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One of Great Britain's greatest prime ministers, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965) is credited with keeping alive the spirit of his country as England stood alone against the Axis powers during the early years of World War II. He became prime minister in 1940, serving until the end of the war, and he served a second term from 1951-1955. Born in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, to Lord Randolph Churchill and his American socialite wife, Jenny, Winston was a descendant of the Dukes of Marlborough. A fencing champion at Harrow School in London (he was also an excellent polo player), Churchill decided upon a military career, graduating from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1894. He served heroically in India (1897); the Sudan (1898); the 2nd Boer War (1899), where he was captured but later escaped; and in World War I, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He married Clementine Hozier in 1908, and they had five children. Churchill remained a party of the British military until his retirement at the age of 50 in 1924.
Churchill then began a political career both varied and unequalled in modern times. He resigned as the First Lord of the Admiralty shortly after the outbreak of World War I, after previously serving as a member of Parliament from 1900-1906. He was a member of the Cabinet before the war and also served as Home Secretary (1910-1911). Between 1919-1924, he served as Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. After a decade-long lull in political power, Churchill was again named First Lord of the Admiralty at the onset of World War II. After Neville Chamberlain's resignation as Prime Minister (and Lord Halifax's refusal to accept the position), Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940. He became immensely popular with the common citizens of Britain, and his famous speeches helped to keep up morale during the years before America entered the war. He coined many famous phrases:
- "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat".
- "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".
- "... whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches... we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Incredibly, Churchill lost the election for Prime Minister in 1945, and he became the ever-vocal "Leader of the Opposition." Reelected in 1951, he suffered a stroke in 1953 and retired in 1955. He remained a member of Parliament until 1964, dying from the effects of another stroke a year later. Churchill was also a gifted artist, historian and writer, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature; and President John F. Kennedy honored him by making him the first recipient as "honorary citizen of the United States."
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