Sunday, 25 August 2013

'My Winston'

Well. Here we are. The post that you have all been waiting for with baited breath... the final article in what I like to call the Winston Churchill 'saga'. It doesn't matter to me that its been a very short 'saga', of only 3 articles, it has been a saga. And, sadly, it is coming to an end. I have known that an article on my Winston was on the cards, but I always fell victim to something that I call the 'gym complex'. I sit down at my computer and tell myself that this is it, this is the article, but somewhere along the line I decide that 'I'll do it tomorrow'. take off my figurative trainers and eat a figurative ice cream. Well not today. Today, but some miracle of nature, I have galvanised myself to put on the trainers, walk out of the door, and actually go to the gym. Let's not go mad here, I'm still speaking metaphorically. Okay, so actually doing anything has been delayed be some waffle and absolutely crazy metaphor that has left many people questioning my sanity (you're right to question), but here I am. The metaphorical Winston Churchill gym. I'll try to contain my emotions.

I think it's probably a good idea to start with all the 'David Copperfield' stuff; when, where he was born, that kind of 'piffle', as Boris Johnson would undoubtedly call it. My wonderful Winston (the emotions are slipping out) was born at Blenheim Palace on the 30th November 1874, to Lord Randolph Churchill and the american heiress Jennie Jerome. Winston idolised his father who was an eminent politician when Winston was born (although that soon went to pot), and adored his mother, although his childhood was marked by an emotional neglect typical of the higher classed of the time, his parents rarely visiting him at school. As you may have guessed from his mannerisms, Churchill didn't quite go to your average state comprehensive, instead opting for the slightly more prestigious Harrow school. Now, similar to the majority of the worlds 'greats', Winston's time at Harrow was not marked with academic achievement and rather 'adventuring', as my book wonderfully words it, meaning, I assume, that he got all to all sorts. Due to this, his father pressed young Winston towards a military career, which was (in true Winston style) pursued with considerable vigour and commitment, his family ties serving useful in achieving him posting to active conflicts, which Winston much preferred to languishing in less troubled parts of India. In order to boost his income, Churchill took to writing as well as fighting, capitalising on each campaign in which he fought, especially during his escape from captivity in the Boer War (which is a whole other article entirely), his hero's welcome from this event propelling him to a seat in Parliament as the Conservative bloke from Oldham in 1900.

Churchill came to politics like a quintessentially British duck to water, gaining his first ministerial post in 1905 through the liberal party, until he jumped ship and 1924 and he returned to the conservatives. But Churchill wasn't just noteworthy during his time as a war politician, oh no! His years within the Liberals were full of a series of reforms that formed the basis of the welfare state, and he was the subject of an incredible amount of controversy, never more so than at his appearance at the 'Siege of Sydney Street'. But, like all great men, Winston's career wasn't just a rapid ascent to glory. and in 1915 he was hounded from his post as First Lord of the Admiralty when his ambitious plan to capture the Dardanelles failed, as well as incurring many casualties. Churchil was a little bit miffed about this, and so returned to service in the army, reinforcing a reputation for bravery that formed a lot of how we see him today. However, just as the lure of History sometimes proves too much for me, the lure of politics proved too much for my Winston, and he returned to a ministerial career, becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924 to 1929, returning Britain to the Gold Standard, and working tirelessly for the rights of striking and poorly paid miners. However, the peaks and troughs of Churchill's life suffered another fall as in 1929 the Conservatives were beaten in the election, and subsequent Prime Ministers rejected Churchill for the next ten years.

For those ten years, however, my Winston did not stay silent. Much like me, he could not resist having his voice heard, and quite publicly supported King Edward in the 1936 abdication crisis, as well as vehemently opposing Indian Independence. Unfortunately, these were not the popular opinions, and so Winston became sidelined when it came to peoples opinion, and held the same respect today as many people have for Wayne Rooney's intelligence. As a result of this, his disagreement with the policy of appeasement concerning Hitler was seen as just the ramblings of a man past his political prime by many, who probably kicked themselves after the second world war. The policy of appeasement was soon shown to be a bit dodgy as the hopes of the Munich agreement soon faded into shameful recognition of a rubbish policy, Churchill slowly began to rise, so much so that when war broke out in 1939, Neville Chamberlain has little choice but to invite Churchill to return to his old post of First Lord of the Admiralty. On the 9th of May, in an event that changed history, Churchill was appointed as Prime Minster for England, although that was not a popular decision (imagine the country's reaction if Wayne Rooney became the prime minister)
I won't bang on about Churchill as a war leader, simply because my emotions may bubble out of me and leave me as a sticky, bawly mess in front of my computer screen, for this is when Winston really came into his own. I pride myself on being open for the few teenagers who can instantly recognise the voice of Winston Churchill, and this is because his voice is simply so recognisable. Apart from changing the ways that war was fought, Winston was incredible for British morale, and he became wildly popular, as well as giving the British public a sense of hope.

Despite this, a great wartime Prime Minister is rarely a good peacetime one, and Churchill was defeated in the July 1945 election. Despite this, Churchill was still a prominent political figure, and also wrote a great deal of Historical novels. During the Cold War, Churchill sounded the alarm bells that shook the world in his 'Iron Curtain', alerting the world to the dangers of communism. When Churchill was re-instated into power in 1951 at the ripe old age of 76, he continued to emphasise the threat of a nuclear war between the West and the Soviet Union. He was a strong advocate of 'jaw jaw' instead of 'war war', and also pushed for summit meetings to be held, although no such meetings were agreed to in his time as Prime Minister.

My Winston continued to serve as a member of parliament until six months before his death at the age of 90, and Queen Elizabeth II gave him a state funeral after his death on the 24th January 1965.

So there we are. the promised Winston article. It wasn't too crazed, was it?  Love him or hate him, Winston Churchill really was an iconic worldwide figure, and redefined what it means to be British. So although you may not be quite like me, and cry 'Winston' every time he is mentioned, or do some weird kind of salute every time his voice is heard, I hope you appreciate a little more just what a great man My Winston truly was.

Once again, thanks for sticking with this for this long!

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