Churchill was born to aristocratic parents at a time when the British Empire was at its height. Yet he lived to see it fall into decline.
He had a famous ancestor, John Churchill, I st Duke of Marlborough, who rose from obscure origins to become a distinguished general, and who served several monarchs, before reaching his zenith in the reign of Queen Anne. His military success help Britain to achieve major power status.
Winston had a privileged education at the famous public school of Harrow where he was considered a dullard, and languished in the lower forms. He had a good memory and had the basic principles of good English drummed into him.
It was not until he went to the military academy of Sandhurst that he started to shine. He loved the practical work of building fortifications. He had a passion for horse riding and excelled at polo.
When he was posted to India he started to write for the newspapers to pass the time. He also was part of a very successful polo team. It seems even at this age having Churchill around increased your chances of success.
He became a war correspondent and found ways of getting to all the conflicts that the British Empire faced. He was a man of action. Posted to the 21st Lancers, and acting as a War Correspondent for The Morning Post, Churchill took part in the last British cavalry charge at the Battle of Omdurman. He wrote books on his campaigns but failed to win a parliamentary seat.
During the second Boer War whilst acting as a War Correspondent for The Morning Post, Churchill hitched a lift on a British Army Armored Train that came under Boer attack. Showing his natural leadership qualities, Winston took charge, and freed the engine and half the train. The wounded escaped but he was taken prisoner and sent to a camp in Pretoria. To cap it all he then escaped and made his way to safety after many adventures.
He entered parliament and eventually became Home secretary taking personal charge of a shooting incident when some anarchists took over a building' Later, Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty and drove military reform, including tank development and naval conversion from coal to oil.
The disastrous Gallipoli landings on the Dardanelles during World War I led to his resignation and rejoining the army. He served on the Western Front.
His final call to greatness came at the beginning of WWII. His determination to defeat the Nazis and free enslaved nations, and the ordinary German people, saved the word from an evil dictator. His skills as an orator rallied the British people and helped bring America into the war.
He wrote several successful history books. In his later years he became an accomplished painter. He also built a brick wall around his property at Chartwell that would be the envy of any bricklayer. Add to that a Nobel Prize for literature.
So where did his greatness come from? He was the right man at the right time. His Churchill ancestors accomplished much that helps to explain his natural bravery and courage. On his mother's side his grandfather, Leonard Jerome, was a famous newspaper owner and editor of “The New York Times”.
We see in Churchill physical bravery and a gift for words that seem to be inherited. He was a man of his time and place. A privileged background and plenty of contacts enabled him to use his God-given gifts and opportunities to serve mankind.
He was not a saint. He loved a good drink and a big cigar but he had the powerful constitution to cope with it. Living to over 90 years after a full, risk-taking, adventurous, fruitful life takes some beating. Winston had the all-round qualities of what he delighted in calling “The Bulldog Breed”. Courage and tenacity in the face of danger.
A great oak owes its size and magnificent spread to its genes and its location. A great man is similar with the addition of a noble spirit.
"It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.... The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts."-- Winston Churchill.
Written by William Clark