My 10 Favourite Sir Winston Churchill Quotes

Sir Winston Churchill

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Young Churchill in the 4th Hussars Cavalry

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The Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill 1874-1965

Sir Winston Leonard Spenser Churchill was British Prime Minister from 19040-1945, the height of World War II. Sir Winston was a member of the Spencer family and was related to Princess Diana. Sir Winston was re-elected to the Prime-Ministership from 1951-1955.

Sir Winston's partnership with President Franklin D Roosevelt and Josef Stalin led the Allied Forces against Adolf Hitler to victory in WWII. Sir Winston was also known for his efforts against the expansionist threat of the post-war Soviet Union.

He was the son of British aristocrat Lord Randolph Churchill and Jeannie Jerome, a New York socialite.

As with many sons of the British aristocracy, he was educated at the best English schools and then joined the military before embarking upon a political career.

Interestingly he changed sides in politics, holding posts in Liberal and Conservative governments. Sir Winston was a social reformer at heart, following in his father's footsteps.

In 1939 when WWII commenced, he was appointed as the First Lord of the Admiralty, an office he had also held during WWI. In May 1940 he became Prime Minister and Minister for Defence for the duration of the war.

Sir Winston was knighted and made an Officer of the Order of the Garter by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. He was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States (by President Kennedy in 1963). He stayed on as a Member of Parliament until 1964.

Sir Winston was also a gifted author and historian, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953. His creative talents also extended to painting. Sir Winston died in 1965, aged 90.

Sir Winston Churchill at War

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Sir Winston Churchill - Never give up

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Quote #1

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, thinking it will eat him last."

This quote directly relates to the appeasement policy of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who held office directly before Sir Winston (1937-1940). The crocodile is Adolf Hitler.

In an effort to avoid war, Neville Chamberlain though that it was better to give in to Hilter's bullying than to confront him directly. As part of his appeasement policy, in 1938 he signed a pact relinquishing a part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler's Nazi Germany (the Munch Agreement). On the day that Britain declared war on Germany (after Germany attacked Poland), Sir Winston was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and became the wartime Prime Minister shortly thereafter. Sir Winston, never being someone who backed down, was the obvious choice at the time for a successor to Chamberlain. Neville Chamberlain died a few weeks after he lost office in 1940.

Sir Winston used humour and sarcasm with finesse and brevity. This quote is a fine example of his literary skills, as he packs his disdain for bullies and those who pander to them in to the one short phrase as well as making a political allusion to his predecessor and those who supported him.

Sir Winston Churchill

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Quote #2

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

Sir Winston's humour and sarcasm are alive as he makes a contemporary political observation. Sir Winston was instrumental in alerting the British and others to the dangers of post-war Soviet hegemony. He was a cold-war warrior, albeit from armchair and podium. He knew the ideology of Josef Stalin and the Soviet regime was fanatical in dogma (and the post-war land grab). He also saw the extreme anti-communist reaction in the United States with the advent of McCarthyism. Sir Winston cleverly disparages the ethic of fanaticism and advocates a sensible approach.

This quote makes me wonder what Sir Winston would make of today's world where religious extremism is continually a contentious topic and the leaders of the Catholic Church, an extremely traditional and unchanging institution, are under heavy fire for paedophilic scandals and are consequently being forced into changing their minds about certain things.

Sir Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt 1941

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Quote #3

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

Sir Winston had a deep understanding of European history and was the Lord of the Admiralty during WWI, with direct experience of German affairs, culture and style. He used his understanding of German history to inform his ability to prosecute the war against Germany. This quote represents another of Sir Winston's observations on human nature and the significance of history. An accomplished historian, Sir Winston was guided in the present through the veil of the past but as a man of action he never lost sight of the future. In this way he was able to realise his goals for himself and for Britain.

The Final Resting Place of Sir Winston Churchill

Quote #4

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

Another wry exposition on human nature by one with much experience. As a political leader he knew that a lot of people are perhaps not as interested in the truth as they are in pursuing their own goals.

Sir Winston's Most Famous Speech - "We shall fight on the beaches"

Quote #5

"We are masters of the unsaid words but slaves of those we let slip out."

This quote seems to stem from bitter political experience. The words spoken, intentionally or not, by political and other famous figures can have great repercussions.

An occasion Sir Winston's words may have gotten away from him was an exchange he is reported to have had with Elizabeth Braddock, Labour Politician.

Braddock: "Winston, you are drunk, and what's more you are disgustingly drunk. "
Churchill: "Bessie, my dear, you are ugly, and what's more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly."

Unfortunately this is another famous quote of Sir Winston's. It may well have been one of those occasions where his words slipped out.

Exchange with Bessie Braddock in the 1930s

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Churchill Poll

Do you believe Sir Winston Churchill deserves the title "the greatest Briton of all time"?

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Quote #6

"Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft."

It has also been said that there is nothing new under the sun (Biblical quote). As a highly regarded historian, Sir Winston clearly subscribed to this. Perhaps his passion for historical study was the secret to his immense success as a statesman.

Sir Winston Churchill at age 7 in 1881

Even then, Sir Winston had a confident stance!
Even then, Sir Winston had a confident stance! | Source

Quote #7

"The power of man has grown in every sphere except over himself."

Another typically Churchillian exposition on human nature and the advances of technology. This comment was made in the context of his own experience of warfare and conflict. Enormous technological advances were made during both World Wars (including nuclear bombs), often as a result of necessity. Warfare also represents a loss of restraint or inhibition, as people are forced to do things and make decisions out of need or act in the absence of the law. Acts of heroism and barbarism are more common during wartime than peace. The raw power of nations is brutally demonstrated during warfare.

Sir Winston's views on taxation policy.

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Quote #8

"If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law."

I love this quote because here is an educated historian speaking an age old truth about the law which many lawyers and politicians don't subscribe to. Perhaps if the law were simpler, many lawyers would be looking for work....

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Quote #9

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

As a soldier on the front line in India in 1986 and a battalion commander during WWI, Sir Winston was qualified to comment on courage. He was also a courageous politician. One of the most difficult and controversial measures taken by Sir Winston during WWII was the night-time bombing of German cities with their civilian populations. Particularly controversial was the destruction of Dresden late in the war with its high concentration of refugees. Sir Winston made a policy decision concerning the greater good, hoping that the war would end sooner if enough pressure was placed on the German people. This decision came under fire because the Allies fought under a platform that they were fighting a "just war".

Sir Winston and wife Clementine Hozier.

Sir Winston said to Clementine, “I do not love and never will love any woman in the world but you.”
Sir Winston said to Clementine, “I do not love and never will love any woman in the world but you.” | Source

Sir Winston with the King and Queen - 1940

Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, tour the grounds of Buckingham Palace on September 14, 1940, to inspect damage caused by German bombs that fell there.
Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, tour the grounds of Buckingham Palace on September 14, 1940, to inspect damage caused by German bombs that fell there. | Source

Quote #10

"Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fall, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour!”

A fine example of Sir Winston's motivational speaking skill. An incredible speaker, he overcame his speech impediments (a severe stutter and a lisp) to achieve notoriety as one of the greatest Britons of history. In this monologue we see the power of an appeal to national pride, the threat of fear of the dark and sinister science of the Nazis and the aspiration for a place in history. At this time, London was being relentlessly bombed by the Nazis and the German war machine was crushing France. It was this kind of rhetoric that kept the British people going in their darkest times and motivated the allies to resist Hitler.

Long but Excellent Tribute to Sir Winston

Sources

  • Winston Churchill Biography, The Official Website of the Nobel Prize:http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1953/churchill-bio.html
  • The Business of Life: http://businessoflifellc.com/university/quotes-and-wisdom/political-leaders/winston-churchill/
  • Wikipedia

© 2013 Mel Jay

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Comments 5 comments

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Your commentary really adds to the quotes. Churchill was a fascinating and controversial figure. He packed more into his lifetime than anyone else I know and suffered many, many setbacks. Regarding his changing viewpoints, he said something like "I'd rather be right than consistent." Excellent article! Voted up, interesting and awesome.


Mel Jay profile image

Mel Jay 3 years ago from Australia Author

Thank you for your visit and your comment UnnamedHarald. I love what you wrote that Sir Winston said he would rather be right, particularly as he certainly wasn't consistent! We have an election campaign heating up here in Australia at the moment and the leader of the opposition yesterday said that he prides himself on his consistency (with reference to a particularly short-sighted policy decision). I remember thinking at the time that we would all be better off if he would just concentrate on doing the right thing and now you have provided the perfect example of what a true leader should do. I wish a lot of modern politicians would take a leaf out of Sir Winston's book, or at the least study history. Oh well, enough whinging from me! Thanks again, Mel


old albion profile image

old albion 23 months ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Mel. A first class hub, as a Churchill admirer I enjoyed your hub immensely. I thought the resting place video very nice indeed. Well done.

voted up and all.

Graham.


Mel Jay profile image

Mel Jay 23 months ago from Australia Author

Thanks Graham - Cheers, Mel


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 4 months ago from Philippines

This was a wonderful hub. Churchill was really a master wordsmith, among his many other gifts. I was so amused by the Bessie story, that I looked her up on Google images. Churchill must have been truly drunk at that time.

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