The military and political life of Sir Winston Churchill

Mr Winston Churchill gives a 'victory' sign whilst on board the Cunard liner Queen Mary, on which he was sailing to New York. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in 1874, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and American socialite Jenneate Jerome.

After an early career as a soldier and war correspondent, Churchill was elected as a Conservative MP in 1901, but joined the Liberals after the Conservative Party split over free trade.

Having served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty where he helped modernise the navy, he returned to the army, serving on the Western Front, in 1916.

After the fall of the government in 1929 he did not hold office for a decade, his so-called ‘Wilderness Years’. He consistently warned of the threat of German re-armament and returned to public life as First Lord of the Admiralty on the outbreak of the Second World War.

Winston Churchill as a Cornet (Second Lieutenant) in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

In May 1940 he became Prime Minister. In his first speech to the new Administration he declared:

Defeated in the post-victory 1945 general election, he argued strongly for Western unity against the threat of Communism. He was returned to office in 1951 and finally retired in 1955, aged 80.

In 1953 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

In the course of his lifetime Churchill received thirty-seven orders, decorations and medals including Companion of Honour (1922), Order of Merit (1946), and Order of the Garter (1953). He died on 24 January 1965 and was given a state funeral, the first commoner to be so honoured since Gladstone in 1898.

Sir Winston Churchill's flag-draped coffin on the gun-carriage in the State funeral procession. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

He was also the first commoner to be portrayed on a British coin – the 1965 crown or five shilling piece and he will now be honoured on the £5 note in 2016.