Churchill was born on November 30, 1874 in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England. His father Randolph Churchill was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. As a young man of undistinguished academic accomplishment, he entered the army as a cavalry officer. He took enthusiastically to soldiering and managed to see three campaigns. He served as a cavalry officer in India and Sudan but resigned his commission in 1899 to become a war correspondent in the Boer war. Send to cover the South African war for the Morning Post, the Boers captured him in 1899. A daring escape from the prison made him an overnight celebrity.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill [Illustrations by: Amarjeet Malik]
Churchill entered the Parliament in 1901 at age of 26. In 1904 he left the Conservative Party to join the Liberals and in its ranks soon achieved high office. He became home secretary in 1910 and First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911. Thus it was as the political head of the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 that he stepped onto the world stage. However an unsuccessful campaign forced Churchill’s resignation. Later he rejoined the Conservatives and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. He resigned office in 1931 after some controversial measures.

He shot back to limelight in 1933 and 1939 by espousing anti-Nazi policies. And when the final moment of confrontation between Britain and Hitler came in 1940, he stood out as one man in whom the nation could place its trust. When Chamberlain lost the confidence of Parliament, Churchill was installed in the premiership. During 1942, the prestige Britain had won as Hitler’s only enemy allowed Churchill to sustain parity of leadership in the anti-Nazi alliance with Roosevelt and Stalin. He exulted in the success of D-day invasion (World War II) when it came in 1944. By then it was the Russo-American nexus that dominated the alliance. Shortly afterwards he lost the general elections and later returned to power in 1951.

In July 1953 soon after his knighthood and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, he suffered a stroke. He continued to hold office until 1955 when ill health and visibly failing powers caused him to resign. Sir Winston’s last 10 years were marked by an increasing feebleness in health, were occupied by occasional travel and a little painting. He died in 1965.

Churchill stood unchallengable as the greatest of all war leaders and was celebrated for national leadership during World War II. As a prolific writer his ‘Life of Marlborough’ is one of the great English biographies and ‘The history of the Second World War’ helped him win a Nobel Prize for literature. Churchill occupied to the end a special place in the affections of British people symbolising a magnificent performance in heroic days.