CHARLOTTE, N.C., January 24, 2018: On this day in 1965, Winston Churchill died in London of a stroke at the age of 90. The British leader, who served twice as prime minister, is best remembered for guiding Great Britain and the Allies through the horrors of World War II.
But there are numerous lesser known facts about Sir Winston that provide further insights into the man and his legend.
Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Winston Churchill had interesting parentage for a future PM. For starters, his father was Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American who was also part Iroquoi Indian. That made young Winston partly American, and is the only British prime minister ever to have been made an honorary U.S. citizen.
At Harrow, where Winston first attended school, he was bullied for his red hair and frequently ridiculed as “Copperknob” by antagonistic classmates.
Later serving in India, the Sudan and South Africa, England’s future PM distinguished himself several times in battle. While working as a newspaper correspondent during the Boer War in 1899, he was ambushed and captured by enemy soldiers. Soon after, he managed to escape, returning home as a war hero.
Viewing pictures of the Prime Minister in his later years as he managed the British war effort, it is difficult to imagine him as an avid polo player, especially during the time when stationed in Bombay, India.
A man of many interests, Churchill began painting in his 40s, creating more than 500 artworks during the last half of his life. He was also a Nobel Prize winner, but not the Peace Prize, might be expected. Rather, Winston Churchill became the Nobel Laureate for Literature in 1953 for his six-volume historical work about World War II as well as for his stirring political speeches. To this day, Churchill remains the only British prime minister to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.
Later that same year, Churchill became “Sir Winston” when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. As a Member of Parliament, Churchill served under six different monarchs from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II.
One of Churchill’s little known pastimes was his passion for bricklaying, which he often practiced during his spare time. Several of the walls of his house at Chartwell are the statesman’s own creations.
Though widely known for his determination and success during World War II, Churchill also suffered major defeats in his storied life, including the disastrous campaigns in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli in 1915.
During a period when he was out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill persistently warned of the threats of Nazi and Japanese aggression. But his pleas, for the most part, fell upon deaf ears.
When the Second World War broke out in Europe, Churchill returned to his post as first Lord of the Admiralty before replacing Neville Chamberlain as prime minister eight months later. From that point forward, though plagued with doubts, Churchill never wavered in his determination to crush the German military juggernaut. He insisted time and again that despite standing alone against the Nazis, Britain would “never surrender.”
Known for his oratorical skills, most of Winston Churchill’s great speeches occurred during a brief window of time during World War II. More surprising is the fact that he had a slight speech impediment which made it difficult for him to pronounce the letter “S,” an affliction that was readily overlooked considering the wartime issues of the day.
Despite his slight handicap, Churchill was also known for his ready wit and fondness for spirits. Champagne bottler Pol Roger created a special one-pint bottle for Sir Winston that was to be served every day at 11 a.m.
Churchill later responded by saying, “I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.”
In July 1945, Clement Attlee’s Labor Party defeated Churchill’s Conservative government just 10 weeks after the defeat of Germany. He resigned as prime minister to become the leader of the opposition and was later re-elected prime minister in 1951. Churchill remained in Parliament until the year before he died in 1961.
Though rare to be commemorated on a British coin, Winston Churchill achieved that honor twice and is the only statesman in the history of Great Britain to be so rewarded.
Lest millennials think that Winston Churchill represents an historical anachronism however, they should take note: In a letter from Lord Fisher on September 9, 1917, the “modern” abbreviation “OMG” was used for the first time, proving that indeed, “everything old is new again.”
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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