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Winston Churchill is cheered by workers during a visit to bomb-damaged Plymouth, 2 May 1941. H9265

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Winston Churchill is cheered by workers during a visit to bomb-damaged Plymouth, 2 May 1941. H9265

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Winston Churchill is cheered by workers during a visit to bomb-damaged Plymouth, 2 May 1941.
Winston Churchill is cheered by workers during a visit to bomb damaged Plymouth on 2 May 1941. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Lady Nancy Astor, Lord Mayoress of Plymouth, on this visit, who can be seen behind Churchill.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was born into the family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician; his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite. As a young army officer and war correspondent, he fought campaigns in British India, Sudan, and a Second Boer War. Before the First World War, he served as a President of the UK Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty. During the WWI, he served as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign. He then briefly resumed active army service on the Western Front as commander of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government under Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, then Secretary of State for the Colonies. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Baldwin's Conservative government of 1924–1929, controversially returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure on the UK economy. Out of office during the 1930s Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His speeches and radio broadcasts helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult days of 1940–41 when the British Commonwealth and Empire stood almost alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured. After the Conservative Party lost the 1945 election, he became Leader of the Opposition. In one of the most famous orations of the Cold War period, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemns the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declares, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” Churchill’s speech is considered one of the opening volleys announcing the beginning of the Cold War. The speech was given in Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in the presence of President Harry S. Truman. It opened a new era of closer “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain and warned against the expansionistic policies of the Soviet Union. In addition to the “iron curtain” that had descended across Eastern Europe, Churchill spoke of “communist fifth columns” that were operating throughout western and southern Europe. Drawing parallels with the disastrous appeasement of Hitler prior to World War II, Churchill advised that in dealing with the Soviets there was “nothing which they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for military weakness.” Truman and many other U.S. officials warmly received the speech. Already they had decided that the Soviet Union was bent on expansion and only a tough stance would deter the Russians. Churchill’s “iron curtain” phrase immediately entered the official vocabulary of the Cold War. U.S. officials were less enthusiastic about Churchill’s call for a “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain. While they viewed the English as valuable allies in the Cold War, they were also well aware that Britain’s power was on the wane and had no intention of being used as pawns to help support the crumbling British empire. In the Soviet Union, Russian leader Joseph Stalin denounced the speech as “warmongering,” and referred to Churchill’s comments about the “English-speaking world” as imperialist “racism.” The British, Americans, and Russians-allies against Hitler less than a year before the speech—were drawing the battle lines of the Cold War. After winning the 1951 election, Churchill again became Prime Minister. Churchill suffered a serious stroke in 1953 and retired as Prime Minister in 1955, although he remained a Member of Parliament until 1964. Upon his death aged ninety in 1965, Elizabeth II granted him the honor of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history. Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, consistently ranking well in opinion polls of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom.

Astor's first husband was American Robert Gould Shaw II; the couple separated after four years and divorced in 1903. She moved to England and married Waldorf Astor. After her husband succeeded to the peerage and entered the House of Lords, she entered politics as a member of the Conservative Party and won his former seat of Plymouth Sutton in 1919, becoming the first woman to sit as an MP in the House of Commons.[a] She served in Parliament until 1945, when she was persuaded to step down. Astor has been criticised for her antisemitism and sympathetic view of Nazism.

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1939 - 1945
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Imperial War Museum
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