Churchill's Grave at Bladon (on the right) within view of his birthplace Blenheim Palace where this story began ninety one years earlier.
(Right) St Martin's Parish Church. Bladon. Oxfordshire.
* As does THE CHURCHILL MUSIC
And so my story Who was Churchill? now comes to the present day. (Written in 1995).
Churchill died 30 years ago on January 24th 1965 and what he described as The Cold War, ended in 1989 - only 6 years ago.
You will remember that at the beginning of my story I wrote:-
The reason your school has asked you to study the life of Winston Churchill is so that you will know about the tragic events that happened to millions of people twice during Churchill's lifetime (1874 - 1965) so that you can learn from these events and try to avoid them happening again in your lifetime.
At the time of Churchill's childhood and youth - the most formative years of anyone's life, the British Empire was nearing the pinnacle of its power, prestige and majesty. By his death in 1963, that great Empire 'upon which the sun never set' had astonished everyone by the rapidity of its disappearance. After the First world war England and the world was a totally different place to live in. The most accurate short account of the British Empire is by Sir John Keegan.
But the story Who was Churchill? and what happened to the Empire, is the opposite of national dishonour and failure; it is one of which the young people in Britain and the Commonwealth can be immensely proud.
Churchill's war time speeches are legendary. They saved his country - and then saved the world from ignominious defeat by the War Lords and in the end enabled the German and Japanese people to regain political control in their own countries.
Churchill and his comrades-in-arms, in feats of great valour and nobility, gave back the Title Deeds to the peoples of all those nations over-run by the Nazis, the Italian Fascists, the Japanese War Lords, and eventually the Bolsheviks (later the Communists).
Churchill retires as Prime Minister and with Lady Churchill they bid farewell to HM the Queen after having entertained her to Dinner.
Today the people of Germany, Italy and Japan owe the freedom they enjoy today, to Churchill's singular courage in the 1930's and 1940.
Read any of Churchill's speeches and you will see that throughout his long life he never ceased to fight for freedom, honour, dignity, and justice for all mankind - of whatever race or colour.
Churchill's amazing strategic decision to transfer the remnants of the British Army from an undefended UK to the Middle East so soon after the Battle of Britain - and so engage the enemy - is, as John Keegan says
"one of the bravest strategic judgments in the history of high command".
The purpose was threefold. (a) to engage the enemy in the only place possible at the time and so keep up the morale and fighting spirit of the British Army and people and make the world see that the Axis was not unbeatable. (b) to safeguard the Canal and route to India, Singapore and the Pacific. (d) to protect the Persian Oil fields.
As it turned out, after initial successes, Hitler was forced to send Rommel and the Afrika Korps to North Africa. He ran rings round the British Desert Army until Montgomery eventually defeated him at El Alamein. The world then knew Hitler would in the end be defeated.
Today the Empire has been transformed into The Commonwealth: a friendly - sometimes - quarrelsome - (as in all families) group of independent self governing nations now, with her Majesty the Queen as their titular head; but all having an abiding sense of affection and goodwill towards each other.
Experience has shown that for some of these smaller nations, independence came before they were ready for it with tragic consequences. Churchill foresaw this, but nonetheless, when the time came to grant independence, he did not stand in their way and thereafter promoted their wellbeing.
By any standards Churchill was a remarkable man and would have been so in any age; not only because of his wide talents, but for the exceptional power of his personality, his sweeping grasp of world history, military and naval strategy; foreign and home political current affairs; and his mastery of the English language.
He was a gifted journalist, a biographer and historian of classic proportions, an orator of rare power, a strategist and leader of men, a soldier and politician of rare independence of mind and indomitable courage and distinction. Churchill was a life long Parliamentary freedom fighter. He had great integrity in every aspect of his personal life and great affection for and loyalty to his family.
From the outset of his political career and as a very young man, he always espoused Free Trade and cheap food for the people. In spite of an aristocratic upbringing he understood ordinary people and their problems. He was always a champion of the poor and his social reforms have stood the test of time.
Churchill had an inquiring and original cast of mind. He questioned fashionable opinions. Because of this he was free of the impracticalities in the ideologies of doctrinaires.
For a short period early in his career he became a Freemason, but publicly resigned. He proved his independence of character by publishing his letter of resignation - whatever the consequences to his future might be - something quite unheard of before or since.
He was an indomitable fighter against any form of tyranny - be it from the political Left or the Right. All his life he was a fighter for what he believed to be the best interests of his country and its ordinary people. He loved the Empire - later to be known as the Commonwealth - and sought only to promote those affairs that would enhance the welfare and safety of its people.
He was keen on all new inventions. He was an experienced sailor, he taught himself to fly - a very dangerous occupation in those days - and only eventually gave it up at the insistence of his wife.
All his life he was a genial - but real fighter for what he believed to be the best interests of his country and its ordinary people.
In political battles throughout his long life he had far more defeats than victories and he was no stranger to tears and had more than his fair share of family sorrows. But he was rarely cast down in spirits for long: and always generous in victory.
Enoch Powell (who twice served under Churchill after the war) has said:-
"Churchill never contracted out - in the great lottery of life, he never rose from the gaming-table".
"Never perhaps was there a statesman who built up such an accumulation of damaging quotes against himself; but a genial English common sense and an eye for the main chance enabled him to soar gleefully above them . . . . . . . "
Churchill reacted to the day to day unfolding of the war less by intellect - great though that was - than by his long memory and the force of his moral character and his passion for liberty. It was this that inspired the British nation and the world in 1940.
He was a talented amateur painter, garden designer, bricklayer, and wild butterfly breeder and later, only when a very old man did he become rich enough from the sale of his famous books, to become for a short while, a race horse breeder. He was devoted to his pets and animals.
His fidelity was legendary in all his relationships. It was the neglect that he suffered as a child that made him such a solicitous, home loving and loyal husband and father.
Churchill was extravagant, he believed in having the best "and even that's not good enough" he was fond of joking. Throughout his life at Chartwell he frequently spent more than he earned and because he was so busy, Clementine often had the worry of paying the tradesmen.
He had a vast love and reverence for English history and literature and the long traditions of his country. He possessed a deep knowledge of France and her history, an abiding affection for the Commonwealth and especially the USA. His political perceptions always embraced the world political scene even when considering domestic politics.
As an orator, few in history can equal him. He had a deep - almost romantic - reverence for the Monarchy and the traditions and honour of the House of Commons and its institutions.
He was a historian and author of a large range of historical books all of which are a joy to read, for his command of vivid and poetic English.
After the war, although an old man, he still retained his capacity to update his knowledge and opinions and could learn and adjust to new ideas better than his younger political colleagues.
But it was as the saviour of his country in 1940 that he has left his indelible imprint on the history of Britain.
* As does THE CHURCHILL MUSIC
Now that The Cold War (with its threat of global atomic war) is mercifully over, people may assume that because we enjoy superior communications today - including the Internet - wars are events of the past.
It takes only a moment of thought to realise that this assumption is both foolish and dangerous.
In spite of the marvels of today's communications, they can easily be corrupted and people once again misled.
Terrorism is war - it is the worst kind of war - civil war - often involving father fighting against son or brother against brother.
There is much terrorism and civil war today and no-one knows how to stop it. An atom bomb left in a city is all that it would take to terrify a whole nation into abject obedience. The knowledge of how to make a DIY atom bomb is accessible. Unless we listen early and really understand the grievances that make people go to such lengths we cannot prevent it.
Lady and Sir Winston Churchill.
Thus it is you should accept no statement (not even ones from reputable sources) without being - like a good scientist - checking and double checking - before you accept it as the truth.
Even then, always remember that things look different when examined without prejudice from another person's viewpoint. This is very difficult to do.
You have read (albeit only in the briefest outline) how Good eventually triumphed over Evil in The First World War - and did so again in the Second World War, and how, after many many years, did so again in the Cold War; and how each time - it only just did so - but only after millions of people had died and others - both soldiers and civilians alike suffered grievously.
Why did it all happen? Can it happen again?
Was it just fate - or was it just ignorance?
Why is it that it is only the human species that wages organised scientific war on itself? No other species create a threat to its survival.
Is it because the causes of war lie within the very nature of man himself? Perhaps that is where we should look?
Like Churchill - we must study what happened in the past to find clues to help solve today's problems; and like him, be always updating our knowledge and opinions;
be generous in heart - and always doing something to improve the welfare of the poor of all races.
Just because it is a time of peace - we must not forget that the causes of war still remain and that they are very serious and complex.
When scientists or engineers have problems to crack they obtain money and then set up a system called Research and Development.
Until we properly understand the many different causes of war, there is no hope of us knowing how to prevent them . . . . and they will happen again.
There are many people studying the causes of war. In the passing of the Cold War, fortune has favoured the human race with a period for reflection.
THE CHURCHILL SOCIETY is run by a committee. The society's main purpose is educate young people about Churchill and to be an important forum for the publication of all research work into the causes of, and prevention of war.
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