Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born to an aristocratic family on November 30, 1874. As a young child, Churchill grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and when he entered formal school, Churchill proved to be an independent and rebellious student. He did poorly at his first two schools and in April 1888, he was sent to Harrow School, a boarding school near London. Within weeks of his enrollment, he joined the Harrow Rifle Corps, which put him on a path to a military career.

Winston Churchill

Churchill enjoyed a brief but eventful career in the British Army at a zenith of British military power. He joined the Fourth Hussars in 1895 and served in the Indian northwest frontier and the Sudan. While in the Army, he wrote military reports for newspapers. In 1899, Churchill left the Army and worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post, a conservative daily newspaper.

In 1900, Churchill became a Member of Parliament in the Conservative Party for Oldham, a town in Manchester. Following his father into politics, he also followed his father’s sense of independence, becoming a supporter of social reform. Unconvinced that the Conservative Party was committed to social justice, Churchill switched to the Liberal Party in 1904. He was elected a Member of Parliament in 1908, and was appointed to the prime minister’s cabinet as president of the Board of Trade. That same year, he married Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, after a short courtship.

As president of the Board of Trade, he joined newly appointed Chancellor Lloyd George in opposing the expansion of the British Navy. In addition to that he accomplished many things including passing reforms for the prison system, introducing the first minimum wage and helping pass the Peoples Budget.

While serving as first lord of the Admiralty, Churchill helped modernize the British Navy, and he was one of the first to promote military aircraft and set up the Royal Navy Air Service. In 1917, he was appointed minister of munitions for the final year of the war, overseeing the production of tanks, airplanes and munitions.

From 1919 to 1922, Churchill served as minister of war and air and colonial secretary under Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Churchill’s own efforts to help establish a Jewish national home in Palestine were at their most intense throughout 1921 and 1922 when, as Colonial Secretary, he was directly responsible for the evolution of British policy in the Middle East.

As early as 8 February 1920, Churchill had declared in a newspaper article: “If, as may well happen, there should be created in our own lifetime by the banks of the Jordan a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown which might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event will have occurred in the history of the world which would from every point of view be beneficial.”

Churchill envisaged Britain holding the ring in Palestine until such time that the Jews formed a majority of the inhabitants, whereupon the Jewish State would come into existence. Churchill reiterated this view when he spoke to the Peel Commission in 1937, telling them that he had always believed that the intention of the Balfour Declaration was that Palestine might in the course of time become “an overwhelmingly Jewish State.” During the Second World War, although most of his Cabinet colleagues rejected this idea, Churchill clung to it and on many occasions intervened with senior cabinet ministers to prevent “an Arab solution” of the Palestine question being permanently fixed.

On May 10, 1940, King George VI appointed Churchill as prime minister and minister of defense. Churchill kept resistance to Nazi dominance alive, and created the foundation for an alliance with the United States and the Soviet Union. As the war wound down, Churchill proposed plans for social reforms in Britain, but was unable to convince the public. He was defeated in the general election in July 1945.

His electoral defeat at the end of the war meant that he could not carry out the policies he had outlined for the Jews and the idea of a Jewish State, and had to watch powerless as Labour’s Palestine policy was put into effect.

He left a long record of activism for Jewish causes and was rarely deterred from these, even when he found himself in a distinct minority. When overruled by his own Cabinet, he often sought ways around the problem to help Jews and Zionism. The personal and official papers consulted in these studies confirm the picture of a man who rejected anti-Semitism in public and private, something that can be said of very few of his colleagues. He may therefore still be called, like he has been by many “The greatest friends the Jewish people have had.”