His father was a Lord and a Chancellor of the Exchequer. His mother, Jenny Jerome, was an American socialite whose claim to fame was the invention of the Manhattan cocktail. Unbowed by these accomplishments, Sir Winston went on to become the personification of World War II England, twice its Prime Minister, a Nobel Laureate in Literature and one hell of a, or as he’d say, bloody, funny guy.
The list of Sir Winston’s achievements are well documented and fall outside the purview of this simple article. Instead, a decent respect to his intellect and fine sense of humor dictates that we examine some of his more pithy sayings.
“Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it."
Thus, the roguish tongue of the future Parliamentarian was born.
A young Winston Churchill spent a significant amount of time as war correspondent. He first experienced combat in Cuba in 1895 . Further engagements would follow in India, the Sudan and finally in South Africa where he was captured and imprisoned buy the Boers.
He subsequently escaped and remained “at large” for some time before returning to the British lines. Subsequently, he was one of the first soldiers to reenter Pretoria, then capital of South Africa, and demand the surrender of his previous captors. When asked to recount his time on the run and in combat, he rather succinctly stated,
“There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at… with no effect.”
There is little doubt that Sir Winston would remember his experiences as a young man to great effect in far more dire circumstances during his first tenure as Prime Minister.
Throughout, his life Churchill was an avowed enemy of fascism and communism being one of the first to recognize the dangers of both Hitler and Stalin. Though, Churchill understood that democracy had some deficiencies, he was an unabashed advocate who famously replied to critics that,
“Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
The Second World War
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
As the war continued to worsen with the capitulation of Belgium, Churchill was faced with supporting the morale of the British people and in his second speech delivered the famous line,
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
The same month saw the end of the German Air Force’s strategic bombing campaign, known as The Blitz, but the beginning of the Luftwaffe’s attacks against British military targets, specifically their air assets, during the Battle of Britain.
The Battle of Britain was, indeed, a close run thing with the fate of the war hanging in the balance. The Royal Air Force was continually stretched to its limits and well beyond at some points. When the RAF had finally defeated the Luftwaffe, the Prime Minister, recognizing the valor and steadfastness of his pilots, gave this famous tribute to the RAF,
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
“Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it!"
Churchill went on to win the Nobel Prize in literature and was asked his opinion of all sorts of literary efforts. He was a diligent if somewhat scathing literary critic who passed remarks with the likes of such greats as George Bernard Shaw. The great Irish playwright once sent Sir Winston a pair of tickets to the opening night of his new play and invited Churchill to bring a friend…if he had one. Churchill wrote back that he,
“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.”
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
In 1963, Sir Winston was made the first honorary citizen of the United States. He died two years later at the age of 90 and by Royal decree lay in state for three days. Queen Elizabeth II, as well as senior representatives from 110 nations, attended the funeral. He is buried at St. Martin’s Church in Bladon.