We know the end to which Winston Churchill’s career would take him. God chose him for this. His vast accomplish­ments for the British Government in World War I and World War II, and much of it through his own unique leadership, means that here was a man of extraordinary talents who, though able to walk and work with the common man and sense his oft despair, yet was utterly brilliant in the company of kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, lords and knights of all nationalities. He was destined to head the English-speaking people through the greatest test of their sovereignty they would ever know.

There was no finer hour, no tougher fight. Defeat stared them in the face with the articles of war left scattered on the shores of Dunkirk and 350,000 drenched soldiers finding their way in vessels of every kind, large and small, to the east coast of England. Western Europe had crumpled into the arms of perhaps the most sinister and ruthless dic­tator the world had ever seen. And his war planes filled the dark nights of 1940 with a thousand bombers, rendering to ruins factories and cathedrals, palaces and private dwellings, roads and railways.

Who had predicted ten years before, this aerial style of warfare? Who accepted willingly the reins of power and leadership in the darkest hour? Who had sounded the trumpet of warning for ten years before the war began? Who put fibre into the bones of Westminster members when, in the deepest gloom of the war, the House was paralysed with fear? Who knew skills of penmanship to warm the hearts of the British people and strike the note of hope and of resilience in the breast of every mother and father in the 48 members of the British Empire, scattered throughout the world? Who united this Empire from London to Invercargill, Jamaica to Singapore, when in grave tones of defiance and encouragement the Empire listened to the family wireless night after night; through the six years of world war?

Churchill

Who stuck it out in ‘No 10’ when Nazi bombs were exploding across the streets of London? And who refused to give in; making visits early the next morning to those who had suffered the loss of house and fortune? Who stood by King George VI and respected the humble monarch through all the chal­lenges to his Empire? Who engineered the whole industrial phenomenon of the war effort, urging every citizen to do their best for kin and country? Who bridged the Atlantic by his very personality and loyalty, preserving ‘the special relationship’, until at last a tardy United States came in like the tide to join hands with the older mother country?

The dimension of Winston Spencer Churchill’s achievements in 1939–45 was not confined to his electorate or to the great city of London, or even to the United Kingdom, the British Empire or the special Atlantic relationship; but rather it was global, affecting almost every country in the world. He stood head and shoulders above many states­men, steering the helm during such a critical crisis of human history.

Where did this man come from?

Sir Winston Churchill – His Heritage

He was born two months premature, in December 1874 at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, and, as an omen of things to come, it was on a Sunday in the country where only a local doctor was available. Everyone in the palace was spinning around the arrival of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.

Blenheim Palace was a gift from the English government to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, for his grand victories over the French armies of Louis XIV some 150 years before. This first Duke of Marlborough is consid­ered to be, perhaps, Britain’s finest soldier and the vast residence and grounds reflected the apprecia­tion of King and people.

Winston’s father was Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill who married an American, Jennie Jerome, the daughter of a very wealthy businessman, who made his Wall Street fortune and was keen to hoist some British status to his new found wealth. Neither parent spent much real time with the baby Winston; father was a rare visitor to the nursery and mother found a wet nurse and put the child in her care. And so it was for the first ten years of his life. It was not a Victorian lady’s role to miss out on the frivolous social life for the sake of a child. Not that the family was wealthy. The Marlborough fortune was spread widely through the family since the time of the 1st Duke and the ducal entitlement now went to Winston’s cousin’s line.

So his father Randolph was of noble status but limited in finance. He did however earn fame as one of the House of Commons’ most entertaining speakers, although never being bound by loyalty to any party. His elder son Winston grew up in absolute fascination of all the prominent political experiences of his father, either as Secretary of State for India, or Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Tory (Conservative) Government or distinguished speaker in the House. The combative and erratic behaviour of Randolph Churchill meant that at the age of 37 he had seen his last role in government office, though he still mixed with royals and lords and his historical fame was publicly acknowledged.

Junior Winston

Winston’s educational record was consistently poor, almost hopeless. Winston was bounding with in­dependence and received, rightfully, much caning from his teachers as he went from one privileged school to another. “He has no ambition” read his report, and is “a constant trouble to everybody”. He was bottom in his class in every subject – other than English! He loathed these early years at school and the cane never restrained his ebullience. At the age of 14 he entered the famous public school of Harrow but again he was a “hopeless pupil”, save that in the subjects that caught his interest, he excelled, like English grammar and history. He possessed a remarkable memory and could recite large poems on history – of more than a thousand lines, and effortlessly.

Given his noble background the expectation had been that he would go on to Oxford and find qualification for his career, but his school record put this out of the question. The Church was another thought, but only briefly. He had always loved his toy soldiers as a boy and so the army had some ap­peal for him. With this interest in the background he decided to enrol in the Harrow Army Class which provided a preparation for Sandhurst, the Royal Military Training College – a core institution of British loyalty.

Blenheim Palace

 

Image licensed by Ingram Image – Blenheim Palace

Yet even in this he was frustrated by repeated failure in the entrance exams. He had to accept the lowly cavalry training, a source of anguish for his proud father who reprimanded his son for his lack of drive and organisation. This parental rebuke was keenly felt by the young man, as his greatest ambi­tion was to work alongside his very prominent fa­ther and thus to propel his own ambition. He was a proud and active young army man bursting with ideas and ambitions. Sandhurst suited him ne and he graduated honourably. His mind was full of the British Empire, the glory of British achievements all around the world and of the heritage he had as a young man of one of England’s most esteemed families.

 

 

Young Winston Churchill

A Young Winston Churchill

 

Winston Churchill’s Political Life

The very strength of his personality and mind meant that his political career was not by any means stable. He began his parliamentary life in 1904, at 30 years of age. He was a cabinet minister of various departments. At other times he served in opposition. Sometimes he was extremely popu­lar; at other times, especially from 1929-1939, he endured a political wilderness. Then in the dark­est hour of Nazi aggression when it looked like Britain would be overrun, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who had previously ignored Winston’s obvious capacity, now turned to ask him to accept the Prime Ministership. His time had come for the employment of all his vision, his eloquence, his determination, his leadership and loyalty. His wide communication, together with his historical and international fame, all combined in a unique exhilaration of domestic and global leadership. He was to inspire his people and yet at the same time still serve the King and royal family which he loved very deeply.

The greatest reversal of his extraordinary life must have been in the election closely following the end of WW II when he and his Conservative Party were thrown out of office by the Atlee Labour Government. Six years of unbelievable service – till 3 or 4am and now a back-bencher! The measure of the man is that in a further ve years’ time he was returned to the Prime Ministership when he was 76 years of age! In all these remarkable services there was no bitter language, even though the loss of leadership after an unequalled term of service was a source of the deepest pain to him. He was gracious in victory (he even appointed Mr Chamberlain to his cabinet in 1940) and noble in defeat.

The Inner Mind of the Man

In many ways Winston Churchill behaved and thought like the typical English aristocrat. He was born into one of the most esteemed families of British fame. He loved socialising, dining, drink­ing, cigar-smoking, a large wardrobe, the company of establishment and royalty and the lavish taste of their way of life. Yet he was not personally wealthy, nor obsessed with a craving for money. He was a true and loving husband to his remarkable wife ‘Clemmie’, who saw him right through to his 90th year. He was an affectionate and endearing father and grandfather. He was very sensitive to the right­ful cause of those in poorer circumstances and often fought valiantly in Westminster for them. That is why he left the Conservatives and joined the Liberals. This is part of why his history is marked with favour towards the Jewish people.

Here are his own words:

“We owe to the Jews in the Christian revelation a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incom­parably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learn­ing put together. On that system and by that faith there has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilisation.”1

“We reject, however, with scorn all those learned and laboured myths that Moses was but a legendary figure upon whom the priesthood and the people hung their essential social, moral and religious ordi­nances. We believe that the most scientific view, the most up-to-date and rationalistic conception, will find its fullest satisfaction in taking the Bible story literally, and in identifying one of the greatest of human beings with the most decisive leap-forward ever discernible in the human story.”2

Winston Churchill and Zionism

These paragraphs clearly show that Sir Winston Churchill had a profound respect for the Bible and its morals and principles. His father had been known for friendly relations with prominent British Jews. Winston grew up with this. In his first electorate in the area of Manchester (1904) there were large numbers of Jewish citizens with whom he established many warm connections. It is clear from the above that he knew much about the Bible and the Jewish faith.

Again here are his words on this subject:

“Personally, my heart is full of sympathy for Zionism. This sympathy has existed for a long time, since twelve years ago, when I was in contact with the Manchester Jews. I believe that the establish­ment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine will be a blessing to the whole world, a blessing to the Jewish race scattered all over the world, and a bless­ing to Great Britain. I firmly believe that it will be a blessing also to all the inhabitants of this country without distinction of race and religion. This last blessing depends greatly upon you.”3

Personally, my heart is full of sympathy for Zionism. This sympathy has existed for a long time, since twelve years ago, when I was in contact with the Manchester Jews. I believe that the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine will be a blessing to the whole world, a blessing to the Jewish race scattered all over the world, and a blessing to Great Britain. I firmly believe that it will be a blessing also to all the inhabitants of this country without distinction of race and religion. This last blessing depends greatly upon you.”

And in a similar spirit this is what he said to the Palestinian Arabs:

“It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews and good for the British Empire. But we also think it will be good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine, and we intend that it shall be good for them.”4

The echo is clear in all these quotations to the promises made to Abraham. Israel’s history and fate were not that of any other nation and Winston Churchill could see this. That’s why he strongly spoke up for his Zionism. He said to the US President Roosevelt, “I am strongly wedded to the Zionist policy, of which I was one of the authors.”5

Again in a signed message to the Jewish Chronicle in 1941 he wrote:

“Assuredly in the day of victory the Jew’s suf­ferings and his part in the struggle will not be forgotten. Once again, at the appointed time, he will see vindicated those principles of righteousness which it was the glory of his fathers to proclaim to the world.”

The Finger of God

When the Balfour Declaration was adopted by the British Cabinet in October 1917, there was only one member who opposed it. When in the heat and pressure of WW II Prime Minister Churchill was doing all he could to favour immigration and progress the new Jewish colony, the atmosphere of the British Government and army was entirely reversed. Here is his statement on the matter of the hostility of British officials in the Middle East to every aspect of Zionism: “Of every 50 officers who came back from the Middle East, only one spoke favourably of the Jews.” Despite all the hundreds of words and actions of the Prime Minister in favour of the Zionist cause, he was constantly opposed by Whitehall which sought every means to diminish his desire for a Jewish Home.

We are reminded of Brother Thomas’ pertinent words on the subject of likely British reaction to a Jewish homeland – “they will be compelled, by events soon to happen, to do what, under existing circumstances, heaven and earth combined could not move them to attempt.” That estimate by Brother Thomas was accurate, and 20 years after the signing of the Balfour Declaration that general British feeling was still strong. Dr Thomas went on to say, “The finger of God has indicated a course to be pursued by Britain which cannot be evaded, and which her counsellors will not only be willing, but eager, to adopt when the crisis comes upon them.”6

And so it was. British forces, with Australian and New Zealand soldiers and others, fought long and hard to clear the Land of Turkish control. But whilst providing a security during the Mandate years, there were few in the British Government of the time who had Winston Churchill’s inspira­tion or who were willing to serve for the Jewish cause. British interests saw wisdom in favouring Arab desires, even as they kept the Jewish colony in working order.

The presence of so much opposition adds to the greatness of Churchill’s role in the establishment of the nation of Israel. In fact his persistence was not accompanied with popularity among his own people. Yet without doubt God had called him to the helm of the Empire and then as a remarkable statesman of the free world so that he might use that great, if temporary, acclaim to set the natural seed of Abraham in their own land after 1900 years of estrangement. No other contemporary Gentile played such a critical role in the establishment of Israel to their land. Was he encouraged in this by the quiet voice of his Christadelphian chauffer? We imagine this is so.

In April 1956 Churchill wrote to President Eisenhower: “I am sure that if we act together, we shall stave off an actual war between Israel and Egypt,” and he went on to tell the President: “I am, of course, a Zionist, and have been ever since the Balfour Declaration. I think it is a wonderful thing that this tiny colony of Jews should have become a refuge to their compatriots in all the lands where they were persecuted so cruelly, and at the same time established themselves as the most effective fighting force in the area.”

This was the mind of Britain’s principal counsel­lor in the crucial years of the re-establishment of Israel in their Land. God found His man!

Footnotes

  1. Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews, Pocket Books, UK, 2008, p38
  2. Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews, Pocket Books, UK, 2008, p95
  3. Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews, Pocket Books, UK, 2008, p56-57
  4. Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews, Pocket Books, UK, 2008, p60
  5. Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews, Pocket Books, UK, 2008, p184
  6. John Thomas, Elpis Israel, The Christadelphian, UK, 1983, p442