Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

by Dr. Kevin Radaker
Sponsored by The Richard and Mary Kemme Family Foundation



While many people around the globe recognize the tremendous leadership and exceptional speeches given by Winston Churchill during the Second World War, his role in shaping the Middle East as a region after World War I and significant developments in tactics and weaponry during World War I is often overlooked and under-appreciated.   From 1911 until May 1915, several months after the war had begun, Churchill served as England’s First Lord of the Admiralty.  During those years, he gave impetus to several reforms, including development of naval aviation, the tank, the fast battleship, and the switch from coal to oil in almost all the ships for the Royal Navy.  In short, Churchill’s innovations prepared Britain  for the war, especially in terms of its strength at sea, but he was forced to resign as First Lord of the Admiralty in May 1915 because of his strident advocacy for the disastrous Dardanelles campaign.    

From January to May of 1916, Churchill commanded the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, thus witnessing firsthand the horrors and difficulties of trench warfare.  In July 1917, seven months after Lloyd George had replaced Asquith as Prime Minister, Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions.  Serving in that capacity, he reorganized the department and repeated his advocacy of air power and the tank.   

The two separate cabinet positions that Churchill held in the four years following the end of the war provided him with the opportunity to affect international political matters that influence our world today.  In January 1919, just two months after the end of the war, Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for War and Air.  During his tenure in this position, he was a staunch advocate for Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, declaring that Bolshevism should be “strangled in its cradle.”  Some of the antipathy that he displayed toward the Bolsheviks and their revolutionary tactics would be carried over into the anti-Soviet declarations and rhetoric that he would employ in the early years of the Cold War.   

From 1921 to 1922, Churchill served as Colonial Secretary and was faced with various problems in the Middle East, including riots in British-occupied parts of the former Ottoman Empire.  Churchill was opposed to granting the complete independence that some of the Arabs had been promised.  Instead, his aims were to reduce the British forces in the region and to ensure that British interests were protected. To address these problems, he convened a conference in Cairo in March of 1921 that greatly influenced the political boundaries and tensions in the Middle East for many years to come, including the creation of Iraq from the three former Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. Churchill’s role in the creation of Iraq has been criticized by many historians as having created an artificial state that would harbor deep-seated animosities among tribes and factions that were not considered or ignored by those in attendance at the conference.   

Recommended Reading

Best, Geoffrey. Churchill: A Study in Greatness. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Churchill, Winston. The World Crisis: 1911-1918. Free Press, 2005.   

Churchill, Winston. The World Crisis, Vol. 4: 1918-1928 (The Aftermath). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1929.   

Gilbert, Martin. Churchill: A Life. Henry Holt, 1991.  

Lewin, Ronald. Churchill as Warlord.  Stein and Day, 1973.  

Kevin Radaker  

Professor of English at Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, Kevin Radaker began offering his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the summer of 2016 with the Oklahoma Chautauqua.  Since 1991, he has presented his dramatic portrayal of Henry David Thoreau over 400 times around the nation.  Since 2009, he has presented his portrayal of C. S. Lewis over 70 times in seven states and at an international teachers’ conference in 2011 in Beijing, China.  Besides teaching courses in American Literature and writing, he has published articles on Thoreau, Herman Melville, Annie Dillard, and Wendell Berry in academic journals and encyclopedias.   

Bullet Points

As First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915, Winston Churchill was dedicated to the modernization of England’s war machinery, and he was the first member of the war cabinet to push for the disastrous Dardanelles campaign.   

From January to May 1916, Churchill was exposed to the trials and horrors of trench warfare in serving as the commanding officer of the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers.  

From July 1917 to January 1919, Churchill served as Minister of Munitions, during which time his renewed advocacy of the armored tank and air power helped to bring about several allied victories during the final year of the war.

From February 1921 to November 1922, Churchill served as Colonial Secretary, during which time he oversaw much of the re-mapping of the Middle East as we know it today.


“It is a crime to despair.  We must learn to draw from misfortune the means of future strength.”

“A nation without a conscience is a nation without a soul.  A nation without a soul is a nation that cannot live.”

“Never must we lose our faith and our courage, never must we fail in exertion and resolve.”

“In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.”

“It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be made to spread as easily and rapidly as folly.”  


1874 - Born two months premature at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

1895 – 1900 - Serves as war correspondent and/or cavalry officer in Cuba, India, the Sudan, and South Africa

1900 - Becomes a member of Parliament within the Conservative Party  

1904 - Crosses the floor to sit as a member of the Liberal Party

1908 - Marries Clementine Hozier  

1910 – 1911 - Serves as Home Secretary

1911 – 1915 - Serves as First Lord of the Admiralty

1917 – 1919 - Serves as Minister of Munitions

1919 – 1921 - Serves as Secretary of State for War and Air

1921 – 1922 - Serves as Secretary of State for the Colonies

1924 - Crosses the floor once again to sit as a member of the Conservative Party

1924 – 1929 - Serves as Chancellor of the Exchequer

1939 – 1940 - Serves once again as First Lord of the Admiralty

1940 –1945 - Serves as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II

1951 –1955 - Serves once again as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

1965 - Dies at his London home at the age of 90