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Winston Churchill

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Up yours Adolf!

Where to start with this one?

Voted 'Greatest Briton' in a 2002 BBC Poll, awarded the Nobel Prize For Literature, rode with the 21st Lancers in the last cavalry charge of the British Army at Omdurman, escaped captivity in the Boer War and managed to rejoin the British Army after weeks on the run. Served on the Western Front as a battalion commander (twice) in WW1, led the Empire to eventual victory in WW2, born 1874 and died in 1965.

Other factoids about Winston Churchill:

He was the National Public Schools Fencing Champion.

Churchill was twice recommended for the Victoria Cross, but didn't get it as he was not officially in the Army at the time and was a war correspondent. Despite this, when taken prisoner, before escaping he tried to persuade the Boers to release him because he was a noncombatant. Cheeky old bugger.

Having joined the 4th Hussars, he soon got bored with mess life due to a lack of war and went to Cuba during his leave as a journalist to watch the Spaniards trying to suppress Cuban rebels. He first saw combat and accurately predicted that the Spaniards would lose. His regiment then went to India, stationed in Bangalore.

Much the same pattern - soon he got tired of barracks, and pulled strings to get a staff job on a field force sent to the Northwest Frontier to chase Pathan tribesmen, commanded by one Sir Bindon Blood. Now that's what I call a name. Despite being a staff officer he managed to get shot at a lot, which he always seems to have enjoyed. Had he been born sixty years later he'd have been one of those mad bastard yank photographers. Coming back to the regiment, he began writing a book on the campaign.

When it looked like there was going to be a war in the Sudan, he began bezzering a variety of generals his family knew in order to get a berth in the campaign. He even traveled back from India to the UK to beg, before going back to India - which was a lot of traveling in them days.

On the way back he got a telegram saying that Lord Kitchener had accepted, so he hopped off the ship in Alexandria and went straight to the fighting. Again he was meant to be a staff officer, but this didn't stop him going in with the Death or Glory Boys. Neither did a mere cavalry charge keep him from another main WSC hobby, drinking. He later claimed to have drunk half a bottle of champagne every day of his adult life on average, and his mate David Beatty - future head of the navy - who was commanding a gunboat on the Nile, giving the 21st supporting fire, saw him alright from the wardroom stocks.

Before that, as a cadet at Sandhurst, he'd been very pissed off when his favourite music hall in the West End put in a screen that was meant to stop the respectable customers from seeing all the tarts hanging out at the bar. As a young thruster, of course, this entirely defeated the point of going there. Having discovered that a protest group set up to fight this - the Entertainments Defence Society - only had one other member, he came up with a better solution. With some of his mates, he smashed the fucker. Good drills.

There was of course another book out of this, (not the brawl - the NW Frontier campaign!) adding to the Churchillian coffers. (He'd also written a novel by this time.) Not long after his return from Egypt, he left the army to take up politics. First of all he was a Tory, whilst also keeping up his journo career and keeping his hand in by joining the Yeomanry, specifically the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars.

Then he fell out with the Tories and became a Liberal. For some reason, the Tories love him but never mention this. As a Liberal, he rose swiftly after getting back from his adventures in South Africa, and became President of the Board of Trade (today, DTI Secretary). Later he was Home Secretary, and then First Lord of the Admiralty.

1902 to 1914 was a long time for Winston to go without WAR!, and he had to find something else to do in his spare time. He started flying aeroplanes, until Prime Minister Asquith ordered him to stop after he was involved in a crash. Fortunately for him, the criminal fraternity could be counted on for some invigorating aggro.

When the Met cornered a group of Latvian anarchists who had been robbing jewellers' shops in the East End, they shot back and killed two coppers. Enter Winston from the Home Office, with a platoon of Scots Guards and more cops. Eventually the place burned down. Which was a result of sorts, but the cops weren't happy about his alleged attempts to take command on scene.

As First Lord, he supported reams of shipbuilding, the introduction of submarines and planes, and a focus on Germany as the possible enemy. When WW1 broke out, though, he was soon desperate to get at the enemy and decided to help the Belgians hold Antwerp with a division of marines and sailors. Pretty soon he turned up there himself in a Rolls Royce staff car flying a White Ensign, and recklessly showing himself to the enemy whilst visiting the front, living in the best hotel in town.

At one point he tried to persuade Kitchener to let him resign from the Cabinet and appoint him a General so he could command the defence himself. Worryingly, Kitchener accepted, but was overruled by the Belgians deciding to pull out. The whole thing had delayed the Germans by about a week, although it might have gone better if the Government had been willing to bring ships up to Antwerp to counter-battery them. They didn't want to provoke the Dutch, whose territorial waters they would have gone through.

Next year, 1915, with the front deadlocked, he came up with the idea of an amphibious assault on the Dardanelles to force Turkey to give in and open the sea route to southern Russia. This failed at Gallipoli, one of the nastiest and most controversial battles in British history. Whether it could ever have worked is still a bitter row between the Army and navy, not to mention the Aussies and Brits.

That caused Winston to be sacked. He then went to the front, first attached to the Scots Guards, then commanding the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers. It wasn't long, though, before he was back in the government as Minister of Munitions, where he could look after a new kind of weapon invented by the navy whilst he was in charge - the tank.

After the First World War, Churchill was involved in some good ideas (peace with the Irish - he was able to talk to IRA leader Michael Collins by comparing the price the Boers put on his head with the one we put on Collins's) and some really bad ones - supporting the Tsarists in the Russian civil war without a chance of success, inventing Iraq, and going back on the Gold Standard.

This last seemed to finish him off politically, and he was overtaken by depression (the Black Dog, he called it) to the extent that he stopped travelling by train in case he jumped under one. With no war available, he spent his time writing huge memoirs about the first world war, a biography of his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough and much more, because he needed the money.

Then, though, he made a comeback through being one of the first to say openly that Hitler was not a good thing, and that only force would deal with him. Bizarrely, despite having spent much of the '30s leading the 'Last Ditch' Tories against the Government of India bill, this made him popular with the left (who had been pretty pissed off about the little chap in the 'tache from the word go). It also made him very unpopular with the Tories.

However, he turned out to be right, and returned to the government in 1939, running the navy again. When another of his amphibious campaigns went to rat shit, in Norway (he'd cancelled the landings in the hope of catching the Germans on the open sea), he failed gracefully upward and became Prime Minister just in time for the big game.

Bringing the Labour Party and the Liberals into the government, he was given powers of a near-dictator to fight the war. Typically, he was constantly trying to get into the violence - turning up at RAF 11 Group HQ on the decisive day of the Battle of Britain, dashing around the Normandy beaches on a destroyer, and finally nearly getting shot on a trip to the Rhine crossing in 1945 (the US 9th Army's commander, Simpson, had to drag him off a bridge when German rifle fire got too heavy for prudence).

Having lost the election in 1945, he spent a while writing a six-volume history of the war and finishing a three volume History of the English-speaking Peoples, and then returned to power in 1951 for three years, by which time his main concern had become how to prevent nuclear war. In 1953, not long after having a stroke that was covered up by his relative and private secretary Christopher Soames, he resigned and handed the job to the numbskull Anthony Eden. He died in 1965,

All in all, a man who loved women, booze, fast cars, boats, planes, warfare, and gambling, so a near-perfect ARRSE member. _____________________________________________________________________

In The River War (1899) which concerned the Sudan campaign, Churchill wrote:

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytising faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science - the science against which it had vainly struggled - the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."

It appears that the great man was quite a prophet too.

Memorable quotes include his deadpan reply to a female heckler in the crowd ("Mr Churchill, you are disgusting - you are drunk!") WSC: "Madam - you are ugly. And I shall be sober tomorrow."