The Darker Side Of Winston Churchill

A man rich of aristocratic ancestry, known for leading Britain through the second world war, and known just as well for his rousing speeches and refusal to surrender. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on the 30th of November 1874 in Oxfordshire, England. He was an orator, British statesman, author, soldier and Britain’s Prime Minister for a total of 9 years in, thus served two terms. First term was during the second world war, from 1940 to 1945 (Clement Attlee came into power from 1945 -1951) and the second term was from 1951 to 1955.

The Roaring Lion, an iconic portrait by Yousuf Karsh, taken at the Canadian Parliament, December 1941

Churchill’s pedigree was a prosperous one at that. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a Tory politician who was a direct descendent of John Churchill, who was the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Jennie Jerome, his mother was the daughter of Leonard W. Jerome, a horse racing enthusiast, but was well-known for being a New York financier.

With a poor academic record, Winston’s father came to the conclusion of pushing him into a military career. It took Churchill three attempts before he was able to pass the entrance exam to join the Royal Military College to become a cadet in the cavalry. Even after all his struggles, Churchill applied himself to his studies wholeheartedly and came out successful. Winston Churchill graduated at the 20th position out of a class of 130 students.

Portrait photograph of Lord Randolph Churchill the Chancellor of Exchequer, taken in 1883.

When Churchill was 21 years old, his father died. It is not fully clear as to what was the illness that caused his fathers passing. He had travelled all over the world to try to find a cure for his worsening illness which was believed to actually be syphilis. He was then rushed back to England from Cairo just before Christmas that year and passed away in West Minister. With such an event this led Churchill to the belief that members of his family died young, obviously back then there was no way of being able to know what had caused the death of his father.

Winston Churchill was initiated as a second lieutenant in the 4th Queens Hussars Regiment of the British Army, based in Aldershot in the county of Hampshire. He was a man built for battle, and he had a thirst to quench, to be able to witness military action! That same year Churchill was sent to Cuba to study the Cuban War of Independence. Himself and another cavalry officer known as Reginald Barnes, a Devon man, joined forces with the Spanish military on their pursuit to crush independence fighters, thus got entangled with quite a few altercations. After that he also saw action in India, Sudan, South Africa and of course Gallipoli. Gallipoli was not something that should have happened. WWI was at a deadlock right from the get go, Churchill rushed in head first without thinking properly just to try to get things moving. A military campaign that was an absolute disaster costing many British lives, and the Ottoman Empire claimed its victory anyway.

Churchill will always be viewed in many ways as a hero for the British people and in some respects he was, in others he caused unnecessary pain, death and suffering and not just of the British men in Gallipoli and their families at home, but also of other people from other nations. It’s like a yo-yo really between good and bad.

During the Boer War in South Africa, he was captured as a prisoner of war, but he managed to escape. Furthermore, after the news of his escape travelled far and wide, back home to England, in the year of 1900 he was appointed as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse Regiment. During the campaign to free Pretoria, he used write, take notes on how he felt, what was occurring. It is said that in his writing, Churchill berated the British animosity towards the Boer, and stated that they should in fact be treated with “generosity and tolerance“. Even with that statement, it got completely abolished since concentration camps were built in South Africa, his statement then on the concentration camps? They composed “the minimum of suffering.” The death toll during this campaign caused was well over 25,000 deaths. It wasn’t till about 115,000 black Africans were also put into these British camps, where the death toll was around 14,000, the only thing he wrote was of his “irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men”. Subsequently, Churchill bragged of his participation there: “That was before war degenerated. It was great fun galloping about.”

This was only one of his questionable statements, let alone his previous actions on his ventures. It carries on with more of his racism, his views on colonisation using military force, and sheer bigotry. When it came to Palestinians he simply refereed to them as “Barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung”. Furthermore, during a campaign that required the crushing of rebels in Sudan during the earlier days in his military career, Churchill bragged about the fact he killed three “savages”, as he put it. While deliberating agitated people in the Northwest of Asia, he notably bemoaned the “squeamishness” of his fellow men, who had an issue with his idea and were not in “favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.”

Hitler… a man with strong views about the Aryan race, and we all know those views. Churchill’s views shockingly enough weren’t that different. When he became an MP, Churchill strongly requested an undulating agenda for more invasions. What belief of his was this statement based on? As he so elegantly put it “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph.” Yet, even then it doesn’t make him like Hitler or Stalin for that matter, he still opposed Hitler without reservation, and it’s a great thing that he did.

The way he viewed/treated people from certain other nations and even his own (As of course his campaign to Gallipoli proved) wasn’t in the best of ways! Sure he did well for the British people and the rest of the nations against the Axis of Darkness… Hitler and his Nazis, but there’s no way you can overlook the horrifying things he stated, acted upon or would have acted upon if he had the backup he wanted.

Even as he started to tangle with politics, Churchill chose to go with the Tory party first,

Women’s Suffrage

and then changed to the Liberal party, and later on again he made the decision to go back to the Conservative party. He gave his first speech for the Conservatives Primrose League in Bath, in this speech he expressed strong feelings towards Women’s Suffrage, a movement that was created to fight for the women’s right to fight. He referred to the Suffragettes as a ”ridiculous movement”.

Now, for the past few years there has been some noise about Churchill being the man behind the famine that was caused in Bengal, India. Yes, that is very true and his statement about the Indian people did little to help to show that he didn’t do intentionally. His statement was as such “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” During that time, Britain’s food supplies started to dwindle due to the second world war, after all, many nations including Britain were still recovering from the damage they took during the first world war, and Churchill needed to prevent from famine occurring to the British people, by making sure that Britain was getting enough wheat in so the people were able to be able to survive, and fight on.

Does this excuse what he caused in India? No, not in the slightest.  Other British officials at the time begged him to send supplies to the region so it would help them, and he outright refused! Apparently it was “Their fault for breeding like rabbits” and that the famine was just “merrily” plucking the populace. Now, one way of looking into this again. Was this said out of stubbornness, rage, and fear of causing death to his own people or not? Not to mention with the pressure of the war mounting up more and more on his shoulders.

Little Willie – 1st Prototype tank

I would also like to state that personally, It is so difficult to try to keep a balanced view on such a subject. Yes even though this is to cover his darker side, there was also good deeds… even if they were few he still accomplished them either way. Pushing Britain through the second world war, push to liberate France, unite together with the rest of the allies to win the war, he helped drive the development of the first tank when he was the First Lord of Admiralty by creating the Landships Committee in 1915, reformed the British fleet and his foresight was to thank. He saw what Germany was doing… more specifically Kaiser Wilhelm’s own perseverance to assemble a robust navy, hence the reformation of the British navy. The deal with Ireland was a bit of a dodgy one too. When Winston Churchill assumed the role of Secretary of State for War and Air in January 1919, not long after the Irish War of Independence began. His role in this war was associated with his willingness to use the questionable Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (Known as the Black and Tans, due to their uniform.)  to fight the IRA. He simply refused, hands down to stand down the Black and Tans. Churchill even backed up the idea to use air power on Ireland. Even after that, and his opposition to Irish home rule, he was a quick backer of dissolution. He presented a vital part in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which brought an end to the war. More often than not, Churchill did come across as rather impulsive, saying things without thinking… processing them before speaking…  The possible consequences his ideas might cause. As a man, a soldier, a politician… Churchill caused many horrific things, but It wouldn’t have felt right if I simply left out the good things that he also accomplished.

Studying Churchill has led me to one question, a question that we will never know the answer to. If Adolf Hitler came to the conclusion, to instead invade and take over the Middle East and Africa (This going by Winston’s own views.)

Would Winston Churchill have batted an eyelid? Or would he have left him to his own devices unless he went to territories under the rule of the British Empire? Or maybe he would have acted later on… but it would have been too late by then. Once the Middle East and Africa were taken over, Hitlers gaze would have shifted upon Europe, and then what?

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