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A postal stamp showing Churchill making a victory sign

Winston Churchill: Biography

Image Credit: Olga Popova / | Above: A postal stamp printed in Anguilla showing Churchill making a victory sign

Some didn't give his marriage to Clementine more than six months, yet it lasted 56 years. Her tact, support and advice soothed his temper, and helped win the war.

The son of Lord Randolph Churchill and the American heiress Jennie Jerome, Churchill graduated from Sandhurst, but resigned his cavalry commission to become a correspondent during the Boer War. He provided reports to the Daily Telegraph and published books 'The Story of the Malakland Field Force (1898) and 'The River War' (1899).

In 1900 he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative, but switched in 1904 to the Liberal Party. He became a member of the Liberal cabinet, where he worked for reform of the navy.

On 12 September 1908, he married Clementine Ogilvy Spencer, a match that would last 56 years. Following the 1910 general election, he became home secretary and introduced a number of prison reforms, including holding lectures and concerts in prisons, as well as helping prisoners after their release.

In October 1911, he became the First Lord of the Admiralty and undertook naval reforms. He set up the Royal Naval Air Service in 1912 as he recognised the military potential of aircraft. Churchill was so excited by this that he took flying lessons himself.

During WWI his support of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign forced his resignation from the admiralty. However, he joined Lloyd George's coalition cabinet, where he filled several important positions.

He served as the minister of war and air between 1919 and 1920 and Colonial secretary between 1921 and 1922 where he caused controversy by bombing Iraq, following an uprising of 100,000 tribesmen in the country.

In 1924, he became chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, where he vigorously condemned the trade unions during the 1926 general strike. But Baldwin, and later, Chamberlain, disliked his opposition to self-government for India, and insistence on the need for rearmament, and he was excluded.

But, when Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Churchill returned to the admiralty. Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as prime minister on May 10, 1940. He urged the British to conduct themselves so that, "if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

One of his greatest victories was inspiring the RAF to win the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940. This was the first war battle conducted entirely in the air. By collaboration with President Roosevelt, he secured military support from the US. After the Soviet Union and the US entered the war in 1941, Churchill established close ties with leaders of what he called the "Grand Alliance."

He also helped to shape the map of post-war Europe, his reputation disguising the fact that Britain's military role had become secondary. Refusing social reform, however, Churchill was defeated by the Labour Party in 1945. Churchill criticised the welfare state reforms of his successor, Attlee. He also helped to define and enforce the "Iron Curtain".

In 1946, he suffered the first of several strokes but this was kept hidden from the public.

He was knighted in 1953, and became prime minister again from 1951 to 1955, when he retired from politics for good.

He died in January 1965.