Today is the birthday of Winston Churchill (books by this author), born at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England (1874). He had an unhappy childhood, and was a poor student, so his father settled on a military career for the boy. He served in Cuba and, later, India. He read extensively during this time, to make up for his spotty education, and in 1899 he resigned his military post to become a politician and a writer. He lost his first Parliamentary election by a narrow margin, and went to South Africa to report on the Boer War for the Morning Post. He was taken prisoner there after rescuing an armored train, then escaped from the military prison. He returned home a hero.
He had a speech impediment, which affected his confidence in debates, and though he was a master of prepared speeches, he suffered in impromptu ones. One Conservative leader said he carried “heavy but not very mobile guns.” He became known for his ability to rally disheartened Britons during World War II. One of many examples: “The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. 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.’”