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The Churchill Society
London.

"You have been so faithful and so loving to us,
you have fought so stoutly for us,
you have been so hearty in counselling of us
that we shall never forget your favour towards us"

HOUSE OF COMMONS
November 30th 1954.


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WHO WAS CHURCHILL?

CHRONOLOGY

Flanders PoppyThe purpose of these pages is to tell the story of Churchill's life - not to give a detailed account of the wars he was involved in, for that is a vast subject.

Month by month factual and photographic calendars of the Ist World War
1914. 1915. 1916. 1917. 1918.

It is important to remember that heavy censorship of news took place throughout these years, and therefore knowledge of many of these events was not available until long after they happened - or until after the wars had ended.

Explanatory notes are given against some of these dates, but to read about particular battles or political events please go to Bibliography

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The First World War
also known as

The Great War.

The Causes.

Map available from International Art Editions
FREEPOST GL1950
Cheltenham Gloucestershire
UK GL52 6BR

More by accident than design the British commercial classes acquired the greatest Empire the world has ever known. So big did it become that by 1900 the sun never set on the Empire. By 1924 one third of the world spoke English. The Empire was four and a half times the size of the USA and sixty times the size of France and was completely self sufficient.

These areas were originally explored and mapped either out of curiosity, or desire to supply the essential raw materials for the Industrial Revolution that was taking place in England. Later missionaries determined to convert 'the heathen' people in these colonies to Christianity.

It was the need to stamp out piracy at sea that caused the British to create the largest and most powerful Navy in the world. The Royal Navy - again more by accident than design - became the policeman of oceans.

It was the need for political stability and law and order within these colonies that required Armed Forces to be sent to back up the British appointed native police forces.

Taken as a whole, the colonies were governed very well - certainly better than some since they gained their independence this century.

The junior sons of upper and middle class British families made lifetime careers - either in the Army or Colonial Civil Service - living in, and administering these far off colonies; and they established in them systems of democracy, justice, education and government that endure to this day.

Upon gaining self governing Dominion Status and then Independence, nearly every former colony joined the subsequent .The 'Empire' meant different things to different classes of British people. For commercial classes it meant profit and nothing more; to the Colonial Civil Service 'The Empire' meant high quality public service: to the Army, exciting foreign duties and adventures maintaining law and order: to religious people it meant more converts to their faith: and to the ordinary people and politicians in England it swelled their illusions of world wide dominance, greatness and power.

Americans - understandably - have never properly understood the British people's 19th and early 20th century perceptions of 'Empire', nor the mid 20th century British idea of the Commonwealth.

It is important to remember to judge people - not by the latest fashionable perceptions of today, but by the perceptions of the people in those days. Fifty years hence fashionable perceptions will be different again.

BY JUNE 1897 the 78 year-old Queen Victoria had reigned over Great Britain and her Empire for 60 years. To mark the occasion a Diamond Jubilee was proclaimed, complete with a Spithead naval review on the 26th June.

To give some idea of the size of the Navy at the time - in spite of the order that the battle fleet in the Mediterranean and the squadrons on foreign stations were to remain at their posts, 165 warships, stretching for 30 miles, carrying 40,000 men and 5,000 guns were assembled in the Solent. The Channel Squadron alone had 11 battleships, all under six years old, and superior in fire power, armour and speed to anything else afloat. It represented the largest and most formidable navy the world had ever known. It was the Royal Navy which had destroyed Napoleon's fleet at Trafalgar nearly a century before. It was the Royal Navy which made possible the building and protection of the British Empire.

In 1897 the Empire covered one quarter of the land surface of the globe and one quarter of the world's population. The nations of the Empire traded with each other. To serve it, and others, was the British Merchant Navy and in 1897 this accounted for more than half the steamships afloat in the world. But it was the Royal Navy who guaranteed their protection and which policed the oceans of the world, ensuring safety and free trade for all.

But Britain could not be isolated from events on the conti
nent - only 20 miles away. Britain had always had an interest in preserving a European balance of power. If any country threatened to dominate the Continent and control the Channel ports, then Britain would ally herself with the opposing coalition, sometimes with a small army. This was how Britain had gone to war against Philip II of Spain, Louis XIV of France and Napoleon.

By 1900 the German nation was developing fast. Its population in 1871 expanded to 49 million as against 45 million in Britain, and then exploded to 56 million in 1900 and 65 million in 1910. The population of France between 1891 and 1910 rose barely at all, from 37 million to 39 million.

In 1871 Britain was the largest coal producer in the world (112 million tons annually). German coal production was half of Britain's; but by 1913 it was equal.

By 1914 Germany was producing more than twice as much steel as Britain. With Germany's huge economic expansion came a desire to play a role in world affairs. Plans were made for a great German navy. The British resented the German economic and (especially) naval rivalry.

On 6 June 1897 William II appointed Admiral Tirpitz, Navy Minister. Tirpitz presented to the Kaiser at a top secret memorandum which read:-

'the most dangerous naval enemy at the present time is England ... Commerce raiding ... against England is so hopeless because of the shortage of coaling stations on our side and the great number on England's side . . . Our military situation against England demands battleships in as great a number as possible ... A German fleet ... needs 1 fleet flagship, 2 squadrons of eight battleships each, 2 reserve battleships. A total of 19 battleships. This fleet can be largely completed by 1905'.He then went on to outline the cost.

To justify this expansion to the taxpayers, it was necessary that England (who was friendly to Germany) be thought of as an enemy. Justifications for a big navy poured forth.

'A policy of adventure is far from our minds ... but in maritime questions Germany must be able to speak a modest, but above all, a wholly German word.'

On 26 March 1898 the Navy Bill passed in the German Reichstag with 2l2 votes against l39.

In October l899 the Boer War broke out. In January 1900 British cruisers stopped three German mail steamers off the African coast and searched them on suspicion of carrying arms and ammunition to the Boers. A storm of protest swept Germany. Tirpitz seized the moment. He drafted a new Navy Bill. To defend it he developed his famous Risk Theory. It was . . .

'that a larger British fleet had had of necessity to be scattered round the world. But a smaller, concentrated German fleet

Warships in line astern

would have a good chance of victory against the Royal Navy in the North Sea'.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain had the biggest empire the world had ever known, she was at the zenith of her power and glory; but by the end of the century - so vast were the changes that had taken place in every sphere of life - Britain had by then relinquished it.

The twentieth century has been the most turbulent in Europe since the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Dominant throughout has been the rise of Germany to 1918, her fall and rise to 1942: her fall in 1945 and her subsequent rise.

In the period from the beginning of the century to 1914 British policy towards Europe was clear and sensible. This was the period of 'splendid isolation', when Britain could feel secure behind the shield of the Royal Navy, but was careful to preserve a European balance of power. If any country threatened to dominate the Continent, Britain would join with the opposing coalition to prevent it.

Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1915, saw in the first decade of the century that the danger to the European balance of power came this time not from France but from Germany.

A Germany, ruling the Continent, determined to challenge British naval supremacy, and with its huge High Seas Fleet enjoying access to the Channel ports, would pose an unacceptable danger to Britain and her sea routes to the Empire.

In warning in 1911 of the possibility of war with Germany, Churchill persuaded the to finance a huge increase in naval expenditure. As Lord of the Admiralty he completely reformed the Navy and took an intense interest in every aspect of it. This included converting many coal fired battleships to oil to extend their range and efficiency - to say nothing of his concern about working conditions in the ships' engine rooms. This of course meant securing reliable supplies of oil, so he created what is now the great company - British Petroleum.

German Militarism.

A helmet of a cavalry regiment of Kaiser Wilhelm's elite Curassiers.

War came - as Churchill foresaw - and a most terrible war it was. Nothing like it in history had ever been known. It lasted from September 1914 to November 1918 and for the first time ever involved a vast army of civilians in the factories most of whom were women. Their contribution to the war effort eventually brought about their enfranchisement.

But the suffering and loss of life on both sides was so grievous that by the time it ended many young women could never marry because there were not enough young men. Of the 70 million men in uniform 9 million were to die leaving 3 million widows and 10 million orphans.

Flanders PoppyNo-one today can envisage the anxieties caused to families waiting for news of their loved ones. In England the Flanders Poppy commemorates to this day the appalling slaughter and suffering.

The root causes of this war are complex. Two historical features stand out (1) the awakening in Central and Eastern Europe of minority national aspirations and (2) the commercial rivalry between the Great Powers.

Diplomacy could not contain the new  which in turn swept away reason and prudence on all sides.

Since 1870, Germany had developed into a major power and this de-stabilised the balance of power in Europe. Germany felt jealous of England and France and thwarted in its hopes for further expansion. By 1914 it was spoiling for a fight. But no-one had any idea of the horrendous consequences of war waged using the new technologies of mass production.

There were close ties between the British and German royal families, but it was a feud in that family that eventually triggered the First World War. The last German led Europe into an abyss that was to become known as the Great War 1914 -1918. He was the English grandson.

The future Kaiser

Queens Victoria's grandson - the future Kaiser.
He had a deformed left arm. This sad fact seriously damaged his personality.

Flanders PoppyThe purpose of these pages is to tell the story of Churchill's life - not to give a detailed account of the wars he was involved in, for that is a vast subject.

Month by month factual and photographic calendars of the Ist World War

1914. 1915. 1916. 1917. 1918.

It is important to remember that heavy censorship of news took place throughout them, and therefore knowledge of many of these events was not available until long after they happened - or until after the wars had ended. Morevover, the experiences of the soldiers were so terrible, that of the the few who returned, none spoke of them for many many years.

Explanatory notes are given against some of these dates, but to read about particular battles or political events please go to Bibliography

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THE STORY OF THE GREAT WAR.

1914.

The causes
of the Gt War.

1914.

Unfolding events
in the summer.

1914.

Autumn and early
winter

 

1915.

 

1916.

 

1917.

 

1918.

Armistice.

 

1919.

The aftermath.

The 1920's

 

. .SCHOOL INDEX .

 CHRONOLOGY

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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...................Ladybird.

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