22/01/2015 07:05 GMT | Updated 24/01/2015 04:59 GMT

Winston Churchill's 5 Most Rousing Moments And 5 We'd Rather Forget

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the death of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

A brilliant statesman, he was considered a hero by many for leading the country to victory over Nazi Germany... and a villain by some.

winston churchill

Winston Churchill died on 24 January 1965

Here are five of his most rousing moments… and five we’d rather forget.

1. The 'Iron Curtain’ speech

Delivered in 1946 as leader of the opposition, Churchill’s ‘Sinew’s of Peace’ address was seen by many as marking the beginning of the Cold War, as well as calling for a “special relationship” between the Britain and the United States.

Churchill, who was no longer Prime Minister when he gave the address, described it as “the most important speech of my career”.

2. ‘We Shall Fight On The Beaches’

Delivered in the House of Commons on 4 June 1940, Churchill’s speech came as the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour came to a close.

While he was candid about the battle being a huge defeat, his address was regarded as an inspiring call to arms as he vowed: “We shall go on to the end… We shall never surrender.”

3. ‘Their Finest Hour’

Churchill had been Prime Minister for just one month when France fell to the Germans. On 18 June 1940 he issued a rallying cry and ordered the nation to hold its nerve as the Luftwaffe prepared to invade the skies of southern England.

winston churchill finest hour

Addressing a Conservative Party rally in East London on 27 September, 1947

He said: “I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life… Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war…

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’.”

4. Churchill the scientist and inventor

A champion of technology and inventions, Churchill’s fascination with science led to technological advances that some say helped Britain win the Second World War.

He was the first PM to insist on a scientific adviser and under his leadership scientists were given unprecedented access to the government and funding – resulting in the creation of the ground-breaking Bernard Lovell telescope.

winston churchill invention

Churchill, giving evidence during the sitting of the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors considering the claim of the invention of the tank

Churchill was also something of an inventor himself, creating his own battlefield contraptions he referred to as "funnies" (most of which it must be said, did not get off the ground.)

The HG Wells fan was also the first leader to forsee the potential of the nuclear age, writing in 1924: “Might a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess a secret power to… blast a township at a stroke?”

5. Nobel Prize for Literature winner

Churchill won the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

His literary career began with campaign reports and grew to include a novel, a biography of his father and another of his great ancestor the Duke of Marlborough. He authored a history of the First World War and memoirs of the Second World War.

winston churchill writing

Churchill was a gifted writer and was awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature

London Mayor Boris Johnson points out Churchill also wrote as a means of managing his depression.

In his book The Churchill Factor, he wrote: “His creative-depressive personality meant that writing (or painting or bricklaying) was a way of keeping the ‘black-dog’ of depression at bay. He wrote for that sensation of release that comes with laying 200 bricks and writing 2,000 words a day.”

winston churchill writing

Writing kept Churchill's 'black dog' at bay

1. Churchill once called for the forced sterilisation of the “feeble-minded and insane classes.”

As Home Secretary in December 1910, he wrote to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith with concerns that: “The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate. I am convinced that the multiplication of the Feeble-Minded, which is proceeding now at an artificial rate, unchecked by any of the old restraints of nature, and actually fostered by civilised conditions, is a terrible danger to the race.”

Churchill described sterilisation as a “a simple surgical operation so the inferior could be permitted freely in the world without causing much inconvenience to others.”

2. Churchill's views on India and Mahatma Ghandi

Commenting on Gandhi's meeting with the Viceroy of India, 1931, Churchill said: “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a campaign of civil disobedience, to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King.”

mahatma ghandi

Churchill described it as 'nauseating' to see Mahatma Ghandi 'striding half naked up the steps of a viceregal palace'

An strident imperialist at heart who opposed independence for India, he was also said to go on tirades about the “foul race” of Hindus.

3. Poison gas

“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes… [It] would spread a lively terror,” states a memorandum attributed to Churchill in reference to Kurds and Afghans in 1919 during his role as minister for war and air.

churchill war room

Churchill's comments about poison gas were controversial, though many say they were misquoted

Online resource WinstonChurchill.org points out the quote is often truncated, stating the full quote (here) makes it clear Churchill was referring to tear gas with a “moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum.”

4. Was Churchill an anti-Semite?

An article attributed to Churchill in 1937 was unearthed in 2007 in which he blamed Jews for their own persecution.

The unpublished piece has been dismissed by some who claim Churchill himself rejected it because of the views of the ghost-writer journalist Adam Marshall Diston, who composed it.

Churchill author Warren Doktor told the BBC: "Casual anti-Semitism was rampant, [but] it's inconceivable to pitch him as anti-Semitic."

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Churchill's attitude towards Jews has been considered controversial

Churchill also accused Jews of being behind a “worldwide [Communist] conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization,” in a 1920 piece for the lllustrated Sunday Herald entitled Zionism versus Bolshevism .

In the same piece he wrote: "Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world."

5. Did Churchill lay the foundations for apartheid in South Africa?

British colonial interests in South Africa led to the Boer wars between British and Dutch settlers. While the Boers initially gained control over Transvaal, they were forced to recognize British sovereignty in 1902.


The British encouraged and used black Africans to gain victory over the Boers and in 1910 created the Union of South Africa. The British allowed the Boers or Afrikaners self-government but did not allow black Africans to have a say in elections of a national parliament

Winston Churchill, then Under-Secretary for the Colonies, argued that the Afrikaners should be allowed self-rule, a self-rule which would mean black Africans would be excluded from the vote.

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