Winston Churchill An Alternative Opinion. By Nick Clarke


Hero or Villain.

Winston Spencer Churchill is revered by many and considered to be the greatest Prime Minister this country ever had. Whilst he certainly was a unifying force for the country in the spring of 1940, his record as a politician and individual bears closer scrutiny. He was a very complex, controversial and contradictory individual.

He was born in November 1874 into a life of privilege, his family were part of a small elite, wealthy influential circle that dominated British society in the late 19th century. He considered himself to be an aristocrat and the majority of his friends and social acquaintances were from the same circle of the establishment. His early years were spent in Ireland in a privileged existence surrounded by servants.

As a young boy his parents sent him to an expensive prep school St Georges at Ascot, this was followed by a spell at boarding school in Brighton. He was not a model pupil however, he was described as having an extremely phenomenal memory, but be showed little aptitude for subjects he was not interested in. After boarding school he went to Harrow, but his educational exploits did not improve. It is reported that his housemaster told his father – “As far as ability goes he ought to be at the top of the form, but he remains at the bottom”.

In 1893 after leaving Harrow he started his military training at Sandhurst and graduated in 1895 and joined the Fourth Hussars and saw action on the North West frontier in India and followed that with a spell in Sudan in 1898, taking part in the Battle of Ormduman. Whilst he was still in the Army he described his experiences in two books; ‘The Malakand Field Force’ covering the conflicts and wars in the North West Frontier and ‘The River War’ which was an account of war in Sudan. He also supplied reports of the conflicts for The Daily Telegraph to supplement his income from the Army.

After leaving the Army in 1899 he became a war correspondent and covered the Boer War for the Morning Post, during this time he was taken prisoner by the Boers but managed to escape making headline news in the process. He documented this experience in the book; “London to Ladysmith’ in 1900.

In 1900 Churchill began his political career when he entered Parliament as the Conservative MP for Oldham. He became a campaigner for Social reform after reading; ‘Poverty, A Study of Town Life’ by Seebohm Rowntree. When he realised his party leaders did not share his enthusiasm for social change he crossed the floor of The Commons and joined the Liberal benches.

It was in 1906 that his career in politics started to lift off when he was returned to Parliament as the MP for North West Manchester and was rewarded with the post of Under Secretary of State for the Colonies in the new Liberal government. In 1908 when Herbert Asquith became the new Prime Minister he was promoted to the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. Whilst in this post he was responsible for the establishment of employment exchanges and other important social legislation.

It was after the 1910 General Election during the period of what has been called the Great Unrest between 1910 and 1914 when he was Home Secretary from 1910 to 1911 that his political career began it’s controversial journey, authorising the use of troops in Tonypandy in November 1910 against striking welsh miners purportedly to maintain order. He again ordered the use of troops and the deployment of HMS Antrim to the River Mersey against striking transport workers in August 1911 in Liverpool. On Tuesday 15th August 1911 soldiers opened fire on the workers and two men; John Sutcliffe and Michael Prendergast were killed. 4 days later on Saturday 19th August 1911 two more striking railway workers John (Jac) John and Leonard Worsell were shot and killed in Llanelli by soldiers from the Worcestershire Regiment. In January 1919 after clashes between striking workers and Police, Churchill yet again ordered the use of the Army against civilians. Up to 10,000 troops were deployed and six tanks and soldiers with Lewis guns were positioned in the city to deter any further disturbance. It is notable that soldiers from regiments garrisoned in Glasgow were not used for fear that they may mutiny and side with the striking workers.

In January 1911 he was embroiled in more controversy when the perpetrators of a bungled burglary, at a Jewellers shop at Houndsditch in the previous December (where three Policemen were shot and killed), were located at 100 Sidney Street. Following the initial raid at the jewellers shop Churchill had stated that the Police were hunting a gang of Jewish anarchists.

As soon as Churchill became aware the gang had been located he immediately went to Sidney Street to take direct charge of operations and in doing so overruled Senior Police Officers at the scene. He authorised the deployment of 124 soldiers.

The report in the Manchester Guardian was as follows: “The firing came in spurts. The murderers would shoot first from the ground floor, then the window above … then there would be a barking of rifles in reply. Close on one o’clock an especially sharp fusillade rattled like a growl of exasperation …. a little feather of smoke curling out of the window below the point of attack. We thought at first it was gun smoke and then with a thrill we saw that the house was on fire.”

Churchill refused to let the Fire Brigade deal with the fire until the shooting from inside the premises ceased. When it eventually did and Police were allowed to enter the building they discovered two bodies. The dead men were Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow two Latvian petty criminals not anarchists. It was leaked to the press that the gang had been led by a Peter Piatkow (Peter the Painter) who had allegedly escaped from the premises during the exchange, however there were doubts about the existence of Piatkow.

After his tenure at the Home Office, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in October 1911. During his time in office he helped in modernising the Royal Navy and set up the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and established the Air Department at the Admiralty in order to make use of the new technology. He even had flying lessons such was his enthusiasm for the new developments in aviation.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914 he joined the War Council. His involvement and planning of the Dardanelles campaign at Gallipoli when almost 44,000 British, French and Empire soldiers died in an ill fated campaign, called into question his military judgement and he was demoted from the coalition government he subsequently resigned a few months afterwards. He rejoined the Army and saw service on the Western Front commanding a battalion of Royal Scots Fusilliers. The following year he was back in the cabinet when David Lloyd George who had replaced Asquith as Prime Minister brought him back as Minister of Munitions for the remainder of the war. He was ostensibly responsible for the production of tanks, aircraft, guns and shells. The technology that Churchill had the most enthusiasm for however was chemical warfare which had first been used by the German Army in 1915.

He developed a close working relationship with General Charles Howard Foulkes who was responsible for Chemical warfare and worked closely with scientists at Porton Down. Churchill constantly urged Foulkes to provide him with ways of deploying chemical weapons on the battlefield against German forces. In November 1917 he advocated the production of gas bombs which could be dropped by aircraft however he was persuaded not to pursue this idea because it would lead to the deaths of French and Belgian citizens behind enemy lines.

His enthusiasm for such weapons was not curtailed and after the war ended he was appointed as Minister for War. In May 1919 he ordered the use of chemical weapons in an attempt to subdue Afghanistan. When this policy was objected to by the India office, Churchill responded by declaring “The objections of the India Office to the use of gas against natives are unreasonable. Gas is a more merciful weapon than high explosive shell and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war. The moral effect is also very great. There can be no conceivable reason why it should not be resorted to.”

This was not the only occasion he advocated the use of such weaponry, during the period of the Russian revolution he controversially ordered the use of chemical weapons against the Red Army in 1919, he sanctioned the deployment of 50,000 bombs known as M devices to the port of Archangel and the weaponry required to fire them. When he was forced to answer to this course of action in the House of Commons in May 1919 he responded by stating that the Red Army had used them first, this was a lie, there was never any evidence of their use by the bolshevik forces in fact it had been Churchill who had ordered their use some 6 weeks earlier.

The next time he advocated the use of chemical weapons was in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) by suggesting the RAF drop chemical weapons on the rebels. When other cabinet members objected to this he responded by saying “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against the uncivilized tribes… it would spread a lively terror.”

In January 1919 he was appointed Secretary of State for War, eleven days later the the Irish War of Independence began, he made the decision to deploy the Black and Tans against the IRA in Ireland. The temporary constables took their name from their uniforms, they were reviled and hated for their use of excessive gratuitous violence not only in their fight with the IRA but also against the civilian population of Ireland.

After the end of WW1 he was appointed Colonial Secretary in January 1921 and attended the conference in Cairo in March 1921 when he was responsible for drawing up the map of post war MIddle East. His policy was to establish pro-British monarchies who would be indebted to Britain for their power in the lands they had been given following the break up of the Ottoman empire after Turkeys defeat in the war. One of his failures was to establish a state of Kurdistan for the Kurds. He boasted how he created Jordan with the stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon, As a result Jordanians were placed under the rule of the brutal Hashemite Prince; Abdullah Hussein. The large zigzag in Jordan’s border which has been called Churchill’s hiccup is attributed to an over indulgent lunch causing him to draw the expansive border. Iraq was created from the three ares of Basra (Shiites), Baghdad (Sunnis) and Mosul (Kurds) and given to Abdullah’s brother; Faisal Hussein, thus at a stroke of a pen creating the unstable mass that constitutes todays Iraq.

After losing his seat in the 1922 General Election he twice stood unsuccessfully as an Independent candidate before returning to Parliament in 1924 standing as a Conservative candidate in the seat of Epping.

That Churchill was a white supremacist and racist is beyond dispute. The famine in Bengal in 1943 led to the death of between 1 – 3 million people, Churchill’s role in this is clouded in controversy. While the population of Bengal were starving to death Churchill is alleged to have authorised the diversion of medical aid and food from Australia to troops in Europe and is further alleged to have stockpiled supplies of rice for after the war. He also declined the offer of aid from Canada and the USA, stating at the time “that the Indians will breed like rabbits”. When the true horror of devastation and the numbers of those who had died and were dying was pointed out to him, his response was “Then why hasn’t Ghandi died yet”.

During the 1930’s in what was termed Churchill’s wilderness years the government of the UK were then floating ideas of some form of independence to India. This was anathema to Churchill who was strongly opposed to any form of independence for India and waged a long running campaign of vitriol and hate, that even then people were shocked by its intensity. He made his feelings about Ghandi very clear when he said “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well-known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace.”. Even to the Conservatives, never mind the Labour and Liberals Churchill’s attitude and views regarding India were extremely abhorrent during this period.

His racist attitudes and views weren’t just restricted to India or Ghandi, he also expressed the same attitudes to any group of indigenous people in what was left of the Empire who were attempting any form of self determination. When considering the right of Britain to decide the destiny of Palestine at the Peel commission in 1937, he said; “I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race… has come in and taken their place.”

It was during the 1930’s when Churchill was out of government and on the back benches that he seemed to be almost a lone voice warning against the rise of Hitler and the rearmament of Germany which was in contravention of the Treaty of Versailles. He warned of the dangers facing not only Britain, but the rest of the world and could see that Hitler would not be appeased. That he wasn’t listened to until it was almost too late was partly due to his views and stance on India and a country that still remembered the horrors of the Great War and didn’t dare contemplate another one after the deaths of over one million British and Empire soldiers. Churchill however still persisted with his warnings and continued to raise public awareness of the rearmament of Germany and the parlous state of Britain’s defences. Churchill described the period of 1934 – 35 as ‘The Locust Years’ as time wasted when the country should have been strengthening their forces instead of ignoring the peril facing the country. It was only after the occupation of the Rhineland in March 1936 which had been declared a demilitarised zone after the end of the Great War that the warnings were heard and believed and the government increased aircraft production.

Churchill had been proved correct in his warnings but held firm to his beliefs that had the warnings been heeded and a stand had been taken against Germany much earlier then war may have been averted.

Although the policy of appeasement has been criticised by many and those responsible fell upon their swords it did buy time to prepare for the war that everybody knew by then was coming.

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939 and after ignoring an ultimatum from Britain and France to withdraw war was declared on 3rd September 1939. On 10th May 1940 Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister and Churchill was appointed Prime Minister by King George VI on the day that Hitler launched the Blitzkrieg against the low countries.

The war years were certainly Churchill’s finest hour and he was certainly instrumental in exhorting the people of Britain to stand firm against the tyranny of Nazi Germany. He is remembered for his inspirational speeches when at one time Britain stood alone against the Nazi war machine. The early years of the war were of a time of humiliating reverses, the first turning point being the Battle of Britain which Hitler had to win to be able to launch an invasion of Britain. After it became clear that the Luftwaffe had failed to achieve air superiority the planned invasion (codenamed Operation Sealion) was cancelled in September 1940. Churchill’s “Never in the field of human conflict” speech to the House of Common on 20th August 1940 was to celebrate the efforts and sacrifice made by the RAF during the Battle of Britain who had thwarted German efforts to destroy the RAF in preparation of the planned invasion which was ultimately cancelled.

Churchill was the main driving force in securing the alliance with the USA and Russia during the war which eventually secured victory against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. In the early years of the war when Britain was fighting alone and had few weapons left after the disaster of Dunkirk Churchill used words as his weapons. His inspirational speeches during the war are amongst the most memorable and powerful ever given in history of the English Language.

Churchill was certainly a popular Prime Minister during the war, but by the time the war had ended in Europe in July 1945 the people of Britain whilst recognising his role in their survival and victory were ready for change. They wanted a progressive future not a return to the old order, they were ready to rebuild and reform the country and the electorate voted in a socialist Labour government headed by Clement Attlee who would shape the future of Britain in the immediate post war world.

After the war Churchill was instrumental in calling for unity in Europe and helped shape the European Convention of Human Rights which our current Prime Minister Theresa May is opposed to.

Churchill did return as Prime Minister in 1951 until 1955 when he had to resign due to ill health. During his second tenure in office most of his time was taken up with foreign affairs; the war in Korea, the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya which began in 1952 and the Malayan emergency which had begun in 1948. Domestically his government placed great emphasis on house building in a country still recovering from the ravages of war and continued the building programme initiated by the Labour government of 1945 -51.

Churchill was indeed the right man in the right place at a time in history when the country and the rest of the world were faced with the threat of tyrannical dictators, but he also a controversial and contradictory man. He campaigned for Social reform yet was also an authoritarian who was not afraid to use armed force against his own citizens and his enthusiasm for the use of chemical weapons is still controversial to this day. His attitudes and actions to other countries and their subjects which some considered as racist were described by his political contemporaries as abhorrent.

Winston Churchill died on 24th January 1965 and was given a State funeral mainly in recognition of his time as Prime Minister during the Second World War, but should he be revered or reviled. His controversial life still generates vigorous debate between supporters and opponents alike.

Sources: Imperial War Museum, Zing Tsjeng, Global Research, BBC News, Morning Post, Manchester Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Glasgow Digital Library, Richard Toye, National Churchill Museum, Imperial War Museum,, London Socialist Historians Group, The Guardian, Independent, WordPress, History News Network

#UnityMarchUK #UnityMarchNews

Please consider helping us to continue to grow by subscribing from as little as a pound via –

By purchasing something via our shop –

or making a one off donation here –


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here