people find work. He helped draft the first unemployment pension legislation, the National Insurance Act of 1911. As a supporter of eugenics, he participated in the drafting of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913; however, the Act, in the form eventually passed, rejected his preferred method of sterilisation of the feeble-minded in favour of their confinement in institutions.
Churchill also assisted in passing the People's Budget, becoming President of the Budget League, an organisation set up in response to the opposition's Budget Protest League. The budget included the introduction of new taxes on the wealthy to allow for the creation of new social welfare programmes. After the budget bill was passed by the Commons in 1909 it was vetoed by the House of Lords. The Liberals then fought and won two general elections in January and December 1910 to gain a mandate for their reforms. The budget was passed after the first election, and after the second election the Parliament Act 1911, for which Churchill also campaigned, was passed. In 1910, he was promoted to Home Secretary. His term was controversial after his responses to the Cambrian Colliery dispute, the Siege of Sidney Street and the suffragettes.
The People's Budget attempted to introduce a heavy tax on land value, inspired by the economist and philosopher Henry George. In 1909, Churchill made several speeches with strong Georgist rhetoric, stating that land ownership is at the source of all monopoly. Furthermore, Churchill emphasizes the difference between productive investment in capital (which he supports) and land speculation which gains an unearned income and has only negative consequences to society at large ("an evil").
In 1910, a number of coal miners in the Rhondda Valley began what has come to be known as the Tonypandy Riot. The Chief Constable of Glamorgan requested troops be sent in to help police quell the rioting. Churchill, learning that the troops were already travelling, allowed them to go as far as Swindon and Cardiff, but blocked their deployment. On 9 November, The Times criticised this decision. In spite of this, the rumour persists that Churchill had ordered troops to attack, and his reputation in Wales and in Labour circles never recovered.
In early January 1911, Churchill made a controversial visit to the Siege of Sidney Street in London. There is some uncertainty as to whether he attempted to give operational commands, and his presence attracted much criticism. After an inquest, Arthur Balfour remarked, "he [Churchill] and a photographer were both risking valuable lives. I understand what the photographer was doing, but what was the right honourable gentleman doing?" A biographer, Roy Jenkins, suggests that he went simply because "he could not resist going to see the fun himself" and that he did not issue commands. Another account said the police had the miscreants—Latvian anarchists wanted for murder—surrounded in a house, but Churchill called in the Scots Guards from the Tower of London and, dressed in top hat and astrakhan collar greatcoat, directed operations. The house caught fire and Churchill prevented the fire brigade from dousing the flames so that the men inside were burned to death. "I thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals."
Churchill's proposed solution to the suffragette issue was a referendum on the issue, but this found no favour with Asquith and women's suffrage remained unresolved until after the First World War.
First Lord of the Admiralty (1911–15)
In October 1911, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and continued in the post into the First World War. While serving in this position, he put strong emphasis on modernisation and was also in favour of using aeroplanes in combat (see Captain Bertram Dickson. He undertook flying lessons himself). He launched a programme to replace coal power with oil power. When he assumed his position, oil was already being used on submarines and destroyers, but most ships were still coal-powered, though oil was sprayed on the coals to boost maximum speed. Churchill began this programme by ordering that the upcoming Queen Elizabeth-class battleships were to be built with oil-fired engines. He established a Royal Commission chaired by Admiral Sir John Fisher, which confirmed the benefits of oil over coal in three classified reports, and judged that ample supplies of oil existed, but recommended that oil reserves be maintained in the event of war. The delegation then travelled to the Persian Gulf, and the government, largely through Churchill's advice, eventually invested in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, bought most of its stock, and negotiated a secret contract for a 20-year supply.
First World War and the Post-War Coalition
On 5 October 1914, Churchill went to Antwerp, which the Belgian government proposed to evacuate. The Royal Marine Brigade was there and at Churchill's urgings the 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades were also committed. Antwerp fell on 10 October with the loss of 2500 men. At the time he was attacked for squandering resources. It is more likely that his actions prolonged the resistance by a week (Belgium had proposed surrendering Antwerp on 3 October) and that this time saved Calais and Dunkirk.
Churchill was involved with the development of the tank, which was financed from the Navy budget. He appointed the Landships Committee, which oversaw the design and production of the first British tanks. In 1915, he was one of the political and military engineers of the disastrous Gallipoli landings in the Dardanelles during the First World War. He took much of the blame for the fiasco, and when Prime Minister Asquith formed an all-party coalition government, the Conservatives demanded his demotion as the price for entry.
For several months Churchill served in the sinecure of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. However, on 15 November 1915 he resigned from the government, feeling his energies were not being used. Although remaining a member of parliament, on 5 January 1916 he was given the temporary British Army rank of lieutenant colonel and served for several months on the Western Front, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. While in command at Ploegsteert he personally made 36 forays into no man's land. In March 1916, Churchill returned to England after he had become restless in France and wished to speak again in the House of Commons. Future prime minister David Lloyd George acidly commented: "You will one day discover that the state of mind revealed in (your) letter is the reason why you do not win trust even where you command admiration. In every line of it, national interests are completely overshadowed by your personal concern." In July 1917, Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions, and in January 1919, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. He was the main architect of the Ten Year Rule, a principle that allowed the Treasury to dominate and control strategic, foreign and financial policies under the assumption that "there would be no great European war for the next five or ten years".
A major preoccupation of his tenure in the War Office was the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. Churchill was a staunch advocate of foreign intervention, declaring that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle". He secured, from a divided and loosely organised Cabinet, intensification and prolongation of the British involvement beyond the wishes of any major group in Parliament or the nation—and in the face of the bitter hostility of Labour. In 1920, after the last British forces had been withdrawn, Churchill was instrumental in having arms sent to the Poles when they invaded Ukraine. He was also instrumental in having para-military forces (Black and Tans and Auxiliaries) intervene in the Irish War of Independence. He became Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1921 and was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which established the Irish Free State. Churchill was involved in the lengthy negotiations of the treaty and, to protect British maritime interests, he engineered part of the Irish Free State agreement to include three Treaty Ports—Queenstown (Cobh), Berehaven and Lough Swilly—which could be used as Atlantic bases by the Royal Navy. In 1938, however, under the terms of the Chamberlain-De Valera Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement, the bases were returned to Ireland.
In 1919, Churchill sanctioned the use of tear gas on Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq. Though the British did consider the use of non-lethal poison gas in putting down Kurdish rebellions, it was not used, as conventional bombing was considered effective.
In 1923, Churchill acted as a paid consultant for Burmah Oil (now BP plc) to lobby the British government to allow Burmah to have exclusive rights to Persian (Iranian) oil resources, which were successfully granted.
In September, the Conservative Party withdrew from the Coalition government, following a meeting of backbenchers dissatisfied with the handling of the Chanak Crisis, a move that precipitated the looming November 1922 general election. Churchill fell ill during the campaign, and had to have an appendectomy. This made it difficult for him to campaign, and a further setback was the internal division which continued to beset the Liberal Party. He came fourth in the poll for Dundee, losing to prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour. Churchill later quipped that he left Dundee "without an office, without a seat, without a party and without an appendix". He stood for the Liberals again in the 1923 general election, losing in Leicester.
In January 1924, the first Labour Government had taken office amongst fears of threats to the Constitution. Churchill was noted at the time for being particularly hostile to socialism. He believed that the Labour Party as a socialist party, did not fully support the existing British Constitution. In March 1924 Churchill sought election at the Westminster Abbey by-election, 1924. He had originally sought the backing of the local Unionist association which happened to be called the Westminster Abbey Constitutional Association. He adopted the term 'Constitutionalist' to describe himself during the by-election campaign. After the by-election Churchill continued to use the term and talked about setting up a Constitutionalist Party. Any plans that Churchill may have had to create a Constitutionalist Party were shelved with the calling of another general election. Churchill and 11 others decided to use the label Constitutionalist rather than Liberal or Unionist. He was returned at Epping against a Liberal and with the support of the Unionists. After the election the seven Constitutionalist candidates, including Churchill, who were elected did not act or vote as a group. When Churchill accepted the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Unionist government the description 'Constitutionalist' dropped out of use.
Rejoining the Conservative Party
Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924–29)
He formally rejoined the Conservative Party, commenting wryly that "anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat." Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer oversaw Britain's disastrous return to the Gold Standard, which resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners' strike that led to the General Strike of 1926. His decision, announced in the 1924 Budget, came after long consultation with various economists including John Maynard Keynes, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Otto Niemeyer and the board of the Bank of England. This decision prompted Keynes to write The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill, arguing that the return to the gold standard at the pre-war parity in 1925 (£1=$4.86) would lead to a world depression. However, the decision was generally popular and seen as 'sound economics' although it was opposed by Lord Beaverbrook and the Federation of British Industries.
Churchill later regarded this as the greatest mistake of his life; in discussions at the time with former Chancellor Reginald McKenna, Churchill acknowledged that the return to the gold standard and the resulting 'dear money' policy was economically bad. In those discussions he maintained the policy as fundamentally political—a return to the pre-war conditions in which he believed. In his speech on the Bill he said "I will tell you what it [the return to the Gold Standard] will shackle us to. It will shackle us to reality."
The return to the pre-war exchange rate and to the Gold Standard depressed industries. The most affected was the coal industry, already suffering from declining output as shipping switched to oil. As basic British industries like cotton came under more competition in export markets, the return to the pre-war exchange was estimated to add up to 10% in costs to the industry. In July 1925, a Commission of Inquiry reported generally favouring the miners rather than the mine owners' position.
Baldwin, with Churchill's support proposed a subsidy to the industry while a Royal Commission prepared a further report. That Commission solved nothing and the miners' dispute led to the General Strike of 1926. Churchill edited the Government's newspaper, the British Gazette. Churchill was one of the more hawkish members of the Cabinet and recommended that the route of food convoys from the docks into London should be guarded by tanks, armoured cars and hidden machine guns. This was rejected by the Cabinet. Exaggerated accounts of Churchill's belligerency during the strike soon began to circulate. Immediately afterwards the New Statesman claimed that Churchill had been leader of a "war party" in the Cabinet and had wished to use military force against the strikers. He consulted the Attorney-General Sir Douglas Hogg, who advised that although he had a good case for Criminal libel, it would be inadvisable to have confidential Cabinet discussions aired in open court. Churchill agreed to let the matter drop.
Later economists, as well as people at the time, also criticised Churchill's budget measures. These were seen as assisting the generally prosperous rentier banking and salaried classes (to which Churchill and his associates generally belonged) at the expense of manufacturers and exporters which were known then to be suffering from imports and from competition in traditional export markets, and as paring the Armed Forces too heavily.
The Conservative government was defeated in the 1929 general election. Churchill did not seek election to the Conservative Business Committee, the official leadership of the Conservative MPs. Over the next two years, Churchill became estranged from Conservative leadership over the issues of protective tariffs and Indian Home Rule, by his political views and by his friendships with press barons, financiers and people whose character was seen as dubious. When Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government in 1931, Churchill was not invited to join the Cabinet. He was at the low-point in his career, in a period known as "the wilderness years".
He spent much of the next few years concentrating on his writing, works including Marlborough: His Life and Times—a biography of his ancestor John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough—and A History of the English Speaking Peoples (though the latter was not published until well after the Second World War),Great Contemporaries and many newspaper articles and collections of speeches. He was one of the best paid writers of his time. His political views, set forth in his 1930 Romanes Election and published as Parliamentary Government and the Economic Problem (republished in 1932 in his collection of essays "Thoughts and Adventures") involved abandoning universal suffrage, a return to a property franchise, proportional representation for the major cities and an economic 'sub parliament'.
Churchill opposed Gandhi's peaceful disobedience revolt and the Indian Independence movement in the 1920s and 30s, arguing that the Round Table Conference "was a frightful prospect". In response to Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign, Churchill proclaimed in 1920 that Gandhi "ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back." Later reports indicate that Churchill favoured letting Gandhi die if he went on a hunger strike. During the first half of the 1930s, Churchill was outspoken in his opposition to granting Dominion status to India. He was a founder of the India Defence League, a group dedicated to the preservation of British power in India. Churchill brooked no moderation. "The truth is," he declared in 1930, "that Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed." In speeches and press articles in this period, he forecast widespread unemployment in Britain and civil strife in India should independence be granted. The Viceroy Lord Irwin, who had been appointed by the prior Conservative Government, engaged in the Round Table Conference in early 1931 and then announced the Government's policy that India should be granted Dominion Status. In this the Government was supported by the Liberal Party and, officially at least, by the Conservative Party. Churchill denounced the Round Table Conference.
At a meeting of the West Essex Conservative Association, specially convened so that Churchill could explain his position, he said "It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace ... to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor." He called the Indian National Congress leaders "Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western Liberalism".
Two incidents damaged Churchill's reputation greatly within the Conservative Party in this period. Both were taken as attacks on the Conservative front bench. The first was his speech on the eve of the St George by-election in April 1931. In a secure Conservative seat, the official Conservative candidate Duff Cooper was opposed by an independent Conservative. The independent was supported by Lord Rothermere, Lord Beaverbrook and their respective newspapers. Although arranged before the by-election was set, Churchill's speech was seen as supporting the independent candidate and as a part of the press baron's campaign against Baldwin. Baldwin's position was strengthened when Duff Cooper won, and when the civil disobedience campaign in India ceased with the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The second issue was a claim by Churchill that Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord Derby had pressured the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to change evidence it had given to the Joint Select Committee considering the Government of India Bill, and in doing so had breached Parliamentary privilege. He had the matter referred to the House of Commons Privilege Committee which, after investigations in which Churchill gave evidence, reported to the House that there had been no breach. The report was debated on 13 June. Churchill was unable to find a single supporter in the House and the debate ended without a division.
Churchill permanently broke with Stanley Baldwin over Indian independence and never again held any office while Baldwin was prime minister. Some historians see his basic attitude to India as being set out in his book My Early Life (1930). Another source of controversy about Churchill's attitude towards Indian affairs arises over what some historians term the Indian 'nationalist approach' to the Bengal famine of 1943, which has sought to place significant blame on Churchill's wartime government for the excessive mortality of up to four million people. While some commentators point to the disruption of the traditional marketing system and maladministration at the provincial level, Arthur Herman, author of Churchill and Gandhi, contends, 'The real cause was the fall of Burma to the Japanese, which cut off India's main supply of rice imports when domestic sources fell short ... [though] it is true that Churchill opposed diverting food supplies and transports from other theatres to India to cover the shortfall: this was wartime.' In response to an urgent request by the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Viceroy of India, Wavell, to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, "why Gandhi hadn't died yet." In July 1940, newly in office, he welcomed reports of the emerging conflict between the Muslim League and the Indian Congress, hoping "it would be bitter and bloody".
German rearmament and conflicts in Afro-Eurasia
Beginning in 1932, when he opposed those who advocated giving Germany the right to military parity with France, Churchill spoke often of the dangers of Germany's rearmament. He later, particularly in The Gathering Storm, portrayed himself as being for a time, a lone voice calling on Britain to strengthen itself to counter the belligerence of Germany. However Lord Lloyd was the first to so agitate.
In 1932, Churchill accepted the presidency of the newly founded New Commonwealth Society, a peace organisation which he described in 1937 as "one of the few peace societies that advocates the use of force, if possible overwhelming force, to support public international law".