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They Changed History: Winston Churchill

Updated on September 29, 2018
lawrence01 profile image

Ever wanted to 'change the world'? I have, and I still do, but these hubs are about people who did just that and faced incredible odds.

The Man

Everyone has a hero, this is one of mine
Everyone has a hero, this is one of mine | Source

Meet the man

Writing about one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century is a daunting task, but it's one that I'm feeling compelled to do right here and now. I've got no reason to do so, except to simply write and let you know a few things about one of the greatest men of the twentieth century, one that in his life managed to cause anger and hatred in one group, yet love and affection in another.

Churchill, both loved and hated by the British, loved for the fact that he led us through the darkest period of our history, yet hated at times when the workers demanding what we would consider today to be fair terms he had no hesitation in imposing Martial law and 'ruling' with an iron fist.

This series isn't so much about giving the life story of the people in the hubs as about looking at some of the challenges those people faced and seeing the lessons we might be able to learn from them, and Churchill faced challenges in "SPADES"

Let's have a look at his story


"With great privilege comes greater responsibility.

Winston may not have been the author of those words, that honour goes to the French Revolution, and someone else, but he certainly believed in the statement.

Born into one of the most influential families of the Victorian Era, Winston grew up in 'Great privilege' in many ways.

His father, Lord Randolph Churchill was the third son of the Duke of Marlborough, a senior politician and member of the House of Lords, the highest Lawcourt in Britain and at the time, it was the one place that held equal power to the Parliament in Britain. No law could be passed in Britain without the approval of the House of Lords.

The House of Commons was where the common people of the time had a voice, though in Britain at the time only Landowners could actually vote, the House of Lords was where the real power lay.

Winston's Mother wasn't English, she was American. Jenny Jerome was the daughter of an American Financier and grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

During the 19th Century, the British aristocracy was already having financial problems, one way that they got around this was across the 'puddle' (as the Brits often refer to the Atlantic) the Americans had lots of money, and many of them were wanting 'respectability' so what better way to get it than have your daughter marry a Lord or an Earl?

Winston's Father probably wasn't having the financial woes, but he was a 'lesser' Lord.

Winston grew up in a world that was very different to the one you and I know, but it was one that carried a lot of responsibility.


Hurdle number 1 "A speech impediment"

Yes, that's right, probably the greatest orator of the English language had a speech impediment!

This is the man whose speeches galvanised a nation into defiance, who just by his use of the spoken word took a beaten and battered nation on the brink of catastrophic defeat and made them believe that they could win against impossible odds, but he had a speech impediment!!!

Not only that, but he was nominated for the Nobel prize in literature four times before he finally won it in 1955.

We don't really know for sure what the impediment was, some say it was a stutter, most of history seems to say that, but some others have said that it was a lisp, but he had the impediment, and try listening to his speeches, see if you can hear the impediment?

He developed a way to deal with it, and it was simple, he would work his speeches until he knew them off by heart, yes he followed his notes, but he didn't really need them as he knew the speeches 'off by heart'

Winston turned his 'weakness' into one of his greatest strengths. He learned how to 'Marshall the English language and send it into Battle"

Winston has the ability to Marshal the English language, and send it into Battle.

— Lord Halifax (an adversary of Winston's who wanted appeasement of Hitler)

Listen to the speech, and remember the orator had speech impediment, yet with it he galvanized a nation

Hurdle 2 "Too fond of the Jews"

It's hard to think, but prior to the Second world war, Germany wasn't the only nation where the Jews weren't liked, let alone trusted.

In 1892 France had put an officer on trial for treason, despite the obvious evidence of his innocence he was found guilty and sentenced to years of hard labour, the reason he was tried was he was Jewish!

Imagine this, October 1914. Britain is at war, but it's a war that no one was ready for, everyone was seriously short on munitions, and they were about to take on a force that was much better prepared.

The Royal Navy was seriously short of acetone to make Cordite, the propellant needed to launch their massive shells for the Battleships. They needed 60,000 tons of the stuff by Christmas, and there was none!

At the time, a chemist in Manchester had come up with a new way of manufacturing the material, but it was experimental and they needed the stuff today!

There was one minor problem though, and that was the Chemist was a Zionist Jew by the name of Chaim Weismann, and he wanted something from Britain.

The Royal Navy was only able to take on the Imperial German Navy because of the work of Dr Weismann.

Churchill saw that Britain owed Dr Weismann its very existence, and by extension, they owed the Jewish nation their very lives. It was Dr Weismann who supplied the acetone for the Battleships, but it was the wealthy Jewish families who were funding the war for Britain, they were there helping when no one else would.

To the rest of the world the Jews were a nation to be used and then thrown away, but to Winston, you never forgot your friends!

Churchill was a friend of the Zionist cause all his political life, and whenever he could do something for the Jewish people, he took advantage of it, even when it meant countermanding standing orders.


Hurdle number 3 "Too many ideas"

Franklyn Delano Roosevelt once said of Winston, "Winston has a thousand ideas a day, but only about two of them are worth anything!"

He had a very quick mind, and could analyse problems while others were still trying to work out if actually was a problem!

It meant at times he got things spectacularly right, but other times he got them spectacularly wrong.

In 1915 Turkey had decided to join Germany in the war, the entire Middle East was in danger, and there was a very real possibility that the British Empire could be cut in two.

In early 1915 Turkey launched an attack on the Suez canal, the fighting was brutal but eventually, they were beaten back.

Churchill came up with a scheme to send a fleet of Battleships though the Dardanelles to attack Constantinople and knock Turkey out of the war, to do so they had to take the Gallipoli peninsula.

It became the worst defeat in British Military history and would have finished the career of anyone else, but Churchill believed in admitting mistakes and resigned as First Lord of Admiralty and joined his old regiment in France (Yes, he fought in the trenches).

After the war, he was re-elected to Parliament and took up the post of 'Colonial secretary' where he worked on the creation of a Jewish homeland.

Many places were suggested, but the Zionist movement would consider only one, Israel.

Churchill did eventually come up with a plan that he got the Jewish people to agree to, in it they would get roughly 10% of the land, but Jerusalem would stay an 'international' city protected by the league of nations, and the Palestinians would get the rest, it was the Palestinians that rejected the plan, and eventually when the nation was formed, they got less than the plan allowed them to have.

Churchill's plan was for a two-state system, but with the roles reversed from what is there today.

Winston has a thousand ideas in a day, but only about four of them are of any use!

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Winston Churchill

Hurdle number 4 "The Black dog"

No, it wasn't his pet dog, but it was something that followed him around all his life.

From 1933 onwards Churchill could see the clouds of war rising again in Europe, he'd seen first hand the carnage of the first great war, and it was rising again.

National Socialism had taken hold in Germany, Socialism in Russia, both were evil is Churchill's eyes, and both were repugnant to him.

But no one was listening! Britain was doing everything it could to avoid another war. The British had lost over a million in the first war, France had lost a similar amount, neither of them wanted to go through the same again, but Germany was re-arming, the Soviets were as bad if not worse and no one was listening!

Churchill was known to suffer from bouts of severe depression, he called them his "Black Dog" that he always knew was around.

Apparently, when he was going into a fit of depression he'd often talk of the "Black Dog being nearby" and people knew he was going into a state of melancholy. But at times he said it was "far away" meaning he was in a state of hyperactivity, at those times he was hard to keep up with.

Then again, very few faced the kind of decisions he had to.

  1. Knowing an English city was about to be obliterated (Coventry), and knowing that if you gave the order to evacuate, then it would tell your enemy you know his plans, and could lose you the whole war!
  2. Knowing your enemy was re-arming, and no one was listening to you.
  3. Standing against the opinion of the day, and believing in victory when all seemed lost


His 'escape'

Winston had a 'release valve' for his depression, he took up Art

In the 1930s, when no one was listening to him, he took up two things that helped him through the 'hard yards'

One was painting, and the other was Bricklaying!

Using the two, he kept his mind off the things that drove him into depression. He even used painting when he was in office to help him relax.

He knew that if he stopped, the depression would take hold, and it was much worse to break, by keeping busy he could do things he enjoyed that would help fight the debilitating depression.

Some today see Churchill's depression as being part of a wider Bipolar disorder, that may be the case, but one thing is sure. He faced things that would crush other men, and he came out 'fighting' showing us that there is a way through these things and that what he did to take his mind away from them really does work.


A personal story

Churchill is a hero of mine. I never met the man, I was four when he died, but writing this hub I remember a story my Mum told me the last time she was here in NZ.

You see, her oldest brother did meet him, in strange circumstances.

My Uncle was a Pilot, and sometime during the war, he was flying his plane on a mission, delivering a VIP somewhere when they saw a plane 'coming out of nowhere' on an intercept course.

My uncle's reaction was to throw the plane into a hard right turn and dive for the ground. They shook the other plane off, they were actually outside the reach of British fighters at the time, but they got clear, at which time someone from the back of the plane came forward to thank the Pilot as "that was the best bit of flying the VIP had ever seen," and he wanted the Pilot to know it.

After they got to the destination the Pilot was curious as to whom the VIP was (The RAF had told him not to ask) so he looked out of the cockpit window to see Churchill waving back at him!

I've never been able to authenticate the story, so it might be true, or it might not, but it's still a great story to tell, and it's just like the man, he was a risk taker, but that's a whole other hub.

This outlines the friendship Churchill had for Israel

Churchill's 'Nightmare'

I'm adding this somewhat later than the hub was first written, but maybe it'll give people some idea of the nightmares the man faced.

One thing that isn't well known is that even before the war started the British had an advantage, they had been given the secret coding machine that the Germans were using!

In 1937 when Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, the Czechs captured an 'Enigma' machine, knowing that their country was about to be 'swallowed up' they smuggled the machine to Britain who promptly set about trying to work out how the machine worked.

By 1940 Britain was breaking the codes and deciphering the messages being sent, even though they didn't have the firepower to stop what the Germans were doing, it must have been horrible, knowing what was coming, but being unable to stop it.

Early in 1941, Hitler gave the order for a massive night attack on the British Midlands, the city of Coventry was selected and messages sent to all Luftwaffe squadrons to prepare for the raid.

Within an hour of the order being given, a translation of the order was given to Churchill, he had a choice if he ordered the evacuation of the city that would tell the Germans that the British had broken their codes, they would change them, and all advantage would be lost, if he didn't, an entire city of over 200,000 was doomed to destruction!

That night Coventry was destroyed, but the secret was preserved, a secret Britain paid a heavy price for.

Reason for the hub

Yes, Winston is a hero of mine. He wasn't perfect, and there are probably many things that if I looked hard enough I would have a hard time with (he was a strong 'Imperialist' who believed in the Empire) but this hub isn't about that kind of stuff.

Winston shaped the course of the latter part of the twentieth century, it wasn't perfect, and in many ways it was chaotic, but he believed in principles and followed them through when others were willing to trade them away.

Not only that, but he battled huge personal battles with speech impediments and depression, yet became the leader who galvanized the free world into action when it was most needed.

He fought with depression, and possibly Bipolar disorder and found a way to use some of their effects to his advantage, and as such he's an example to us all that not even these can hold us back if we decide to 'take them on'

It's my hope that people reading the hub will find encouragement in what I've written, encouragement to 'keep on going' and encouraging friends who might be battling through some of these things.

Blessings

Lawrence

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    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      20 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Denise

      You're right, for Churchill painting and bricklaying were his 'release valves, where he could let the stress and hurt of rejection (he spent decades in the political 'wilderness' as a 'washed up has been' before coming back to take on his biggest role) and it was those two things that kept him sane.

      Glad you found the article informative.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Hey Lawrence,

      I learned several new things by reading this. Thanks for the biography. Really informative. He was quite a good artist as well and I think he dealt with some of the stress and depression that way.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      20 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Chris

      Thank you, what's interesting is that Churchill also became an artist and writer of some renown.

      His paintings hang in galleries around the world besides the likes of Picasso and Dali and his writings qon him the Nobel prize for literature!

      All from a man battling huge personal 'demons'.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      20 months ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Great job with this hub and topic, Lawrence. You kept your focus on the man and what made him great. No, he was not perfect, but he was great and you have told us many of the things that made him so. Thank you for the fine hub.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Zulma

      Thank you.

      I totally agree, he'd already had a career that would see him go into the history books, but when the time came, when needed the most he rose to the occasion, and we are grateful he overcame his challenges in life, he's an inspiration to us all.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      22 months ago from United Kingdom

      This is such a well-written hub, Lawrence. Probably one of your best.

      This is a wonderful tribute to the great man. Whether you loved him or hated him, you couldn't help but respect him.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Muhammed

      Very true. Glad you enjoyed the hub

      Lawrence

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Totally agree with you. Not just that, but when he took over as PM he was 65 years old and not in the best of Health.

      Churchill refused to let little things like his age and health get in his way, not to mention all the other things, he's an inspiration to us all

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Glenis

      I totally agree with you, I don't think any other leader could have done what he did!

      Its also strange to me that even though he was with the conservatives, it was Labour that insisted he was the only 'Tory' they would work with!

      Regarding the Jewish community, they were a major help to Britain not just with finances but also many from Germany worked with the intelligence agencies translating and other things.

      The Jewish community in Israel also formed and sent a Brigade to fight alongside the British troops during the war.

      No Arab nation did that.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Patricia

      Glad you found the hub informative, and I'm not surprised at the show you mention that showed the 'less positive' side of Winston.

      There are a lot of things that he was involved with that were not good, and people tend to look at either one side or the other without seeing the whole picture.

      I'm not trying to write 'history' here so much as looking at the man for inspiration to 'rise above' the challenges that we face (It's what I think history is for so that we can learn from the past).

      Glad you enjoyed the hub.

      Lawrence

    • MD Maniruzzaman profile image

      Muhammad Maniruzzaman 

      22 months ago from Dhaka,Bangladesh

      Real Legend i follow him

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I only know what I've read over the years, but from what I've read I am blown away by the character of this man, his strength and convictions, and his unwillingness to allow an entire nation to fail. Brilliant historical figure!

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 

      22 months ago from UK

      I truly believe that Britain could not have been victorious in WW2 without Winston to boost morale when the country was at it's lowest and in danger of invasion by the Nazis. He is also responsible for negotiating with Roosevelt for the later involvement of the USA, without which we would undoubtedly have lost the war.

      The recent films (Gary Oldman's performance was superlative!) suggest that he was past his prime and irascible, which was no doubt the case. But there was nobody better placed to be Prime Minster at that time than he. All the other cabinet members were weak and most would have capitulated to Germany. Winston's 'fight them on the beaches... we will never give in' speech still brings tears to my eyes.

      Interesting information about the positive contribution to the war effort by the Jewish community - I wasn't aware of that.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      22 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      An enlightening and knowledgeable hub, Lawrence. Thanks for the insight into this great man.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      Thank you, I'm not sure about the 'more inspirational' part, your sermons are pretty good.

      Thank you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      22 months ago from The Caribbean

      Even if Roosevelt's opinion of Churchill is correct, Churchill's two worthy ideas, despite his setback, produced results more than thousands made by others. You make me like him too.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      I hope it will be too! There are so many people who overcame huge obstacles and achieved great things.

      When I wrote the first piece about Einstein I had five in my mind, those I could write straight away, but there are so many more, now its nearer to ten at least. I'll probably write ine every couple of weeks, and just keep on going with them.

      Churchill very nearly didnt live to adulthood. When he was eleven he fell through a frozen lake and nearly drowned, he was saved by the Farmer's son who dived in to save him.

      That farmers son also went on to great things, he discovered Penecillin, he was Alexander Fleming.

      So nuch more to say, but I better stop. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Louise

      He certainly was, and when we take a closer look at some of the things he overcame, for me, he stands out that much more.

      I'm hoping that in these hubs people will find the inspiration to face life's challenges 'head on' and turn them into their strengths just as Churchill did.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      22 months ago from North Central Florida

      So much I did not know...I recently watched a show about him that showed most if the less than positive about him. Thanks for sharing this with us. Angels are on the way this stormy afternoon. ps

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well done friend and more inspirational than any of my sermons could be. What a great we have in Churchill!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      22 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence this is another great contribution to what I hope will be a regular series by you. Churchill was the right man at the right time. What if he had not been there? Or, what if he were alive now? Something to ponder.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      22 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Churchill is my hero too. He was a great man and leader.

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