July 29, 2002

HSLDA Essay Contest: Category I, Third Place

Winston Churchill
by Andrew P. Colbert

The year was 1940. Hitler's armies were sweeping through France. Only one man stood between him and global domination. That man was Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Britain during the crucial years of World War II. His leadership and determination led to the ultimate defeat of Hitler's Nazi regime, saving not just England, but the world from Nazi domination. Winston Churchill was a hero.

A hero can be defined as a man admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities, whose actions are motivated by conviction, not ambition.1 Winston Churchill was a hero because his outward actions were a result of deep inward convictions.

Winston Churchill is arguably the greatest man of the 20th century. Born in 1874 to Lord Randolph Churchill and Jennie Jerome, he received his commission in the army when he was 20. He left the military in 1900 to become a member of parliament, a position he would hold almost continually for the next 45 years. During the 1930's, his was the only voice warning against Nazi aggression. When the war broke out in 1939, the public turned to him to lead them in the fight against the Nazi regime. He was more than equal to the challenge.

Churchill's courage and determination were the nation's main source of inspiration during the war. When France surrendered, he made it clear that England would fight on:

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall. fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender."2

This was not mere rhetoric. Churchill led by example. It was not uncommon to see the little man walking the streets of London in the midst of an air raid, his trademark cigar in his mouth. That cigar became a symbol of strength and determination. His courage was an inspiration to the nation. One of his secretaries said, "It was impossible to feel afraid while he was present."3

This leadership gave the people resolve to continue the fight. Until the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941, England stood alone. Had it not been for Churchill, Hitler would have had his way with the Europe, and probably the world. Hitler himself was so sure of this fact that in the last year of his life the mere sight of a photograph of Churchill would throw him into a fit.4 In addition, both John McCain and George W. Bush have credited Churchill with saving the West.5

What enabled Churchill to stand firm when so many faltered? The answer is his faith. Churchill's nurse had brought him up in the church, but his faith was shattered when he read books on religious rationalism while on duty in India.6 He did not recover it until his escape from a Boer prison camp in South Africa. He realized that all the humanistic philosophies were "fair weather friends" and that his only hope of deliverance was to cry out to God. He would later write, "I prayed long and earnestly for help and guidance. My prayer, as it seems to me, was swiftly and wonderfully answered."7

From this point onward, Churchill based all his actions on his faith. A prime example of this is his response to calls for appeasement:

"There can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism…and uses…with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force."8

In addition, in a speech on V-E day, he called for parliament "to offer thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination."9

Winston Churchill was one of the greatest men of our time. His leadership of Britain during the crucial years of World War Two led to the ultimate defeat of Hitler's armies. Winston Churchill was a hero because his outward actions and courage proceeded from inward faith and convictions. Truly it can be said of him the tribute he gave to the RAF pilots in 1940: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."10

1 Henry A. Kissinger, "With Faint Praise." New York Times Book Review, 16 July 1995: 7

2 Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1991), p. 656

3 "The Complete Churchill," [video recording] produced by Jeremy Bennet; directed by Marisa Appugleise, (New York N. Y.: A&E Home Video. c1992)

4 Robert Lewis Taylor, The Amazing Mr. Churchill (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc) p. 348

5 "Who should Be the Person of the Century?" Time, 22 November 1999: 7

6 Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life: A Roving Commission (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930)

7 Churchill, p. 276

8 Gilbert, p. 599

9 Winston Churchill.org: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/endwar.htm

10 David Reynolds, "Churchill in 1940: The Worst and Finest Hour," in Churchill, ed. Robert Blake and Wm. Roger Lewis (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993 ). p. 252