Winston Churchill

Winston S. Churchill, M.P.
FIFTY years ago, the Second World War was approaching its crescendo. A million British and
Commonwealth and a million American troops were preparing to hurl themselves across the English
Channel to storm Hitler\'s Atlantic Wall and embark upon the noble task of liberating Europe from the scourge of the swastika. I am therefore especially delighted to be asked to address you on the role of my grandfather as a War Leader.
Everyone has his or her favorite Churchill story, some true, others apocryphal. One of my favorites goes back to the days before we had free telephones in the House of Commons, when a rather desperate Lloyd George sticks his head out of a phone-booth and, seeing the portly figure of my grandfather approaching, calls to him: "Be a good fellow, Winston, and lend me sixpence so that I can call a friend." My grandfather, making a great demonstration of digging deep into his pocket to produce a coin, and with a mischievous grin on his face replies: "Here is a shilling - now you can call all your friends!"
It is something of a paradox, but true nonetheless, that had it not been for Hitler and the Labour Party, Churchill would never have become Prime Minister of Great Britain. Despite a political career that had already spanned forty years, and his evident availability, the Conservative Party had shown no inclination to invite him to be their leader. Only in the hour of maximum peril -indeed on the very day, 10 May 1940, that Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg against France, Belgium and the Low Countries - did the British nation turn, almost too late, to Churchill. This was a decision that owed much to the refusal of the leadership of the Labour Party to serve in a Coalition Government under Chamberlain, and the unwillingness of Halifax, who was the preferred successor by both the Conservative Party and King George VI, to serve as Premier. As Churchill himself pointed out, he was, at the moment he became Prime Minister, already sixty-five years of age and qualified to draw the Old Age Pension.
FEW politicians have come to power so well qualified to lead their nation in war. His first career had been as a soldier. He had received his baptism of fire on his twenty-first birthday in 1895, while acting as an observer o the Cuban Revolutionary War against Spain. A bullet, which missed him by inches while he munched on a chicken leg, prompted him to exclaim, "There is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result!".
Thereafter he served on the skirmish line on the Northwest frontier of India and charged with the 21st Lancers at Omdurman in the Sudan in one of the last great cavalry charges of history, before participating in the Boer War in South Africa where he was taken prisoner. From there he made his dramatic escape from captivity, "climbing out," as he put it, "of a public convenience, into world-wide acclaim and notoriety." It was on this basis that, at the age of twenty-six, this impecunious cavalry officer was to launch his long, erratic but ultimately triumphant career in politics. He rose rapidly to become Home Secretary at the age of thirty-three and, in 1911, still only thirty-six years of age, First Lord of the Admiralty, where the responsibility fell to him to prepare the British Fleet for war.
The failure of the Gallipoli landings in southern Turkey for which he was, wrongly, made the scapegoat,
seemed to have brought his political career to an abrupt and premature conclusion at the age of forty He thereupon rejoined the Army and served in the front line in the trenches of Flanders in Southern Belgium, where he commanded a Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in action at Ploegsteert, commonly known to the British Tommy as "Plug Street." In one of those strange quirks of history, serving at the time in the Kaiser\'s Army, just 10 km. away on the very same sector of the front, a certain Corporal Hitler
Though he returned to office as Minister of Munitions and, after the Great War, as Colonial Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill\'s warnings about the dangers of the rise of Hitler in the Thirties and his call