British American Group

People – Great Britons

Posted on: November 17, 2006

Great Britons In November 2002, the British public voted for the Greatest Briton of all time. Following a nationwide poll that attracted over a million votes, the clear winner was revealed to be Sir Winston Churchill.

Learn about the Greatest Briton, Winston Churchill and many of the other top contenders who are the fabric of British life and history.

1. Winston Churchill – 456,498 votes

Winston S. Churchill (1874 – 1965)

Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace on 30 November 1874. His father was Lord Randolph Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough’s younger son. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of a wealthy American businessman. Like most parents of the time, Lord and Lady Churchill were distant and aloof figures to the young Winston. His was a privledged childhood, though not a particularly happy one. He had a rebellious nature and was described as ‘wilful’.

In 1895 Churchill graduated from Sandhurst. His adventures began when he travelled to the United States and Cuba. He saw action on the north west frontier of India, joined Kitchener’s expeditionary force to the Sudan, and participated in the cavalry charge against the Dervishes at the Omdurman battle. In 1899 Churchill was in South Africa as a correspondent of the Morning Post to cover the Boer War. He was captured, spending his twenty-fifth birthday as a prisoner of war. Churchill soon escaped and made his way to Durban.

In 1908, Churchill married Clementine Hozier, who was the granddaughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie. They had five children, but only four survived into adulthood. The marriage was a long and happy one, though there were the normal quarrels of a married couple. Their personal correspondence sheds light on the private people behind the public myth. They even had little nicknames for each other – he was her ‘pug’ and she was his ‘cat’.

Churchill’s role in WWII was to instil in the British people his own fiery resolve, and waved aside the German army as a bunch of “dandified, heel-clicking Prussians”. Throughout the summer of 1940, when Britain momentarily stood alone, his speeches proved to be a great inspiration to all his fellow subjects.

Churchill did more than just talk. He put meaning to his words by touring the country and inspecting the bomb-damaged towns, and tirelessly working on diplomatic and military initiatives to regain the offensive.

Though defeated in the post-war 1945 General Election, he remained a hugely important international figure, and used his status to speak out about the new threats posed by the Cold War and the need for reconciliation in Western Europe. In October 1951, the Conservative Party achieved a narrow victory at the polls and Churchill became Prime Minister once again. His stroke forced him to resign the premiership in April 1955, but he remained an MP until 1964. Hardly anyone knew that Churchill had a stroke, so miraculous was his recovery. When he was back on his feet again, there was a slight slur to his words, but other than that he was in fine form again. But that is Winston: working hard and never giving up until the very end.

More about Winston Churchill


[more to come]

More in the Top 100:

Royalty – King Arthur, Alfred the Great, Queen Victoria, Elizabeth I & II, Diana Princess of Wales

Scientists – Alexander Fleming(biologist), Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton

Poets and writers – J R R Tolkien, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens

Musicians – Edward Elgar, The Beatles, Julie Andrews

War Heros – Horatio Nelson, William Wallace, Duke of Wellington

Historical figures – Owain Glyndwr, Oliver Cromwell

For the full list, in alphabetical order, see the BBC: Top 100


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