Your ability to live in freedom is likely all thanks to one man. A man who gave people hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. The free world seemed no match for the Nazis, but despite this fact, this man still believed that we could come out of the war victorious. He inspired the people to persevere and made them believe that victory was not only achievable, but even inevitable. This man was Winston Churchill.
But Churchill didn’t magically transform into a figure who could inspire people to fight a seemingly hopeless war. He was already 65 years of age when he became prime minister in May of 1940. He had tons of life experience and had already faced tremendous trials in his life before his premiership. When he became prime minister, it almost seemed like his previous life had only been a preparation for the trial he was going to face.
Since he was young, Churchill had always been looking for opportunities to prove his bravery. He believed that if you would say that you are a courageous person, you need proof to back that claim up. You need to show situations and examples where you acted courageously.
So he thought, what better place to prove your bravery than in war? He fought in numerous wars in his lifetime, first during the Boer war in South Africa where he came close to death more than once, in Sudan, in Cuba, and when the Great War (WW1) broke out, he decided to fight on the frontlines, where he came close to death a couple of times again. All of these brave experiences prepared him for the trial he and his people would have to face in the Second World War.
Churchill sought out danger and war with the conviction that he couldn’t call himself brave if he didn’t have proof.
There’s a lot you can learn from this attitude Churchill had towards bravery. It’s important to prove that you are brave, simply saying it won´t do. You must charge head into the danger, coming out as a better and braver man.
There are multiple occasions where Churchill proved his bravery; facing gunfire on a train; escaping from a prison in South Africa; and fighting in the trenches in the Great War. Here are a couple of the brave undertakings of Churchill's life, starting when he fought in the Boer War in South Africa to when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War:
The Boer War and his Prison Escape:
One of Churchill's first, and immediately most courageous undertakings was joining the fight in the Boer war. A war fought in South Africa between The British Empire and the local Boers, mostly a struggle for control of the land and the people. Churchill saw a war going on and wanted in on the action, so he joined the army in South Africa. During his period in the Boer War, he probably experienced the most incredible story of his life, and it’s a story that revolves around bravery.
When a train Churchill was on got ambushed by a couple of Boers, it stopped, and heavy gunfighting began. Churchill didn’t shy away from this gunfighting, in fact, he did quite the opposite. Most people were fleeing the train and were getting to safety, but Churchill was not one of them. He stayed on the train, trying to rescue all of the people still in danger while being shot at left, right, and center, putting his life in severe danger. But miraculously, Churchill didn’t get hit and came out of it unscathed, but something else happened.
Churchill was bringing numerous people to safety, showing off his bravery by staying with the train and helping people who were still in danger while still being under fire by the Boers.
He did get a lot of people to safety, but Churchill himself didn’t get out.
He was captured by the Boers and thrown in a South African prison. He first tried asking them to release him because he was simply a war journalist, not a soldier. But the Boers felt that his brave actions earlier on the train had proved otherwise. They believed he was not just a journalist, so they kept him. They later even found out that Churchill came from an aristocratic family, which made him more valuable to the Boers, so an easy release seemed impossible.
But Churchill didn’t give up. He needed to get out and get back to England, but how? The only option he could think of was to escape. So he planned his escape, and one night when the guards weren’t watching, he climbed over a fence and ran several miles through the lands of South Africa. He had to be very careful too, because the Boers were still actively looking for the escaped Englishmen and wanted to bring him back to exact justice. This meant Churchill had no choice but to move fast, and to keep moving. Eventually, through luck (or destiny) he came across a mine where he decided to stay, but there were already people living there, likely South Africans. The Boers were looking for him and set a bounty on his head, so if he met someone who was willing to turn him in, he was finished, so he needed to be careful.
Luckily for him, the resident was an Englishman, and they got along quite well.
In the end, after going back to the prison he escaped from freeing all of the other prisoners, Churchill came back home, but certainly not empty-handed. He had a tale of bravery he could tell, saving people in a train crash while under heavy artillery fire, getting captured in a South African prison, escaping, and coming out alive. Now he finally had the unmistakable proof he was looking for. He was a brave person, and no one could say otherwise.
His task in South Africa was accomplished.
Disaster and Bravery in the Great War:
When WW1 began, Churchill couldn´t keep his hands off it. He became Lord of the Admiralty, a position where he had a lot of control over naval and military operations. One of his intended brave endeavors during this time turned out to be a disaster. His plan was to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in modern-day Turkey so that the army could from there on march through Turkey to capture Constantinople. The plan sounded great, but it ultimately turned out to be a catastrophe, costing thousands of lives, and achieving nothing. The worst part for Churchill afterward, was that he kept pushing the campaign, even though it seemed hopeless. Even the chiefs of staff and other experts told him that they should just retreat. Churchill didn´t listen and went on with his campaign anyway. This only made it worse, and afterward, they had to retreat nonetheless, only costing Britain more lives than if they had pulled back earlier.
Churchill was devastated and his career seemed over. After the disaster, he immediately resigned, and Gallipoli became a cloud that was always hanging over his head. The criticism he often received from his colleagues there on after was that he had bad judgment, an argument mostly based on his failed Gallipoli campaign.
Churchill fell into a depression, feeling that his career was over and that he was finished. But after a while, he found his next calling. He wanted to contribute to Britain winning the Great War, so if he couldn´t do it through politics, he would do it by fighting in the trenches himself. So that is exactly what he did. He volunteered to fight in the war at age 40, which was highly irregular, especially for someone who was actually a politician. Within this period of fighting on the front, he came close to death a dozen times, but he had always felt that dying in the war was not his destiny, during a previous war he said: “I am so conceited I do not believe the Gods would create so potent a being as myself for so prosaic an ending.” Talking about him being shot at.
What fighting in the Great War did for his political career, was convince everyone again that Churchill was a brave man. He had proof once again, which he could show when he would run for a political office. None of the politicians at that time had any proof of their bravery, so this made Churchill stand out in quite a positive way. It helped him tremendously in gaining office once again and getting into good graces with the public. Risking your life for the good of the British Empire was always appreciated and admired. Gallipoli was still not forgotten in the minds of the people, but he was essentially forgiven for his mistake. Bravery will solve a lot of problems, at least it did for Winston Churchill.
“If my destiny has not already been accomplished I shall be guarded surely.” ~ Churchill
Warning the Nation and Seizing the Premiership during WW2:
Before the Second World War broke out, the shared opinion of every politician was appeasement. Which meant essentially, just giving the Nazis what they want in the hope that they were not going to want more, which in hindsight was obviously ridiculous, but at the time everybody agreed.
Churchill was already heavily anti-appeasement years before the Second World War even started. When Hitler rose to power he was already making speeches about the immediate threat he would form, and why Britain and other nations needed to prepare for war.
Churchill was in his so-called Wilderness years just before the war, which was the period where he did not have a political position in the parliament, and was just giving speeches because he felt like he had something to say. These speeches were however not to please the parties so that they would give him back a seat in the parliament. On the contrary, his speeches went directly against the policies that almost the entire cabinet was in favor of. He believed that Britain needed to prepare for war, because he saw the threat of Nazi Germany building up, with them rapidly expanding their military, and he felt like Britain needed to do the same thing. The appeasers in the parliament believed him to be a warmonger, and that he would destroy the country by going to war with Germany. They believed that war could be avoided and peace negotiations were possible, only later on, they found out that they were wrong.
“His obvious interest in warfare was no longer warmongering, it was invaluable.” ~ Andrew Roberts, author of ‘Churchill: Walking With Destiny’
With war just around the corner, everyone was looking at Churchill. He had predicted this whole war in the first place, and he wanted a position in the parliament so that he could contribute something to the war effort. The people now wanted Winston Churchill back because of his correct predictions, and he got back into the position of Lord of the Admiralty. The people were overjoyed, stating everywhere: Winston is Back!
But Lord of the Admiralty wasn’t enough. Churchill had always had the dream of becoming the Prime Minister, and he couldn’t let his country down in a situation of grave danger. When it became clear that because of the failed appeasement policies, the current government and its Prime Minister were not supported anymore by the parties and the British citizens, someone else had to take over, and Churchill was eager to take up the position. Because of his long and eclectic wartime experience, they believed him to be the man who could lead Britain out of the war and bring it to a victorious ending. So he mustered all of his bravery again and decided that he was going to become the Prime Minister and save his country, exactly like he told a friend when he was only sixteen years of age: "I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world; great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be in danger—London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defence of London. … London will be in danger and in the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the Capital and save the Empire.” The stars aligned, and he got his opportunity to save London, and by extension the entire world.
In the period of the Second World War when London was being bombed and the situation looked hopeless, Churchill was a beacon of light to the people. He inspired them and gave them hope that they could come out of this war victorious. But Churchill didn’t just show his bravery by making incredible speeches, he wanted a taste of the action too. He went around the country during the Blitz (the bombing of London by German bomber planes) visiting all kinds of military posts to inspire the people, letting them know that he was with them during these difficult times.
When there were German bomber planes flying over London, Churchill hurried up to the roof of the building with a helmet on and his binoculars ready, watching the planes fly over the city. He wanted to see what was happening in real-time, it didn’t matter to him that it was extremely dangerous to do this (he could have been hit by a bomb at any time). But this was Winston Churchill, bold and brave, and he wanted to prove this quality of bravery every chance he got.
"You would rise in the world? You must work while others amuse themselves. Are you desirous of a reputation for courage? You must risk your life." ~ Churchill