Widely considered to be one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Winston Churchill was also a British Army officer, historian, writer, and artist.
Born into an aristocratic family, Churchill had many privileges. Despite this, he struggled with a speech impediment and was a low achiever at school.
Remembered nowadays for his successes, Churchill's military, political, and journalistic careers were very rocky, with many serious setbacks along the way.
Like many great people, his life is a story of struggle against adversity: personal, political, and military.
20 Winston Churchill Facts
Here are 20 facts about Churchill
- Churchill Was Born in 1874
- He Was a Low Achiever at School
- He Received Little Attention From His Parents as a Child
- Churchill Had a Severe Lisp
- It Took Him Three Attempts to Pass the Entrance Exam for Military College
- He Worked as a War Correspondent
- Churchill Left the British Army on 5th May 1899
- He Was First Elected to Parliament in 1900
- In 1911 Winston Churchill Was Made First Lord of the Admiralty
- After Resigning From the Government in 1915, Churchill Rejoined the British Army
- Churchill Switched Political Parties Twice
- As Chancellor, He Restored the Gold Standard, Causing Severe Economic Damage
- His Early Warnings About the Rise of Hitler Were Ignored
- Churchill Was Second Choice to Be British Leader.
- His War Plan Relied Upon the USA and USSR Joining the Conflict
- Churchill Was Reluctant to Launch a Seaborne Invasion of France
- Despite His Wartime Leadership, Churchill Was Voted Out Power After the War
- He Became Prime Minister a Second Time in 1951
- Churchill Suffered From Depression All His Life
- His Resting Place Was The Same as His Birthplace
I give more detail and background on each fact below.
1. Churchill Was Born in 1874
His full name was Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill and he was born into an aristocratic family at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. His father was a leading Conservative politician and his mother was an American socialite, the daughter of a New York millionaire.
2. He Was a Low Achiever at School
His poor academic performance was due mainly to his independent and rebellious spirit. His father believed him to be unsuited to a career in law or politics and put him in the Army class.
“My education was interrupted only by my schooling.”
— Winston S. Churchill
3. He Received Little Attention From His Parents as a Child
Churchill once remarked that he hardly ever spoke to his father. When his father died prematurely, aged 45, the young Churchill became convinced that he would die young too and vowed that he would have to make his mark on the world as quickly as possible.
4. Churchill Had a Severe Lisp
In later life, he would have special dentures made to help him keep his speech style and sound. Despite the challenges he faced over his speech impediment, Churchill went on to be widely acknowledged as one of the greatest public speakers of modern times.
5. It Took Him Three Attempts to Pass the Entrance Exam for Military College
After leaving his school, Harrow (which he loathed), Churchill applied to attend the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, passing the entrance exam on the third attempt. He graduated in 1894 and was commissioned as a cornet (second lieutenant) in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars the following year.
6. He Worked as a War Correspondent
In 1895 he went to Cuba to observe the Spanish fight Cuban guerrillas in the Cuban War of Independence. He came under fire on his 21st birthday and was later awarded a medal by the Spanish. He also acquired a lifelong taste for Cuban cigars and siestas.
7. Churchill Left the British Army on 5th May 1899
Later that year, he went to South Africa, as a war correspondent, reporting on the Boer War. He was captured and held in a prisoner of war camp. He escaped, traveling almost 300 miles (480 km) to Portuguese Lourenço Marques in Delagoa Bay with a 25 pounds bounty on his head, and became a national hero back home in Britain for a time.
"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."
— Winston Churchill
8. He Was First Elected to Parliament in 1900
He used the popularity gained from his South African adventures (see #7) to get elected for the Conservative party. He found himself at odds with many in the rest of the party, however, accusing the leadership of abandoning free trade. He left the Conservatives and joined the Liberal Party.
9. In 1911 Winston Churchill Was Made First Lord of the Admiralty
He used his new position to begin modernizing Britain’s battleships. In 1915 he was forced to resign in disgrace, however, after the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli (World War 1), which he was heavily involved in planning.
10. After Resigning From the Government in 1915, Churchill Rejoined the British Army
His aim was to rehabilitate his reputation after the failure of the Battle of Gallipoli and commanded a battalion on the front line of the Western Front. He disagreed with the tactics of mass slaughter in World War I, but he was exposed to unnecessary danger at times, venturing into no man's land.
11. Churchill Switched Political Parties Twice
Churchill started out as a Conservative, then became a Liberal, but after standing for the Liberals in the 1923 general election in Leicester and losing, he went back to the Conservatives. He returned to parliamentary politics in 1924, winning the seat of Epping. He was offered the post of Chancellor, a position that had once been held by his father.
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.
— Winston Churchill
12. As Chancellor, He Restored the Gold Standard, Causing Severe Economic Damage
The gold standard was a currency system that set the value of the pound to a fixed amount of gold. Restoring it was economically disastrous, severely damaging industry and exports. It contributed to the growing industrial unrest in Britain that would culminate in the 1926 General Strike.
13. His Early Warnings About the Rise of Hitler Were Ignored
Churchill's views fell out of political favor during the 1920s and 1930s. He opposed giving more powers of self-governance to Britain's Indian Empire. He also gave dire warnings of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, which were ignored.
14. Churchill Was Second Choice to Be British Leader
On 1 September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. Two days later, Britain declared war on Germany. Winston Churchill was recalled from exile and returned to the post of First Lord of the Admiralty.
By May 1940, it was clear that Britain was losing the war with the Nazis, and then-prime-minister Neville Chamberlain resigned. When the favorite to succeed him, Lord Halifax, turned down the leadership role, Churchill stepped in.
15. His War Plan Relied Upon the USA and USSR Joining the Conflict
Britain stood alone after the fall of France in World War II. Churchill's plan was to inspire the British people to keep fighting until (he hoped) the USA and USSR joined the war. Some of Churchill's most famous speeches were made around this time, including: "We shall never surrender" and "This was their finest hour."
16. Churchill Was Reluctant to Launch a Seaborne Invasion of France
Once the USA and USSR were in the war, the course of the conflict began to swing back against the Germans. It became clear that at some point there would have to be some kind of seaborne invasion of France. Churchill was reluctant to commit, due to the disaster of Gallipoli, which he had played a key role in orchestrating over twenty years earlier.
The date was eventually set for 6 June 1944, however, with participation from U.S., British, and Canadian forces. To Churchill's great relief, "D-Day", as the operation was called, was a success.
17. Despite His Wartime Leadership, Churchill Was Voted Out Power After the War
Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945. Japan managed to continue its fight for another few months, but then also surrendered. The war was won and the allies were victorious.
Churchill's wartime achievement didn't translate into domestic political success, though. The British public was in the mood for a radical change and voted in favor of the Labour Party, rather than Churchill and the Conservatives in the General Election of 1945.
18. He Became Prime Minister a Second Time in 1951
On 26 October 1951, only four weeks before his 77th birthday, Churchill once more became prime minister. His health was suffering, however. In 1953, he suffered a stroke that left him partly paralyzed. His ill health eventually caused him to resign in April 1955.
19. Churchill Suffered From Depression All His Life
Churchill called his depression the "black dog." His mental health deteriorated markedly in his final years. His condition wasn't helped by the suicide of one of his daughters and the alcoholism of another. His physical health also continued to decline, and he suffered a series of strokes.
I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.
— Winston Churchill
20. His Resting Place Was the Same as His Birthplace
Churchill died on 24 January 1965, exactly 70 years after the death of his father. He was 90 years old. His funeral service took place on 30 January 1965. World dignitaries and leaders attended and enormous crowds of silent mourners lined the streets as his coffin went through central London to St Paul's Cathedral. He was laid to rest at Blenheim Palace, where he had been born 90 years earlier.
The History Writer
Churchill remained leader of the Conservatives, but reduced the amount of time he spent on politics in the late 1940s. Instead he embarked on the mammoth task of writing a six volume history of the Second World War. He also during this period spoke out about the dangers posed by Joseph Stalin and the USSR.
My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.
— Winston Churchill
Sources and Further Reading
- Sir Winston Churchill: The greatest Briton? | BBC Teach
- Knowles, Elizabeth (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of Twentieth Century Quotations. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Hitchens, Christopher (2002). "The Medals of His Defeats". The Atlantic
- Arthur, Max (2017). Churchill – The Life: An authorised pictorial biography. London: Cassell.
- Winston Churchill | Encyclopedia Britannica
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What did Winston Churchill like?
Answer: Churchill liked representative democracy, the British Empire, and drinking alcohol.
Question: What did Winston Churchill hate?
Answer: Churchill hated Fascism, Socialism, and trade unions.
Question: Where did Winston Churchill go to school?
Answer: The first school he went to was St. George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, when he was seven years old. Two years later, he switched to Brunswick School in Hove. After passing the entrance exam at aged 13, he spent the remainder of his school education at Harrow.
© 2015 Paul Goodman
Great on April 30, 2020:
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 11, 2016:
Very nice collection of facts. Quite an eye opener:)
Susan Hambidge from Kent, England on October 23, 2015:
This is a great collection of facts, speeches and quotes. Loved it! Of course my favourite quote is .... Offended lady: 'Sir, you appear to be drunk'
Churchill: 'My lady, in the morning I will be sober, but you will still be ugly!'
Investinghub from Albania on March 01, 2015:
Interesting article to read. Dropping school does not mean that you are dropping education and goal achievements in life. Winston Churchill and many others are the proof of that.