Today is the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral, marked by nationwide commemorations, including a remembrance service at Westminster Abbey.
Who was he?
Churchill was a politician who served as prime minister for nine years. Originally a Conservative, he switched sides to become a Liberal before switching back to the Conservatives again. He was named the Greatest Briton in a 2002 BBC poll.
Why is he important?
His principal achievement was leading Britain through the bulk of the Second World War. He took office when Britain’s fortunes were at a low ebb and it seemed that an invasion was imminent. His leadership was seen as crucial in shoring up morale and galvanising the war effort, driving Britain to eventual victory.
How did he become prime minister?
For much of the pre-war period, Churchill was on the political margins, in what became known as his “wilderness years”, and was one of the few voices urging rearmament to stave off the threat posed by Hitler’s Germany. When Neville Chamberlain resigned as prime minister in 1940, Churchill was seen as the only politician who could command support on all sides in the House of Commons.
What did he contribute to the war effort?
He took a close interest in military strategy, although this was not always appreciated by his general staff. But his biggest contribution was through his energy, courage and determination, in firstly convincing Britons that they could resist invasion, and then that they could defeat the Axis powers.
What did he do after the war?
Despite his war record, he was defeated in the 1945 general election but remained as Conservative leader and returned as prime minister in 1951. He resigned in 1955 after suffering a series of strokes and died 10 years later.
Did he do anything else?
Churchill was a polymath. As well as a politician, he was also a soldier, journalist, historian and artist. Among his books were a six-volume memoir of the Second World War and the four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 and was nominated for, though did not win, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945.
What you might not know about Churchill
All his life he suffered from depression, what he called his “black dog”.
What did he say?
Churchill was an accomplished public speaker and broadcaster and came up with many memorable phrases. Some of his most famous are:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
“Never, never, never give in.”
- Had you heard of Winston Churchill before? What did you know about him?
- Why do you think Churchill is seen as such a significant figure in British history?
- Winston Churchill was given a state funeral 50 years ago. What do you think are the biggest changes since 1965?
- When people look back in 2065, who might be seen as a significant figure of our time? Explain your answer.
Resources for TES
Representations of Churchill
Students assess how Churchill was represented using a variety of sources.
Question cards on Churchill
Kick off a topic on Winston Churchill with these enquiry cards to peak pupils’ interest.
This concise factsheet organises information about Winston Churchill into different parts of his life.
People who made a difference: Winston Churchill
A worksheet to help younger learners present what they have learnt about Winston Churchill.