Explore Churchill's Timeline

  • 1874 1874

    15 Apr 1874
    Randolph and Jennie marry

  • 1875 1875

    25 Aug 1875
    Captain Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim the English Channel

  • 1876 1876

    01 Jan 1876
    Family moves to Ireland

    10 Mar 1876
    Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call

  • 1877 1877

    15 Mar 1877
    First cricket Test Match between England and Australia

    21 Nov 1877
    Edison announces his invention of the phonograph

  • 1878
  • 1879
  • 1880 1880

    04 Feb 1880
    Brother Jack born

    10 Apr 1880
    Lord and Lady Randolph move to London

  • 1881
  • 1882 1882

    01 Oct 1882
    School years

    School years A few weeks before his eighth birthday, in 1882, Churchill – like many other children of his class and background – was sent away to boarding school. The school was St George’s, near Ascot, Berkshire. Like lots of schoolchildren, Churchill didn’t like school. Churchill later wrote about his schooldays: ‘It appeared that I was to go away from home for many weeks at a stretch in order to do lessons under masters… After all I was only seven, and I had been so happy in my nursery with all my toys. I had such wonderful toys … Now it was to be all lessons …’ (My Early Life) He was unhappy from the start, initially probably no unhappier than many children sent away to school at the time, although ‘floggings’ (beatings) were common. But the discipline of school life didn’t suit his independent spirit. After only two years at St George’s, he was sent to a school in Brighton, run by the two Misses Thomson (The Misses Thomson’s Preparatory School), where he learned things that interested him such as French, history, poetry, riding a horse and swimming.

    14 Oct 1882
    Earliest known match for Manchester United

  • 1883
  • 1884 1884

    01 Jul 1884
    Churchill enters the Misses Thomson's school

    01 Jan 1884
    Fountain pen patent received by L E Waterman

    01 Feb 1884
    First part of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary published

  • 1885 1885

    01 Apr 1885
    Clementine is born

    15 Jun 1885
    Lord Randolph made Secretary of State for India.

    25 Nov 1885
    Election returns Liberals to power

  • 1886 1886

    08 May 1886
    Lord Randolph opposes Irish Home Rule

    01 Jul 1886
    Election returns a huge Conservative majority.

    The election of November 1935 returned the National Government, which had been formed following the crisis of the Great Depression. This was essentially a coalition government with a large Conservative majority. The Conservatives won 384 seats, the Labour Party won 154 and the Liberals won 21. The election campaign was fought on foreign affairs, including the role of the League of Nations and the power of the Japanese Empire. The next election to be held after the outbreak of war in 1939 would be in 1945, so in fact this parliament sat for 10 years under the leadership of Stanley Baldwin, then Neville Chamberlain and finally Winston Churchill.

    03 Aug 1886
    Lord Randolph Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House.

    22 Dec 1886
    Lord Randolph resigns his posts.

    29 Jan 1886
    Karl Benz patents first successful gasoline-driven car

    08 May 1886
    First Coca-Cola sold in Atlanta

    28 Oct 1886
    Statue of Liberty dedicated in New York City harbour

  • 1887 1887

    25 Dec 1887
    Sherlock Holmes makes his first appearance

  • 1888 1888

    17 Apr 1888
    Harrow

    Harrow Churchill was sent to Harrow School in London in 1888. Although he didn't particularly excel academically, it was at Harrow that he began to show a strong interest in soldiering and an ability to memorise lines and deliver impressive speeches.

    04 Sep 1888
    George Eastman introduces the Kodak camera

  • 1889 1889

    06 May 1889
    Eiffel Tower is officially opened

  • 1890 1890

    21 Sep 1890
    Churchill promises his mother he will give up smoking for six months

    05 Mar 1890
    Forth Rail Bridge completed in Scotland

    29 Jul 1890
    Vincent van Gogh dies

  • 1891 1891

    01 Jan 1891
    Churchill proclaims he will '... save the Empire'

    Winston Churchill from a very young age believed that he had a great destiny to fulfill. Visiting his grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace, he would often gaze up at the massive tapestries that covered the walls. The ancient tapestries depicted the battles won by his ancestor, the great John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. At the age of seventeen, while attending Harrow School, he told his friend Murland Evans that he had dreams about the future: ‘I tell you I shall be in command of the defences of London … In the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the Capital and save the Empire’.
  • 1892
  • 1893 1893

    10 Jan 1893
    Churchill falls from bridge at Bournemouth

    28 Jun 1893
    Churchill enters Royal Military College, Sandhurst

    03 Dec 1893
    The Scream is first exhibited in Berlin

  • 1894 1894

    01 Dec 1894
    Churchill passes out of Sandhurst

    Churchill dreamed early on of serving in the British Army. He had a massive toy solider collection with which he would play for hours, repositioning his troops and readying them for battle. His father preferred him to join the infantry but, against his father’s wishes, he joined the cavalry. Though it took him three tries to finally gain entrance to Sandhurst, it was the first significant milestone in beginning his career on the world stage. Upon graduation, he was given a commission in the 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars. His early military career would lead him to world fame and later contribute to him winning his first political election. (Though he lost the first election he stood for at Oldham, he won the second.)

    30 Jun 1894
    Tower Bridge opens

  • 1895 1895

    24 Jan 1895
    Lord Randolph dies

    20 Feb 1895
    Commissioned in 4th Hussars

    01 Apr 1895
    Gazetted to the 4th Hussars

    03 Jul 1895
    Mrs. Everest dies

    09 Nov 1895
    First visit to US

    Churchill’s mother Jennie Jerome was instrumental in furthering his career using her social connections and made an introduction to Bourke Cockran. Jennie, born in Brooklyn, told her son that he would find New York City quite boring, though his experience was quite the opposite. Cockran was a well-connected American politician and would become a great mentor of Churchill’s. Churchill remarked of Cockran that, ‘I must record the strong impression which this remarkable man made upon my untutored mind’. While on his way to Cuba to witness his first battlefield fighting, Cockran arranged for him to meet President McKinley and to dine with New York Governor Theodore (‘Teddy’) Roosevelt.

    30 Nov 1895
    Cuba

    Cuba Churchill had a period of leave and managed to obtain his first assignment as a war correspondent for the Daily Graphic newspaper. He was reporting on the rebellion against Spanish rule by guerilla rebels in Cuba when he first came under fire. (It was also in Cuba that he first developed his well-known taste for fine Cuban cigars. He was attached to the Spanish forces as an observer but his writings reveal considerable sympathies for the Cuban rebels.)

    08 Nov 1895
    German physicist, W. C. Roentgen, discovers the X-ray

    28 Dec 1895
    First public film show held

  • 1896 1896

    11 Sep 1896
    India

    Back home in Britain, in 1896, Churchill did all he could to get posted to Egypt or Matabeleland in South Africa, where he could see some action and get noticed – to no avail. He eventually sailed to India with his regiment in the Autumn of 1896. Confined to a life of polo and military routine in Bangalore, he eventually took matters into his own hands and, armed with a contract as a war correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, travelled to the North West frontier to join the Malakand Field Force. Here he did find himself in danger. Although the fighting on the north-west frontier against the Afghan tribes in 1897 couldn’t really be called battles, there was a real risk of being killed and Churchill had several narrow escapes. The campaign became the topic of Churchill’s first book, published in March 1898 – The Story of the Malakand Field Force – in which Churchill discusses topics of relevance to the situation in Afghanistan today and which Coughlin cites as ‘required reading for military commanders on the ground, both British and American’.

    25 Mar 1896
    First modern Olympic Games open in Athens

  • 1897 1897

    04 Sep 1897
    Joins the Malakand Field Force

    04 Oct 1897
    Begins writing his only novel, Savrola

    30 Apr 1897
    Discovery of electrons

  • 1898 1898

    14 Mar 1898
    Publishes first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force

    The Story of the Malakand Field Force was the first of many books. Churchill made his living from writing. He was a born storyteller and enjoyed writing immensely. Even though he was born as an aristocrat, there was to be very little inheritance, so he needed the income to support his expensive tastes. Churchill’s view was that history would be kind to him, because he would write the history. During his lifetime Churchill wrote forty-three books in seventy-two volumes. Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his contribution to the written and spoken word.

    02 Aug 1898
    Arrives Cairo

    02 Sep 1898
    Cavalry charge at Omdurman

    01 Dec 1898
    Returns to India

    28 Jul 1898
    Research links mosquitoes to the spread of malaria

  • 1899 1899

    01 Apr 1899
    Politics interferes - briefly

    With all his writing and journalism gaining the attention of the political authorities (due in no small part to promotion of his activities by his mother Lady Randolph), he resigned from the army in April 1899. Politics beckoned. He had already spoken at a few political meetings in the Autumn of 1898 and attempted to enter Parliament as a Conservative, but failed – by a small margin – at the by-election in Oldham in 1899. But more action was to beckon. A serious colonial war had begun in South Africa and Churchill managed to secure another lucrative assignment to report on the war for the Morning Post. The contract he negotiated with the newspaper, a salary of £250 a month and all expenses paid, made him the highest-paid war correspondent of the day.

    30 Oct 1899
    South Africa

    South Africa In his last youthful military adventure, Churchill joined British forces in the Boer War. Churchill set off, armed with the important things in life – sixty bottles of spirits, twelve bottles of Rose’s Lime Juice and a supply of claret – and arrived in Cape Town late on 30 October 1899. He was famously captured only two weeks later by the Boers, when the armoured train on which he was travelling in Boer-occupied territory was ambushed and derailed. He made a dramatic escape the following month, making his way to Durban, with the Boers offering a reward of £25 for the recapture of their well-known prisoner, ‘dead or alive’. His dispatches from the Boer War were republished as two books, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900) and Ian Hamilton’s March (1900).

    06 Nov 1899
    Publishes The River War

    15 Nov 1899
    Captured by the Boers in South Africa

    13 Dec 1899
    Escapes from prison in Pretoria

    An event in Churchill’s life that gained him worldwide fame occurred when he was just twenty-five years old. He escaped from prisoner of war camp during the Boer War in South Africa. He was already able to use his fame as a writer to get himself posted to South Africa as a war correspondent. In November, he went on patrol with the British Army aboard a train and they were ambushed. Churchill was able to help most of the men escape the Boer ambush but he was taken prisoner. He was being held in Pretoria at a prison called the State Model Schools and made a plan of escape with two other POWs. On the night of the 12/13 December he jumped the fence as the guards had turned their backs. When Churchill reached Durban, South Africa he found himself a hero.

    06 Mar 1899
    Bayer registers aspirin as a trademark

  • 1900 1900

    01 Feb 1900
    Publishes Savrola

    16 May 1900
    Publishes London to Ladysmith via Pretoria

    05 Jun 1900
    Enters Pretoria with British troops

    20 Jul 1900
    Returns to England

    01 Oct 1900
    Elected Conservative Member for Oldham

    Churchill was a Member of Parliament for more than sixty years. Even while still at school, he’d said that he wanted to be a great parliamentarian like his father who was famous for his wit and fiery speeches and whom Winston revered. He said once that he intended to ‘… beat my sword into an iron despatch box’. He lost the first election he stood for as a Tory in Oldham in 1899 but won the second time around in the general election of 1900. Wining this election was the beginning of his life-long devotion to the House of Commons.

    12 Oct 1900
    Publishes Ian Hamilton’s March

    01 Dec 1900
    Lecture tour of North America begins

    10 Dec 1900
    Meets Governor Theodore Roosevelt

    11 Dec 1900
    Lecture in Philadelphia

    31 Dec 1900
    Earns more than any contemporary journalist

    27 Feb 1900
    The Labour Party is founded

    14 Apr 1900
    World Fair opens in Paris

  • 1901 1901

    31 Jan 1901
    Final lecture, Carnegie Hall

    02 Feb 1901
    Embarks for England

    14 Feb 1901
    Takes his seat in the House

    18 Feb 1901
    Maiden Speech in the House

    On 10 February 1901, Churchill returned from a lecture tour of the Britain, the United States and Canada. His heroic escape from the Boer POW camp in South Africa in 1899 had propelled him to worldwide fame. He wrote London to Ladysmith via Pretoria about his exploits and he was in high demand on the lecture circuit. Upon his return to London he gave his maiden speech in the House of Commons. David Lloyd George made an inflammatory speech just before him. Churchill later wrote in My Early Life that, as Lloyd George continued, he felt ‘a sense of alarm and even despair … Then Mr. Thomas Gibson-Bowles whispered to me, “You might say instead of making his violent speech without moving his moderate amendment, he had better have moved his moderate amendment without making his violent speech”.' The advice came just in time and the speech was a success.

    13 May 1901
    Attacks government’s Army estimates

    22 Jan 1901
    Queen Victoria dies

    02 Oct 1901
    Royal Navy launches first submarine

    12 Dec 1901
    First transatlantic radio signal received

  • 1902 1902

    27 Sep 1902
    First visit as a guest at Balmoral.

    10 Oct 1902
    Proposes a Tory-Liberal central coalition

    14 Jul 1902
    The Campanile of St Mark's in Venice collapses

  • 1903 1903

    20 Apr 1903
    Publishes Mr. Brodrick’s Army

    01 Mar 1903
    First teddy bear produced

    17 Dec 1903
    First controlled, powered flight in an aeroplane

    Although the Wright brothers were not the first inventors to experiment with aircraft, they were the first to successfully design, build and fly a controlled, powered and sustained plane. The Wright Flyer I was made from wood and covered in muslin. Its wingspan was just over 12m, it weighed 274kg and had a 12 horsepower engine. Many of the parts were made by the Wright brothers and the employees of their family-run mechanical business. Existing engineering companies simply didn’t have the expertise to create the technology. On the day the brothers made three separate flights, travelling at around 7mph for approximately 60m. The news was met with scepticism from the public and the media, who failed to understand the significance of this seemingly modest achievement for the history of the 20th century. Mechanised flight went on to revolutionise warfare and travel.
  • 1904 1904

    01 Mar 1904
    Meets Clementine Hozier

    31 May 1904
    Breaks with the Conservative Party

    Winston gave a number of evocative speeches in the House on the failures of protectionism. As a result he fell out of favour with the Conservative Party over the issue of free trade. He had gained a respect for David Lloyd George and, partly due to his urging, decided to ‘cross the floor’ to join the Liberal Party. Churchill was highly criticized for this move. His opponents accused him of switching merely for the advancement of his own political career, though he continued to fight for free trade as a Liberal member. It would be more than twenty years before he would make the switch again to rejoin the Conservative Party.

    21 Jul 1904
    Trans-Siberian railway completed

    27 Dec 1904
    Peter Pan opens in London

  • 1905 1905

    26 Jan 1905
    The largest diamond ever found is discovered near Pretoria

    30 Jun 1905
    Einstein publishes his theory E=mc2

    05 Dec 1905
    Prime Minister Balfour resigns

  • 1906 1906

    02 Jan 1906
    Publishes Lord Randolph Churchill

    02 Jan 1906
    Publishes For Free Trade

    13 Jan 1906
    The New Liberal

    The New Liberal In 1905, Prime Minister Balfour resigned and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed a government pending a January election, appointing Churchill as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, assisting Lord Elgin. And in the Liberal Party’s landslide election victory in early 1906, Churchill was elected as the Liberal MP for North-West Manchester. Churchill, the ambitious, shining ‘glow-worm’, was on his way.

    03 Nov 1906
    SOS adopted as international distress signal

  • 1907 1907

    02 Oct 1907
    Begins official tour to British East Africa

    22 Oct 1907
    Clementine breaks her engagement

    01 Jul 1907
    Picasso completes Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

  • 1908 1908

    12 Apr 1908
    Radicalism and Reform

    Radicalism and Reform Churchill rapidly established himself as a prominent New Liberal, combining a commitment to free trade with support for a programme of social reform and was one of the main architects of Britain’s incipient welfare state. To those Tories he’d ‘betrayed’ by ‘crossing the floor’, he was now betraying their class, too. By April 1908, however, his ‘star’ seemed to be shining clearer and clearer (see Harper’s prophecy), as he achieved cabinet rank, as President of the Board of Trade in Herbert Asquith’s new government, at the age of only thirty three. In this role he introduced a number of initiatives (not all of which were adopted during his tenure but were later).

    12 Apr 1908
    Meets Clementine for the second time

    24 Apr 1908
    Defeated in Manchester NW and seeks new seat

    09 May 1908
    Elected Member of Parliament for Dundee

    11 Aug 1908
    Proposes to Clementine and is accepted

    12 Sep 1908
    Winston and Clementine marry

    Churchill could be very charming, but he also was known to be quite difficult at times. He had such a presence and reputation that there were very few men who would stand up to him. There was however one very strong willed woman who always would - his wife, Clementine. In classically Victorian fashion, even when under the same roof, they wrote to each other daily throughout their lives. Theirs was a great romance, but as importantly, Clementine would dispense wise advise on all of the matters of the day. He relied heavily on her for her unwavering support and for her always-sage advice.

    01 Dec 1908
    Publishes My African Journey.

    05 Apr 1908
    Campbell-Bannerman resigns as Prime Minister

    21 Jun 1908
    “Votes for Women” rally in Hyde Park

  • 1909 1909

    11 Jul 1909
    Birth of first child, Diana

    26 Nov 1909
    Publishes Liberalism and the Social Problem

    01 Dec 1909
    Publishes The People’s Rights.

    25 Jul 1909
    First flight across the English Channel

    12 Sep 1909
    Kaiser’s guest at German Army manoeuvres

    01 Dec 1909
    Lords vetoes the Liberals’ “People’s Budget"

  • 1910 1910

    01 Jan 1910
    The reactionary

    Churchill was appointed Home Secretary following the January 1910 election, when the Liberal party was again returned to power. It was during this time that he most clearly demonstrated that strange mix of his nature - of the radical reformer and the reactionary. While he helped introduce reforms to the prison system, reducing sentencing for younger people and improving conditions, he also opposed strikers and refused to support votes for women.

    14 Feb 1910
    Named Home Secretary

    08 Nov 1910
    Tonypandy riots begin in Wales

    The Tonypandy riots were the result of an industrial dispute between miners and mine-owners in South Wales. After it was announced that several mines would be closed, the South Wales Miners' Federation voted to go on strike to protect their jobs. They were particularly offended by the mine-owners' assertion that they were deliberately inefficient. On 8th November these tensions erupted and violence broke out on the picket line between the police and the strikers. Controversially, the Chief Constable of Glamorgan felt that the police could not cope with the situation alone and applied to the local military authorities for troops. Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, consulted with the Secretary for War, Haldane, and decide to hold troops in reserve nearby if needed. His role in the Tonypandy riots is disputed, but regardless of his culpability the incident haunted his career and his reputation, particularly in Wales and Labour circles, was permanently tarnished.

    11 Dec 1910
    First public display of the neon lamp

  • 1911 1911

    28 May 1911
    Birth of son, Randolph

    13 Aug 1911
    Churchill's cabinet paper predicts the First World War

    01 Oct 1911
    First Lord of the Admiralty

    First Lord of the Admiralty In October 1911, Churchill – still an ambitious relatively young minister – was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty with full charge of the Navy. Deteriorating relations between France and Germany and the rapid expansion of the German Navy had prompted great anxiety in Britain and Churchill was determined to ensure Britain’s maintenance of its naval supremacy over Germany. He felt that Britain should be in ‘constant and instant readiness for war’. Thanks to Churchill’s energy and persistence, the fleet was indeed ready when war came. In a peculiar twist of fate, when Churchill the anti-appeaser returned to office following his famous ‘wilderness years’ in September 1939, it was to be as First Lord of the Admiralty again (and he would be Prime Minister within eight months, fighting another war).

    03 Jan 1911
    Battle of Sidney Street

    The Battle of Sidney Street was a police siege on a house containing two members of a criminal gang. This gang, comprised of Latvian refugees, had murdered several policemen just a few weeks prior. As the siege began, it quickly became clear that the gang-members had superior weapons and Churchill was called upon to grant the police and troops from the Tower of London permission to use whatever force necessary to stop them. Churchill famously visited the scene as the gunfire raged. Eventually a fire broke out in the besieged house and the gang members never escaped. Their bodies were recovered later the same day.

    01 Jul 1911
    German gunboat Panther anchors off Agadir

    14 Dec 1911
    First man to reach the South Pole

  • 1912 1912

    28 Mar 1912
    Both boats sink in Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race

    15 Apr 1912
    SS Titanic sinks

  • 1913 1913

    21 Dec 1913
    New York World publishes first crossword

  • 1914 1914

    21 May 1914
    Argues for compromise on Irish Home Rule

    03 Oct 1914
    Leads the defence of Antwerp

    07 Oct 1914
    Birth of the Churchill's second daughter, Sarah

    17 Jun 1914
    Persian oil supply secured for Royal Navy.

    28 Jun 1914
    Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated at Sarajevo

    Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was shot by Gavrilo Princip near the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, Serbia. The coup was one of many attempted by Serbian nationalists against the Austro-Hungarian officials, who administered the region. Whilst the incident shocked many across Europe, few suspected that this incident, in a remote part of Eastern Europe, would be the trigger for an international conflict on a scale never seen before. After Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in retaliation for the assassination, a network of treaties between European powers meant that Russia, France, Germany and Great Britain soon joined them. This was the beginning of the First World War.

    17 Jul 1914
    Grand Review of the Fleet by the King

    01 Aug 1914
    British fleet ordered to its war station at Scapa Flow

    04 Aug 1914
    Great Britain declares war on Germany.

    A confluence of events occurred after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June of 1914. The Germans shortly afterwards put into action the von Schlieffen plan to invade France by surprise attack through Belgium and Luxemburg. Since Belgium had her neutrality guaranteed by Britain, the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith gave Germany an ultimatum to get out of Belgium by midnight of 3 August. Churchill later wrote, ‘It was eleven o’clock at night – twelve by German time – when the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were thrown wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof from which Nelson had received his orders were gathered a small group of admirals and captains and a cluster of clerks, pencils in hand, waiting. …The war telegram, which meant, “Commence hostilities against Germany”, was flashed to the ships and establishments ... I walked across the Horse Guards Parade to the Cabinet room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were assembled there that the deed was done’.

    04 Sep 1914
    Britain, France and Russia sign Treaty of London

    30 Oct 1914
    Appoints Admiral Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord

    01 Nov 1914
    British Pacific squadron defeated in the Battle of Coronel

    02 Nov 1914
    Russia declares war on Turkey

    08 Dec 1914
    Royal Navy victorious in the Battle of the Falkland Islands

  • 1915 1915

    03 Jan 1915
    Proposes naval and military attack on the Dardanelles

    27 May 1915
    Appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

    02 Jul 1915
    Begins oil painting at Hoe Farm, Surrey

    In May 1915, after the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, Churchill was forced to resign his office of First Lord of the Admiralty. This was a devastating blow to him both personally and politically. During this period Churchill found himself in a great depression, which he referred to as his ‘black dog’. As he was waiting to be shipped off to France to fight on the front, he decided to take up painting as a hobby to help with his depression. Today, this is what’s known as ‘art therapy’. He was forty years old when he began; painting became a passion, giving him immense pleasure for the remainder of his life. It was even acknowledged by professionals that he became quite a good amateur painter and could have been quite successful as professional artist with further study. In 1948 he was appointed Honorary Academician Extraordinary by the Royal Academy for ‘achievements in the art of painting’.

    11 Nov 1915
    Resigns from Cabinet

    19 Nov 1915
    Attached to 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards in France

    Following his resignation from his post as First Lord of the Admiralty in humiliation following the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, he held a lesser post for several months but then resigned in November to rejoin the British Army to fight on the front lines in France and Belgium. He first joined the Grenadier Guards in France for training, and then was given the temporary rank of Lt. Colonel in command of the 6th battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers.

    19 Jan 1915
    First Zeppelin raid on the United Kingdom

    18 Mar 1915
    Franco-British naval attack on Dardanelles fails

    Winston had a great many setbacks in his lifetime. The failure of the attack on the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign however was one of the most devastating. Though the Dardanelles Commission later exonerated him of most of the blame for the military failure, he was the most vocal champion of the strategic move to cut off the Turkish support of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War When the plan failed, mostly due to lack of military coordination, he was force to resign his beloved ministerial post of First Lord of the Admiralty. He remained in the cabinet in a mostly ceremonial post until resigning in November 1915 and volunteering to fight on the front in France.

    22 Apr 1915
    Second battle of Ypres

    07 May 1915
    RMS Lusitania sunk by German U-Boat

    15 May 1915
    Lord Fisher abruptly resigns

    01 Aug 1915
    Royal Naval Air Service placed under Navy

    21 Oct 1915
    First transatlantic telephone call

    Alexander Graham Bell was awarded a patent for the telephone in 1876, but it took forty years until wireless radio technology was developed which would allow global telephony. The earliest attempt at a transatlantic phone call was in 1915 when a signal was transmitted between the Naval Wireless Station in Arlington, Virginia and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Though successful, this was merely a one-way transmission of speech; conversation was impossible. It wasn’t until 1926 that the first two-way transatlantic telephone call took place and year later a commercial service between New York and London was established. Only one call could be made at a time and the first three minutes cost $75, a small fortune in today’s money. By the advent of the Second World War, telephones were sufficiently advanced to allow communication between US and Allied forces in real-time. [This would be result in Churchill being able to communicate in real-time with Roosevelt in WWII.]

    10 Dec 1915
    Millionth Model-T car produced

  • 1916 1916

    18 Jul 1916
    Back in government – Minister of Munitions, 1917–19

    Back in government – Minister of Munitions, 1917–19 Churchill’s desire to play a more important role in the war – and in politics – came a step closer when David Lloyd George toppled Asquith to become Prime Minister of a coalition government in December 1916. By July 1917, his old Liberal ally and mentor was confident enough to take the risk of reintroducing Churchill – now largely exonerated of sole blame for the Dardanelles – into Government. Lloyd George appointed Churchill Minister of Munitions, putting him in charge of forging the weapons of war.

    21 May 1916
    British Summer Time introduced

    31 May 1916
    Battle of Jutland

    01 Jul 1916
    Battle of the Somme

    15 Sep 1916
    First British tanks go into action

    28 Sep 1916
    John D Rockefeller becomes world’s first “billionaire”

    06 Dec 1916
    David Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister

    Churchill crossed the floor to switch parties (for the first time) from the Tory to the Liberal Party in 1904. He’d decided to ally himself with friend, mentor and sometime rival David Lloyd George, who encouraged him to make the switch. Lloyd George became Prime Minister of a wartime collation in 1916 and was instrumental in helping Churchill rehabilitate his political image after the disaster of the Gallipoli campaign the previous year. Having served for a time on the front lines in France after his resignation from government, Churchill was brought back into government (controversially) by Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions in 1917. Though Churchill would again switch parties and would not always be politically aligned with Lloyd George, their lifelong friendship would endure.
  • 1917 1917

    08 Feb 1917
    Churchill purchases Lullenden

    30 Jul 1917
    Wins by-election at Dundee

    06 Apr 1917
    United States enters World War I.

    By the end of 1916 there was effectively stalemate on all fronts of the First World War. Resources and morale were running extremely low and the sacrifices of war had been so great that neither side were willing to negotiate peace and accept that their losses had been futile. A turning point was a change in tone from the United States, who up to this point had been decidedly neutral. Public opinion in the U.S. was largely in support of the Allies, particularly after the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in 1915. When in 1917 Germany resumed all-out submarine warfare on commercial ships to Britain (many of which were American), Woodrow Wilson called on Congress to enter the conflict and ‘make the world safe for democracy’. In April they declared war and by July 1918 over a million American troops were on European soil with hundreds of thousands more arriving each month.

    09 Apr 1917
    Canadian triumph at Vimy Ridge

    01 Jun 1917
    Battles at Passchendaele (Third Ypres)

    02 Nov 1917
    Balfour Declaration

    The Balfour Declaration was a letter from the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, a wealthy and powerful international banker. Lord Rothschild was a leading proponent of Zionism, the movement for the establishment of a Jewish nation state in Palestine. This letter, which was published shortly afterwards, conveyed the British government’s support for the creation of a Jewish ‘national home’ in Palestine, so long as the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine were respected. The reasons for this declaration are disputed. It is likely that, during a time of severe warfare, this was a political move intended to strengthen diplomatic ties with the USA and Russia, and to attract Jewish financial resources. It is also true that there were Zionist members of the Cabinet, including Churchill himself. Today, the anniversary of the Declaration is celebrated in Israel as Balfour Day; in Arab countries it is a day of mourning and protest.

    07 Nov 1917
    Russian government overthrown by the Bolsheviks

    The overthrow of the Russian government in November 1917 marks the culmination of the Bolshevik revolution. The Bolsheviks were a communist political group, founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov, who believed that the country should be governed by a select group of leaders in the interests of the proletariat. The Tsarist monarchy had been toppled in March 1917 and replaced with the Provisional Government. Ineffective and paralysed by internal conflict, the Provisional Government was resented by many. The First World War was increasingly unpopular and the stalling economy provoked frequent and widespread strikes in the cities. The Bolsheviks took their opportunity to seize power and faced little opposition as they marched into Petrograd. After a period of civil war, the Bolsheviks became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and retained power until 1991. [Though Soviet support was needed to defeat Hitler in 1945, Churchill remained a staunch anti-communist. He did tell his Private Secretary Jock Colville that if Hitler invaded Hell he would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.]
  • 1918 1918

    29 Jul 1918
    Meets Franklin Roosevelt

    In July 1918, in his capacity of Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, Franklin Roosevelt made a visit to Great Britain. He was greeted in Portsmouth and then driven by car to London, where he was billeted at the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly. Roosevelt toured the British and American bases at the invitation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Eric Geddes, and met with a number of officials including PM David Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour. He was particularity pleased to have been granted an audience for forty five minutes with King George VI. During this official trip, Roosevelt attended a dinner at Gray’s Inn in London where he first met Winston Churchill. He was thoroughly unimpressed. He wrote later that, ‘I always disliked him [Churchill] since the time I went to England in 1917 or 1918. At a dinner I attended he acted like a stinker’. To make matters worse, Churchill later failed to recall this first meeting. First impressions notwithstanding, during the Second World War they became great friends and confidants.

    15 Nov 1918
    Birth of third daughter, Marigold

    09 Feb 1918
    Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed

    01 Apr 1918
    Royal Air Force Created

    15 Jul 1918
    Second Battle of the Marne

    11 Nov 1918
    Armistice Day ends World War I.

  • 1919 1919

    09 Jan 1919
    Appointed Secretary of State for War and Air

    30 Sep 1919
    Sells Lullenden to Gen. Ian Hamilton

    01 Apr 1919
    Bauhaus school in founded in Berlin

    21 Jun 1919
    70 German navy vessels scuttled at Scapa Flow

    28 Jun 1919
    Versailles Peace Treaty signed

    The Treaty of Versailles was one of several agreements made at the end of the First World War, which stated the terms of peace. It was agreed upon by the 'Big Three': David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France and Woodrow Wilson of the USA, all of whom had conflicting interests. Germany was excluded from negotiations and the treaty was imposed upon them as a 'diktat'. Controversially, the treaty required Germany to accept full responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict and pay very severe reparations. The responsibility clause caused outrage in Germany and a sense of betrayal. This, coupled with the repatriations and the economic ensued, set the stage for the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
  • 1920 1920

    16 Jan 1920
    League of Nations convenes, Geneva

    25 Mar 1920
    First 'Black and Tans' arrive in Ireland

    30 May 1920
    Joan of Arc canonised by Pope Benedict V

    11 Nov 1920
    Government of Ireland Act is law

    Home rule, i.e. regional self-government in Ireland, had been on the political agenda at Westminster since the 1880s, but had proven to be extremely controversial and divisive. Simplistically put, Irish nationalists, who supported home rule, were backed by the Liberals, whereas the Conservatives backed the Irish unionists. The Government of Ireland Act, also known as the Home Rule Act, marks the partition of Ireland into the Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. According to the act, both Northern and Southern Ireland would continue to be part of the United Kingdom and would, at a later date, be unified. This measure failed to satisfy the nationalists, whose demands had evolved to full independence, or the unionists, who wanted to remain entirely within the United Kingdom. The Parliament of Northern Ireland came into being in June 1921. However, the ongoing Irish War of Independence meant the Act was never successfully applied in Southern Ireland. Instead a Free Irish State was declared in 1922. [Churchill gave many speeches in support of Irish home rule and helped negotiate the 1922 Treaty, though he opposed full independence and helped mobilize the infamous ‘Black and Tans’. His father had been a staunch unionist who coined the term ‘Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right’.]
  • 1921 1921

    01 Jan 1921
    Colonial Secretary, 1921–22

    Colonial Secretary, 1921–22 In 1921, Churchill was tasked with the complex process of managing the situation in the Middle East. Keen to limit the expense involved in the British occupation of the former Ottoman territories of Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq), he proposed that they should be run by a Middle East department of the Colonial Office. Set up in February 1921, its staff included T. E. Lawrence, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

    01 Apr 1921
    Resigns as Secretary of State for Air

    15 Apr 1921
    Bill Hozier, Clementine’s brother, commits suicide

    29 Jun 1921
    Lady Randolph Churchill dies

    23 Aug 1921
    Marigold Churchill dies

    01 Apr 1921
    Mondrian’s Tableau 1 with Red, Black, Blue and Yellow painted

    05 May 1921
    Perfume Chanel No 5 goes on sale

    18 Jul 1921
    First vaccination against tuberculosis

    06 Dec 1921
    Helps negotiate the Irish Treaty

  • 1922 1922

    19 Apr 1922
    Churchill is injured falling off his horse while playing polo

    12 Sep 1922
    Winston and Clementine's 14th wedding anniversary

    14 Sep 1922
    Successfully offers to buy Chartwell

    In 1922, Churchill purchased what was to become his respite from the world, his beloved country home Chartwell, in the Kent countryside. Just an hour from London, he said of it once that, ‘A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted’. When he and his family first went to visit Chartwell, he fell in love. His wife Clementine on the other hand was not at all convinced. The home needed a tremendous amount of work and would take a staff of eight to nine to run. When Churchill decided to purchase Chartwell, he made the offer without first telling his wife. He spent £5,000 to purchase Chartwell and a further £15,000 in refurbishment costs in order for the family to move in. Over the following fifteen years or so another £15,000 was needed.

    15 Sep 1922
    Birth of fourth daughter, Mary

    19 Oct 1922
    Churchill leaves Colonial Office

    01 Nov 1922
    Winston Churchill completes the purchase of Chartwell

    15 Nov 1922
    ‘Without an office, without a seat’

    ‘Without an office, without a seat’ In 1922, Churchill found himself out of Parliament for the first time in twenty-two years, after losing his seat in the General Election. He retired to the South of France to take up writing but couldn't stay away from politics for long.

    03 Jun 1922
    Government issues White Paper on Palestine

    18 Oct 1922
    BBC is formed

    19 Oct 1922
    Lloyd George resigns

    14 Nov 1922
    BBC begins its radio service

    19 Nov 1922
    Zinoviev Letter advocating Communist agitation published

    29 Nov 1922
    Discovery of King Tut's tomb announced

    07 Dec 1922
    Parliament of Northern Ireland votes to remain part of the UK

  • 1923 1923

    06 Apr 1923
    Publishes The World Crisis, Vol. I

    06 Dec 1923
    Defeated in the West Leicester by-election

    08 Jan 1923
    First Outside Broadcast by the BBC

    26 Apr 1923
    Wedding of the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

    23 May 1923
    Stanley Baldwin becomes Prime Minister

    15 Nov 1923
    A loaf of bread in Berlin costs over 200 billion marks

  • 1924 1924

    19 Mar 1924
    Defeated in the Abbey Division of Westminster by-election

    29 Oct 1924
    Elected as a 'Constitutionalist' member for Epping

    06 Nov 1924
    Chancellor of the Exchequer

    Chancellor of the Exchequer When Churchill returned to the Conservative party in 1924, Stanley Baldwin, keen to be associated with moderate social reform, promoted him to Chancellor of the Exchequer. Churchill’s period as Chancellor was one of the happiest and most settled phases of his career. He was almost at the top.

    23 Jan 1924
    First Woman to be Appointed Government Minister

    17 Feb 1924
    BBC begins using Big Ben chimes as radio time signal

    23 Apr 1924
    First Broadcast by King George V, opening the British Empire Exhibition

    04 Jun 1924
    A Passage to India published

    27 Nov 1924
    New York City the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is held

  • 1925 1925

    28 Apr 1925
    First budget and return to Gold Standard

    23 Mar 1925
    First public demonstration of TV in London

    30 Apr 1925
    A new style “Art Deco” is born

    18 Jul 1925
    Adolf Hitler Publishes Mein Kampf

    03 Nov 1925
    Alfred Hitchcock's first (silent) film, The Pleasure Garden

    01 Dec 1925
    Pact of Locarno Non-Aggression Treaty

    01 Dec 1925
    Germany joins the League of Nations

  • 1926 1926

    03 May 1926
    General Strike begins

    13 May 1926
    The General Strike ends

    03 Aug 1926
    London’s first traffic lights come into operation

    14 Oct 1926
    Winnie-the-Pooh published

  • 1927 1927

    15 Jan 1927
    Visits Mussolini in Rome

    07 Mar 1927
    Publishes The World Crisis, Vol. 3

    01 Apr 1927
    Begins bricklaying at Chartwell

    21 May 1927
    Lindbergh completes first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic

  • 1928 1928

    05 Mar 1928
    Dispute over rating reform with Chamberlain

    05 Jul 1928
    Successfully proposes extension of the Ten Year Rule

    12 Aug 1928
    Chamberlain writes about differences with Churchill

    22 Sep 1928
    Joins Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers

    27 Aug 1928
    Kellogg-Briand Pact renounces war

    03 Sep 1928
    Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

  • 1929 1929

    07 Mar 1929
    Publishes The Aftermath

    04 Jun 1929
    Resigns as Chancellor of the Exchequer

    04 Jun 1929
    Beginning of Churchill's 'Wilderness Years'

    The conservatives lost the election in 1929 and during this time Churchill became estranged from his party, mostly over the issues of Indian home rule and free trade. It could be said, of Churchill’s so-called ‘wilderness years’, that he was both literally and figuratively in the wilderness. He was out of favour with his party and spent much of the 1930s in the countryside at his home Chartwell. This period of exile continued throughout the 1930s as Hitler’s Germany began rearming. Churchill was one of the most resolute voices for taking action, as the Germans were breaching the Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War in 1919. For the articles he published and for his speeches in the House he was called a ‘warmonger’.

    03 Aug 1929
    Embarks for North America

    09 Aug 1929
    Arrives in Canada

    07 Sep 1929
    Arrives in Washington State, USA

    09 Sep 1929
    Visits Northern California Redwoods

    13 Sep 1929
    Hosted by William Randolph Hearst

    22 Sep 1929
    Catches 188-pound marlin

    24 Sep 1929
    Meets Charlie Chaplin

    03 Nov 1929
    Embarks for England

    29 Jan 1929
    All Quiet on the Western Front is Published

    11 Feb 1929
    Lateran Treaty signed establishing Vatican City

    04 Mar 1929
    Herbert Hoover inaugurated as the 31st US President

    15 May 1929
    First Oscars (Academy Awards) are presented

    30 May 1929
    Baldwin government defeated

    27 Jul 1929
    The Geneva Convention Addresses the Treatment of POW's

    01 Sep 1929
    A Farewell to Arms First Published

    29 Oct 1929
    New York Stock Market crash

    Also known as the 'Wall Street Crash' or 'Black Tuesday', this day marks the beginning of the Great Depression, which devastated the USA and the world for the following ten years. The boom of the 1920s had led many to invest money they didn't have in stocks and shares, creating an economic bubble, which burst spectacularly on this day. Billions of dollars of wealth were lost, unemployment rocketed and international trade nosedived. In the USA there was no system of benefits for the unemployed, which meant that those without work were often forced to migrate in hope of a better life. Shantytowns, nicknamed 'Hoovervilles' after President Hoover, sprang up in cities across the country. It was only when the Second World War began that the economy was stimulated and employment finally began to grow. Churchill was in New York to observe the Crash at first hand. He lost a lot of money but it did not dent his faith in American progress.
  • 1930 1930

    18 Oct 1930
    Remarks on Hitler to Prince Otto von Bismarck

    20 Oct 1930
    Publishes My Early Life

    01 Jan 1930
    Frank Whittle receives patent for the jet engine

    01 Jan 1930
    The chocolate chip cookie is invented

    18 Feb 1930
    Pluto discovered

    18 Apr 1930
    BBC Radio from London reports on this day that "There is no news"

    07 Aug 1930
    R. B. Bennett takes office as the eleventh Prime Minister of Canada

    16 Aug 1930
    The first British Empire Games open in Hamilton, Ontario

    01 Oct 1930
    Prime Minister MacDonald expelled from the Labour Party

  • 1931 1931

    27 May 1931
    Publishes India

    01 Nov 1931
    Publishes The Eastern Front

    05 Dec 1931
    Embarks for New York

    13 Dec 1931
    Knocked down by a taxi in New York

    In 1929, on a speaking tour attempting to recoup his losses from the 1929 stock market crash, Churchill looked left rather than right on 5th Avenue in New York on stepping out of a taxi and was hit by an oncoming car and nearly killed. He’d been looking for the home of his friend Bernard Baruch. Churchill said, ‘I do not understand why I was not broken like an eggshell or squashed like a gooseberry’. He immediately took full responsibility for the accident. He was rushed off to Lennox Hill Hospital in another taxi and spent the next several weeks there recovering. When he came out of the anesthesia, there were kind faces including his wife and Bernard Baruch. The first thing he asked was, ‘Tell me, Baruch, what is the number of your house?’ Turning tragedy into opportunity, Churchill wrote about the incident in an article titled My New York Misadventure, published initially for the Daily Mail in January 1932. Quite coincidentally, Adolph Hitler was nearly killed by a taxi in Munich the very same year.

    31 Dec 1931
    Embarks for Nassau to recuperate

    01 Jan 1931
    The Film Mata Hari Opens

    01 Jan 1931
    The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer is first published

    01 May 1931
    Construction Completed for Empire State Building

    12 Jun 1931
    Cricketer Charlie Parker equals J. T. Hearne's record of 100 Wickets

    19 Sep 1931
    The Japanese Invasion of Manchuria

    22 Sep 1931
    The UK Abandons the Gold Standard

    The Gold Standard was an economic model, to which Britain and most of the world's economies subscribed. In this system, the amount of money in circulation was directly linked to the amount of gold held in national reserves, so a ten pound note could be exchanged for the relative amount of gold at a bank. This system was stable, but its inflexibility could cause problems, for example inflation. Britain had moved away from the Gold Standard, but in 1925 as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill put Britain back on this system. The Great Depression exacerbated the economic problems of doing so when Britain needed a flexible monetary policy to tackle the impact of declining trade and unemployment. Since the Gold Standard was based on international collaboration, when Britain left, other countries quickly followed. Churchill later considered this one of the greatest mistakes of his career.
  • 1932 1932

    28 Jan 1932
    Lecture tour resumes in Brooklyn

    01 Feb 1932
    Lectures in many cities across the US and Canada

    11 Mar 1932
    Embarks for England

    13 May 1932
    First speech warning of German rearmament

    Throughout the 1930s, Churchill was one of the few British politicians to warn of German rearmament and aggression. At this time, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles was increasingly seen as too harsh and there was ongoing political discussion about allowing Germany military parity with France. Hitler had recently been defeated in a presidential election, but seemed to Churchill to be an increasingly dangerous warmonger. Churchill was frequently and vocally in opposition to any lenience towards Germany and in the latter half of the 1930s he went on to oppose any form of appeasement. (After the outbreak of war, Churchill, who was an extremely savvy political operator, publicised the fact that he had the foreseen German aggression. In his book The Gathering Storm, for example, he presents himself as the lone voice of prudence in Parliament.)

    10 Nov 1932
    Publishes Thoughts and Adventures

    01 Jan 1932
    Film Version of A Farewell to Arms Opens

    01 Jan 1932
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is Published.

    28 Jan 1932
    Conflict between Japan and China in the Battle of Shanghai

    04 Feb 1932
    The 1932 Winter Olympics open in Lake Placid, New York

    14 Apr 1932
    First splitting of the atom

    08 Nov 1932
    Franklin Roosevelt elected president

  • 1933 1933

    09 Feb 1933
    The Oxford Union King and Country debate

    14 Mar 1933
    First speech on the need to rebuild Britain's air defences

    In 1932 Churchill was visiting battlefields in Germany as part of his research for writing a biography of his great ancestor John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. In November, he visited Munich and saw for himself the brown-shirted Nazis marching through the streets. Shortly after this trip, in January of 1933, Hitler had realised the culmination of his rise to power and became Chancellor of Germany. Churchill began to speak out in the House and write articles in the press about the potential dangers of a rearmed Germany and the vital need to rebuild Britain’s air defences. ‘The House was enraged in an ugly mood towards Mr. Churchill’, declared the Daily Despatch, following Churchill’s 14 March speech on Europe. He was called a warmonger for speaking out. This anti-Churchill sentiment continued through the 1930s, though public opinion began to swing behind him after the Munich Crisis and the occupation of Czechoslovakia , and in September 1939 he was called back as First Lord of the Admiralty at the outbreak of the Seond World War.

    06 Oct 1933
    Publishes Marlborough

    10 Oct 1933
    Tells James Roosevelt: 'I wish to be Prime Minister ...'

    20 Jan 1933
    Hitler elected German Chancellor

    The interwar period saw the rise in popularity of the National Socialists (Nazis) in Germany. Amongst other things, this was caused by the humiliating and economically devastating terms of the Treaty of Versailles, growing unemployment, fear of communism and the failures of the Weimar Republic. However, by 1933 the Nazis still did not command enough support to win a majority. In an act of political calculation, President Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor, believing that the Vice-Chancellor Von-Papen would be able to limit his powers. This proved to be a grave miscalculation and Hitler capitalised on his opportunity by expelling the communists from the Reichstag (parliament) and declaring a national state of emergency. Within weeks he had control of the army, the police, the government and the economy.

    10 Feb 1933
    The first singing telegram

    27 Feb 1933
    Reichstag fire

    28 Feb 1933
    The Reichstag Fire Decree is passed

    02 Mar 1933
    King Kong Premieres in New York City

    04 Mar 1933
    Roosevelt proclaims "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself

    23 Mar 1933
    Reichstag passes the Enabling Act, making Hitler dictator of Germany

    Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany on 30th January 1933, but he had no real intention of participating in a democracy. Instead he sought to capitalise on every opportunity to seize power. One of these opportunities arose on 27th February, when the Reichstag (the German house of Parliament) was set on fire. Hitler immediately claimed the Communist Party caused it and had their leading members arrested, barring them from political participation. He used intimidation, negotiation and a climate of fear to convince the Reichstag to amend the constitution, allowing Hitler’s government to act singlehandedly, without the approval of Parliament. This so-called Enabling Act meant that the Reichstag no longer held real political power in Germany. Thereafter it met infrequently and irregularly. Within three months Germany was a single-party dictatorship.

    27 Mar 1933
    Japan leaves the League of Nations

    26 Apr 1933
    The Gestapo is established by Hermann Göring

    05 Dec 1933
    US Prohibition ends after nearly 14 years

  • 1934 1934

    07 Feb 1934
    Argues in Parliament for creation of 'shadow factories'

    01 Jan 1934
    Cleopatra staring Claudette Colbert Opens

    01 Jan 1934
    Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is Published

    01 Jan 1934
    Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers is First Published

    26 Jan 1934
    German-Polish non-aggression pact signed

    25 May 1934
    Bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde killed

    06 Jul 1934
    Perry and Round win singles finals at Wimbledon

    02 Aug 1934
    Hitler proclaims himself Führer and Chancellor

  • 1935 1935

    01 Jul 1935
    Churchill joins Committee of Imperial Defence

    During his so called ‘wilderness years’ of the 1930s, Churchill had many detractors on both sides of the House, though he also had his supporters. Some were passing him top-secret information from the Foreign Office, which clearly indicated Germany was rebuilding her defences, and possibly building offensive capabilities. Churchill continued to speak out on the importance of rebuilding Britain’s air defences throughout this period and at the beginning of July 1935 the new Secretary of State for Air Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister asked newly installed Prime Minister Stanly Baldwin if Churchill could join the Air Defence Research sub-committee of the Committee for Imperial Defence. Baldwin readily agreed. He and Churchill exchanged several letters setting the terms such that Churchill would still be free to argue his position on the state of Britain’s air defences.

    12 Jul 1935
    Desmond Morton begins to supply Churchill with information about German rearmament

    Desmond Morton, a distinguished military man, was at this time Head of the Industrial Intelligence Centre of the Committee of Imperial Defence. His role was to provide intelligence about the rearmament of foreign powers, principally Germany. At this time Britain’s policy of appeasement meant that Germany, who was beginning to show signs of European aggression, was allowed a degree of lenience. This was at least partly because of the general opinion that war should be avoided at all costs. However, Churchill was a vocal opponent of appeasement and Morton, his close friend and political ally, began to supply Churchill with classified information from Whitehall about German rearmament. Despite the fact that Churchill had no position in the government, this intelligence allowed him to devise a response to appeasement, which he expressed in speeches throughout the 1930s.

    18 Jun 1935
    Anglo-German Naval Agreement allows Germany up to 35% of British naval strength

    30 Jul 1935
    Penguin paperbacks first published

    03 Oct 1935
    Mussolini invades Abyssinia

    05 Nov 1935
    Monopoly board game released

    14 Nov 1935
    General election returns large Conservative majority

    01 Dec 1935
    Hoare-Laval Pact signed

  • 1936 1936

    07 Dec 1936
    Churchill is shouted down in support of Edward VIII

    01 Jan 1936
    Gone with the Wind is Published

    20 Jan 1936
    Death of King George V

    05 Mar 1936
    First flight of new Spitfire fighter aeroplane

    07 Mar 1936
    Hitler reoccupies the Rhineland

    The Rhineland was an important economic area for heavy industry and had traditionally been a buffer zone between Germany and France. As such, Hitler particularly resented the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which stated that Germany must not have troops within 50km of the Rhineland. From 1935 Hitler pushed the limits of the Treaty of Versailles, believing the Europe did not have the will or resources to stop him. This included reintroducing conscription, building up an air force and, on 7th March 1936 marching 22,000 troops into the Rhineland. Hitler’s calculation was correct; neither France nor Britain opposed him. He accelerated German rearmament, demonstrating that he would not be satisfied with the Rhineland alone. This was evidence to some politicians, including Churchill, of Hitler’s expansionist aims and his potential brutality. [Churchill’s sees the beginnings of Hitler’s desire for expansion.]

    25 Jun 1936
    First exhibition of Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans

    17 Jul 1936
    Spanish Civil War begins

    10 Dec 1936
    Abdication of King Edward VIII

    Edward VIII's abdication was the result of a constitutional crisis, caused by his proposal of marriage to American divorcee and socialite, Wallis Simpson. As the ruling monarch Edward was also head of the Church of England, which did not sanction divorce. It was therefore impossible for Edward to both stay on the throne and marry Simpson. Despite the moral and legal arguments against the match, Edward refused to reconsider and announced his abdication. His younger brother, father of Elizabeth II, was crowned George VI on 12 May 1937. Churchill knew Edward VIII well and tried to speak in his support in Parliament. It was one of the few occasions on which he was shouted down, and did much to damage his political reputation.
  • 1937 1937

    04 Oct 1937
    Publishes Great Contemporaries

    26 Apr 1937
    City of Guernica in Spain destroyed by German bombers

    12 May 1937
    Coronation of King George VI

    28 May 1937
    Warns German Ambassador “Do not underestimate England"

  • 1938 1938

    13 Mar 1938
    Hitler proclaims Anschluss: The Union of Germany and Austria

    20 Feb 1938
    Eden resigns as Foreign Secretary

    03 Mar 1938
    Saudi Arabia: oil is discovered

    20 May 1938
    Czechoslovakia mobilises

    30 Sep 1938
    Munich agreement cedes Sudetenland

    The Munich Agreement was a pact made between Britain, Germany, France and Italy, which allowed Hitler to take the Sudetenland, a region of Czechoslovakia, in return for a guarantee that he would make no more territorial demands. Britain, led by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, was anxious to avoid war. The lenient strategy he initially adopted with Hitler is referred to as 'appeasement'. The strategy was very popular with the British public at the time, but Churchill strongly criticised the agreement as dishonourable; he believed Britain had abandoned Czechoslovakia. In March Hitler invaded the rest of the country, making it clear that he could not be trusted. The policy of appeasement was over and Churchill’s star was rising.

    30 Oct 1938
    The War of the Worlds broadcasted on radio

    09 Nov 1938
    Reichkristallnacht pogrom of Jews

  • 1939 1939

    15 Aug 1939
    Churchill visits Rhine fortifications

    03 Sep 1939
    Appointed First Lord of the Admiralty

    The ministerial post of First Lord of the Admiralty is the civilian head of the British Royal Navy. Churchill was appointed to the coveted post in late 1911 and, like most things that he did, he took it up with great gusto. Churchill adored Navy life aboard the Admiralty yacht Enchantress and after taking up office he set out to visit every capital ship and every Royal Navy base in the British Isles. He spent eight months of his first twelve in office aboard the yacht. Churchill was instrumental in reshaping the Royal Navy, with larger more powerful ships and modernising them from coal to oil. His moves would prove instrumental in preparing the Royal Navy for the First World War.

    14 Mar 1939
    German troops enter Prague

    21 Mar 1939
    Lithuania cedes Memel to Germany

    31 Mar 1939
    Britain guarantees Poland’s independence

    Following the Munich Agreement and Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, Britain and France’s concerns over German aggression grew. The obvious next target for Germany was Poland and it was becoming increasingly clear that war would be the only way to stop Germany’s advance. This guarantee is often seen as the formal end of appeasement, when Britain and France accepted that negotiation with Germany was futile. Indeed Germany did invade Poland just a few months later and this guarantee gave Britain and France the diplomatic justification for war. However, in reality Britain and France did not effectively supply meaningful support to Poland. They were involved in skirmishes on the Western front, far away from where Poland needed aid. By mid-September Poland was overrun by German troops from the west and Soviet troops from the east.

    07 Apr 1939
    Mussolini invades Albania

    12 Aug 1939
    Release of The Wizard of Oz

    24 Aug 1939
    German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

    01 Sep 1939
    Hitler invades Poland

    The invasion of Poland marks the first military exchange of the Second World War. Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, had guaranteed Poland’s borders in March, but Hitler, emboldened by the recent alliance with the Soviet Union, dismissed the treaty as immaterial. He believed that Britain’s policy of appeasement would continue and a peace settlement would be reached, leaving him free to extend German territory without fear of repercussions from Russia, Britain or France. This strategy backfired. The British delayed until 3 September, hoping for a diplomatic solution, but eventually honoured their alliance with Poland and declared war on Germany at 3pm.

    02 Sep 1939
    France mobilizes

    03 Sep 1939
    Britain and France declare war on Germany

    13 Dec 1939
    Premiere of Gone with the Wind

    17 Dec 1939
    German battleship Graf Spee scuttled off Montevideo

  • 1940 1940

    10 May 1940
    Churchill becomes Prime Minister and Minister of Defence

    Though his reputation was still not yet fully rehabilitated, a confluence of events led King George VI to invite Churchill to form a government in May 1940. The Germans had taken Norway and France would soon capitulate in the face of the German Panzers. Hitler launched his ‘blitzkrieg’ offensive in Western Europe on the very day that Churchill became Prime Minister. Within days the Germans were rapidly advancing around the French lines and through the Low Countries and the situation was becoming dire. On 13 May, Churchill gave the first of many of his great wartime speeches. He told the House of Commons ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’. By the end of May, much of Western Europe would be in German hands with the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) trapped at Dunkirk. The evacuation of BEF would take place at the end of May. There was cause for celebration that nearly 350,000 British and allied troops would make it back to British soil, but Churchill said ‘Wars are not won by evacuations’. Upon becoming Prime Minister, Churchill made the decision to take up the post of Minister of Defence as well as that of Prime Minister, enabling him to work directly with his military commanders. He did this quite specifically to prevent another disaster like Gallipoli in 1915. This time he would be in charge.

    13 May 1940
    Promises only “Blood, toil, tears and sweat

    15 May 1940
    Unsuccessfully asks Roosevelt for loan of fifty destroyers.

    28 May 1940
    Convinces Cabinet to fight on, Belgium surrenders

    The situation was dire. British and French forces were pinned down on the coast of France as the evacuation of more than 300,000 troops to Britain was underway. Much to Churchill’s dismay the King of the Belgians had instructed his Commander-in-Chief to ask the Germans for an armistice to take place at midnight on 27 May. Foreign Minister Lord Halifax and others wanted to negotiate with Herr Hitler, but Churchill was defiant, saying ‘Nations that went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished’. The War Cabinet adjourned at 6:00 PM on the evening of 28 May. War Cabinet members left the room and remaining were twenty five junior cabinet members. Churchill, tired from two hours of arguing against any kind of negotiation, explained to the remaining members the dire situation at Dunkirk and the likelihood that the Germans were going to take Paris with terms. Churchill commented, ‘there was no doubt whatever, that we must decline anything like this and fight on’. There were loud cries of approval all around the table and members ran to Churchill’s chair patting him on the back. Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare, noted in his diary, ‘No one expressed even the faintest flicker of dissent’.

    04 Jun 1940
    Tells Parliament: 'We shall never surrender'

    16 Jun 1940
    On fourth visit to France as Prime Minister

    18 Jun 1940
    Gives his 'Finest Hour' speech

    Churchill gave many speeches for which he became famous, but his ‘Finest Hour’ speech stands alone as one of his most memorable and inspiring. Several weeks earlier, the French and British had been evacuated from the coast of France at Dunkirk. The day before, on 17 June, the French had signed an armistice with the Germans, thereby effectively surrendering. Churchill addressed the House of Commons on 18 June in a confident tone. He said that, ‘What General Weygand called the “Battle of France” is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin’. Churchill concluded his speech with his now celebrated final point, ‘Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty 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”’.

    04 Jul 1940
    Churchill orders attack on French fleet, Oran

    08 Jan 1940
    Rationing of food begins in the UK

    15 Jan 1940
    Russia invades Finland

    12 Mar 1940
    Finland capitulates

    20 Mar 1940
    Daladier resigns as French premier, succeeded by Reynaud

    02 May 1940
    British withdraw from Trondheim, Norway

    09 May 1940
    Germany invades Denmark and Norway.

    10 May 1940
    Germany invades Luxembourg, Holland and Belgium

    15 May 1940
    Holland surrenders

    19 May 1940
    General Weygand Supreme Allied Commander

    20 May 1940
    U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy tells Roosevelt that “Britain is finished"

    22 May 1940
    UK: Bletchley Park begins to break the Enigma code

    24 May 1940
    Germans reach Calais on English Channel

    26 May 1940
    Dunkirk evacuation

    In May 1940 the Germans had begun their invasion of France and, despite the best efforts of the British and French armies, their advance was proving overwhelming. As the German troops closed in, the Allies were forced to retreat to the port town of Dunkirk. However, an opportunity for escape arose when Hitler ordered his army to halt outside the town, possibly hoping that the Britain would come to an alliance with Nazi Germany. The British took full advantage of this miscalculation and organised 'Operation Dynamo', masterminded by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay at Dover Castle. This was a mission to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the beaches at Dunkirk. Since the shore was too shallow for large ships to approach, a fleet of over 900 small vessels, including pleasure boats and fishing boats, ferried soldiers to larger ships, which transported them to Britain. In all, around 200,000 British and 140,000 French soldiers were saved.

    10 Jun 1940
    Italy declares war on Britain and France

    11 Jun 1940
    French government evacuates to Tours

    15 Jun 1940
    Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia occupied by the Soviet Union

    25 Jun 1940
    France surrenders

    10 Jul 1940
    Battle of Britain begins

    The Battle of Britain was a decisive moment in the course of the Second World War. Following the Dunkirk evacuation and the surrender of France, the Germans were hoping to clear the way for a full-scale invasion of Britain, know as 'Operation Sea Lion'. This meant the Germans dominating the skies over the English Channel, from which Luftwaffe planes could protect an invasion force from the British Navy. This battle lasted from 10th July until September 15th, when British planes successfully repelled the German advance, partly due to the use of RADAR. In total the RAF had lost around 650 planes compared to the Germans' 1,100, forcing Hitler to call off the invasion. It was the Battle of Britain that prompted Churchill's famous quotation, ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’.

    02 Aug 1940
    German bombers drop copies of Hitler’s “last appeal to reason” speech over England

    02 Sep 1940
    Roosevelt agrees to loan destroyers

    12 Sep 1940
    17,000-year-old prehistoric paintings discovered in Lascaux Caves

    15 Sep 1940
    Hitler postpones “Operation Sea Lion"

    27 Sep 1940
    Tripartite Pact signed forming the Axis Powers

    09 Nov 1940
    Neville Chamberlain dies

    15 Dec 1940
    Halifax named Ambassador to the US; Eden named Foreign Secretary

  • 1941 1941

    10 Aug 1941
    Meets Roosevelt in Newfoundland

    12 Aug 1941
    Drafts the Atlantic Charter communiqué

    The Atlantic Charter was an ideological declaration, issued by Britain and the USA after secret talks between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill. The two leaders met clandestinely at Placentia Bay on the southeast coast of Newfoundland and on 12 August announced their agreement to the world. The Charter outlined their shared goals for the post war world, including self-determination, free trade and worldwide economic co-operation. They agreed to work towards disarmament and never to seek territorial gains. The other Allied countries quickly agreed to the Charter and on 1 January 1942 it was used as the basis for the 'Declaration by the United Nations' - the origin of the modern UN.

    26 Dec 1941
    First speech to joint session of Congress

    11 Mar 1941
    U.S. Lend-Lease Act

    Even though the USA had not formally entered the Second World War, the Lend-Lease Act effectively ended their neutrality. The Act allowed President Roosevelt to give military materials to Britain on the understanding that they could be paid for later if they hadn't already been destroyed. In doing so, the President was moving away from 'isolationist' policy, which held that the USA should stay out of foreign conflicts, and towards an 'interventionist' approach, arguing that the security of the USA depended on peace in Europe. Over the course of the war items such as munitions, transport and food were transferred to Britain, France, China, Russia and other Allied nations. Churchill, desperate for greater American help, called this, ‘the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history’.

    10 May 1941
    House of Commons bombed

    10 May 1941
    Rudolf Hess flies to Scotland claiming to be on a peace mission

    15 May 1941
    First flight by British jet-engined aircraft.

    20 May 1941
    Britain invades Crete

    27 May 1941
    German battleship Bismarck sunk

    22 Jun 1941
    Germany invades Russia

    01 Jul 1941
    Gen. Auchinleck replaces Wavell in North Africa

    20 Jul 1941
    At midnight, the BBC launches its “V for Victory” campaign

    02 Dec 1941
    UK announces call-up of all 20-30/yo single women

    06 Dec 1941
    Eden visits Stalin in Moscow

    07 Dec 1941
    Japan attacks Pearl Harbor

    Pearl Harbour, situated on a Hawaiian island in the Pacific, had been used as the site of a US naval base for decades. On this day, the Japanese, allies of the Nazis, attacked Pearl Harbor, intending to destroy the entire Pacific fleet in one fell swoop. The US had not yet joined the Second World War, instead following a policy of 'non-interventionism'. Despite the fact that the attack on Pearl Harbor was planned to deter their entry, the USA declared war on Japan the following day in retaliation. This proved to be a decisive factor for the eventual victory of the Allies.

    10 Dec 1941
    HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse sunk

    11 Dec 1941
    Germany, Italy declare war on USA

    22 Dec 1941
    Washington conference

    25 Dec 1941
    Hong Kong surrenders to Japan

  • 1942 1942

    27 Jan 1942
    Wins vote of confidence, 464 to 1

    17 Jun 1942
    Flies to Washington to meet with Roosevelt

    02 Jul 1942
    Defeats vote of no confidence, 475 to 25

    12 Aug 1942
    Flies to Moscow; first meeting with Stalin

    29 Jan 1942
    UK: BBC broadcasts first Desert Island Discs

    14 Feb 1942
    Singapore falls to the Japanese

    Singapore was a crucial strategic outpost for the British, who used the a military base on the island to protect their interests across East Asia. In order to safeguard Singapore from the Japanese, who were allies of Nazi Germany, the British built substantial sea defences. However, much to the British Army's surprise, the attack came from land, through the dense jungle of the Malay Peninsula and across the Johore Strait. The guns installed for the defence of Singapore were pointed in the wrong direction. The RAF could offer no support, as their fleet had been destroyed by Japanese forces only weeks before. The British Army stationed in Singapore - consisting of British, Indian and Australian men - were spread too thinly across the coastline to repel Japanese forces and around 100,000 of them were taken prisoner. The fall of Singapore was a complete shock to the British government and public, especially because propaganda had portrayed the Japanese as feckless and incompetent.

    31 May 1942
    Three Japanese midget submarines raid Sydney Harbour

    21 Jun 1942
    Tobruk falls to German forces

    01 Jul 1942
    First Battle of Alamein

    02 Aug 1942
    Alexander replaces Auchinleck, Montgomery commands 8th Army

    09 Aug 1942
    Battle of Stalingrad begins in Russia

    23 Oct 1942
    Second Battle of Alamein

    08 Nov 1942
    American troops land in North Africa

    26 Nov 1942
    Casablanca premieres in New York

    01 Dec 1942
    Allies crack the German Enigma code

    Enigma was the name given to the German system of enciphering secret messages, so that enemy radios could not intercept sensitive information. The effort to crack Enigma took place at Bletchley Park in Oxfordshire, where the Government employed an eclectic team of mathematicians, logicians, chess champions and crossword enthusiasts. Foremost among these was Alan Turing, a gifted Cambridge University mathematician, who designed the 'Bombe' machines, which were eventually used to decipher the code. His original thinking was not only instrumental to Allied success in the Second World War, but is also credited with founding modern computer science. Churchill called the team at Bletchley, ‘The geese that laid the golden eggs.’ The work of the men and women at Bletchley Park remained 'Ultra Secret' after the war and it was only in the 1970s that their contribution to the war effort was revealed to the public.
  • 1943 1943

    30 Jan 1943
    Meets Turkish President Inönü at Adana

    30 May 1943
    Confers with Eisenhower and commanders in North Africa

    22 Nov 1943
    Confers with Roosevelt at Cairo

    28 Nov 1943
    Meets Roosevelt and Stalin at Teheran Conference

    11 Dec 1943
    Flies to Tunis, contracts pneumonia

    14 Jan 1943
    Casablanca Conference

    02 Feb 1943
    Germans surrender at Stalingrad

    The Battle of Stalingrad is one of the bloodiest wars in history and arguably a turning point in the Second World War. The German offensive on Stalingrad, in southwest Russia, began in late summer 1942 as part of a wider attempt to secure the oil fields of the Caucasus. The Luftwaffe bombarded the city, reducing most of the buildings to rubble. What followed was months of close-quarters combat. Eventually, Soviet troops managed to encircle the 250,000 enemy troops. Hitler had forbidden surrender, which meant that the German troops were forced to endure a freezing winter, with diminishing supplies of food and ammunition. In the end 91,000 soldiers were taken prisoner and Germany’s power in the east was crushed.

    05 May 1943
    Travel to Washington for “Trident” conference

    16 May 1943
    RAF “Dambuster Raid" on Germany

    10 Jul 1943
    Allied invasion of Sicily

    25 Jul 1943
    Mussolini dismissed from office and arrested

    14 Aug 1943
    First Quebec Conference begins

    03 Sep 1943
    Allied invasion of southern Italy

    12 Sep 1943
    Mussolini rescued by Germans

  • 1944 1944

    12 Jun 1944
    Visits Normandy beachheads

    In true characteristic style, Churchill wanted to go in with the main invasion force of Normandy on 6 June 1944. It was only King George VI that was able to convince him otherwise by saying that if Churchill was going, then he (the King) was going as well. Churchill, after much debate, eventually conceded that this was neither practical nor sensible. On D-Day+6 Churchill sailed across the Channel to the coast of France aboard the HMS Kelvin and visited the beaches at Normandy surveying the destruction. General Sir Bernard Montgomery met him and they later lunched together at Montgomery’s headquarters just three miles from the front. Churchill enquired about the likelihood of German armour breaking up their lunch party and Montgomery replied that his HQ had indeed been shelled the night before.

    20 Jun 1944
    Visits U.S. sector, Cherbourg

    21 Jul 1944
    Visits Montgomery’s HQ near Caen

    11 Aug 1944
    Meets Tito in Naples; visits Italian front

    09 Oct 1944
    Makes 'percentages' agreement on spheres of influence

    Churchill took many controversial actions during his lifetime, but this was one to top the list. Meeting with Russian ally Joseph Stalin at a conference in Moscow, and purposely excluding Roosevelt’s representative from the discussion, they agreed to carve up Eastern Europe by percentages of influence. Immediately after discussing Poland, Churchill said to Stalin, ‘Let us settle about our affairs in the Balkans’. Churchill proposed splitting by percentages Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Hungary with the Russians. As this was being translated to Stalin, Churchill proceeded to jot down the figures on a half-sheet of paper. He then pushed the paper across the table to Stalin, who read it, and then with a blue pencil, he made a large tick on it and passed it back to Churchill. In moments, all was done. Churchill later referred to this as the ‘naughty agreement’.

    11 Nov 1944
    Celebrates Armistice Day in Paris

    05 Dec 1944
    Intervenes in Greece to stop civil war

    25 Dec 1944
    Churchill flies to Athens to mediate

    22 Jan 1944
    Anglo-Americans land at Anzio, Italy

    04 Jun 1944
    Rome falls to Allied troops

    06 Jun 1944
    D-Day, the Allied invasion of France

    D-Day was the first day of Operation Overlord , the name given to the Allied invasion of Normandy on the coast of France, and a decisive moment in the Second World War. Preparations for D-Day were shrouded in secrecy, so that when the invasion took place, the Allies had the element of surprise. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers landed in Normandy that day, some approaching by sea and others parachuting behind the beaches. After D-Day allied forces made their way across Europe, gradually liberating the occupied countries in Western and Northern Europe.

    13 Jun 1944
    First V-1 flying bomb lands in England

    01 Jul 1944
    Bretton Woods Conference

    20 Jul 1944
    Von Stauffenberg’s bomb fails to kill Hitler

    15 Aug 1944
    'Dragoon': invasion of the south of France

    21 Aug 1944
    Dumbarton Oaks conference

    24 Aug 1944
    Liberation of Paris

    09 Sep 1944
    First V-2 rocket lands on London

    12 Sep 1944
    Second Quebec Conference

    07 Nov 1944
    Roosevelt elected for a fourth term

    11 Nov 1944
    Laurence Olivier’s film version of Shakespeare’s Henry V premieres in London

    03 Dec 1944
    UK: Home Guard stood down after 4 1/2 years

    16 Dec 1944
    Battle of the Bulge, Hitler’s last offensive

  • 1945 1945

    30 Jan 1945
    Meets Roosevelt at Malta

    04 Feb 1945
    Meets Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta

    16 Feb 1945
    Meets King Saud and other leaders at Cairo

    25 Mar 1945
    Crosses Rhine two days after Allied Armies

    23 May 1945
    Forms Conservative “caretaker” government

    04 Jun 1945
    Delivers “Gestapo” speech

    07 Jul 1945
    Holidays with Clementine and Mary in France

    17 Jul 1945
    Meets Truman and Stalin at Potsdam

    26 Jul 1945
    Resigns as Prime Minister

    The war in Europe ended with Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May 1945 and the western world erupted in jubilation. The British public was elated, but very weary of war. Churchill easily won his seat in Parliament for Woodford, but the Conservatives were thrown out of office. He would resign the office of Prime Minister to make way for Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. The sentiment was simply that the Conservatives did a tremendous job winning the war but Labour was better suited to rebuilding the country. One of Labour’s campaign slogans that year was ‘Cheer Churchill - Vote Labour’. This was a considerable personal blow to Churchill and ‘black dog’ (depression) returned. But, as in the past, he would rise again.

    25 Jan 1945
    Relief of Bastogne ends Battle of the Bulge

    12 Apr 1945
    Roosevelt dies in Warm Springs, Georgia

    28 Apr 1945
    Mussolini executed by partisans at Mezzegra

    30 Apr 1945
    Hitler commits suicide in Berlin

    08 May 1945
    V-E Day. Germany surrenders

    Following the announcement of the allied victory the day before, V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) was declared a public holiday. Jubilant crowds of tens of thousands of people turned out in London to see King George VI and his family, along with Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Across the country street parties were organised, with neighbours pooling their rations to prepare their humble feast. The blackouts in cities were ended with Buckingham Palace lit up with huge spotlights to create a 'V' sign. After years of austerity, this was the first time Britons were able to celebrate. Nonetheless, Japan still remained to be defeated and the next day Britain returned to the prudence of wartime.

    26 Jun 1945
    United Nations Charter signed by 50 countries

    05 Jul 1945
    Polling day in Britain

    16 Jul 1945
    Atomic bomb test, Alamogordo, New Mexico

    06 Aug 1945
    Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima

    The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is perhaps the most controversial incident of the Second World War. It is credited by some as a war crime on an enormous scale, but by others as the offensive that ended the war and saved countless Allied lives. It is the only time that nuclear bombs have been used in warfare. By this point the war in Europe had ended, but the Pacific War continued. In the four months following the bombings around 166,000 people died in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki. Radiation sickness, cancer and burns continued to kill thousands of people into the future. In both cities the majority of fatalities were civilians rather than soldiers. On 15 August, just one week after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan surrendered unconditionally.

    08 Aug 1945
    Russia declares war on Japan

    09 Aug 1945
    Atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki

    12 Aug 1945
    Starlings sit on the minute hand of Big Ben, causing it to lose 4 1/2 mins

    15 Aug 1945
    V-J Day. Japan surrenders

    09 Sep 1945
    First example of a machine being ‘debugged’

  • 1946 1946

    08 Jan 1946
    Appointed to the Order of Merit

    31 Jan 1946
    Warns of “squalid warfare with terrorists"

    11 Feb 1946
    Mary Churchill marries Christopher Soames in London

    05 Mar 1946
    “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri

    One of the most important speeches Churchill would give in his career was his ‘Sinews of Peace’ otherwise known as his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech. As in the past, Churchill was prescient at this time in describing the aggressive ambitions of the Soviet Union. Given at Westminster College in Missouri just a year after the end of the Second World War, this speech would set the stage for the next forty five years of the ‘Cold War’. Why did he travel to Fulton, Missouri? Because the invitation was endorsed by President Truman, who agreed to introduce him. This guaranteed huge interest across the United States and around the world. Churchill is sometimes given credit for coining the term ‘Iron Curtain’. However, as was his habit, he’d actually read and memorized the line from many years earlier. Remarkably, Churchill wrote all of his own speeches. For the major speeches such as this one, he would spend an hour of preparation for every minute of his speech.

    23 Aug 1946
    At Zurich, urges Franco-German amity

    05 Nov 1946
    Deplores half a million deaths in India-Pakistan violence

    28 Jan 1946
    First large cargo of bananas arrives at London docks since war began

    20 Sep 1946
    First Cannes Film Festival opens

    14 Oct 1946
    Al Smith memorial dinner, London

  • 1947 1947

    14 Oct 1947
    Pilot Chuck Yeager first man to travel faster than the speed of sound

  • 1948 1948

    16 Jan 1948
    Inducted into the Society of the Cincinnati

    08 May 1948
    At The Hague, urges European unity

    21 Jun 1948
    Publishes The Gathering Storm

    Though Winston Churchill was an aristocrat and a grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, he was constantly short of funds. This was until he published his war memoirs, beginning with The Gathering Storm, which was the first of his six-volume work, The Second World War. Finally, with the advance from the publishing house Cassell, he and his family would be on sound financial ground. Having spent his life in politics, he had made his living from writing. One of his daughters once quipped that growing up, they ‘lived from pen to mouth’. Referring to Churchill’s work on the First World War, The World Crisis, Arthur Balfour said that Winston had written a brilliant autobiography and disguised it as a history of the universe.Churchill said, ‘I have not always been wrong. History will bear me out, particularly as I shall write that history myself’.

    19 Aug 1948
    Publishes The Sinews of Peace

    01 Dec 1948
    Publishes Painting as a Pastime

    07 May 1948
    Congress of Europe at The Hague

    13 May 1948
    UK: government announces post-war “baby boom”

    24 Jun 1948
    Airlift begins to Soviet-isolated West Berlin

    In the aftermath of the Second World War Germany was occupied by a multinational force. It was divided into four zones: three of them were controlled by the Western Allies and united into West Germany; the fourth zone, East Germany, was under Soviet control. Berlin was located in East Germany and the city itself was also divided into Soviet and West German territory. Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were deteriorating and Stalin was determined to take the whole of Berlin. He blocked off all road and rail links to the city Berlin, intending to starve West Germany’s portion of Berlin into submission. In response to the blockade, the Western allies airlifted supplies to Berlin. This continued for 318 days, during which 1.5m tonnes of supplies were transported. On 12 May 1949, Stalinabandonedthe blockade. This is often considered to be the first major incident of the Cold War. [Early on Churchill envisaged what was to the later known as the ‘Cold War’.]

    05 Jul 1948
    UK: National Health Service officially established

    02 Nov 1948
    Harry Truman elected U.S. president

  • 1949 1949

    29 Mar 1949
    Publishes Their Finest Hour

    01 May 1949
    Acquires Colonist II

    01 Aug 1949
    Visiting Beaverbrook in the South of France, experiences his first stroke

    Churchill was prone to ill health and accidents throughout his life. For the last twenty five years of his life, from 1940 until his death in 1965, Lord Moran was his primary physician and saw his patient through many periods of illness including his first stroke in 1949. Much of this information was kept from the public and Parliament. Churchill, though extremely resilient, wasn’t himself sure if he would survive the period of the Second World War. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1952, for the second time round, many felt that due to his age and health, he wasn’t capable of governing. He was much diminished from his ‘war’ years. One of the most troubling things for him personally was that his photographic memory was beginning to fade. At times he struggled to find the phrases that he once knew so well. This troubled him immensely. He did however continue to give rousing speeches and never gave one that he did not personally write himself. Read the ODNB entry for Churchill’s doctor, Charles McMoran Wilson (Lord Moran), here.

    12 May 1949
    Soviets lift Berlin blockade; Allies end Airlift

    01 Oct 1949
    Mao Tse-tung proclaims the China a communist republic

  • 1950 1950

    24 Apr 1950
    Publishes The Grand Alliance

    27 Nov 1950
    Publishes The Hinge of Fate

    23 Feb 1950
    Labour returned with a small majority in the general election

    25 Jun 1950
    Korean War begins

    31 Jul 1950
    First Sainsbury open in Croydon

  • 1951 1951

    26 Oct 1951
    Becomes Prime Minister and Minister of Defence

    23 Nov 1951
    Publishes Closing the Ring

    03 May 1951
    King George VI opens the Festival of Britain in London

    01 Jul 1951
    The Catcher in the Rye is published

    12 Sep 1951
    Attlee warns to expect a new election in October

  • 1952 1952

    14 Aug 1952
    Niece Clarissa marries Anthony Eden

    03 Sep 1952
    Publishes The War Speeches

    06 Feb 1952
    King George VI dies in London

    01 Mar 1952
    Hands over Ministry of Defence to Field Marshal Alexander

    03 Oct 1952
    End of tea rationing, in force in the UK since 1940

    01 Nov 1952
    Test of U.S. hydrogen bomb

    04 Nov 1952
    Eisenhower elected U.S. president

  • 1953 1953

    05 Jan 1953
    Visits Eisenhower in New York and Truman in Washington

    02 Jun 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

    Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II On 2 June 1953, following the death of her father, George VI, the young Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England, the occasion filmed by television cameras – against Churchill’s wishes. He felt the Queen would find it a strain and that ‘[i]t would be unfitting that the whole ceremony ... should be presented as if it were a theatrical performance’ (speech to House of Commons). The future queen insisted and the filming went ahead. Churchill became a Knight of the Garter, becoming Sir Winston Churchill in April 1953 in time for the Coronation. He’d refused the honour when offered it by George VI after his election defeat in 1945, famously saying (but not to the king): ‘How can I accept the Order of the Garter, when the people of England have just given me the Order of the Boot?’.

    23 Jun 1953
    A second stroke is kept secret

    30 Nov 1953
    Publishes Triumph and Tragedy

    02 Dec 1953
    Meets Eisenhower and Laniel, Bermuda

    10 Dec 1953
    Delivers fine speech at party conference

    10 Dec 1953
    Winston Churchill is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature

    05 Feb 1953
    Sweet and chocolate rationing ends in UK

    05 Mar 1953
    Stalin dies in Moscow

    13 Apr 1953
    First publication of Casino Royale with James Bond

    24 Apr 1953
    Publication an article announcing the structure of DNA

    29 May 1953
    Edmund Hillary becomes the first person to reach the summit of Mt Everest

    02 Jun 1953
    Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

    27 Jul 1953
    Armistice ends the Korean War

    01 Aug 1953
    Successful test of first Soviet hydrogen bomb

    During the Cold War there was a nuclear arms race in which the United States and the Soviet Union battled for supremacy in nuclear warfare. Both countries invested huge amounts of money into the design, production and stockpiling of nuclear armaments. So long as both countries had the capacity to destroy each other, a concept known as ‘MAD’ or mutual assured destruction, they would restrain from launching an attack. On August 12, 1953 the Soviet Union detonated a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb at the Semipalatinsk test site in northern Kazakhstan. This was 26 times more powerful than the atomic fission bomb, which was used by the United States to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Soviet detonation represented the acceleration of the arms race and proved that the Soviet Union was catching up on the United States’ advantage.
  • 1954 1954

    14 Jun 1954
    Becomes Knight of the Garter and, therefore, 'Sir Winston Churchill'

    In 1953, Winston Churchill was presented with two distinguished honours; The Nobel Prize for Literature for his entire body of work, and being placed on the Honours List for a knighthood, to be made a Knight of the Garter. The Order of the Knights of the Garter was founded by Edward III in 1348 and is limited to the Sovereign and twenty four other members. It is the most senior and oldest order of chivalry. In 1954 Winston Churchill was invested with this rare honour in a ceremony at St George's Chapel, Windsor, and became the 912th person to become 'KG'. He was thereafter known officially as Sir Winston Churchill.

    30 Nov 1954
    Attends celebrations of his 80th birthday

    01 May 1954
    The name “Lego” officially registered

  • 1955 1955

    28 Mar 1955
    His last speech in the House

    Winston Churchill spent over sixty years devoted to the House of Commons and to the people of Great Britain. He was approached in his later years about being made a Lord which would obligate him to sit in the House of Lords rather than the Commons. He couldn’t conceive of the thought. He said once that ‘I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father's house to believe in democracy. 'Trust the people” - that was his message’. It was a sombre day in the House when Churchill delivered his final speech, ‘Never Despair’. He would resign as Prime Minister for the final time the following week on 5 April.

    05 Apr 1955
    Resigns as Prime Minister

    Winston Churchill throughout his life was a ‘man of action’. Even when his health and memory were failing in later life, he couldn’t imagine not being at the centre of events. His wife Clementine, and many in his inner circle, tried time and time again to convince him to retire from government, though he continued to hold out. It was his conviction that there was no greater man than he to hold the office of Prime Minister and he continued to say that his deputy Anthony Eden, the 1st Earl of Avon, was not quite ready for the job. Finally, in 1955, shortly after giving an inspiring speech at the Tory Party conference he decided to resign office for the final time.

    26 May 1955
    Reelected MP for Woodford in general election

    29 Sep 1955
    UK's first independent television station goes on air

  • 1956 1956

    06 Feb 1956
    Dines aboard the yacht Christina for the first time

    23 Apr 1956
    Publishes The Birth of Britain

    26 Nov 1956
    Publishes The New World

    26 Jul 1956
    Egypt’s Nasser nationalises Suez Canal

    Gamel Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt, nationalised the Suez Canal after Britain and France removed funding for the building of the Aswan Dam. This meant that it was no longer under Britain and France’s joint control. The Suez Canal was of vital strategic importance to Britain and France; it was the shortest route to their imperial territories in Asia and to the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. Israel, threatened by an increasingly nationalist Egypt, was yet another power that had an interest in keeping Egypt in check. Following the nationalisation of the Canal, Israel invaded Egypt and (in accordance with a pre agreed plan) both Britain and France quickly became embroiled in the conflict. However, the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Nations put pressure on the three countries to withdraw. Ultimately Nasser remained in power and retained control of the Canal, whereas Britain and France were forced into a humiliating retreat. This complex diplomatic episode is often seen as emblematic of Britain’s diminishing geopolitical power in the twentieth century.

    10 Sep 1956
    USA: Elvis Presley appears on American television’s Ed Sullivan Show

    05 Nov 1956
    British and French troops land in Egypt

    06 Nov 1956
    Eisenhower re-elected U.S. president

    06 Nov 1956
    Invaders accept a Suez cease-fire

  • 1957 1957

    14 Oct 1957
    Publishes The Age of Revolution

    09 Jan 1957
    Anthony Eden resigns as Prime Minister

    28 Feb 1957
    Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat published

    04 Oct 1957
    Russian satellite Sputnik launched into space

    The concept of ‘mutually assured destruction’ or MAD meant that the Cold War was played out in non-military arenas. One of these arenas of conflict and competition was space. Sputnik 1 was the satellite that began the era of space exploration – otherwise known as the ‘space race’ - when it was launched from the USSR in 1957. According to Soviet propaganda, it demonstrated Russia’s intellectual, technological and ideological superiority to the rest of the world. The Soviet Union went on to send the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, and the United States sent the first humans to the moon in 1969. Winston Churchill founded Churchill College, Cambridge, in 1960 as a response to the technological arms race and to train more British scientists and engineers.
  • 1958 1958

    14 Mar 1958
    Publishes The Great Democracies

    12 Sep 1958
    Celebrates golden wedding anniversary

    22 Sep 1958
    First cruise aboard Onassis yacht Christina

    06 Nov 1958
    Receives the French Order of Liberation

    17 Feb 1958
    Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament formed in the UK

    01 Jun 1958
    Charles de Gaulle becomes French Premier

    12 Sep 1958
    First simple microchip successfully demonstrated

  • 1959 1959

    07 Jan 1959
    Last visit to Marrakesh and paints the last of over 500 oil paintings

    Churchill took up the hobby of painting when he was forty years old and enjoyed it immensely throughout the remainder of this life. He initially took up the art at the encouragement of friends in order to relieve his depression during a period of crisis of the First World War. He painted over 500 paintings during his lifetime, becoming, according to some experts, quite a good amateur painter. He even entered and won an amateur contest under an assumed name in the 1920s. He loved the warm weather of Marrakech in Morocco and could sit for hours at his favoured hotel La Mamounia dabbling away with the stunning Atlas Mountains as a backdrop.

    05 Feb 1959
    Publishes abridged one-volume edition of The Second World War

    08 Oct 1959
    Reelected MP for Woodford, his last term in Parliament

    08 Jan 1959
    De Gaulle becomes President of Fifth Republic

    18 Aug 1959
    Mini car launched in UK

    02 Nov 1959
    Britain's first motorway, the M1, is opened

  • 1960 1960

    21 Mar 1960
    Welcomed in Barbados aboard Christina

    14 Jul 1960
    Visits Marshall Tito at Split, Christina

    08 Nov 1960
    Sends congratulations to newly elected John F. Kennedy

    21 Oct 1960
    HMS Dreadnought, Britain’s first nuclear submarine launched

    10 Nov 1960
    Lady Chatterley’s Lover sells out on its first day on sale

    09 Dec 1960
    First episode of Coronation Street broadcast

  • 1961 1961

    09 Mar 1961
    Departs on Christina for Caribbean cruise

    12 Apr 1961
    Arrives in New York on Christina

    27 Apr 1961
    Publishes The Unwritten Alliance

    29 Jun 1961
    Receives the Most Refulgent Order of the Star of Nepal

    12 Apr 1961
    Yuri Gagarin is the first man in space

    13 Aug 1961
    Germany: East German troops seal border between East and West Berlin

    On 13 August 1961 East Germany began constructing a barrier around the area of Berlin which was under West German control. The barrier started off as a wire fence, but later a concrete wall was built. According to East Germany, the wall was built to prevent the ‘fascism’ of West Germany infecting its socialist aspirations. However, it is widely acknowledged that the wall was erected to prevent the mass emigration of East Germans to the west. The vast majority of East Germans could no longer travel to West Germany, except in later years under certain circumstances and by special permission. Many families were split, while East Berliners employed in the West were cut off from their jobs. The wall stood for the duration of the Cold War until German reunification in 1990.
  • 1962 1962

    06 Apr 1962
    Departs Monte Carlo on the last cruise aboard the Christina.

    14 Apr 1962
    Awarded the Grand Sash of the High Order of Sayyid Mohammed bin Ali el Senoussi.

    28 Jun 1962
    Falls and breaks a hip in Monte Carlo

    09 Jul 1962
    Andy Warhol exhibits his canvasses of Campbell’s soup cans

    05 Oct 1962
    Release of first Beatles single

    28 Oct 1962
    Khrushchev agrees to dismantle missiles ending the Cuban Missile Crisis

    In 1962 the National Security Agency (NSA) advised John F. Kennedy that the Soviet Union was amassing offensive nuclear weapons in the communist territory of Cuba. Kennedy issued an ultimatum to Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union: if they did not remove the weapons, then they would face war with the United States. Given the number of nuclear weapons held by the two countries, this would likely escalate disastrously. The end of humanity was a very real threat. After extremely tense negotiations, the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles. The world narrowly avoided nuclear disaster, largely because ultimately Kennedy and Khrushchev both recognised that once blood had been spilled it would be very hard to keep any crisis under control.
  • 1963 1963

    09 Apr 1963
    Proclaimed Honorary Citizen of the United States

    In 1963, Churchill was proclaimed an Honorary US Citizen, the first by Act of Congress. The honour was announced by President John F. Kennedy. Churchill was not well enough to attend in person, so he and his wife Clementine watched the moving White House ceremony from England via a TV link. His son Randolph and grandson Winston represented him for the presentation. It was a particularly touching event for Churchill since his mother Jennie Jerome, whom he completely adored, was an American born in Brooklyn, New York.

    19 Oct 1963
    Diana Churchill dies in London

    22 Nov 1963
    Watches TV reports of the assassination of JFK in tears

    09 Apr 1963
    Lawrence of Arabia wins seven Oscars

    07 Jun 1963
    Rolling Stones release their first single

  • 1964 1964

    28 Jul 1964
    Presented with an unprecedented Vote of Thanks by the House

    15 Oct 1964
    The first general election since 1895 in which he does not stand for Parliament

    30 Nov 1964
    Celebrates his 90th birthday

    12 Jun 1964
    Nelson Mandela is jailed for life

    03 Nov 1964
    Lyndon Johnson elected U.S. president

  • 1965 1965

    24 Jan 1965
    Churchill dies

    30 Jan 1965
    State Funeral, London

The Elder Statesman

Churchill’s world seemed to have ended with the Second World War. The British Empire was lost, Britain was bankrupt and his Conservative Party was voted out of office. Once again, he refused to accept defeat, re-launching himself on the international stage with a powerful warning about the Soviet ‘Iron Curtain’ that the Russians were drawing down across Europe. He also made repeated appeals for closer Anglo-American unity and greater European integration, themes which continue to dominate British foreign policy. He returned as a peacetime Prime Minister in 1951, participating in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, but failed to get a hoped-for summit meeting with the Russians. Poor health finally forced his retirement in 1955 though he remained a Member of Parliament until June 1964. He died aged ninety on 24 January 1965, the seventieth anniversary of his father’s death, and was given a State Funeral. This section will tell you more about the final two decades of Churchill’s life – his second premiership and his ‘long sunset’.

Churchill – out of office

After Germany’s surrender in May 1945, Churchill wanted his wartime coalition government to continue until the defeat of Japan which wasn’t anticipated for another year at least. But Labour and the majority of the Liberals refused and pulled out of the coalition. Churchill headed a Conservative ‘caretaker’ government for a brief period until Parliament was dissolved and the first general election for ten years was held.

I must tell you that in spite of all our victories a rough road lies ahead. What a shame it would be, and what a folly, to add to our load the bitter quarrels with which the extreme socialists are eager to convulse and exploit these critical years. For the sake of the country and of your own happiness I call upon you to march with me under the banner of freedom towards the beacon lights of national prosperity and honour which must ever be our guide.

Churchill, 21 June 1945

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Defeat

Defeat

No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance.

Churchill, 4 June 1945 broadcast, London

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I cannot explain how...
I cannot explain how it is but in our misery we seem, instead of clinging to each other to be always having scenes. I’m sure it’s all my fault, but I’m finding life more than I can bear. He is so unhappy & that makes him very difficult... I can’t see any future.

Clementine to Mary, 26 August 1945, quoted in Mary Soames, Clementine Churchill

I’m not a statesman. You aren’t a statesman until you’re dead – and I’m not dead yet!

Churchill, Sheffield, undated (cited in Langworth, Churchill: In His Own Words)

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Leader of the opposition – at home

Churchill didn’t enjoy being in opposition after 1945 and he didn’t attend the House of Commons very often, leaving the day-to-day party management to others . He didn’t seem particularly interested in economic issues, and the Conservatives came to seem increasingly out of step with the drive towards welfare and reconstruction. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, then, he ‘looked like a dinosaur at a light engineering exhibition’ (Aneurin Bevan, ‘History’s Impresario’). Vulnerable at home, unable to influence policy (and generally unwilling to), Churchill played to his strengths. He knew that he had the most to offer in his role as the great elder statesman who had ‘won the War’, and for the second time in his career, he turned his attentions abroad – and to the US.

The best that can be said for Churchill as leader of the Conservative...
The best that can be said for Churchill as leader of the Conservative Party is that he exercised a vague but olympian authority and kept the show on the road.

Paul Addison, review of Gilbert, Never Despair

The Iron Curtain

In November 1945, Churchill was invited to give one of a series of annual lectures at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri. The letter of invitation was annotated by President Truman who offered to introduce Churchill, and therefore guaranteed a high profile event. Churchill’s speech, given on 5 March 1946, was to prove enormously influential. Originally entitled ‘The Sinews of Peace’, it became better known as the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech because of his use of a phrase now in common use. This was Churchill’s first public declaration of the Cold War, in which he warned the western world about the ‘iron curtain’that was descending over Europe, drawn down by the Russians, and called for greater Anglo-US cooperation, in what he called a ‘special relationship’, in the battle against Soviet expansionism. Click here to see Churchill give this speech in the presence of US President Harry S. Truman. The speech drew the world's attention to the threat of a powerful Soviet Union and the potential ‘cold war’ between the East and the West. Although the ‘iron curtain’ phrase had been used before, Churchill gave it common currency and in so doing, increased awareness and influenced world policy. Some Russian historians have even dated the beginning of the Cold War from this speech. Read more about Churchill and his role in the Cold War here.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

Churchill, 5 March 1946

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CHURCHILL, the play

CHURCHILL, the play

I do not wish to withdraw or modify a single word.

Churchill, speech at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, March 1946

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At home

Shortly after his return from Fulton, Churchill began to write his war memoirs. With a team of researchers working on his behalf, and a very ordered (if somewhat laborious) approach to drafting and editing, he soon had the first volume finished. The Second World War appeared in six volumes between 1948 and 1954. Churchill never claimed the memoirs were ‘history’; they were rather a contribution to history. Although their very breadth and coverage gave the impression that they were a definitive account, there were omissions, of course. The Second World War was Churchill’s interpretation of the events, the work of a man seeking to place his role in the war – and in history. The books sold well, with a combined first printing of over 800,000 copies.

The Tragedy of Europe

Churchill felt strongly that Britain had a key role to play in world politics; it was ‘the only country in the world which had an important interest in all ‘three great circles among the free nations and democracies’ (the Commonwealth, the English-speaking world and Europe). He believed he could help Britain play its role in all three and this was one of the main reasons why he refused to retire. He continued to exert his influence and express his views about the need for a new approach to diplomacy in the face of post-war reality. Churchill’s speech at Fulton in 1946 was followed by a similarly important speech on the state of Europe later that year. Churchill’s power, influence and prestige internationally meant that his speeches were taken seriously and widely reported, and he became regarded as a leading figure in the European movement. But he wasn’t, as some have said, a committed ‘European’; he always felt that Britain should not be subsumed within a federal Europe. He always remained a British nationalist. His speeches must also be seen in the context of the time. He didn’t see a conflict between greater co-operation with the United States and greater European union; they were both ways of resisting Soviet expansion. See the European Commission’s leaflet about Churchill’s role as the ‘driving force behind European integration’ here.

Churchill's speech at the University of Zurich

Churchill's speech at the University of Zurich

On 19 September 1946, Churchill spoke at the University of Zurich in favour of the creation of a ‘kind of United States of Europe’ against the threat of Soviet danger. This would include a democratized Germany and would involve Franco-German cooperation.

I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the recreation of the European family must be the partnership between France and Germany.

Churchill, 19 September 1946, ‘The Tragedy of Europe’

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We see nothing but good and hope in a richer, freer, more contented European commonalty. But we have our own dreams and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.

Churchill, 19 September 1946, ‘The Tragedy of Europe'

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‘The Empire lost’

Churchill wanted to see Britain as the interlocking link between three circles – the Empire and Commonwealth, Europe and the United States. But the British Empire was fading fast. The Empire never really recovered from the Second World War. British authority in India had been eroding since the early 1930s and the hand-over of power was now inevitable. But Churchill was still against relinquishing responsibility for the governance of the country to ‘men of straw’. Eventually, Churchill realised that the glory days of the Empire were over and he had to support the Independence of India Bill. Learn more about Indian Independence at the British Library India Office Records here.

It is with deep grief I watch the clattering down of the British Empire with all its glories and all the services it has rendered to mankind.

Churchill, 6 March 1947: ‘Europe Unite’ speech

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In handing over the Government of India to these so-called political classes, we are handing over to men of straw, of whom, in a few years, no trace will remain.

Churchill, ‘Europe Unite’, speech of 5 March 1947

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At the stroke of the midnight hour, when...
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

Prime Minister Nehru, 14 August 1947

'Churchill’s Dagger: A Memoir of La Capponcina​'

'Churchill’s Dagger: A Memoir of La Capponcina​'

Seventy-six years young

In January 1950, a general election was called and this time Churchill took a more measured approach in his campaigning, avoiding those outright attacks on socialism he’d made in 1945. By a tiny margin (six seats), the Labour government won the election. Churchill carried on in opposition, calling for collaboration between Britain, the US and the Soviet Union (a new approach to diplomacy and the first mention of a ‘summit’ meeting). He also backed the government’s approach to the Korean War which broke out in 1950. Then, in October 1951, the Conservative Party won the general election (with a small majority), and Churchill returned as Prime Minister.

I want so much to lead the Conservatives...
I want so much to lead the Conservatives back to victory. I know I am worth a million votes to them.

Quoted in Churchill, Michael Wardell, ‘Churchill’s Dagger: A Memoir of La Capponcina’, Finest Hour 87, Summer 1995

Prime Minister again

In 1951, Churchill finally avenged that devastating defeat of 1945 and was back in Downing Street. He was nearly seventy seven. During this second period as Prime Minister, what he later referred to as ‘several years of quiet steady administration’, Churchill devoted much of his energy to foreign affairs; to Cold War issues, strengthening Anglo-American relations (that ‘special relationship’) and to retaining Britain’s position as a global power. He didn’t do much in the way of domestic policy-making – stating once that the government’s priorities were ‘houses and meat and not being scuppered’ (John Colville, The Fringes of Power, 22–23 March 1952). The world stage was a much more exciting one. The Korean War was in staggering on, there were problems in Iran under the revolutionary regime of Mussadiq, and there were ongoing arguments over the agreed withdrawal from the Suez base in Egypt. And the simmering tensions of the Cold War were ever-present. Churchill’s last great quest was, as Eisenhower later referred to it, ‘a long quest for peace’.

Conferences at the summit

It was in his role as a senior statesman with considerable international prestige that Churchill felt he could influence global relations. He wanted, above all, to establish constructive relations with Moscow through ‘summit’ conferences of world leaders. He felt that face-to-face meetings – at the ‘summit’ – would be the best way to try to secure world peace, and so coined the term and set out his agenda. However, the ‘three’ with whom he had built rapport during the Second World War were no longer alongside him; Roosevelt had died in 1945 and Stalin, in 1953. Churchill was the sole remaining leader of the ‘grand alliance’. But, feeling strongly that it was only by negotiation that the nuclear arms race could be halted and détente established, he tried to re-establish that ’special relationship’ with the US and encouraged Eisenhower, who’d been elected President in 1952, to consider meeting up with the new Soviet leader, Khrushchev.

I have worked very hard...
I have worked very hard all my life, and I have achieved a great deal – in the end to achieve NOTHING.

Montague Browne, Long Sunset

Bermuda 1953

Bermuda 1953

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

On 2 June 1953, following the death of her father, George VI, the young Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England, the occasion filmed by television cameras – against Churchill’s wishes. He felt the Queen would find it a strain and that ‘[i]t would be unfitting that the whole ceremony ... should be presented as if it were a theatrical performance’ (speech to House of Commons). The future queen insisted and the filming went ahead. Churchill became a Knight of the Garter, becoming Sir Winston Churchill in April 1953 in time for the Coronation. He’d refused the honour when offered it by George VI after his election defeat in 1945, famously saying (but not to the king): ‘How can I accept the Order of the Garter, when the people of England have just given me the Order of the Boot?’.

Memories of a chorister

Memories of a chorister

Failing health

When he took up office in 1951, Churchill was nearly seventy seven, frail, increasingly deaf – although he hid it well – and his health was failing. (He had survived three bouts of pneumonia and in 1949 had suffered a minor stroke.)

Shortly after the Coronation, Churchill suffered a more serious stroke – carefully concealed from the media and the public – which affected his left side and impaired his speech for at least two months and delayed his summit meeting in Bermuda. Mary’s husband, Christopher Soames took over much of the day-to-day management in Downing Street. Colleagues encouraged him to retire – and recuperate. But with Eden, his obvious successor, also unwell, Churchill had a good excuse to resist calls for his resignation and he recovered sufficiently to attend the Conservative Party conference in Margate in October 1953.

In a masterly display of resilience and strength, he gave an impressive speech on 10 October 1953 to his party, having regained almost entirely his former fluency and passion (few in the audience noticed any change).

But it became apparent in time that Churchill’s performances in the Commons were becoming laboured and his speeches rambling. He had to rely on his hearing aid more and more for meetings. His powers were clearly failing.

He had always said he believed in ‘staying in the pub until closing time’ and he hung on far longer than many of his colleagues had expected – or felt was wise. He wasn’t sure his successor was up to the job and didn’t want to leave until the the barman finally called ‘time’. Above all, he was passionate about trying to combat the increasing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He felt he still had ‘an influence’ and wanted to exert it towards earning a ‘sure and lasting peace’.

See Christopher Soames’ speech, ‘Tired and Weary, He Battled on’, given to the Sir Winston S. Churchill Society of Edmonton, Alberta, in 1979, here.

In November 1954, it was Churchill’s eightieth birthday. Churchill attended the celebrations of his eightieth birthday at Westminster Hall in good form.

See the news as it was reported ‘on this day’ by the BBC here.

I feel like an aeroplane at the end of its flight, in the dusk, with the petrol running out, in search of a safe landing.

Churchill, 12 March 1954, to R. A. Butler

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If I stay on for the time being, bearing the burden at my age, it is not because of love for power or office. I have had an ample share of both. If I stay it is because I have a feeling that I may, through things that have happened, have an influence about what I care about above all else, the building of a sure and lasting peace.

Churchill, 10 October 1953

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I am now nearing the end of my journey ... I hope I still have some service to render. However that may be, whatever may befall, I am sure I shall never forget the emotions of this day.

Churchill, 30 November 1954

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'The Reluctant Retiree​'

'The Reluctant Retiree​'

The Sutherland portrait

At the birthday celebrations at Westminster Hall in November 1954, Churchill was presented with a portrait by Graham Sutherland, commissioned by past and present members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It was Sutherland’s practice to prepare detailed sketches, almost completely finished works, often close-ups of the heads of his sitters. Apparently Churchill had asked Sutherland at the outset, ‘How are you going to paint me? As a cherub, or the Bulldog?’ Sutherland is said to have replied: ‘It depends on what you show me, sir.’ He later told Beaverbrook that ‘Consistently ... he showed me the Bull Dog’. Churchill loathed the finished portrait (he later said it was ‘malignant’), perhaps because it conveyed all too accurately the frailties of old age, although when presented with it on his birthday, he carefully described it as ‘a remarkable example of modern art’. It was later, controversially, destroyed on the orders of Clementine. Churchill made his last major speech in the House of Commons on 1 March 1955 – a carefully prepared, and passionate, speech, in which he suggested that the power of nuclear weapons might lead to peace through deterrence. For a full transcript of his final speech, ‘Never Despair’, click here.

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I look like a down-and-out drunk who has been picked out of the gutter in the Strand.

Churchill to Montague Browne, as reported by Montague Browne in Long Sunset

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The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.

Churchill, 1 March 1955

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Our moral and military support of the United States and our possession of nuclear weapons of the highest quality and on an appreciable scale, together with their means of delivery, will greatly reinforce the deterrent power of the free world, and will strengthen our influence in the free world.

Churchill, 1 March 1955

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Resignation

Churchill had failed to arrange a summit meeting with the Russians, and finally had to acknowledge that his chances at effecting any real and lasting change were at an end. Under pressure from his party, and in the interests of his health, he admitted defeat. Only a few months after the eightieth birthday celebrations, on 5 April 1955, Churchill finally resigned his post, following a farewell dinner the evening before at Downing Street, with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as his guests.

Even now, he did not want this to be the end. He wrote to Eisenhower in the final days of office (the letter is dated ‘April’; he resigned on 5 April) saying that he hoped he might still be able to ‘serve’ the cause of Anglo-American cooperation and the battle against Communism.

Churchill handed over the premiership to Anthony Eden, who had long been waiting in the wings. Eden was already part of the ‘family’; three years earlier, he’d married Churchill’s niece, Clarissa. Churchill wasn’t convinced Eden would be able to do the job – ‘I don’t believe that Anthony can do it’ – but he had no choice.

Upon his resignation, the Queen offered him the dukedom of London. His private secretary, Colville, had already informed her that Churchill would turn it down, apparently because Randolph, Churchill’s son, didn’t want to inherit a title (which in those days would have prevented him or his heirs having a political career) or possibly because Churchill himself didn’t want to lose the name of Churchill and the ability to sit in the House of Commons . ‘Sir Winston’ declined the offer.

Churchill didn’t attend the Geneva Conference held later in 1955, and Eisenhower wrote how his 'courage and vision will be missed at the meeting'.

Churchill remained a member of parliament – he was re-elected as MP for Woodford in Essex in the general elections of May 1955 and October 1959 – until 1964 and attended sessions occasionally (although increasingly infrequently), but he never spoke in the House of Commons again.

It’s the first death – and for him, a death...
It’s the first death – and for him, a death in life.

Clementine Churchill to her daughter, Mary Soames, as recorded in Mary’s diary entry for 19 March 1955; see Speaking for Themselves

By the time you get this ... I shall have resigned my Office ... To resign is not to retire, and I am by no means sure that other opportunities may not come upon me to serve and influence those causes for which we have both of us worked so long. Of these the first is Anglo-American brotherhood, and the second is the arrest of the Communist menace. They are, I believe, identical.

Churchill to Eisenhower, letter dated ‘April 1955’

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On the whole I feel that we Changed Guard at Buckingham Palace at the right time and in the right way.

Churchill to Eisenhower, 18 July 1955

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Churchill to Eisenhower, April 1955

Churchill to Eisenhower, April 1955

Your courage and vision will be missed at...
Your courage and vision will be missed at the meeting. But your long quest for peace daily inspires much that we do ... Personally, I do not expect, and I hope the people of this country and of the world do not expect, a miracle. But if we can inch a little closer to the dream that has been yours for these many years, if together at the meeting table we can create a new spirit of tolerance ... we shall gain much that will help us in the long and complicated process that must come after the Summit meeting.

Eisenhower to Churchill, 15 July 1955

Retirement – early days

In fact, Churchill was more than ready for retirement. Only a year after his resignation, days before his eighty-second birthday, he finally admitted that he was not the man he was; he could not be Prime Minister now. Only a week after his last cabinet meeting, he and Clemmie went on holiday to Syracuse. Even though he was not the man he was, and despite his failing health, Churchill began his ‘retirement’ with some of his old vigour and energy. For an elderly man, he was remarkably resilient and determined. He embarked on holidays, painting tours and new writing projects. The first two volumes of his History of the English Speaking Peoples were published in 1956 and the remaining two volumes over the next two years; quite an achievement for a man in his eighties, even with the help of various historians and research assistants. As well as painting and writing, he devoted his energies to supporting causes that would improve Britain’s standing in the world. If he couldn’t do it through politics, he could do it through education. See Parliament's collection of parliamentary archive material on Churchill's retirement, death and lying-in-state.

I am not the man I was. I could not be Prime Minister now.

Churchill to Lord Moran, 26 November 1956 (cited in Langworth Churchill: In His Own Words)

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Working for the future

Churchill had always cared passionately about the future of his country and believed strongly in the importance of education and research in securing success in the years ahead. Aware of the particular need for scientific and technological know-how in Britain, in 1958 he launched a fund to establish a British college devoted to scientific research and training. The result was ultimately a new college at the University of Cambridge, named after him. Churchill College received its Royal Charter in 1960, is the national and Commonwealth memorial to Churchill and has been a thriving college of the University of Cambridge ever since. Find out more about the college here.

I trust and believe that this College, this seed that we have sown, will grow to shelter and nurture generations who may add most notably to the strength and happiness of our people, and to the knowledge and peaceful progress of the world. 'The mighty oak from an acorn towers; A tiny seed can fill a field with flowers.'

Churchill, 17 October 1959

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Higher education and scholarship

To get young Americans studying at the new Churchill College, Cambridge, a Foundation was created as a vehicle for the Churchill Scholarship in July 1959 (in fact, the Foundation predates the Royal Charter for Churchill College and has been a steady companion of the College from its creation). Now called the Winston Churchill Foundation of the US, it’s a reminder of Anglo–US cooperation and friendship. For more on the history of the Scholarship, click here.

Sunshine abroad

No longer governed by cabinet meetings and appearances in the House of Commons, Churchill left Britain for months at a time to enjoy the sunshine on the continent – at various expensive luxury hotels, at Beaverbrook’s villa, La Capponcina, at Cap D’Ail and at Emery Reves’ villa at La Pausa near Roquebrune above Cap Martin. He made friends with the Greek millionaire ship-owner Aristotle Onassis and stayed on his yacht, ‘Christina’, eight times between 1958 and 1963. Ever since the early years of the First World War, and through the dark days of his career, painting had always provided solace and Churchill took to his pastime once again, now that he had more time to spare. He was drawn to the light and sunshine of the Riviera and the south of France became a favoured haunt of his in later years, where he could relax in the warmth, comfort and company of friends, paints at hand. In 1957, he spent as much time as possible in the south of France, staying for a month at La Pausa where he painted nearly every day. He sent Clemmie, who rarely accompanied him on these extended holidays, handwritten letters. Despite the sunshine and the pleasures of painting, old age was clearly taking its toll.

I am weary of a task which is done and I hope I shall not shrink when the aftermath ends. My only wish is to live peacefully out the remaining years – if years they be.

Churchill to Clementine, 21 May 1957, in Speaking for Themselves edited by Mary Soames

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'Holding Fast: Churchill’s Longevity​'

'Holding Fast: Churchill’s Longevity​'

The long sunset

Eventually, the frailties of old age caught up with Churchill. In 1958, he paid two long visits to La Pausa where he began to feel less and less inclined to pick up a brush (he caught bronchial pneumonia and suffered fevers while there); his physical strength was finally failing. In 1959, Churchill visited Morocco – and Marrakech (where he’d painted some of his most acclaimed pictures) – and painted from his balcony at La Mamounia for the final time. And when he next visited La Pausa, later in 1959, he found himself no longer able to wield his paintbrush. But he continued to be feted and honoured, and he was treated as a great statesman, the ‘Old Warrior’, wherever he went. He enjoyed a final visit to the White House in 1959 and made one last visit to New York on board the ‘Christina’ in 1961. In America, he became the second person after Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette to receive honorary US citizenship and the first by Act of Congress. On 9 April 1963, Kennedy signed a Congressionally authorized proclamation conferring honorary US citizenship upon Churchill. Too frail to travel to America to attend the ceremony, Churchill watched from England via live satellite broadcast.

The final decline

In June 1962, Churchill broke his hip during a fall in his bedroom at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo and was transferred to the Middlesex Hospital (he told Montague Browne ‘I want to die in England’ and was flown back in a scrambled RAF jet). He stayed in hospital for two months. He returned, not to Chartwell, but to 28 Hyde Park Gate where changes had been made to accommodate his diminished mobility. Although he still enjoyed his wine and food, trips out to dine with The Other Club members (the dining club he had founded with Lloyd George and others) at the Savoy were becoming rarer. The ‘old warrior’ was no longer able to battle the onset of old age. His letters to Clementine during their periods apart became fewer and less confident, showing his slow decline. Reluctantly, Churchill finally announced his retirement from politics in 1963. This took effect at the general election the following year.

I have worked very hard all my life, and...
I have worked very hard all my life, and I have achieved a great deal – in the end to achieve NOTHING.

Montague Browne, Long Sunset

You have indeed showered us with love .....
You have indeed showered us with love ... I wish I could express more adequately my love and gratitude – but please believe me, they are real and deep; and in addition to all the feelings a daughter has for a loving, generous father, I owe you what every English man, woman and child does – Liberty itself.

Mary, Churchill’s daughter, writes a touching and moving letter to her ‘darling Papa’, seven months before his death.

The death of a statesman

Churchill suffered more minor strokes in 1964. In mid-October, he left his beloved home of Chartwell for the last time to stay at their London house. On his ninetieth birthday in November, he waved to the crowds of well-wishers outside Hyde Park Gate, and gave his famous V for Victory sign. During the night of 9–10 January 1965, he suffered a major stroke and never regained consciousness. Churchill died aged ninety on 24 January 1965, seventy years to the day after his father’s death.

I feel like an aeroplane at the end of its flight, in the dusk, with the petrol running out, in search of a safe landing.

Churchill, 12 March 1954, to R. A. Butler

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I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

Churchill, 30 November 1949

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Death is only an incident, and not the most important one which happens to us in the state of being … look forward, feel free, rejoice in life, cherish the children, guard our memory. God bless you.

Churchill to Clementine, 17 July 1915, in a letter to be opened in the event of his death, during the First World War

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Letter from Mary Soames

Letter from Mary Soames

Operation Hope Not

Arrangements for Churchill’s funeral – the last State Funeral to be held for a commoner – had been discussed and planned in great detail, under the code name ‘Operation Hope Not’. These arrangements were now put into place.

His body lay in state in Westminster Hall where 300,000 mourners filed past his coffin.

You can see the Union Jack flag that draped Churchill’s coffin for the laying-in-state in the Churchill Museum at the Churchill War Rooms.

On 30 January 1965, Big Ben, the famous bell in Parliament Square, was silent for the day, from the time the funeral procession left Westminster Hall, at 9.45 am, until midnight.

Crowds estimated at over a million lined the streets from Westminster to St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. As the cortege passed St James’s Park, a ninety gun salute rang out, one for each year of Churchill’s life.

The funeral took place in St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by six sovereigns, fifteen heads of state and representatives from 112 nations. The congregation sang his favourite hymns, one of which was ‘Fight the Good Fight’.

A special issue of the BBC’s ‘Radio Times’ was devoted to the broadcasting of the State Funeral and included information on the route of the funeral procession and the order of service so people at home could join in with the hymns. See this here.

And here’s the press release by the BBC for the broadcasting of the funeral.

Tributes paid to Churchill by members of the House of Commons can be found in Hansard, the Official Report of the proceedings in the House.

A barge, the Havengore, then carried his coffin up the River Thames to Waterloo station, as the Royal Air Force flew overhead and quayside cranes dipped in salute.

And so Havengore sails...
And so Havengore sails into history ... not even the Golden Hind had borne so great a man.

Richard Dimbleby, State Funeral broadcast, 30 January 1965; words on the commemorative plaque on the restored Havengore, presented by the International Churchill Society

Churchill’s final journey

Churchill’s final journey

Laid to rest at St Martin’s Church, Bladon

As the coffin was lowered into the ground next to his parents and brother in St Martin’s Churchyard at Bladon, within sight of his birthplace at Blenheim, broadcaster Richard Dimbleby recited a poem specially written for the occasion – redolent with Churchill’s own words and phrasing.

… at Bladon in a country churchyard, in the...
… at Bladon in a country churchyard, in the stillness of a winter evening, in the presence of his family and a few friends, Winston Churchill was committed to English earth, which in his finest hour he had held inviolate.

Charles Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–1965

It wasn’t a funeral, it was a Triumph.
It wasn’t a funeral, it was a Triumph.

Clementine Churchill to her daughter, Mary, in Soames, Clementine Churchill

So Churchill sleeps, yet surely wakes

So Churchill sleeps, yet surely wakes

Churchill's grave

Churchill's grave