Explore Churchill's Timeline
- Child (0-19) 1874 - 1893
- Soldier (20-25) 1894 - 1899
- Rising Politician (26-55) 1900 - 1929
- Wilderness Years (56-65) 1930 - 1939
- War Leader (66-71) 1940 - 1945
- Elder Statesman (72-90) 1946 - 1965
15 Apr 1874
Randolph and Jennie marry
25 Aug 1875
Captain Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim the English Channel
01 Jan 1876
Family moves to Ireland
10 Mar 1876
Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call
15 Mar 1877
First cricket Test Match between England and Australia
21 Nov 1877
Edison announces his invention of the phonograph
04 Feb 1880
Brother Jack born
10 Apr 1880
Lord and Lady Randolph move to London
01 Oct 1882A 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
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
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
08 May 1886
Lord Randolph opposes Irish Home Rule
01 Jul 1886The 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.
Election returns a huge Conservative majority.
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
25 Dec 1887
Sherlock Holmes makes his first appearance
17 Apr 1888Churchill 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
06 May 1889
Eiffel Tower is officially opened
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
01 Jan 1891Winston 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’.
Churchill proclaims he will '... save the Empire'
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
01 Dec 1894Churchill 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.)
Churchill passes out of Sandhurst
30 Jun 1894
Tower Bridge opens
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 1895Churchill’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.
First visit to US
30 Nov 1895Churchill 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
11 Sep 1896Back 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
04 Sep 1897
Joins the Malakand Field Force
04 Oct 1897
Begins writing his only novel, Savrola
30 Apr 1897
Discovery of electrons
14 Mar 1898The 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.
Publishes first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force
02 Aug 1898
02 Sep 1898
Cavalry charge at Omdurman
01 Dec 1898
Returns to India
28 Jul 1898
Research links mosquitoes to the spread of malaria
01 Apr 1899With 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.
Politics interferes - briefly
30 Oct 1899In 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 1899An 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.
Escapes from prison in Pretoria
06 Mar 1899
Bayer registers aspirin as a trademark
01 Feb 1900
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 1900Churchill 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.
Elected Conservative Member for Oldham
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
31 Jan 1901
Final lecture, Carnegie Hall
02 Feb 1901
Embarks for England
14 Feb 1901
Takes his seat in the House
18 Feb 1901On 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.
Maiden Speech in the House
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
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
20 Apr 1903
Publishes Mr. Brodrick’s Army
01 Mar 1903
First teddy bear produced
17 Dec 1903Although 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.
First controlled, powered flight in an aeroplane
01 Mar 1904
Meets Clementine Hozier
31 May 1904Winston 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.
Breaks with the Conservative Party
21 Jul 1904
Trans-Siberian railway completed
27 Dec 1904
Peter Pan opens in London
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
02 Jan 1906
Publishes Lord Randolph Churchill
02 Jan 1906
Publishes For Free Trade
13 Jan 1906In 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.
The New Liberal
03 Nov 1906
SOS adopted as international distress signal
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
12 Apr 1908Churchill 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).
Radicalism and Reform
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 1908Churchill 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.
Winston and Clementine marry
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
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"
01 Jan 1910Churchill 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 1910The 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.
Tonypandy riots begin in Wales
11 Dec 1910
First public display of the neon lamp
28 May 1911
Birth of son, Randolph
13 Aug 1911
Churchill's cabinet paper predicts the First World War
01 Oct 1911In 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).
First Lord of the Admiralty
03 Jan 1911The 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.
Battle of Sidney Street
01 Jul 1911
German gunboat Panther anchors off Agadir
14 Dec 1911
First man to reach the South Pole
28 Mar 1912
Both boats sink in Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race
15 Apr 1912
SS Titanic sinks
21 Dec 1913
New York World publishes first crossword
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 1914Archduke 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.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated at Sarajevo
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 1914A 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’.
Great Britain declares war on Germany.
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
03 Jan 1915
Proposes naval and military attack on the Dardanelles
27 May 1915
Appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
02 Jul 1915In 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’.
Begins oil painting at Hoe Farm, Surrey
11 Nov 1915
Resigns from Cabinet
19 Nov 1915Following 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.
Attached to 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards in France
19 Jan 1915
First Zeppelin raid on the United Kingdom
18 Mar 1915Winston 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.
Franco-British naval attack on Dardanelles fails
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 1915Alexander 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.]
First transatlantic telephone call
10 Dec 1915
Millionth Model-T car produced
18 Jul 1916Churchill’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.
Back in government – Minister of Munitions, 1917–19
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 1916Churchill 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.
David Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister
08 Feb 1917
Churchill purchases Lullenden
30 Jul 1917
Wins by-election at Dundee
06 Apr 1917By 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.
United States enters World War I.
09 Apr 1917
Canadian triumph at Vimy Ridge
01 Jun 1917
Battles at Passchendaele (Third Ypres)
02 Nov 1917The 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 1917The 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.]
Russian government overthrown by the Bolsheviks
29 Jul 1918In 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.
Meets Franklin Roosevelt
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.
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 1919The 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.
Versailles Peace Treaty signed
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 1920Home 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’.]
Government of Ireland Act is law
01 Jan 1921In 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’.
Colonial Secretary, 1921–22
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
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 1922In 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.
Successfully offers to buy Chartwell
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 1922In 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.
‘Without an office, without a seat’
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
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
19 Mar 1924
Defeated in the Abbey Division of Westminster by-election
29 Oct 1924
Elected as a 'Constitutionalist' member for Epping
06 Nov 1924When 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.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
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
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
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
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
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
07 Mar 1929
Publishes The Aftermath
04 Jun 1929
Resigns as Chancellor of the Exchequer
04 Jun 1929The 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’.
Beginning of Churchill's 'Wilderness Years'
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 1929Also 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.
New York Stock Market crash
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
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
27 May 1931
01 Nov 1931
Publishes The Eastern Front
05 Dec 1931
Embarks for New York
13 Dec 1931In 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.
Knocked down by a taxi in New York
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 1931The 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.
The UK Abandons the Gold Standard
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 1932Throughout 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.)
First speech warning of German rearmament
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
09 Feb 1933
The Oxford Union King and Country debate
14 Mar 1933In 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.
First speech on the need to rebuild Britain's air defences
06 Oct 1933
10 Oct 1933
Tells James Roosevelt: 'I wish to be Prime Minister ...'
20 Jan 1933The 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.
Hitler elected German Chancellor
10 Feb 1933
The first singing telegram
27 Feb 1933
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 1933Hitler 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.
Reichstag passes the Enabling Act, making Hitler dictator of Germany
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
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
01 Jul 1935During 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.
Churchill joins Committee of Imperial Defence
12 Jul 1935Desmond 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.
Desmond Morton begins to supply Churchill with information about German rearmament
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
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 1936The 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.]
Hitler reoccupies the Rhineland
25 Jun 1936
First exhibition of Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans
17 Jul 1936
Spanish Civil War begins
10 Dec 1936Edward 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.
Abdication of King Edward VIII
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"
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
30 Sep 1938The 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.
Munich agreement cedes Sudetenland
30 Oct 1938
The War of the Worlds broadcasted on radio
09 Nov 1938
Reichkristallnacht pogrom of Jews
15 Aug 1939
Churchill visits Rhine fortifications
03 Sep 1939The 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.
Appointed First Lord of the Admiralty
14 Mar 1939
German troops enter Prague
21 Mar 1939
Lithuania cedes Memel to Germany
31 Mar 1939Following 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.
Britain guarantees Poland’s independence
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 1939The 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.
Hitler invades Poland
02 Sep 1939
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
10 May 1940Though 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.
Churchill becomes Prime Minister and Minister of Defence
13 May 1940
Promises only “Blood, toil, tears and sweat
15 May 1940
Unsuccessfully asks Roosevelt for loan of fifty destroyers.
28 May 1940The 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’.
Convinces Cabinet to fight on, Belgium surrenders
04 Jun 1940
Tells Parliament: 'We shall never surrender'
16 Jun 1940
On fourth visit to France as Prime Minister
18 Jun 1940Churchill 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”’.
Gives his 'Finest Hour' speech
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
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
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 1940In 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
10 Jul 1940The 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’.
Battle of Britain begins
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
10 Aug 1941
Meets Roosevelt in Newfoundland
12 Aug 1941The 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.
Drafts the Atlantic Charter communiqué
26 Dec 1941
First speech to joint session of Congress
11 Mar 1941Even 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’.
U.S. Lend-Lease Act
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 1941Pearl 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.
Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
10 Dec 1941
HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse sunk
11 Dec 1941
Germany, Italy declare war on USA
22 Dec 1941
25 Dec 1941
Hong Kong surrenders to Japan
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 1942Singapore 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.
Singapore falls to the Japanese
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 1942Enigma 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.
Allies crack the German Enigma code
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
02 Feb 1943The 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.
Germans surrender at Stalingrad
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
12 Jun 1944In 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.
Visits Normandy beachheads
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 1944Churchill 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’.
Makes 'percentages' agreement on spheres of influence
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 1944D-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.
D-Day, the Allied invasion of France
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
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 1945The 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.
Resigns as Prime Minister
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 1945Following 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.
V-E Day. Germany surrenders
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 1945The 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.
Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima
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’
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 1946One 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.
“Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri
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
14 Oct 1947
Pilot Chuck Yeager first man to travel faster than the speed of sound
16 Jan 1948
Inducted into the Society of the Cincinnati
08 May 1948
At The Hague, urges European unity
21 Jun 1948Though 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’.
Publishes The Gathering Storm
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 1948In 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’.]
Airlift begins to Soviet-isolated West Berlin
05 Jul 1948
UK: National Health Service officially established
02 Nov 1948
Harry Truman elected U.S. president
29 Mar 1949
Publishes Their Finest Hour
01 May 1949
Acquires Colonist II
01 Aug 1949Churchill 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.
Visiting Beaverbrook in the South of France, experiences his first stroke
12 May 1949
Soviets lift Berlin blockade; Allies end Airlift
01 Oct 1949
Mao Tse-tung proclaims the China a communist republic
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
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
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
05 Jan 1953
Visits Eisenhower in New York and Truman in Washington
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 1953During 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.
Successful test of first Soviet hydrogen bomb
14 Jun 1954In 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.
Becomes Knight of the Garter and, therefore, 'Sir Winston Churchill'
30 Nov 1954
Attends celebrations of his 80th birthday
01 May 1954
The name “Lego” officially registered
28 Mar 1955Winston 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.
His last speech in the House
05 Apr 1955Winston 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.
Resigns as Prime Minister
26 May 1955
Reelected MP for Woodford in general election
29 Sep 1955
UK's first independent television station goes on air
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 1956Gamel 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.
Egypt’s Nasser nationalises Suez Canal
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
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 1957The 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.
Russian satellite Sputnik launched into space
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
07 Jan 1959Churchill 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.
Last visit to Marrakesh and paints the last of over 500 oil paintings
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
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
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 1961On 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.
Germany: East German troops seal border between East and West Berlin
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 1962In 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.
Khrushchev agrees to dismantle missiles ending the Cuban Missile Crisis
09 Apr 1963In 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.
Proclaimed Honorary Citizen of the United States
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
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
24 Jan 1965
30 Jan 1965
State Funeral, London
The Family Man
Family was always important to Winston Churchill. In his own words, he ‘married and lived happily ever after’ (My Early Life). He married Clementine Hozier on 12 September 1908, after proposing to her in the Temple of Diana at Blenheim Palace. The wedding took place at St Margaret’s Church Westminster, opposite the Houses of Parliament. They had five children; Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold and Mary. Marigold died in infancy. He was nowhere happier than at his country house, Chartwell, in Kent surrounded by his family and by his animals; dogs, cats, swans, fish, pigs, sheep and even a budgerigar named Toby. He could have been buried in London, but chose to lie alongside his parents in St Martin’s churchyard at Bladon, within sight of his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. This section will tell you more about his family life.
To mark the anniversary of Churchill’s death, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography have made publicly available selected biographies of people with personal ties to Churchill. To learn more about Churchill’s family, read the ODNB entries for them here.
Churchill proposed marriage to three women in his twenties, all of whom said ‘no’ (although all of them remained his friends). He met Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, ten years his junior, at a party, the Crewe House ball, in 1904 but the meeting wasn’t a success. Unusually for him, Churchill was tongue-tied and they hardly spoke. When they met again, however, at a dinner party in 1908 (Clementine had been invited at the last minute, to fill a gap at her great-aunt’s table), they clearly got on rather better. Impressed by her beauty, her intelligence and her ability to talk politics (she was an earnest Liberal and supporter of greater rights for women, Churchill began an ardent courtship. They became engaged only a few months later, on Tuesday 11 August, when Churchill proposed to her while they were both staying at Blenheim Palace (Churchill had encouraged the Duke of Marlborough to invite her to a small house party). After failing to appear in the morning, and almost blowing his chance, Winston took Clementine for a walk in the afternoon to the Rose Garden and, sheltering from a shower in the Temple of Diana, he asked her to marry him. She agreed. Less than a month after their engagement was announced, they were married at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, London (the parish church of the House of Commons), on 12 September 1908, with Lord Hugh Cecil as best man and David Lloyd George as one of the witnesses. So began one of the most enduring marriages in politics. The bond forged in 1908 was to remain unbroken until Churchill died in 1965 and was to be the firm foundation of a life of many ups and downs. Here you can read the ODNB biography of Clementine Churchill.
Clementine and Winston
When Winston and Clementine were married, Churchill was already a leading figure in the Liberal government and their life – and marriage – was played out in public from the start. They were one of the celebrity couples of the age. Thankfully, Churchill had indeed chosen ‘most wisely and most well’. Clementine Churchill was the ideal wife for Winston. As a child, she too had experienced a difficult family life and straitened circumstances (as she would in her marriage) and had the resilience to see the couple through their difficult – and, at times, harrowing – family crises and ever-present financial anxieties. But despite their ups and downs, Clementine and Winston maintained a close and supportive relationship over the years, sending each other affectionate letters during long periods of absence, sometimes decorated with drawings illustrating their pet names for each other: she was his ‘Kat’ and he was her ‘Pug’.
Like many marriages, theirs was not always smooth sailing. A liberal, with a puritan streak and strong views of her own, Clementine disapproved of Churchill’s more disreputable contemporaries. As their daughter Mary later said, ‘sometimes her judgments about his friends were truer than his’. She was never afraid to express her opinions and they occasionally had heated quarrels. According to Mary, Clementine once threw a dish of spinach at Churchill (but missed)! And once, after a row, Clementine is reported to have burst out: ‘Winston, I have been married to you for forty-five years, for better’ – then, loudly – ‘AND FOR WORSE!’ (Anthony Montague Browne, Long Sunset) But Churchill trusted his wife implicitly and she was a valued advisor throughout their life and, although he didn’t always take her advice, he relied on her sensible and balanced approach to life and its problems. A favourite expression of Churchill’s – ‘Here firm, though all be drifting’ – could, as Richard M. Langworth notes in Churchill: In His Own Words, be easily applied to Clementine. She was Churchill’s stalwart supporter and rock throughout the troubled span of their fifty-seven year marriage.
The Churchills were, for the first years of their marriage, an itinerant family, frequently moving house depending on their circumstances. The very first year of their married life was spent at Churchill’s bachelor ‘pad’ in Bolton Street, Mayfair. They then moved to a larger house in Eccleston Square where Diana and Randolph were born (in 1909 and 1911), with Clementine and the children spending holidays near the sea, at Cromer, in Pear Tree Cottage, with ‘Goonie’ and her children nearby.
Chartwell, both the house and its land, were to become Churchill’s passions and a haven for him and his family in the years to come. At great expense, he engaged architects, designers and builders to rebuild and expand the house and its accompanying buildings, even undertaking some of the work himself. Although Clementine never liked the house as much as Churchill and never got over the fact that he’d been less than honest in his dealings with her over the purchase of the house, she put all her efforts into ensuring it was a comfortable family home for the children.
Chartwell remained the family home for forty years (although the Churchills moved out during the war and shut the house (between August 1939 and January 1946). From September 1945 the Churchills also kept a London house at 28 Hyde Park Gate, and it was here that Churchill died on 24 January 1965.
After the Second World War, in the 1940s, a consortium of wealthy benefactors, led by Lord Camrose, bought Chartwell from the Churchills and presented it to the National Trust on condition that Churchill and Clementine would have the right to live there for the rest of their lives. A trust was established, the Chartwell Trust, to manage his income from writing; for the first time in his life Churchill was able to indulge in the ‘best of everything’ without any worries that the money would run out. In his years as an ‘elder statesman’ he bought up agricultural land around Chartwell and settled down to life as a gentleman farmer, looking after pigs, sheep and cows, while continuing with his writing and his passion for painting.
Visit Chartwell: you can now visit Chartwell yourself and see the house and grounds very much as they were when the Churchills lived there.
Churchill the father
Churchill’s relationship with his parents was difficult. They were remote and inaccessible, often preoccupied – his beautiful heiress mother, with her social life and her numerous affairs with young men, and his father, with his politics]. Churchill doted on his mother and idolised his father and as a child was constantly seeking their attention and praise (not often forthcoming). He was determined to do things differently with his own children. Winston and Clementine had five children; Diana (1909), Randolph (1911), Sarah (1914), Marigold (1918) and Mary (1922). He vowed that, unlike his father, he would spend time with them and was an affectionate and devoted parent, building a tree house at Chartwell for the older three and, utilising his bricklaying skills, a little summer house for the youngest, Mary. With Churchill spoiling his children with affection, Clementine ended up doing most of the disciplining, but she was busy supporting her husband’s political life and work – she always put Winston first – and the children were really brought up by a succession of governesses and nannies. Like their father before them, the three older children, in particular, may have suffered as all three had difficult adult lives.
show on quotes pageTime passes swiftly, but is it not joyous to see how great and growing is the treasure we have gathered together, amid the storms and stresses of so many eventful and to millions tragic and terrible years?
At various times Diana, Randolph and Sarah all caused their parents considerable worry and distress, their lives variously marked by depression, unhappy marriages and dependency on alcohol. Only Mary, the youngest daughter, escaped unscathed . As with all families, though, the bad times need to be balanced against the good. It is clear from the memoirs that there were plenty of fun times at Chartwell, and it must have been a source of pride to Churchill that all four of his surviving children served in uniform during the Second World War. The family would also rally round whenever he was ill or in need of support. For an interview with Mary Soames, click here. But despite Churchill’s desire for a happy, contented family life, it rarely ran smoothly for the Churchills and was not without its heartache and pain.
As children we soon became aware that our parents’ main interest and time were consumed by immensely important tasks, beside which our own demands and concerns were trivial. We never expected either of them to attend our school plays, prize-givings or sports days. We knew they were both more urgently occupied.
Randolph, the Churchill’s second child and only son, born two years after Diana (in 1911), was spoiled by his father, who – not wishing to repeat the mistakes of his father – lavished affection on the boy. Churchill had great ambitions for his son, hoping he might carry on the family line into politics.
Randolph perhaps epitomises the difficulty of being the son of a famous father. In his twenties, he veered between adoration of his father and bitter accusations of being treated as a ‘wayward and untrustworthy child’, interspersed with periods of excess drinking and ill-considered political initiatives.
Randolph duly stood for parliament in the 1930s but despite the obvious advantage of his father’s support, he was defeated each time, being seen – in true Churchill style – as a political maverick. He was elected as MP for Preston in 1940 but lost his seat at the 1945 General Election. While he had his father’s weaknesses (notably, obstinacy, arrogance and bad temper), he did also inherit some of his strengths, including a gift for writing and considerable personal bravery, serving with the newly formed Special Air Service (SAS) and conducting dangerous missions in the Libyan Desert and Yugoslavia. Yet, ultimately, he lacked his father’s political skills, charm and charisma.
Churchill no doubt loved his son, but sometimes despaired of him. Their strong personalities would often clash.
Their father–son love–hate relationship was never entirely resolved, although there was seemingly a reconciliation in later life when Churchill approved Randolph’s appointment as his official biographer in the early 1960s.
And it’s clear that, despite their lifelong differences, Randolph never stopped worshipping his father, just as Churchill had worshipped his father a generation earlier.
Randolph married twice, first to Pamela Digby (later Harriman) in 1939, with whom he had a son, Winston, and then to June Osborne in the late 1940s, with whom he had a daughter, Arabella. Neither marriage was a success. He went on to carve out a name for himself as a gossip columnist and writer, but died in 1968 without having fulfilled his father’s expectations – and before he could complete his father’s biography (though he did see the first two volumes published).
To learn more about Churchill’s son, Randolph, read the ODNB entry for him here.
It was a typical triumph of modern science to find the one part of Randolph which was not malignant and to remove it.
It is my aim in these pages to give a full and rounded picture of Churchill's life, both in its personal and political aspects. His career has been the subject of countless books and essays, in which he has sometimes been cavalierly, sometimes harshly, judged. I have sought to give a balanced appraisal, based on his actual thoughts, actions, achievements and beliefs, as opposed to the many misconceptions that exist.
Power must pass and vanish. Glory, which is achieved through a just exercise of power – which itself is accumulated by genius, toil, courage and self-sacrifice – alone remains.
The following September, in 1922, the Churchills’ fifth and final child, Mary, was born. Mary later wrote, in the prelude to A Daughter’s Tale, that she was ‘perhaps ... for my parents, the child of consolation’.
The following September, in 1922, the Churchills’ fifth and final child, Mary, was born. Mary later wrote, in the prelude to A Daughter’s Tale, that she was ‘perhaps ... for my parents, the child of consolation’.
Unlike her elder siblings, she didn’t cause her parents any significant worries. She supported both her mother and father throughout their lives and, during the Second World War, worked for the Red Cross and the Women’s Voluntary Service from 1939 to 1941 and served in mixed anti-aircraft (AA) batteries with the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), serving in London, Belgium and Germany, rising to the rank of Junior Commander and being awarded the MBE (Military).
Mary also accompanied her father as aide de camp on several of his overseas journeys, including his post-VE trip to Potsdam.
Mary married Christopher Soames, then Assistant Military Attache in Paris, in 1947. Christopher became a firm friend and ally of Churchill’s in the wake of Jack Churchill’s death and when he and his wife moved into a cottage on the Chartwell estate (‘Honeymoon Cottage’), he became farm manager – and introduced Churchill to horse-racing, a hobby that was to provide pleasure and delight for many years.
Christopher went on to have a successful parliamentary and diplomatic career, elected Conservative MP in 1950; he became Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary during his second premiership and subsequently served as Ambassador to France (1968–72) and as the last Governor of Rhodesia (1979–80). Mary supported him in these posts .
Later in life, Mary Soames served as Patron of the International Churchill Society, later The Churchill Centre (as well as of the Royal National Theatre Board of Trustees and the National Benevolent Fund for the Aged) and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter in April 2005. Lady Soames died, aged ninety one, in May 2014.
To read an interview with Mary Soames, click here.
‘The world owes her a great debt of gratitude’: Alistair Horne, the noted historian, recounts here his memories of Mary in an article in the Spectator after her death, in 2014.
Prodigious Mary has shown us that it is possible to bear fame without pretension, to spread fun and goodwill everywhere in her path, to carry the torch for her awesome parents as if it was feather light. Few people can glimpse her at a party or spend an hour in her company without falling under her spell. She has shown how a great legacy can and should be worn.
Churchill’s marriage to Clementine remained the cornerstone of his private life but his family life had its share of personal sadness. Aside from the distress caused by his children’s wayward lives, he lived long enough to witness the death of many of those close to him. His mother, the beautiful and glamorous Jennie, died aged only sixty seven, in June 1921 (she had tripped, wearing high heels, down a staircase and broke her ankle; it didn’t heal and, suffering from gangrene, she eventually had the foot amputated; after enduring several weeks of pain, she died suddenly of a massive haemorrhage). Only months later, the Churchills’ beloved ‘Duckadilly’ died, aged only two and nine months. Churchill’s oldest friend and companion, his younger brother Jack, died in February 1947, six years after the death of ‘Goonie’ (Gwendeline, Jack’s wife), in 1941. Churchill was devastated at the loss and wrote to Hugh Cecil, ‘I feel lonely now that he is not here after 67 years of brotherly love’ (Gilbert, Never Despair). And of course, his daughter Diana died before he did, aged only fifty four, in 1963.
Family life and Politics
Despite Churchill’s belief in the importance of family and family life, he was also a relentlessly ambitious man and politics and government naturally took up huge amounts of his time, regularly taking him away from his family. He was often away from home – ‘more urgently occupied’, as Mary later wrote – either fighting wars or fighting elections. Clementine was politically astute and well-informed and, not content to sit on the side-lines, played an influential part in his political life. Like most women of her day Clementine accepted that her own interests must always come second to those of her husband, but she acted as his political agent in London while he was serving in the trenches in the First World War (after he was sacked from the Admiralty and then resigned from government in 1915). She offered advice and met up with political leaders in London, determined to protect his political reputation in his absence.
As children we soon became aware that our parents’ main interest and time were consumed by immensely important tasks, beside which our own demands and concerns were trivial. We never expected either of them to attend our school plays, prize-givings or sports days. We knew they were both more urgently occupied.
I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something that I feel you ought to know … There is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues & subordinates because of your rough sarcastic & overbearing manner … I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not so kind as you used to be ... I cannot bear that those who serve the Country & yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you.
The Churchill family in war
All the Churchills supported their father. The children, to varying degrees, served him – and their country – in the Second World War, too. Diana served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), Sarah with the Photographic Interpretation Unit of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and Mary served in the armed forces in mixed anti-aircraft (AA) batteries with the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Mary also attended the Quebec conference of 1943 as an aide to her father, while Sarah played a similar role at Teheran in 1943 and Yalta in 1945. Randolph served as an Intelligence Officer in the Middle East, was attached to the newly formed Special Air Service (SAS), and undertook missions in the Libyan desert and in Yugoslavia.
A long marriage
There is no doubting that Churchill and Clementine’s long marriage was a successful one; their relationship remained close and intimate, despite – or perhaps because of – lengthy periods apart. Even when Churchill wasn’t away working, but was on one of his many holidays, he tended to leave the children at home with Clementine or the nannies. Churchill relished his holidays and time abroad, painting and relaxing, and accepted invitations to spend time with friends and acquaintances whenever he could, often on the Continent. Clementine however, often ‘found the company tedious’ (Mary Soames, A Churchill Family Album) and, after 1918, they often holidayed apart. In the winter/spring 1935, the Churchills were invited to join Lord Moyne (Walter Guinness) aboard the yacht ‘Rosaura’ for a long four-month cruise of the Far East. Churchill, preoccupied with the final stages of his biography of Marlborough, didn’t feel able to go, but Clementine, having surprisingly acquired a taste for exotic travel, decided to go. Churchill wrote affectionate and domestic letters - a series of ‘Chartwell Bulletins’ – to his wife in which he gave her the latest news of home, family and his collection of farm animals and pets. Here he tells her that ‘the guinea pigs have died ... How paltry you must consider these domestic tales of peaceful England compared to your dragons and tuartuaras’. There were occasional family holidays, too.
But it wasn’t always an easy marriage. Apart from their political disagreements and heated arguments – and spinach throwing episodes – both Winston and Clementine were prone to periods of depression – Churchill with his ‘black dog’ and Clementine with all her worries and concerns about life with the great man and the children – and both were also increasingly frail and unwell. When the War was over and Churchill had been voted out of office, life was miserable. With Churchill exhausted and increasingly depressed by his enforced inactivity, the children continuing to cause concern and distress and Clementine herself suffering from ill-health, there was considerable friction in the Churchill household. They had always holidayed separately, since 1918. Now tensions at home were eased by increasing time spent apart – Churchill began to spend more and more time abroad for his health, and his painting, with Clementine staying at home, relishing the peace and quiet and recuperating from her own ailments – and these separations served to remind them of their dependence upon each other; throughout these lengthy periods of separation, they continued to write each other affectionate letters. They did however travel together to France in 1958, to Lord Beaverbrook’s villa, La Capponcina, at Cap D’Ail where they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.
Churchill the grandfather
Churchill was a devoted grandfather. He lived to have ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and both he and Clementine took great pleasure in being surrounded by their family, with the swimming pool and croquet lawn as great attractions.The Churchill family today continues to be very active in the fields in which Winston distinguished himself. Among Winston and Clementine’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren are family members who have achieved distinction in their own right as biographers and authors, in journalism and in art, and in serving their country in politics, government and the armed forces, and who carry forward the many aspects of the Churchillian legacy with pride.
show on quotes pageTime passes swiftly, but is it not joyous to see how great and growing is the treasure we have gathered together, amid the storms and stresses of so many eventful and to millions tragic and terrible years?
‘The family and the home’
Churchill had been determined to have a happy family – to maintain those ‘dominating virtues of human society’ – but he lived so many other lives – as a politician, as a war leader, and had so many passionate interests (writing, painting, holidays) – that his family was, to a greater or lesser degree, squeezed in among these other busy lives. There were painful consequences, of course, but Clementine had always accepted that her husband must come first (and ‘second and third’) and worked tirelessly to support him. And his children, however they responded to the pressures of being the great man’s children, appreciated, and were proud of, all he had done for them and for the country. Towards the end of his life, Churchill spent his time at Chartwell, sitting in the garden, gazing out over the valley and the lakes to the Weald beyond, with his family around him. Churchill died on 24 January 1965 and was buried at the churchyard at St Martin’s Church, Bladon, next to his parents and within sight of Blenheim Palace where he had been born more than ninety years earlier. When Clementine died in December 1977, she was reunited with her husband, her ashes placed in Churchill’s grave.
It is truly a ‘house’ whose strong walls have been built – every brick – by your genius and unceasing toil.
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.