Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace on November 30th, 1874 and died aged ninety in London on January 24, 1965. It is submitted that he lived a life that was touched by great adversity, profound controversy and supreme achievement. It was a life that brought him enduring world renown, that much is indisputable.
The period under review in this short paper was undoubtedly the most important of Churchill’s life. 1929 began with Churchill serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer (during the period of this office he had controversially returned Britain to the Gold Standard in 1925 and taken a strong line against the General Strike in 1926). However, with the defeat of the Conservative Government in May of 1929 Churchill lost office. Labour, led by Ramsay MacDonald, took the leadership of a hung Parliament. When MacDonald subsequently formed the so-called National Government in 1931 Churchill was not invited to join the Cabinet because he had acquired a reputation as a right-wing extremist.
Churchill became a leading advocate of British rearmament after the Nazi Party, led by Hitler, took power in Germany in 1933. A stern critic of Neville Chamberlain, Churchill attacked the policy of appeasement pursued by the new Conservative government. In 1939 he prophetically argued that Britain and France should strike a military alliance with the Soviet Union. It is possible to draw the conclusion that Churchill’s stance during this period, which was proven right, was important in underpinning and lending credibility and compelling force to the robust approach he later took to the management of the country at war.
Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty on the outbreak of the Second World War and in April 1940 he was made chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee just prior to the invasion and occupation of Norway by German forces. This development threw Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler into sharp focus and the Labour Party forced a vote of censure against him.
Chamberlain resigned and on 10th May, 1940, George VI appointed Churchill as Prime Minister. Churchill proceeded to form a coalition government and shrewdly appointed leading lights of the Labour Party such as Ernest Bevin, Clement Attlee, Stafford Cripps and Hugh Dalton to influential positions. He made Anthony Eden, a fellow long-time opponent of Chamberlain, his Secretary of State for War. Later, Eden became Foreign Secretary replacing Lord Halifax. It is submitted that Churchill’s ability to match the right man to the right office was an essential component in his managerial success. Churchill also cultivated a warm and enduring personal relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt – a crucial achievement which led to a healthy and cooperative trade in vital war supplies. The British Prime Minister certainly understood the importance of the United Kingdom’s association with America and its centrality to his macro-management of the war was another key ingredient in Churchill’s success.
Although Churchill provided cogent leadership the war did not go well for Britain and he had to face a motion of no confidence in Parliament after a series of military defeats. However, he maintained the support of most members of the House of Commons and won by a landslide 475 votes to 25.
Churchill nevertheless faced persistent criticism for interfering in military matters (although it could be argued at every level that this was a natural