Most people know about Churchill.
Churchill was the old guy who looked like a bulldog.
He was Prime Minister during the war, smoked a cigar, did the V sign, and made some great speeches, right?
Well yes, that’s what he’s famous for.
But I don’t think that’s the most interesting part.
I think the most interesting part is what happened before all that.
Churchill was born in 1874.
In the 1890s he fought in the Boer war.
He was captured, but escaped and the Boers offered a reward for him ‘dead or alive’.
He came back to Britain, a hero, and became a Conservative MP in 1900.
In 1904 he changed parties, from the Tories to the Liberals.
He became Home Secretary while still in his 30s.
He looked to have a meteoric career ahead of him, and during World War One he became First Lord Of The Admiralty.
But he was in charge of the disastrous Dardanelles campaign.
He lost his job in government and returned to the army, to command front line troops in battle.
After the war he was reinstated and became Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In 1924 he changed parties again, from the Liberals back to the Tories.
Being a good writer, he was able to justify it “Any man under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart. Any man over 30 who is not a conservative has no brain.”
But in 1926 Churchill badly mishandled The General Strike, and then he badly mishandled the economy
By 1929 Churchill was out of government completely.
This was the finally end of the line for Churchill.
He’d had a high profile career, a long time in the public eye, and a full life, but he was 55 years old now, an old man, finished.
Everyone knew it was time for him to go, to quietly retire.
At the time, a reporter interviewed him.
One of the questions he was asked was “What advice will you give now that your career is over?”
Apparently Churchill just stared silently at the floor.
And remember, this is 1929, ten years before World War Two.
The next decade is what Churchill referred to as his ‘wilderness years’.
He was alone, an outsider, washed up.
Considered a loose cannon, a laughing stock.
In parliament, he constantly made speeches warning about the dangers of German rearmament.
About the rise of Adolf Hitler and fascism.
He was shouted down, ridiculed and ultimately ignored.
Everyone considered it the ravings of a burnt-out, deluded old man.
In 1934, the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain even said “The real danger to this country is Winston. He is the warmonger, not Hitler.”
While Churchill said of Chamberlain “He is decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful for impotency.”
Eventually of course, Churchill was right and Chamberlain was wrong.
Germany had rearmed on a vast scale.
Hitler didn’t want peace.
To try to avoid war, Chamberlain gave in to demand after demand from Hitler, hoping to appease him.
Churchill said “Chamberlain had the choice between war and shame. Now he has chosen shame, he’ll get war later.”
And he was right.
After all of Europe had fallen to Hitler, Chamberlain resigned.
The man who had ridiculed Churchill as an old warmonger who should be pensioned off, had to admit he was wrong, he couldn’t cope.
All of Europe was now overrun by the unstoppable Nazi war machine.
And in 1940, when Britain was all but finished, who did they turn to, to lead the country out of the mess?
The man whose career was over in 1929.