• Why is Churchill famous?

    Britain's war leader
    Winston Churchill was Britain's prime minister for most of World War II. He was famous for his speeches, and for his refusal to give in, even when things were going badly. For a time he was the most famous person in Britain. People all over the world know the name Winston Churchill.

    When did he live?
    Churchill was born in 1874. He lived through two world wars. He saw the first cars, the first planes, and the first astronauts in space. He was at the crowning of Elizabeth II as Queen in 1953. He was an MP for over 60 years. Winston Churchill died in 1965.

    What was special about Churchill?
    People remember Churchill as a war leader. But he did other important jobs in a long life full of adventures. Winston Churchill loved history and in his life he made history.

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  • Churchill's childhood

    Where was Churchill born?
    Winston was born on 30 November 1874, in Blenheim Palace near Oxford.

    Blenheim is a great house built in the 1700s for John Churchill. He was Duke of Marlborough and a famous soldier. He was Winston's ancestor. Winston's mother was visiting Blenheim when her baby was born.

    Winston and brother Jack
    The baby was named Winston Spencer Churchill. His mother was Jennie Jerome, an American. His father was Lord Randolph Churchill, an important person in the government at the time.

    Winston had a younger brother, Jack. A nurse looked after the boys. Their mother and father were often busy and away from home.

    Sent to school
    At 7, Winston was sent away to school. He hated it. He was beaten (hit) by his teacher, and never got enough to eat.

    He liked his next school. It was by the sea. He learned to swim and ride horses.

    A royal celebration
    Winston enjoyed a visit to London in 1887. Crowds waved flags and bands played. It was Queen Victoria's Jubilee, to mark 50 years as Queen.

    Then came exams... Winston was so puzzled by one exam paper, he wrote his name - and nothing else!

    Good at lessons?
    But he passed the exams! In 1888, he went to Harrow School, a famous public school.

    Winston liked reading. He liked history and learning poems by heart. But his writing was bad, he was often late for class, and he lost his books.

    Winston was good at fencing. He wrote letters home asking for pocket money, jam and cake.

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  • Wars and adventures

    Winston joins the Army
    In 1893, Winston went to the Army college at Sandhurst. He wanted to be a soldier in the cavalry.

    1895 was a sad year. His father died. So did his nurse.

    Winston went to America and Cuba. He started writing for newspapers about his adventures.

    Army adventures
    In 1896 Churchill was sent to India, which was then part of the British Empire.

    Winston knew many important people. He asked the prime minister to help him fight in a war in the Sudan, in Africa. In 1898 he rode with the cavalry at the Battle of Omdurman.

    In South Africa
    Next, he went as a newspaper reporter to South Africa. There, the British Army was fighting the Boers.

    Winston was captured by the Boers, but escaped. He climbed out of a window, then hid on a train.

    He came home a hero. In 1900, he was elected as an MP.

    In 1908, Winston married Clementine Hozier.

    Winston runs the Navy
    Soon Winston was in the government.

    By 1910, he was Home Secretary. In 1911 he took charge of the Royal Navy. At this time, Britain had the world's biggest navy.

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  • From 1914 to 1939

    In 1914, World War I began. Churchill wanted the Navy to win battles. But in 1915 his plan for an attack on Turkey went badly wrong. Many British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers died. Churchill resigned. He went to fight in France as a soldier.

    By 1917 he was back in the government. He was in charge of new weapons. He was excited by the new tanks. Tanks helped win the war by 1918.

    The 1920s
    In the 1920s Churchill bought Chartwell, a house in Kent. He and his wife had five children. He wrote books to earn extra money.

    In 1924, he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was in charge of the country's money and taxes. He was not a success. He left this job in 1929.

    The 1930s and Hitler
    In the 1930s, Churchill said Britain must get ready for a new war. Germany's leader Adolf Hitler was a danger to peace. But he was not in the government, so people took little notice of his warnings.

    War again
    In 1939, Germany attacked Poland. Britain and France went to war with Germany. World War II began.

    Churchill was put in charge of the Navy again. But the war went badly. By 1940, France was beaten. Britain faced invasion.

    Britain needed a new leader. In May 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.

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  • War leader

    Britain at war
    Britain still had friends. The British Empire sent help. People from the Caribbean, Africa, India, Canada, Australia and New Zealand left home to fight alongside Britain.

    Churchill used radio to tell the world Britain was not beaten. His speeches helped keep up people's spirits.

    'We shall never surrender' he told Parliament.

    Keeping up spirits
    Churchill led Britain through the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. He walked through towns damaged by bombs. He met pilots, sailors and soldiers. He visited factories. Everywhere he went he gave the 'V for Victory' sign.

    The Big Three
    From 1941, America was in the war. So was Russia. Britain, America and Russia were now Allies.

    Churchill became a friend of America's President Roosevelt. He met Russia's leader, Josef Stalin. The three leaders were called 'the Big Three'.

    The war ends
    On D-Day (6 June) 1944, the Allies landed armies in France. Churchill wanted to go too, but had to wait until it was safer.

    The war in Europe ended in May 1945. Crowds cheered Churchill. He stood with the King and Queen.

    Britain had an election. The Conservative Party lost. The Labour Party won. Churchill (a Conservative) gave up being Prime Minister.

    By August 1945 World War II was over. What would Churchill do next?

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  • Churchill's last years

    Back in power
    Churchill kept busy. He wrote books and made speeches. He was still leader of the Conservatives, and they won the 1951 election. Churchill went back to 10 Downing Street as prime minister. He was 76.

    Sir Winston
    In 1953, Elizabeth II was crowned Queen. Churchill became Sir Winston Churchill. He was given the Nobel Prize for Literature, for his history books.

    In 1955, he gave up being prime minister. But he was an MP until 1964. Though old and often not well, he still enjoyed painting pictures.

    Churchill dies
    Churchill died on 24 January 1965. Many world leaders came to his state funeral. Crowds lined the streets.

    Many famous British people are buried in Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral. But Churchill's grave is in a country churchyard near Oxford.

    A famous name
    In Westminster Abbey in London, visitors see a simple stone slab. On the stone are the words: 'Remember Winston Churchill'.

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Winston Churchill Game

Winston Churchill

What was life like for Winston Churchill during World War II?

Fun Facts
  • At his first school Winston kicked the teacher's straw hat to bits. He got cross after being beaten for stealing sugar.

  • As a boy Winston collected stamps from all over the world, given to him by his father.

  • During World War II Churchill spent nights in the underground War Rooms in London. You can see his bed in the museum there.

  • Churchill was famous for smoking big cigars, though doctors told him not to.

  • Churchill's nickname was 'Winnie'.

  • During World War I Churchill learned to fly a plane. His wife told him this was too dangerous!

Other famous politicians and reformers

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A to D

10 Downing Street
This is the London home of the UK's prime minister.
Someone in your family tree, like a great-great-grandfather.
Countries that help one another in a war.
Battle of Britain
Air battle between British and German planes in 1940.
Air raids on Britain in 1940-41.
White South Africans who fought the British.
British Empire
Countries ruled by Britain, now the Commonwealth.
Soldiers who fight on horseback.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The government minister in charge of money and taxes.

E to G

When people vote for something or someone.
Sport using blunt swords, scoring points for 'hits'.

H to L

Home Secretary
The government minister in charge of law and order and police.
Is when one country sends its army to attack another country.

M to O

Member of Parliament, a person elected to make our laws.
Britain's navy, a fleet of warships.
Nobel Prize
Award given to people from any country for outstanding work.
A nanny, who looked after children in a rich family.

P to S

Where MPs meet to make the country's laws.
Prime Minister
The leader of the government.
public school
An independent (private) school.
When someone chooses to leave their job.
state funeral
The funeral of a very important person.
When people speak in public or on radio or TV.
This is a big country in east Africa.

T to Z

Money people pay to the government, for schools, hospitals and so on.
World War I
War from 1914-18 fought mainly in Europe and the Middle East.
World War II
War from 1939-45, fought in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.