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Churchill had an iron will, immense energy, and total concentration. He was
also blessed - though aged 65 years of age - with robust health. The day
England declared war on Germany (because she had invaded Poland) Prime
Minister Chamberlain appointed Churchill to his old post
Churchill was immensely distressed and flew back and forth to France in what turned out to be vain attempts to help them. France collapsed and was occupied by the German Army.
In Parliament he described what was happening in Europe as :"the lights of Europe going out".
The world was alarmed and the
British people suddenly woke up.
Prime Minister Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister of a coalition Government.
Churchill immediately formed a small war cabinet of only five ministers. It included two Labour politicians Clement Atlee and Arthur Greenwood. Churchill also held the posts of Leader of the House of Commons A key post in which he himself could plan the business of the House of Commons and Minister of Defence. In this way war decisions were swift and the domestic government they controlled remained representative of the views of all the political parties.
Churchill concentrated on the conduct of the war.
Nothing missed his eagle eye and his fertile imagination was forever devising ideas for beating the enemy and so bringing the the war to a swift and victorious end.
But it was to take 6 long and very terrible years.
And so at last we come to Churchill’s - and England’s
On May 13 1940 Churchill warned the House of Commons and the nation that
"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat", but promised all out war on Germany until victory was achieved and Germans forced back into their boundaries, and were disarmed, so that they could no longer threaten the peace of Europe.
But in 1940, faced with the collapse of France, Churchill knew that Britain was hopelessly unprepared to repel an invasion, and that without the help of America it was an almost impossible task for England to defeat Germany and her allies single handed.
Soon the Battle of Britain began. This was day and night bombing of British cities by the German Air Force with the RAF fighting the Luftwaffe Churchill described it as one of the most famous battles in history. Had the British Air Force lost, invasion would have followed. When it was over and we knew we had won it, Churchill referred to the fighter pilots as ‘The Few‘Finest Hour.
History in England has since overlain this battle with an aura of excitement, romanticism and dare devilment; but the sober reality was of cold, fear, pain from terrible burns, deep sorrow at the loss of loved ones, and damage on a huge scale. It was not however the end of the war but the result was the destruction of most of the German Air Force.
Far worse fighting for both British and American and Allied Forces was to come. Churchill knew from the outset of the second world war that without America’s help we should lose; and that if we lost America would have to win it herself and do so all alone. So Churchill did everything in his power to make the USA realise that our danger was also their danger in the end, and that they should come to the rescue of Europe.
This they did; but not before they too had a great shock - the bombing of their fleet by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. Just before the war started in Europe Italy invaded Ethiopia , then Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and shortly after that Poland - Russia then also invaded Poland - then on December the 7th 1941 Japan bombed the American fleet at Pearl Harbour in the Pacific, and as you can see, all the biggest nations of the world were now fighting each other - the Second World War had begun.. It was to last 6 years and when it was over it would take another 15 years to get over the consequences
The management of the British war effort in the Second World War by Churchill was vastly superior to that in the First World War. This was due to his close co-operation with the Americans and his experiences during 1914 to 1918; for he never forgot the very poor management of the First World War and the terrible loss of life as a consequence.
When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 Churchill knew from that moment that the Allies Britain and Northern Ireland, the Commonwealth and America and the subjugated countries of Europe would in the end win the war.
Refusing to retract any of the fierce criticisms he had in years before made about Russian Communism, he nonetheless realised that military assistance to the Russians in their plight was in the interests of what he called the "Grand Alliance" A 20 year pact between England, America, and Russia of mutual assistance signed in May 1942
This invasion of Russia by the Germans took the Russians completely by surprise as they too were not prepared and so suffered grievously. It was shortly to be followed by the Japanese attacking the American Fleet at Pearl Harbour (Dec 7th 1941). This too came as a tremendous shock to the Americans and brought them into the war.
Churchill went immediately to the USA and with President Roosevelt agreed to pool the resources of both countries under under a Combined Chiefs of Staff. This body was ordered to defeat Germany first of all, and then defeat Japan.
It did so - but not until after many bitter battles all over the globe. You can now see from all this information what a huge military conflict was about to take place in the world.
It is difficult for us in 1995 to realise the devastating effects upon every household and person when a nation turns its entire wealth and ecomonic strength and skills to the waging of all out war - especially these days, after Europe has been at peace for nearly 50 years - the longest period ever.
It is impossible to describe in a few words the chaos and disruption that all out war causes to families and good government. The war on the Russian front was truly terrible, and it was they who eventually broke German military might in the East.
The Allied combined forces, after landing on the Normandy beaches in the biggest ever invasion in history, broke the German armies in France and then raced across Europe into Germany and joined up with the Russians. Germany surrendered and Hitler killed his mistress and then himself before he could be captured. In the Far East it was mainly American Forces who after terrible fighting dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese. What a mercy neither the Japanese or the German warmongers got the atomic bombs first!
War brings out in people both good and bad attributes.
An curious example of this was the fact that in spite of fighting a war in which Britain’s very existence was in the balance, we nonetheless during it prepared the plans for a comprehensive social insurance scheme for the population for when the war ended! Churchill endorsed all these ideas.
The war subjected Churchill to immense physical strains and much travelling so as to ensure the pneumonia but only allowed himself the briefest time for convalescence.
With his long experience of modern and earlier European history, Churchill had a sharper insight than his American Allies and saw how events were likely to develop.
Towards the end of the war there was a meeting of what was called THE BIG THREE (the Heads of the American, Russian and British Governments at Yalta Yalta is a resort on the Crimean Coast Churchill urged that the British and American Armies race across Europe from France and occupy as much land to the East as they could to stop the Russian Communists occupying these countries and refusing to leave them after the war was over. Churchill was outvoted, when it came to trying to save the Polish nation from permanent Russian occupation - the very reason we in England went to war in the first place - yet again he was not listened to, and what he feared would happen - did happen.
The detailed story of the Second World War is far too long to relate here and many books click Bibliography (This list is is far from comprehensive and if you would e mail us with suggested additions we shall be happy to include them) have been written about it and no doubt you have seen many films about it.
Do not think it is just all excitement. Remember they are only films! The reality of war is far worse than ever shown on films, it is truly grim, for it is all terrible violence, pain, horrible smells, and dreadful ear splitting noise. It is usually in either icy cold and wet conditions, or in searing desert heat, and never anything but awful discomfort, boredom, and longing to be back home with your loved ones and simply loathing all the cruelty, bloodshed and destruction and stupidity of it.
In short it is the most horrible experience that anybody can have.
The Second World War ended after two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and she was forced by the threat of more to surrender.
So in the end neither Germany Italy or Japan gained anything by going to war - but what they lost - and what other countries lost as a consequence, no-one can ever measure.
The Labour Party had won an overall majority and Churchill was defeated in what should have been his own ‘finest hour’ In many ways the years after the war were harder to endure than those during the war; for everything was worn out, and everywhere was dirty. The acute shortages of essentials (including bread which had never been rationed during the war) made the tired population irritable and miserable.
It takes modern industry at least four years to develop and manufacture a new product and then another two or three years in times of great shortages for there to be sufficient goods for the prices to come down to a level at which ordinary people can afford to pay. So it was not until ten years after the war (1955) that shortages began to disappear. These years were indeed very bleak times in Europe.
However, being defeated in the election - though it greatly upset Churchill at the time - was not the end of his political career. He led the Conservative Party in opposition the ‘shorthand’ name for the major political party in the House of Commons opposed to the incumbent party’s policies. He travelled in March 1946 to Fulton Missouri in the USA where he spoke about the need for the USA and Britain to unite as guardians of the European peace against the menace of Russian Communism which had brought down what he described as THE IRON CURTAIN A Barbed wire wide barrier erected from the North Sea right down through Eastern Europe to Trieste and guarded by dogs and soldiers in watch towers and also snipers (single hidden soldiers each having a powerful telescopic sighted rifles)
In Zurich on September the 19th 1946 he advocated the formation of " a Council of Europe" - an idea far in advance of the times, and he attended the opening of its first assembly in 1949. Now the war was over and he was relieved of his Prime Ministerial duties, Churchill had time once more to write books and to earn money. In those days Prime Ministers were very poorly paid and received no pensions when they left office.
Churchill found himself once again dependent upon his pen to earn sufficient money to enable him to support his family and keep Chartwell, and there he wrote his great six volume history entitled THE SECOND WORLD WAR.
There was a general election again in 1950 and Churchill very nearly led the Conservative Party to victory. This he did achieve in the next election in October 1951 and so once again became Prime Minister.
On November 30th 1954 on his 80th birthday a unique ‘all party’ affectionate tribute was paid to him in the House of Commons which Rutherlyn has quoted on the front is piece of THE CHURCHILL MUSIC.
On April 9th 1963
he was accorded the unique distinction of having honorary U.S citizenship
conferred upon him by an act of Congress.
He died in London on January 24th
He died in London on January 24th 1965.
By any standards Churchill was a man of rare versatility.
He was a gifted journalist, historian, biographer, and a supreme orator. He was a talented amateur painter. He was a soldier of courage and a military strategist of distinction.
It was however his wartime leadership which has left an indelible imprint on the history of Britain and the world. He was unshakeable against all forms of tyranny be it from the right or the left.
He was a fervent patriot but nonetheless considered himself to be a citizen of the world. He was an indomitable fighter but was always generous in victory.
After the war and although a very old man, he still retained his capacity to update his knowledge and opinions and could learn and adjust to new ideas in a manner that was superior to his younger political colleagues.