Churchill: The Man Who Saved the Free World

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Feb 26, 2018

The West is free today thanks in large part to one man – Winston Churchill. Historian and bestselling author Andrew Roberts explains how Churchill saved the world from Nazi Germany.

Andrew Roberts' book Churchill: Walking with Destiny is available at Amazon.com. Click here.

Churchill’s crucial role in history was not stopping a German invasion, but stopping the British Government from appeasing the Nazis.

  • If Winston Churchill had not been British Prime Minister, the pro-appeasement foreign secretary Lord Halifax would have been.View Source
  • Churchill made the pursuit of German appeasement impossible.View Source
  • Had Churchill not rallied the British people in the face of defeat after defeat, preventing Hitler from maintaining a single-front war, the entire history of the free world would likely have been much different — and darker.View Source
  • Related reading: “Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945” – Andrew RobertsView Source

The most important lesson Churchill taught the world is that you cannot appease an evil, hostile enemy—you must resist them on all fronts.

  • Hitler wanted to fight a one-front war against Russia; a peace agreement with Britain — which the pro-appeasement British politicians wanted — would have allowed Hitler to do just that.View Source
  • Because of Winston Churchill’s steadfast resistance against German aggression and the marvelous resilience of the British people, the United States had an unsinkable aircraft carrier – Britain – from which to mount the liberation of the European Continent in June of 1944.View Source
  • Related reading: “Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership” – Andrew RobertsView Source

Winston Churchill changed the course of history by refusing to placate a hostile enemy and by inspiring a nation to “never surrender.”

  • When Nazi Germany finally attacked, France quickly collapsed. German forces fought their way to the English Channel by May 6, 1940.View Source
  • Belgium surrendered days later on May 20, 1940.View Source
  • A quarter of a million British soldiers barely managed to escape from Dunkirk.View Source
  • But British Prime Minister Winston Churchill never wavered. “We shall not flag or fail,” he said after Dunkirk. “We shall go on to the end. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be . . . we shall never surrender.”View Source
  • WATCH: “Churchill: Secrets of Leadership” – Andrew RobertsView Source

Churchill’s refusal to seek peace with Germany forced Hitler to fight a multi-front war, which the Nazis couldn’t maintain. 

  • Hitler wanted to fight a one-front war against Russia; a peace agreement with Britain — which the pro-appeasement British politicians wanted — would have allowed Hitler to do just that.View Source
  • Had Winston Churchill not rallied the British people in the face of defeat after defeat, preventing Hitler from maintaining a single-front war, the entire history of the free world would likely have been much different — and darker.View Source
  • WATCH: “Winston Churchill: Brilliant Statesman or Brutal Demagogue?” – Andrew RobertsView Source
  • Related reading: “Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945” – Andrew RobertsView Source

Great expertise requires great effort. Though Churchill become one of history’s greatest orators, he had to overcome a speech impediment. 

  • Winston Churchill had a stammer and a lisp, but he overcame these natural difficulties by studying the English language and constantly practicing.View Source
  • Churchill spent his life developing his skill as a communicator. He first found fame and success as a war correspondent in the 1890s, becoming one of the highest paid correspondents of his day.View Source
  • In addition to journalism, he became one the greatest historians of his age.View Source
  • Churchill influenced history by developing and relying on what had always been his strengths: his oratory and his writing. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” he told both his Cabinet and the House of Commons after becoming Prime Minister.View Source
  • Related reading: “Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership” – Andrew RobertsView Source

Churchill failed as a leader in WWI, but he had confidence in his convictions & talents and helped lead the Allies to success in WWII.

  • In 1915, Churchill hoped to bring a decisive and quick end to the Great War by opening a new front in modern day Turkey, which he perceived as the weak link in the German alliance against the allies. The result was the infamous Gallipoli campaign.View Source
  • Churchill first proposed a full attack in the Dardanelles with 50,000 troops, but the War Office didn’t meet his request. Badly underestimating the Turks, thousands of British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were killed. Churchill was the scapegoat. This was perhaps the low point of his life.View Source
  • Churchill rose again in British politics throughout the 1920s, and continued to be a public success through his writing and speaking.View Source
  • Related reading: “Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945” – Andrew RobertsView Source

Churchill warned against Britain’s appeasement policy. He recognized that hostile forces like the Nazis must be confronted, not placated.

  • As Adolf Hitler took power in Germany in the 1930s, Winston Churchill was one of the first and loudest voices sounding the alarm against him. But it was an alarm few in England wanted to hear.View Source
  • No one wanted to face the possibility that another world war could happen again.View Source
  • The English and many in Europe were still reeling from memories of the unimaginable scale of death and destruction of the First World War.View Source
  • The financial cost of World War I had been more than ten times the outlays of the Boer War, which Britain had waged from 1899-1902.View Source
  • Churchill, however, saw that a new confrontation with Germany was inevitable.View Source

Churchill’s life demonstrates the power of words. He used them to inspire a nation to never surrender—and as a result, changed history.

  • Winston Churchill influenced history by developing and relying on what had always been his strengths: his oratory and his writing. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” he told both his Cabinet and the House of Commons after becoming Prime Minister.View Source
  • Churchill had a stammer and a lisp, but he overcame these natural difficulties by studying the English language and constantly practicing.View Source
  • Churchill spent his life developing his skill as a communicator. He first found fame and success as a war correspondent in the 1890s, becoming one of the highest paid correspondents of his day.View Source
  • In addition to journalism, he became one the greatest historians of his age.View Source

In May 1940, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi war machine were sweeping across the European continent.

The future of the free world hung in the balance.

An isolationist-leaning United States was an ocean away. There was one man who stood between Hitler’s seemingly invincible army and crushing defeat.

That one man was Winston Churchill.

He was born on November 30, 1874. Though we think of him as the quintessential Englishman, he was actually half American.

His mother, Jennie, was the daughter of a wealthy New York stock speculator. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was of English nobility and a major political figure.

From his early school days, Churchill recognized the power of words. Throughout his life, he used them with consummate skill. They never let him down. 

He first made a name for himself as a war correspondent in the 1890s, covering conflicts in Cuba, Northern India, the Sudan, and South Africa. Though he never abandoned journalism, and became one the greatest historians of his age, Churchill used his family connections and his own fame to launch himself into politics. His confident manner and matchless oratory marked him as a natural leader. 

1914 and World War I found him in the key position of First Lord of the Admiralty where he did much to modernize Britain’s navy.  In 1915, Churchill thought he could bring a speedy end to the war by opening a new front in Turkey, which he perceived as the weak link in the German alliance against the allies.

This led to the infamous Gallipoli campaign.

Badly underestimating the fighting strength of the Turks, thousands of British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were killed in battles that proved to be every bit as indecisive and bloody as the campaigns on Europe’s Western front.

Churchill took the blame.

This was perhaps the low point of his life. Dismissed from the war cabinet, five months later he enlisted in the army, where he saw action in France. 

He rose again in British politics throughout the 1920s, making money—as he always did—through his writing and speaking.  As Adolph Hitler took power in Germany in the 1930s, Churchill was one of the first and certainly the loudest voice in England sounding the alarm. But it was an alarm few in England wanted to hear.

The English had been traumatized, as had all of Europe, by the shocking amount of death and destruction of the First World War. No one wanted to face the possibility that it could happen again.

Churchill, however, saw that a new confrontation with Germany was inevitable. And when the inevitable arrived with the stunning German attack on France in May 1940, a desperate nation turned to him. He was ready.

His weapons were his pen, his voice and his words. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” he told the House of Commons in his first speech as Prime Minister.

Things quickly turned from bad to worse. France collapsed, Belgium surrendered, and a quarter of a million British soldiers barely managed to escape from Dunkirk. Even as the war news moved from dangerous to desperate to disastrous, Churchill never wavered. In speech after speech, he infused the British with the spirit to fight on against Hitler’s monstrous tyranny.

“We shall not flag or fail,” he said after Dunkirk. “We shall go on to the end. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be…we shall never surrender.”

The point about Churchill in 1940 is not that he stopped a German invasion, but that he stopped the British Government making peace. If Churchill had not been Prime Minister, the pro-appeasement foreign secretary Lord Halifax would have been. 

We know that Halifax was open to negotiating with Hitler. We’d be mistaken to assume that the German Fuhrer’s terms would not have been reasonable; they would probably have been very reasonable, as Hitler wanted to fight a one-front war against Russia. And an agreement with Britain would have allowed him to do just that. 

Churchill made this impossible.

Had he not rallied the British people in the face of defeat after defeat, preventing Hitler from concentrating his full efforts on Russia, the entire history of the free world would have been much different. And, undoubtedly, much darker.

Because of Churchill’s efforts and the marvelous resilience of the British people, the United States had an unsinkable “aircraft carrier” —Britain— from which to mount the liberation of the European continent in June of 1944.

For this and so much more, free people everywhere can thank the greatest man of his age—Winston Churchill. 

I’m Andrew Roberts for Prager University.

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