Later life of Winston Churchill

Later life of Winston Churchill

The later life of Winston Churchill documents the life of the British politician from the end of World War II and his second term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, until his eventual death and funeral in 1965. After the end of the Second World War Churchill was not elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the the 1945 election. For six years he was to serve as the Leader of the Opposition. During these years Churchill continued to have an impact on world affairs; in 1946 he gave his Iron Curtain speech which spoke of the USSR and the creation of the Eastern Bloc; Churchill also argued strongly for British independence from the European Coal and Steel Community (which he saw as a Franco-German project). In the General Election of 1951 Labour were defeated and Churchill became Prime Minister for a second time. Churchill continued to lead Britain but was to suffer an increasing amount of health problems. Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally he decided to resign in 1955. Churchill however continued to sit as an MP for Woodford until he retired from politics in 1964. Churchill died in 1965 and was granted the honour of a state funeral. He was buried in his family plot in St Martin's Church, Bladon near to where he was born at Blenheim Palace.

After World War II

Although Churchill's role in World War II had generated him much support from the British population, he had many opponents. He also expressed contempt for a number of popular ideas, in particular creating a system of national public health care and improving public education. Partly as a result of this Churchill was defeated in the 1945 election by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. [Picknett, et al., p. 190.] There are different possibilities as to why he lost this election, it could be that the voters thought that the man who had led them so well in war was not the man to lead them in peace, or election result was not a reaction against Churchill personally, but against the Conservative Party's record in the 1930s under Baldwin and Chamberlain. And its proposed policies, the labour party with its reforms such as introducing the NHS may have been thought a better party During the opening broadcast of the election campaign, Churchill astonished many of his admirers by warning that a Labour government would introduce into Britain "some form of Gestapo, no doubt humanely administered in the first instance". [Jenkins, p. 789-94] Churchill had been genuinely worried during the war by the inroads of state bureaucracy into civil liberty, and was clearly influenced by Friedrich Hayek's anti-totalitarian tract, "The Road to Serfdom" (1944).

His Resignation Honours included recommendations outside party politics for the Chiefs of Staff of the armed services and the Ministry of Defence, which had the approval of the new Prime Minister. ["The Times", 14 August 1945, p5. ]

Winston Churchill was an early supporter of the pan-Europeanism. [Jenkins, p. 810 and p. 819-14] In his speech at the University of Zurich in 1946, Winston Churchill called for a "United States of Europe" and the creation of a "Council of Europe". [Ibid] He also participated in the Hague Congress of 1948, which discussed the future structure and role of this Council of Europe. [Ibid] The Council of Europe was finally founded as the first European institution through the Treaty of London of 5 May 1949 and has its seat in Strasbourg.

However, this is often seen as his supporting Britain's membership in a united Europe, which is far from the truth. Rather, he saw Pan Europeanism as a Franco-German project which would foster cooperation amongst European countries and the rest of the world and prevent war on the European continent. This can be seen in Churchill’s landmark refusal to join the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 as well as his often quoted speech in which he said of Britain's role with Europe:

"We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed."cite web
url =
title = Remembrance Day 2003
accessdate = 2007-04-25
author =
publisher = Churchill Society London

This stance has, arguably, shaped Britain's feelings toward European integration and its subsequent general ambivalence towards all things Europe. He saw Britain's place as separate from the continent, much more in-line with the countries of the Commonwealth and the Empire and with the United States, the so-called Anglosphere. As evidenced in his speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, given on 5 March 1946 where as a guest of Harry S. Truman, he declared:

"Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States."cite web
url =
title = Sinews of Peace (Iron Curtain)
accessdate = 2007-02-26
last = Churchill
first = Winston
publisher = Churchill Centre

It was also during this speech that he popularised the term "The Iron Curtain":

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere."cite web
url =
title = Sinews of Peace (Iron Curtain)
accessdate = 2007-02-26
last = Churchill
first = Winston
publisher = Churchill Centre

Churchill was instrumental in giving France a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (which provided another European power to counterbalance the Soviet Union's permanent seat). [Jenkins, p. 778]

Return to power

Although Churchill was no longer Prime Minister, he would not leave the public eye for many years. His image as a world leader, and seasoned diplomat would allow him to remain a figure head in British politics. Churchill became the leader of the opposition, the Conservative Party. While acting as leader Churchill accomplished a great many things, and would make his voice heard on issues which he felt strongly against. The first major issue which Churchill made himself known was the issue over whether or not to release India from British control. In a speech to the House of Commons in early March of 1947, Churchill warned against handing power over to India too soon. Churchill felt that the political parties in India did not truly represent the people, and that in a few years no trace of the new government would remain. This grim prediction made by Churchill would not last however when he finally lent his support to the independence of India.

Churchill would write a six volume set on his experiences in World War II. The series entitled, The Second World War, would lend Churchill’s personal thoughts, beliefs, and experiences to the historical record of World War II. Churchill traded the literary rights to his books in return for double the salary he made as Prime Minister. Major points in Churchill’s books included his disgust in the handling of Hitler prior to the onset of World War II, primarily with the policy of appeasement which the allied powers implemented in dealing with the German tyrant.

After the General Election of 1951, Churchill again became Prime Minister. His third government—after the wartime national government and the brief caretaker government of 1945 — would last until his resignation in 1955. During this period, he renewed what he called the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States, and engaged himself in the formation of the post-war order. On racial questions, Churchill was still a late Victorian. He tried in vain to manoeuvre the cabinet into restricting West Indian immigration. "Keep England White" was a good slogan, he told the cabinet in January 1955. [Hennessy, p. 205.] Ian Gilmour records Churchill saying to him, in 1955, about immigration: "I think it is the most important subject facing this country, but I cannot get any of my ministers to take any notice". [Ian Gilmour, "Inside Right" (Hutchinson, 1977), p. 134.]

In what would become one of Churchill’s most famous speeches, the Fulton Speech would coin a phrase which would be used for the remainder of the Cold War. The iron curtain is what Churchill referred to the Soviet Unions growing influence in Eastern Europe. At the time that Churchill made the speech both the United States and his own government had to publicly disagree with him in order to not appear that they shared in his feelings. His speech would later be hailed as having great prophetic value. Later it would be shown that President Truman and the Prime Minister both shared Churchill’s feelings, but were not at a point of public discloser.

Churchill would coin another famous term, this time relating to the relationship that the United States and Britain held. This “special relationship” referred to the closeness of the Anglo-American relationship in war, peace, and in politics. This relationship has gone through different degrees during the course of the two countries, but had been visibly stronger in the 20th century, especially during World War II. Churchill had played a major role in the “special relationship”, becoming what appeared to be close friends with Roosevelt during the war years. Churchill would later try to regain this lost relationship with President Truman.

His domestic priorities were, however, overshadowed by a series of foreign policy crises, which were partly the result of the continued decline of British military and imperial prestige and power. Being a strong proponent of Britain as an international power, Churchill would often meet such moments with direct action. Trying to retain what he could of the Empire, he once stated that, "I will not preside over a dismemberment." [Jenkins p. 843-861] Churchill devoted much of his time in office to international relations and although Churchill did not get on well with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Churchill attempted to maintain the "special relationship" with the United States and he made four official transatlantic visits to America during his second term as Prime-Minister. [Jenkins p. 847]

When President Eisenhower was elected in 1952, Churchill made haste in arranging a meeting with the new leader in hopes of establishing a stronger relationship with the United States. This would prove to be nearly impossible though, due to Churchill’s age. Churchill was beginning to show signs of ageing, and allegedly refused to wear his hearing aid while in meetings, causing the conversations to be carried on at a screaming volume. Eisenhower remarked in his diary how Churchill seemed set in his ways, and that Churchill seems to think that the world’s problems could be solved merely by the close cooperation of Britain and the United States.

Churchill would also try to establish better relations with the Soviet Union when, in 1953, Stalin died. Churchill saw the death of Stalin to mean that the Soviet Union would be under far better leadership than it had been under, and therefore seized the opportunity to establish better British – Soviet relations. Unfortunately for Churchill, the United States as well as his own party saw this unilateral action as hasty.

The Mau Mau Rebellion

In 1951, grievances against the colonial distribution of land came to a head with the Kenya African Union demanding greater representation and land reform. When these demands were rejected, more radical elements came forward, launching the Mau Mau rebellion in 1952. On 17 August 1952, a state of emergency was declared, and British troops were flown to Kenya to deal with the rebellion. As both sides increased the ferocity of their attacks, the country moved to full-scale civil war. [Jenkins p. 843-861]

In 1953, the Lari massacre, perpetrated by Mau-Mau insurgents against Kikuyu loyal to the British, changed the political complexion of the rebellion and gave the public-relations advantage to the British. Churchill's strategy was to use a military response, combined with implementing many of the concessions that Attlee's government had blocked in 1951. He ordered an increased military presence and appointed General Sir George Erskine, who would implement Operation Anvil in 1954 that defeated the rebellion in the city of Nairobi. Churchill ordered peace talks opened, but these collapsed shortly after his leaving office. [Jenkins p. 843-861]

Malayan Emergency

In Malaya, a rebellion against British rule had been in progress since 1948.cite book | last =Harper| first =T.N.| title =The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya | publisher =Cambridge University Press | date =2001 | location =London| id = 978-0521004657] Once again, Churchill's government inherited a crisis, and once again Churchill chose to use direct military action against those in rebellion while attempting to build an alliance with those who were not.cite book | last =Gilbert | first =Martin | title =Churchill: A Study in Greatness (one volume edition) | publisher =Pimlico | date =2001 | location =London | id = 978-0712667258] He stepped up the implementation of a "hearts and minds" campaign and approved the creation of fortified villages, a tactic that would become a recurring part of Western military strategy in South-east Asia.cite book | last =Stubbs| first =Richard| title =Hearts and Minds in Guerilla Warfare: The Malayan Emergency 1948–1960 | publisher =Eastern University | date =2001 | location =New York | id = 981210352X ]

The Malayan Emergency was a more direct case of a guerrilla movement, centred in an ethnic group, but backed by the Soviet Union. As such, Britain's policy of direct confrontation and military victory had a great deal more support than in Iran or in Kenya. At the highpoint of the conflict, over 40,000 British and Commonwealth troops were stationed in Malaya. While the rebellion was slowly being defeated, it was equally clear that colonial rule from Britain was no longer plausible.cite book | last =Ferguson| first =Niall| title =Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World | publisher =Penguin Books Ltd | date =2000 | location =London| id = 978-0141007540] cite book | last =Harper| first =T.N.| title =The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya | publisher =Cambridge University Press | date =2001 | location =London| id = 978-0521004657]

In 1953, plans were drawn up for independence for Singapore and the other crown colonies in the region. The first elections were held in 1955, just days before Churchill's own resignation, and in 1957, under Prime Minister Anthony Eden, Malaya became independent.cite book | last =Harper| first =T.N.| title =The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya | publisher =Cambridge University Press | date =2001 | location =London| id = 978-0521004657]

Later life


In June 1953, when he was 78, Churchill suffered a stroke after a meeting with the Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi at 10 Downing Street. News of this was kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. He went to his country home, Chartwell, to recuperate from the effects of the stroke which had affected his speech and ability to walk. He returned to public life in October to make a speech at a Conservative Party conference at Margate, having decided that if he couldn't make the speech, he would retire as Prime Minister—but he was able to deliver it without problems. [Jenkins, p. 868-71]

Churchill's fondness for alcohol was well-documented.cite web
url =
title = Alcohol Abuser
accessdate = 2007-02-26
last = Richards
first = Michael
publisher = Churchill Centre
] While in India and South Africa, he got in the habit of adding small amounts of whisky to the water he drank in order to prevent disease. He was quoted on the subject as saying that "by dint of careful application I learned to like it."Fact|date=January 2008 He consumed alcoholic drinks on a near-daily basis for long periods in his life, and frequently imbibed before, after, and during mealtimes, although he is not generally considered by historians to have been an alcoholic. The Churchill Centre states that Churchill made a bet with a man with the last name of Rothermere (possibly one of the Viscounts Rothermere) in 1936 that Churchill would be able to successfully abstain from drinking hard liquor for a year; Churchill apparently won the bet.cite web
url =
title = Alcohol Abuser
accessdate = 2007-02-26
last = Richards
first = Michael
publisher = Churchill Centre

Retirement and death

Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, Churchill retired as Prime Minister in 1955 and was succeeded by Anthony Eden, who had long been his ambitious protégé (three years earlier, Eden had married Churchill's niece, Anne Clarissa Spencer-Churchill, his second marriage). Upon his resignation, the Queen offered him a dukedom but he declined the offer. [By the time Churchill resigned on 4 April, it had been determined that no further dukedoms would be offered except to Royal personages. However a special case was granted to Churchill, after it was understood he would refuse it. Churchill commented "I very nearly accepted, I was so moved by her beauty and her charm [Queen Elizabeth II] and the kindness with which she made this offer, that for a moment I thought of accepting. But finally I remembered that I must die as I have always been; Winston Churchill. cite web |url= |title=FAQ; Was Churchill offered a Dukedom? |accessdate=2007-12-21]

Over the coming years Churchill spent less time in Parliament, occasionally voting in parliamentary divisions, but never again speaking in the House. He continued to serve as an MP for Woodford until he stood down for the last time at the 1964 General Elections. His private verdict on the Suez fiasco was: "I would never have done it without squaring the Americans, and once I'd started I'd never have dared stop". [Montague Brown, p. 213.] In 1959, he became "Father of the House", the MP with the longest continuous service: he had already gained the distinction of being the only MP to be elected under both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. On 24 July 1964, Churchill was present in the House of Commons for the last time, and one day later, in 28 July, a deputation headed by the Prime Minister, Sir Alex Douglas-Home, presented Churchill with a Resolution which had been carried "nemine contradicente" by the House of Commons. The ceremony was held in Churchill's London home at 28 Hyde Park Gate, and was witnessed by Clementine, his children and grandchildren.Soames op cit. p.647.] It read:

That this House desire to take this opportunity of marking the forthcoming retirement of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Woodford by putting on record its unbounded admiration and gratitude for his services to Parliament, to the nation and to the world; remembers, above all, his inspiration of the British people when they stood alone, and his leadership until victory was won; and offers its grateful thanks to the right honourable Gentleman for these outstanding services to this House and to the nation.

Churchill spent most of his retirement at Chartwell House in Kent, two miles (3 km) south of Westerham. As Churchill's mental and physical faculties decayed, he began to lose the battle he had fought for so long against the "black dog" of depression. He found some solace in the sunshine and colours of the Mediterranean. He took long holidays with his literary adviser Emery Reves and Emery's wife, Wendy Russell, at La Pausa, their villa on the French Riviera, seldom joined by Clementine. He also took eight cruises aboard the yacht "Christina" as the guest of Aristotle Onassis. Once, when the "Christina" had to pass through the Dardanelles, Onassis gave instructions that it was to do so during the night, so as not to disturb his guest with unhappy memories. [ [ 1960 On this day - Trip with Onassis] , The Churchill Centre. Retrieved 02-12-2007]

In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by an Act of Congress, proclaimed Churchill the first Honorary Citizen of the United States. [ Freedom of Information Act document] , Department of State of the USA.] Churchill was physically incapable of attending the White House ceremony, so his son and grandson accepted the award for him. As his family life grew more despondent (he was unable to resolve the love–hate relationship between himself and his son) Churchill was also to suffer a further two strokes during the 1960's. On 15 January 1965, Churchill suffered another stroke, this time a severe cerebral thrombosis that left him gravely ill. He died at his home nine days later, at age 90, shortly after eight o'clock on the morning of Sunday 24 January 1965, coincidentally 70 years to the day after his father's death. [Jenkins, p. 911]


By decree of the Queen, his body lay in state for three days and a state funeral service was held at St Paul's Cathedral. [Picknett, et al., p. 252.] This was the first state funeral for a non-royal family member since 1914, and no other of its kind has been held since. [ [ Churchill received State Funeral, 1965] , BBC News, Accessed December 2007]

As his coffin passed down the Thames on the "Havengore", dockers lowered their crane jibs in a salute. [cite web|url=|title=Winston Churchill (1874-1965)|publisher=PortCities London|accessdate=2008-01-12] The Royal Artillery fired a 19-gun salute (as head of government), and the RAF staged a fly-by of sixteen English Electric Lightning fighters. The state funeral was the largest gathering of dignitaries in Britain as representatives from well over 100 countries attended, including French President Charles de Gaulle, Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Rhodesia Ian Smith, former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower, and many other heads of state, including past and present heads of state and government, and members of royal families the world over. The train was hauled by Battle of Britain class locomotive 34051 "Winston Churchill". [cite web
url =
title = Sir Winston Churchill's Funeral Train
accessdate = 2007-02-26
author =
publisher = Southern E-Group
] Fittingly, this was the last great State occasion to be movingly commented upon by the great British broadcaster Richard Dimbleby who died of lung cancer in December 1965. The funeral also saw the largest assemblage of statesmen in the world until the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. [ [ Largest Assemblage of Statesmen at funeral since Churchill] , BBC News, 2005]

At Churchill's request, he was buried in the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, not far from his birthplace at Blenheim. In the fields along the route, and at the stations through which the train passed, thousands stood in silence to pay their last respects. In 1998 his tombstone had to be replaced due to the large number of visitors over the years having eroded it and its surrounding area. A new stone was dedicated in 1998 in a ceremony attended by members of the Spencer-Churchill family. [cite web
url =
title = New grave honours Churchill
accessdate = 2007-02-26
author =
date = 1998-05-08
publisher = BBC News Online

Because the funeral took place on 30 January, people in the United States marked it by paying tribute to his friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt because it was the anniversary of FDR's birth. The tributes were led by Roosevelt's children at the president's grave at the FDR Presidential Library. On 9 February 1965, Churchill's estate was probated at £304,044 (equivalent to about £3.8m in 2004).


Primary sources

* Churchill, Sir Winston. "His life through his paintings", David Coombs, Pegasus, (2003)
* Churchill, Winston. "The World Crisis" (six volumes, 1923–31), 1-vol edition (2005); on World War I
* Churchill, Winston. "The Second World War" (six volumes, 1948–53)
* Gilbert, Martin, ed. "Winston S. Churchill: Companion" 15 vol (14,000 pages) of Churchill and other official and unofficial documents. Part 1: I. Youth, 1874-1900, 1966, 654 pp. (2 vol); II. Young Statesman, 1901-1914, 1967, 796 pp. (3 vol); III. The Challenge of War, 1914-1916, 1971, 1024 pp. (3 vol); IV. The Stricken World, 1916-1922, 1975, 984 pp. (2 vol); Part 2: The Prophet of Truth, 1923-1939, 1977, 1195 pp. (3 vol); II. Finest Hour, 1939-1941, 1983, 1328 pp. (2 vol entitled The Churchill War Papers); III. Road to Victory, 1941-1945, 1986, 1437 pp. (not published, 4 volumes are anticipated); IV. Never Despair, 1945-1965, 1988, 1438 pp. (not published, 3 volumes anticipated). See the editor's memoir, Martin Gilbert, "In Search of Churchill: A Historian's Journey," (1994).
* James, Robert Rhodes, ed. "Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963." 8 vols. London: Chelsea, 1974, 8917 pp.
* Soames, Mary, ed. "Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill" 1998, 702 pp.
* [ Quotations database] , World Beyond Borders.
* "The Oxford Dictionary of 20th century Quotations" by Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-860103-4)

econdary sources

* Michael R. Beschloss, (2002) "The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945" p. 131.
* Geoffrey Best. "Churchill: A Study in Greatness" (2003)
* Blake, Robert. "Winston Churchill. Pocket Biographies" (1997), 110 pages
* Blake, Robert and Louis William Roger, eds. "Churchill: A Major New Reassessment of His Life in Peace and War" Oxford UP, 1992, 581 pp; 29 essays by scholars
* John Charmley, "Churchill, The End of Glory: A Political Biography" (1993). revisionist; favors Chamberlain; says Churchill weakened Britain
* John Charmley. "Churchill's Grand Alliance: The Anglo-American Special Relationship 1940-57" (1996)
* Richard Harding Davis, "Real Soldiers of Fortune" 1906, early biography. Project Gutenberg [ etext]
* Martin Gilbert "Churchill: A Life" (1992) (ISBN 0-8050-2396-8); one volume version of 8-volume life (8900 pp); amazing detail but as Rasor complains, "no background, no context, no comment, no analysis, no judgments, no evaluation, and no insights."
* Sebastian Haffner, "Winston Churchill" 1967
* P. Hennessy, "Prime minister: the office and its holders since 1945" 2001
* Christopher Hitchens, "The Medals of His Defeats," "The Atlantic" April 2002.
* James, Robert Rhodes. "Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900-1939" (1970), 400 pp.
* Roy Jenkins. "Churchill: A Biography" (2001)
* François Kersaudy, "Churchill and De Gaulle" 1981 ISBN 0-00-216328-4.
* Christian Krockow, "Churchill: Man of the Century" by 2000 ISBN 1-902809-43-2.
*John Lukacs. "Churchill : Visionary, Statesman, Historian" Yale University Press, 2002.
* William Manchester, "The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory 1874-1932", 1983; ISBN 0-316-54503-1; "The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940", 1988, ISBN 0-316-54512-0; no more published
* Robert Massie "Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War" (ISBN 1-84413-528-4); ch 40-41 on Churchill at Admiralty
* A. Montague Browne, "Long sunset" 1995
* Henry Pelling, "Winston Churchill" (first issue) 1974, (ISBN 1-84022-218-2), 736pp; comprehensive biography
* Rasor, Eugene L. "Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography." Greenwood Press. 2000. 710 pp. describes several thousand books and scholarly articles.
* Stansky, Peter, ed. "Churchill: A Profile" 1973, 270 pp. essays for and against Churchill by leading scholars

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