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Born to be a soldier, Winston Churchill, one of the most brilliant and dauntless Prime Ministers in British history, swept through the hindrances and misfortune facing his country like a true warlord, but what made this man the hero we know today is his childhood experiences and ventures before his more legendary exploits. These youthful choices and incidents influenced the rest of his life and matured him in body and spirit. As a child, his ultimate goal was to fight for his country which stayed the desire of his heart his whole life as he went on to fight in the ranks of the British cavalry for several years, undergoing sacrifices as a result. He would later go on to assist his country during his time in government, especially when Britain was at war in World War II.
Winston’s Father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a dexterous politician. It was thanks to Lord Randolph that the Conservatives gained the majority of the house in 1886, propelling Randolph’s career forward. Becoming one of the most preeminent politicians at the time, he became overconfident and resigned from office in 1886, not realizing the destruction that it would later bring upon his profession as a result. From this point on, the Churchill household income began to slowly fail. Even though Lord Randolph made this one mistake, Winston always looked up to his father and ultimately desired to make his father proud.
Jenny Jerome, Winston’s Mother, was ravishingly beautiful, graceful, glamorous, and refined, the perfect wife for a prominent politician. Few who met Mrs. Churchill ever forgot her, She was one of the most well-known and exciting women in England in that day. She was not only gorgeous, but animated, witty, and sophisticated, having been educated at one of the best school in Paris, where she had met her husband. Winston Churchill wrote in his book, My Early Life, that his mother “always seemed to me a fairy princess a radiant being possessed of limitless riches and power.” and that, “I loved her dearly — but only from a distance.”
Indeed, Winston did love his parents, but not in a deep and personal manner. Randolph Churchill was too busy in his line of business to attend to his young son and his mother was too sophisticated to get her hands dirty and trifle with childish matters. Because of this, Churchill’s true affections fell on his nanny, Mrs. Elizabeth Everest or “Woom”, who he loved and spent more time with than he ever did with his parents. Celia Sandys, Winston’s granddaughter, said that Mr. Everest, “gave him this undemanding, unconditional love and was the rock upon which his real childhood was built.”
Winston was devilish child and his flaming red hair seemed to kindle his fiery spirit. Very early on in his life, it was apparent that Winston was headstrong and outgoing. He was always determined to get what he wanted no matter what the means or cost. Churchill’s raids through the kitchen always annoyed and flustered the cook, Rose Lewis, who at one time could not bear it any longer and dropped a ladle on his head. Also, from the time he first learned to utter a word, he would not stop talking, and this was thought by some to lead to a role in politics.
Mrs. Everest got the young boy interested in toy soldiers. Winston would set up whole battle scenes on his bedroom floor, an army of lead men waiting for his every command. His battle plans and tactics used in his play were very organized and sometimes complicated. Shane Leslie, first cousin of Winston Churchill, said, “Winston was particularly ingenious in demanding and manipulating his toys… lead soldiers who were always standing in action even when their owner slept.” This was Winston’s first realization of what he wanted in his future; to join the army. On a visit to the nursery one day, his father inspected his sons arrangement of troops. He asked Winston if he would like to join the army one day , Winston quickly and readily replied that he would.
At the age of eight, Winston was sent off to a boarding school called St. George’s in Ascot. He was very unwilling to leave Woom but was required to go, even though he disliked study and would rather comand his lead troops. He hated this school especially, not just because of studying, but because of the unfriendly environment and ill treatment that we underwent there. St. Goerge’s was a strict school meant to reform young unruly boys by any means necessary. Winston was beaten and verbally abused by the headmaster, Reverend H. W. Sneyd-Kinnersley. Winston later wrote that, “they were flogged until they bled freely, while the rest sat quaking, listening to their screams.”
The next few years of Winston’s life were more peaceful. He was taken out of St. George’s and was put into a small school in Hove run by two kind sisters. Despite Winston’s misuse at St. George’s, he remained mischievous and was known to one of his teachers as, “The naughtiest small boy in the world”. Churchill started attending Harrow in 1887. His days there were tedious and full of study, but he never let of go of his fierce and bold personality. He was always determined to do what he wished and often defied the the boys who jeered him by continuing to do what they teased him for. Even though his spirit was strong, however, Winston was not the healthiest young man. He once wrote to his mother saying that he was “cursed with so feeble a body.” He experienced many physical ailments but he also had a speech impediment, half way between a lisp and stutter, that often irritated him.
In 1891 His parents sent him to France under the guidance of a French master. When Churchill finished his education at Harrow, His father’s hopes and expectations for Winston’s future were crumbling. In Lord Randolph’s eyes his eldest son a failure and not worthy of attending Oxford to pursue a career as a lawyer as Randolph had first planned. Instead, as Mr. Churchill began to fail mentally, physically, and financially, He finally decided to send his son to a military college. Winston, so wanting to please his father, was dispirited by Lord Randolph’s near rejection of his achievements but it did not destroy him, as it might have done any other young man of a weaker spirit. Long after his father’s death at age forty-five, Churchill still tried to prove his worth to his father, and he was motivated to follow his father’s steps into politics. He later said that his father attitude towards him during this time helped him to grow strong, “Solitary trees, if they grow at all grow strong; and a boy deprived of a father’s care often develops, if he escapes the perils of youth, an independence and vigour of thought which may restore in after life the heavy loss of early days’.
Sandhurst. Churchill enjoyed being at Sandhurst immensely, mathematics and Latin were replaced with battle tactics. His studies included drawing maps, digging trenches, making land mines, building mock fortifications and blowing up bridges, all which he revelled in during all his months at Sandhurst. He also had to study book on war, artillery, infantry, cavalry, military administration and military law. Even though he loved these subjects the most prominent thing he appreciated during these months was learning how to ride a horse, and he and his friends spent all their spare time and money on horse races. However, there was one thing that marred his happiness; In 1895 he received news that his nanny, Woom, was dying and he rushed to London to be by her bedside to with her in her final moments.
Fifteen months after Churchill began his studies at Sandhurst, he graduated eighth in his class of 150 other students. Graduating with such good grades gave him the option of joining the Fourth Hussars, a centuries-old British cavalry regiment with a wonderful history and many honors, and he readily accepted. He knew that a military life was the life for him and specifically, a life in the cavalry. Now that the years of tedious studying were over, he was free for adventure. The next few years would be full of excitement and achievements that helped him become the legend we know today.
At first, because of the peaceful times, the regiment was given time off, but instead of relaxing, Churchill decided to risk an adventure. He sailed to Cuba and arrived there in 1895 during a rebellion the the Spanish were trying to subdue. Throughout his stay in Cuba, Churchill traveled with General Suarez Valdez and was able to witness enough enthralling gunshot battles and live action to satisfy his ambitious eagerness for a while.
While in Cuba, Churchill served as a front line battle reporter for The Daily Graphic and was merely an observer. His detailed articles were of great interest to the people of England at that time and he was able to earn a substantial amount of money. After his excursions in Cuba, He went to India with the regiment. This time it was for military purposes and not for journalism, but there was hardly any action, so Churchill spent his time reading books, writing, and playing polo. He often wrote to his mother asking for boxes of volumes so that he could soak up knowledge. He wrote his book, Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania, which was his only novel, while in India, but he was not very proud of his creation and never attempted to write fiction again.
After a while, Churchill grew restless and tired of being idle. so He set off for the Northwest to the troops under Sir Bindon as a journalist for the Daily Telegraph at five pounds per column. Churchill wanted action by joining the troops on the border and he definitely got what he wished for. He was thrown into the middle of the battles, facing fierce situations and close escapes. Churchill published a book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, about his experiences in India. His articles and book became so well known that even the Prince of Wales wrote to congratulate him on his performance.
Sir Herbert Kitchener was going to Sudan in 1898 along with his troops to repress a rebellion against British rule. Churchill desperately wanted to go and report on the front lines but Kitchener refused to let him, saying that he did want a reporter to get in the way or cause any mischief. Churchill’s mother wanted him to succeed and it happened that Kitchener was an old acquaintance of hers, so she wrote a letter to him, asking for Churchill to travel and fight with Kitchener’s troops in the front line. However, even this did not sway Kitchner to allow a journalist to accompany him to Sudan. By this time, Churchill had given up on his wish, but during his meeting with the Prime minister, to talk about his book, he mentioned his wish to go to Sudan and in a week, Churchill was invited to join Kitchner’s troops.
They arrived Sudan in 1898 and immediately entered into the battle of Omdurman. Even though Churchill was a journalist, he helped fight in the battle instead of observing. He actually led his own squadron, and the charge of his, and other units of cavalry on September 1898 was the last cavalry charge in the history of British warfare. Churchill was so enthralled and inspired by the experience that he wrote the book, The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan, which was published in 1899.
Even though Winston’s columns were popular, the cavalry was still expensive and Churchill was falling into debt. His mother was sending him money every month, but that barely paid for his polo expenses. He decided to go to India and win a polo tournament and then leave the military to focus on politics, writing, and repaying his debt. Winston’s shoulder was hurt before the tournament, but he still scored one winning goal. He then left the military to use his military experiences to catapult him into politics.
At first Churchill spent most of his time engulfed in writing, but in 1899 he was invited to the House of Commons to run for the Conservative Party to become a Member of Parliament for Oldham town. Churchill made speeches and debated in favor of the Conservative principles. Even though he put up a good fight, in the end he lost, probably because he was not well known as a politician. This loss did not hurt his spirit or his political career. The experience had given him a greater interest in politics and the enthusiastic way he had run his campaign sparked interest in the young new politician.
After the failure of his campaign, Churchill grew restless once again. In South Africa, the British and Dutch settlers, the Boers, were at war. He decided to use the situation as an opportunity to go and report from the front lines once more. Even before the war, The Morning Post had asked Churchill to be their war correspondent for 250 pounds a month. Churchill decided to take them up on their offer and was soon on a steamship to South Africa.
When he arrived in South Africa the Boers were winning and starting to force the British troops to retreat. Churchill traveled by train until the track ended and then found his way to a regiment waiting for reinforcements. The leader, Captain Haldane, was an old comrade of Churchill’s. With the enemy some distance up the track, the Captain was going to take his troops in a military train to spy out how close the Boers actually were and he asked Churchill to come along. Churchill accepted with great anticipation as he yearned for adventure.
After fourteen miles, the group was ambushed and as the driver tried to reverse the train, the speed made it spin off the rails, killing many troops and injuring 40 others. In minutes the train was surrounded. Churchill sprang into action, he told the Captain they had to unblock the rail so that the un-toppled carts could get the injured out of the situation. The Captain sent him with a few others to clear the rail. It was a success and they were able to cram the injured and surviving men onboard. Churchill then raced back to the Captain to assist him but once he reached him, Boers rushed out and forced them to surrender. Captain Haldane, Winston and a few other troops were captured and brought to the Boer’s camp.
Haldane, his sergeant, Brockie, and Winston began to plot their escape. After careful examination of the troops and fortifications, they completed their plan, but only Winston ended up being able to escape. Once he got out of the Boer camp, he had to move swiftly and silently. He leaped into a coal train and stayed there until dawn, when he feared being caught and jumped off. A reward of twenty-five pounds was published by the Boers for the capture of Winston so he could not trust anyone, but he had to get some food and help. Taking a chance, hr went up to the biggest house and knocked on the door. Thankfully the man was an Englishman, and helped him get back to England safely.
This experience gave Churchill the fame to launch him into his political career and give him the chance to make the remembered choices that he took in further years that caused his to become a hero. Churchill was an amazing politician, leading his people through times of great trial. Off course, he was not perfect as we might start to think he was. He made mistakes like every man, but unlike some, he learned and grew from them. In the end, Churchill was one of the most memorable leaders of Britain; fearless, honorable, and adventurous.
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