If ever we needed a Winston Churchill, it is now, but a man like Churchill only comes once in a century. Far easier to find are men of evil intent.
Churchill, The Last Lion, stood alone among men, confronting Hitler when no one else would and he did so for the six years of the war. He convinced his countrymen to selflessly fight for honor and freedom when no other ally would fight with them.
The British continued to fight when all seemed lost because Winston Churchill convinced them they must. He told them they would win despite all odds, despite the impossible, and they believed him. Only victory would be acceptable and in the end, this effort would be remembered as their “finest hour.”
He fought to save Poland from Hitler and he fought the Japanese, fought on all fronts, in Europe and the Pacific, and for two years, Britain fought alone. His courage and steadfastness and that of the British people saved Western civilization from a dark and evil regime.
It wasn’t the United States that stood on principle at first. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a more political being. He wasn’t going to fight until Americans called for war. Winston Churchill was a spiritual man who stood on principle and who led Britain in the most morally courageous battle in modern history – a battle for the soul of humankind.
Fifty years ago on January 30th, Sir Winston Churchill, recognized by most as the greatest military, political, and spiritual leader of the 20th century was laid to rest in a dignified and epic farewell, worthy of the revered wartime leader. He was 90 years old at the time of his death on January 24th, 70 years to the day after his father Lord Randolph Churchill.
According to recently released court documents, Buckingham Palace courtiers were initially opposed to giving the honor of a state funeral to a “commoner” despite his being the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. His mother was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.
Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral holds the record as the largest State funeral to date with 110 nations represented.
His body lay in state for three days in Westminster Hall and more than 300,000 people waited to pay their respects. Reverent crowds filled the streets as the procession carried the Prime Minister’s body from Westminster to St. Paul’s.
The hymn he requested be played at his funeral was American – The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The words of the hymn were written by Julia Ward Howe and it is considered one of the United States’ most patriotic songs.
At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President Abraham Lincoln. After the audience responded with loud applause, the President, with tears in his eyes, cried out, “Sing it again!” It was sung again.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
they have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
while God is marching on.
Chorus: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
A song can belong to all of us.
As requested by Churchill, the funeral was a simple service.
After the service, only his family would watch him put in the ground. As his body traveled up the Thames on a launch to a train, large cranes dipped in salute.
Winston Churchill was an officer in the British Army during combat, a historian, a writer, journalist, politician, cabinet minister, statesman,and a Nobel laureate historian. He was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
He ‘crossed the floor’ from the Conservatives to the Liberals in 1904, before later crossing back in 1924. For twenty years, he was very liberal but died a Conservative.
One of the greatest British Prime Ministers followed one of the worst, Neville Chamberlain.
Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons for the first time on May 13, three days after the invasion of Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg by the German Wehrmacht.
He told the House, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
By May 20th, the Wehrmacht armored divisions had reached the coast of the English Channel. By May 28, Belgium capitulated.
Churchill was undeterred when he spoke to Commons on May 28:
“Meanwhile, the House should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.”
When it looked as if France was about to surrender, he urged Parliament to send additional troops to boost their morale and keep their goodwill but they refused, opting to bolster British defenses instead.
On June 4th, Churchill gave an account of the events. The final part of his June 4th speech was one of his greatest oratorical moments:
“Turning once again, and this time more generally, to the question of invasion, I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been given to our people. In the days of Napoleon, of which I was speaking just now, the same wind which would have carried his transports across the Channel might have driven away the blockading fleet. There was always the chance, and it is that chance which has excited and befooled the imaginations of many Continental tyrants. Many are the tales that are told. We are assured that novel methods will be adopted, and when we see the originality of malice, the ingenuity of aggression, which our enemy displays, we may certainly prepare ourselves for every kind of novel stratagem and every kind of brutal and treacherous manœuvre. I think that no idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered and viewed with a searching, but at the same time, I hope, with a steady eye. We must never forget the solid assurances of sea power and those which belong to air power if it can be locally exercised.
I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government – every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
By June 18th, France had sued for peace. Churchill had to speak to his beaten-down people, warn of invasion and disaster but also convince the British people they would be victorious.
Prior to war, some in the British public favored a negotiated peace with Germany, among them Halifax as Foreign Secretary, but Churchill refused to consider an armistice. Although at times personally pessimistic about Britain’s chances for victory, he never gave up or let his people give up.
By refusing an armistice with Germany, Churchill kept resistance alive in the British Empire and created the basis for the later Allied counter-attacks of 1942–45, with Britain serving as a platform for the supply of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Western Europe.
“The military events which have happened during the past fortnight have not come to me with any sense of surprise. Indeed, I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open, and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on, “if necessary for years, if necessary alone.”
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”
Churchill was a statesman, cabinet minister, politician, journalist, Nobel laureate historian, and combat veteran. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1953. He began his career serving the British military as a mounted lancer and ended it saving the world from a NAZI regime.
During the 1930s, Winston Churchill warned Britain and the Western world about the dangers of Adolf Hitler and Germany. It was the strongest warning ever given by a politician. Still, the warning was ignored.
Most mocked his warning, especially the British Parliament. Hitler was conquering some of Europe and threatening the rest but less than one month before World War II began, Parliament went on a two-month vacation as Neville Chamberlain called a recess (August 4 to October 3, 1939).
Churchill spoke against it:
“Abroad, the House of Commons is counted, and especially in dictator countries, as a most formidable expression of the British national will and an instrument of that will in resistance to aggression…this is an odd moment for the House to declare that it will go on a two months’ holiday…is this, then, the moment that we should separate and declare that we separate until the 3rd October? Who can doubt that there is going to be a supreme trial of will power, if not indeed a supreme trial of arms.”
In September 3rd of that year, Britain declared war on Germany.
He repeatedly warned the United States from the mid-1930s as well.
His reward was to be accused of being a warmonger who wanted the world to return to the horrors of World War I.
In 1940, Hitler had torn up Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement, a settlement signed in 1938 that allowed for Nazi Germany’s annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia and the creation of a new territory called Sudetenland.
At the height of Chamberlain’s popularity in 1938, and to boos in the House of Commons chamber, Churchill had said of the pact: “You were given the choice between war and dishonour; you chose dishonour and will have war.”
After the German invasion of Poland it was obvious Churchill had been correct. The king offered Churchill the premiership to the fright of the MPs.
During the war, Churchill guided Britain in a fight in Europe and the Pacific; he bombed occupied Europe, he fought a naval and land war. He kept the Mediterranean open, joined with America, and supplied Russia when he didn’t have the money or manpower to do it.
After the war, he warned the world about Russia and the “iron curtain” they were creating.
Again, he was mocked for his unfair attack on communists.
People had learned nothing.
Some have made much of his personal foibles. He drank, possibly took barbiturates for pain and he possibly suffered from bouts of depression. If any of that is true, his main biographer chose to ignore it. In any case, what does it matter? He was a great leader and he was the right leader for a world at war. The rest of it is no one’s business.
All the people can be wrong and one great person can lead us to victory. Sir Winston Churchill taught us that.