Winston Churchill: Military Campaigns

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Winston Churchill was born into a well-recognised military and political family in 1874. 

After serving as a military officer in three campaigns and also as a war correspondent he developed skills that set him on the road to greatness. Many of the qualities that would help save Britain from the Nazi invasion 40 years later were already emerging. These qualities included intense patriotism, an unshakeable belief in the greatness of Britain and her empire, inexhaustible energy, a strong physical constitution, a willingness to speak out on issues despite the fact to do so would prove unpopular, meticulous organisational skills and the ability to inspire and motivate others.

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When the First World War broke out in 1914, Churchill was Lord of the Admiralty and had a crucial role to play in the events of 1914-18. His experiences during the First World War educated him about political office and large-scale battle tactics, and it helped him come to terms with his leadership failings.

Not all of Churchill’s military campaigns in the First World War were successful. In 1915 he was instrumental in sending a naval and army force to Gallipoli in the Mediterranean. Gallipoli was a disaster and cost thousands if allied soldiers and sailors their lives. Admitting responsibility, Churchill resigned from both political and military office; he would not regain his pre-war political status for over 25 years. Failures by leaders last much longer in the minds of the public than successes.

It seemed that his troubled political years helped to develop his leadership skills and mental faculties to such as extent that in the hour of Britain’s crisis at the beginning of the Second World War, his skills and abilities matched the requirements of the situation better than those of his political contemporaries. During the 1930s Churchill spoke out vigorously on the rise of totalitarian regimes such as the Nazi party. This ensured that when confrontation between Britain and Germany inevitably arose, Churchill stood out as a statesman who had fought against the threat of Nazism for many years while other politicians had tried to appease Adolf Hitler.

The nation felt they had found a politician who understood the situation and whom it could trust. Churchill was reappointed to head up the Admiralty office on the same day that war officially broke out; 3 September 1939.

Norway fell to the Germans in April 1940 and this was quickly followed by the fall of Belgium and the Netherlands in May. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of the time, lost the confidence of Parliament and resigned. It was clear at that point that Churchill had the skills and spirit to unite and lead the nation. He was appointed Prime Minister to a coalition government headed by a war cabinet. After the fall of France, Britain stood without substantial allies and faced most of 1940 under German bombardment and the constant threat of Nazi invasion. Churchill used his personal skills and patriotism to motivate and inspire the British public to endure the hardships they faced with good humour, strength and resourcefulness. Churchill also used his extensive diplomacy and communication skills to forge alliances between nations with differing political and social philosophies, such as the communist Soviet Union and the capitalist United States.

Churchill’s leadership qualities were present from the early days of his military and political career but it is fair to say that some of the decisions he made in his early career did not show him as an effective leader in all circumstances.

Despite his many and varied leadership skills it is unlikely that he would have risen to greatness without the Second World War. It was the circumstances that Churchill found himself in that allowed his best abilities to dominate in a way that they might not otherwise have done.


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