Face of the day

Churchill patting Rommel, a cocker spaniel owned by General Sir Bernard Montgomery (Monty) in Normandy in August 1944.

Churchill patting Rommel, a cocker spaniel owned by General Sir Bernard Montgomery (Monty) in Normandy in August 1944.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is a historical figure that I admire because he symbolises to me the determination and tenacity of the underdog. Britain was not winning the war when he became Prime Minister and he had to deal with defeat and failure but he never gave up. His speeches are still quoted today because of the way he used the spoken word to inspire and to energise the British people. One line from one of his speeches is as relevant today for the UK as it was back in 1940.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

The pre-eminent British statesman famously said of his approach to death: “I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

Known to be self-assured, headstrong and ambitious, his audacious and stubborn character put him at odds with many, although it was these characteristics which earned him his reputation.

As Britain’s prime minister during World War II, he rallied his people against the tyranny of Hitler, steeling them for air raids and possible invasion during the Blitz and the Battle of Britain.

It is said by many that his tenacity inspired the Allies in a final push to victory.

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire … Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

Winston Churchill

But it was also Churchill who gave the signal to launch the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in his position as Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty.

The debacle earned him a reputation for rashness and bad judgement with the lives of men which he never lived down.

He served his country as a soldier and politician for over 70 years and remains one of the United Kingdom’s most polarising figures.

“He created history and will be remembered as long as history is read,” British prime minister Harold Wilson said on hearing of Churchill’s death in 1965.

Much has been written about Churchill and his well-publicised quotes but what else is there to know about this man who shaped the 20th century?

He had unique personal style

Known to have worn pink silk underwear, Churchill developed a unique style of dress involving polka-dot bow ties, hats and a custom-made wartime siren-suit which he wore at all times to be prepared for anything. He also loved to take baths.

A book on Churchill reports that he drinks too much and wears silk underwear. He dictates messages in the bath or in his underpants, a startling image which the Führer finds hugely amusing.

Diary entry of Joseph Goebbels, May 3, 1941

He unwittingly shaped the language of modern teens

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Churchill received the first known use of the expression OMG in a letter from a friend.

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Letter from Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher, dated September 9, 1917.

 

He escaped from a POW camp

While fighting in the second Boer War, he was captured at gunpoint by future South African president Louis Botha, but managed to escape.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

Winston Churchill
Churchill at his desk photographed by Cecil Beaton in the Cabinet Room at No 10 Downing Street (1940-1945).

Churchill at his desk photographed by Cecil Beaton in the Cabinet Room at No 10 Downing Street (1940-1945).

He smoked an estimated 4,000 cigars per year

His cigar smoking was a habit developed when serving in Cuba with Spanish forces in 1895, but he only ever smoked about half of each one.

He started the habit at a young age and by the time he was 20, a doctor warned him that unless he gave up cigars and champagne, he would be dead in five years.

I never saw the Guv’nor finish a cigar. He used to leave about half in the ash-tray. But those cigar-ends were never wasted. I had special orders about them. No matter where we went – anywhere in the world – I had to collect all the butts and put them in a special box…The butts were handed to Kearns, one of the gardeners, who used to smoke them in his pipe. And whenever Mr Churchill saw Kearns about the estate, he made a point of checking that he was getting his supplies regularly.

Churchill’s valet, Norman McGowan.
Churchill enjoyed painting in his spare time. This work, Sunset over the Atlas Mountains, was painted by him around 1935.

Churchill enjoyed painting in his spare time. This work, Sunset over the Atlas Mountains, was painted by him around 1935.

He was a painter

Churchill painted boldly with colour, his works almost always landscapes bereft of people.

He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, allowing him to submit six paintings a year, even when prime minister.

To avoid attention, he often painted under the pseudonyms “Mr Winter” and “Charles Maurin”.

Churchill said he painted to escape the responsibilities of his work and is reported to have said: “If it weren’t for painting, I wouldn’t live; I couldn’t bear the extra strain of things.”

In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.

Winston Churchill

He made the V-for-Victory sign his own

The letter V became a symbol of resistance in Europe during WWII. Churchill used it often, either with the back of his hand or his palm and occasionally with exotic variations.

He once made the symbol with his legs while lying on a beach in North Africa.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Speech in the House of Commons, May 13, 1940.
Churchill was the first world leader to fly across the Atlantic. He convinced the pilot to give him the controls of a Boeing 314 flying boat, while he was smoking his cigar.

Churchill was the first world leader to fly across the Atlantic. He convinced the pilot to give him the controls of a Boeing 314 flying boat, while he was smoking his cigar.

He was the first world leader to make a transantlantic flight

In January 1942 he flew from from Bermuda to Plymouth on board a BOAC Boeing 314 ‘Berwick’ flying boat. He took the controls and was allowed by the captain Kelly Rogers, to continue smoking.

“I must confess that I felt rather frightened … I thought perhaps I had done a rash thing that there were too many eggs in one basket,” he said afterward.

“I had always regarded an Atlantic flight with awe. But the die was cast.”

For my own part I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities which he excites among his opponents. I have always set myself not merely to relish but to deserve thoroughly their censure.

At the Institute of Journalists dinner, November 17, 1906.

By age 26, he had written five books and in 1953 he won the Nobel Prize for literature

This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.

Often misquoted, this is as the Wall Street Journal reported the quote on December 9, 1942.

He was granted honorary US citizenship by John F Kennedy

Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.

Winston Churchill

There is an entire museum dedicated to him at the Imperial War Museum, London

The Churchill War Rooms are the secret underground bunkers from where Churchill and his cabinet ran the government during WWII.

We must all turn our backs upon the horrors of the past. We must look to the future. We cannot afford to drag forward cross the years that are to come the hatreds and revenges which have sprung from the injuries of the past.

Speech at Zurich University, September 19, 1946.

He was the first British statesman of the 20th century to be given a state funeral

Sir Winston Churchill died on January 24, 1965 at the age of 90, following a stroke.

His body lay in state for three days in the Palace of Westminster before his funeral on January 30, attended by the largest gathering of world leaders in history at that time.

For my part, I consider that it will be found much better for all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history.

Speech in the House of Commons, November 11, 1948.
-abc.net.au

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If you agree with me that’s nice, but what I really want to achieve is to make you question the status quo, look between the lines and do your own research. Do not be a passive observer in this game we call life.

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