Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer British politician and Prime Minister of Great Britain (1940-1945, 1951-1955), widely regarded as Britain's greatest 20th-century statesman, and celebrated for his national leadership during World War II.
Churchill, born on November 30, 1874, was the eldest son of Lord Randolph Churchill and the American heiress Jennie Jerome. He was educated at Harrow School and then became a cadet at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, passing out in February 1895 as a second lieutenant in the Fourth Queen's Own Hussars. He served as a cavalry officer in India and the Sudan (where he rode in the cavalry charge at Omdurman in 1898 under the command of Horatio Herbert Kitchener), but resigned his commission in 1899 to become a newspaper correspondent in the Boer War. A daring escape from prison after he had been captured by the Boers made him a national hero and in 1900 he was elected to Parliament as Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Oldham. In 1904 he went over to the Liberal Party, having broken with the Conservatives on the issue of free trade, angering his constituents. Having found a new Manchester seat to contest, he was swept back into Parliament in the Liberal "landslide" of 1906. In 1908 he became President of the Board of Trade in the Liberal cabinet of Herbert Henry Asquith, where he worked closely with the radical Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, in promoting social reform. After a brief period as Home Secretary (1910-1911), during which he pursued the same policies, he became First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-1915). Before World War I he had insisted on maintaining the British Navy's superiority over that of its nearest rival, the German Navy, against the pressure of Cabinet economizers like Lloyd George for reductions in the naval estimates.
World War I and the Inter-War Period
Churchill's role in World War I was controversial and almost destroyed his career. He was an energetic First Lord, but his sponsorship of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent failure of the Anglo-French fleets to force the Dardanelles Strait led Asquith to demote him to the powerless office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in May 1915. Deprived of any influence on the war, he resigned from this post in disgust in November.
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Winston Churchill biography
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