Though he was born into a life of privilege, he dedicated himself to public service. But for many people in Great Britain and elsewhere, Winston Churchill is simply a hero. Winston Churchill came from a long line of English aristocrat-politicians. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was descended from the First Duke of Marlborough and was himself a well-known figure in Tory politics in the s and s.
He was educated at the Harrow prep school, where he performed so poorly that he did not even bother to apply to Oxford or Cambridge.
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After he left Sandhurst, Churchill traveled all around the British Empire as a soldier and as a journalist. In , the London Morning Post sent him to cover the Boer War in South Africa, but he was captured by enemy soldiers almost as soon as he arrived. His work on behalf of progressive social reforms such as an eight-hour workday, a government-mandated minimum wage, a state-run labor exchange for unemployed workers and a system of public health insurance infuriated his Conservative colleagues, who complained that this new Churchill was a traitor to his class.
In , Churchill turned his attention away from domestic politics when he became the First Lord of the Admiralty akin to the Secretary of the Navy in the U. Noting that Germany was growing more and more bellicose, Churchill began to prepare Great Britain for war: He established the Royal Naval Air Service, modernized the British fleet and helped invent one of the earliest tanks.
In an attempt to shake things up, Churchill proposed a military campaign that soon dissolved into disaster: the invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Churchill hoped that this offensive would drive Turkey out of the war and encourage the Balkan states to join the Allies, but Turkish resistance was much stiffer than he had anticipated. After nine months and , casualties, the Allies withdrew in disgrace. During the s and s, Churchill bounced from government job to government job, and in he rejoined the Conservatives. Especially after the Nazis came to power in , Churchill spent a great deal of time warning his countrymen about the perils of German nationalism, but Britons were weary of war and reluctant to get involved in international affairs again.
A year later, however, Hitler broke his promise and invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war. Chamberlain was pushed out of office, and Winston Churchill took his place as prime minister in May You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.
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Winston Churchill, Britain’s Most Famous Statesman and Bricklayer
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