Saturday, March 16, 2024


 By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

         “It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” Winston Churchill

         Churchill peppered his life’s walk with the past. Knowing that from the past he would glean wisdom to face today’s problems. He once said, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”


Is it any wonder he was so obsessed with the thought that if anyone changed the history of the ages, it would put the future of all in jeopardy? Hence, the reason why George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-four, written in 1949 and still recounted to this day, is so crucial to understand. “Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present, controls the past,” said Orwell. Churchill lived the history many would like to do away with.

         As my February blog showed, Churchill fought an uphill battle to acquire his title of “Brit’s British Bulldog.” Loneliness, ridicule, and self-doubt had to be overcome before he could move ahead. One of those phases in his life that enabled him to do so was marrying his wife, Clementine. So let us begin our account where we left off, in the early 1900s.

         It wasn’t until 1911 that Churchill saw the growing need to prepare his beloved country for the worst—a German invasion. So, he turned his eyes from domestic politics and became the First Lord of the Admiralty (akin to the Secretary of the Navy in the U.S.).

He modernized the British fleet and helped invent one of the earliest tanks. Churchill must have felt the chill in the air because his efforts helped Great Britain prepare for World War I.

        With the 1915 invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, Churchill hoped that offensive would drive Turkey out of the war and bring the Balkan states in to join the Allies, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and Russia. However, Russia left in 1917. In 1917 the United States joined the fight to the war’s conclusion. Churchill said, “Where there is heroism there will always be hope.”

The Turkish resistance proved more than anticipated and after battling for nine months, there were 250,000 casualties. The Allies had to withdraw in disgrace—and so did Churchill. He resigned his position and told Clementine he was volunteering to fight in the trenches.

Clementine supported him 100 percent and encouraged him, boosting his confidence. If Churchill had told her of the instances he had a brush with death, she might not have given him her endorsement.

Churchill must have had an inkling that his military training might come in handy because he’d joined the part-time soldiers of the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and by 1905 held the rank of major.

Entering the military, he got a crash course on trench warfare and was sent to the 2nd Grenadier Guards. He was issued a spare pair of socks and his shaving kit. After that experience, he was given command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers and received a chilly reception. Of his experience, he later told Clementine, who was the daughter of a Scottish soldier, that he would never attempt to mimic a Scot’s accent. He was told he had ten days to get the battalion into shape before going to the frontline.

Churchill was a tough commander. He thought the regiment assigned to him was a group of pathetic soldiers. He drilled away their slovenliness and told them that those who supported him, he would look after, those who go against him, he’d break. Churchill felt cleanliness was next to godliness. He demanded improvements in the battalion’s sanitary conditions and food arrangements. He told his officers we are here to make war on lice! To get his regiment the needed equipment, from helmets to boots, he schmoozed the rank-and-file officers for his soldiers’ needs—and managed to secure the best equipment and food available for his regiment.

About his experience, he would later write, “Although an Englishman, it was in Scotland that I found the three best things in my life; my wife, my constituency and my regiment.”  About battling in World War I, he told his officers, “Get humor under fire. War is a game best played with a smile. If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, keep out of the way until you can.”

He worked his men hard in fortifying his frontline with sandbags. This paid off. After 125 days as battalion commander, only 15 men had been killed and 123 wounded. He left his battalion in May of 1916 because he felt it would be his seat in Parliament where he could be the best good.

He proved he was up to the challenge and his men and senior officers of the 9th Scottish Division admired and respected him. Colonel Tim Holland said, “He turned the battalion from moderate to dammed good.”

Churchill described himself to Lieutenant Colonel William Croft, “As a cavalry soldier gone to seed.” Upon Churchill’s departure, Croft replied, “The service lost a good soldier when Winston took to politics.”

He did not return to politics as he hoped he would. Churchill bounced from government job to government job. In 1924 he rejoined the Conservatives and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the American equivalent of Secretary of the Treasury.

The Conservatives were defeated in 1929 and Churchill was out of office for the next decade, which he called his Wilderness Years.

At times, he toured America. After all, his mother was an American. No doubt a blend that made him the perfect man. He saw the Grand Canyon, Hollywood, the Civil War battlefields in Virginia, and during his 1929 visit, he witnessed Black Thursday. In Destiny of Heart, I tell of a first-hand account of Black Thursday. However, Winston saw what few Americans did. Upon his departure from New York, he witnessed a 15-story suicide jump.

The Great Depression crippled every American, European, and population throughout the world. Churchill was no exception. To regain a fragment of the fortune he lost, he decided to lecture in America. A total of forty-five lectures for $50,000. His wife and daughter accompanied him.

After he’d settled Clementine and his daughter safely in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in their ten-room suite, he decided to visit a friend. By a freak accident, he was struck by an automobile while crossing the street and forced to hold up for two months before well enough to lecture. His most memorable speech was held at the Westchester County Center. He spoke about our need to keep up a united friendship at all costs. We needed to put away our petty differences and remember the necessity of unity. “The crimson thread of kinship far outweighs discordances.”

He stated the greatest tie of all is language. “Words are the only things that last forever… The Pyramids molder, the canals silt up, the bridges rust, the railroads change and decay… But words spoken two or three thousand years ago remain with us now, not as mere relics of the past, but with all their pristine living…leaping across the gulf of ages—they light the world for us today.”

In 1933, the Nazis came into power and Churchill put his words into action. He became the designated spokesman, warning his country about German nationalism. The Britons didn’t want to get involved in international affairs, and the British government ignored Churchill’s warnings and sidestepped Germany’s demands.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed an agreement giving a chunk of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Churchill responded, you’re “throwing a small state to the wolves."

Britons didn’t care what Churchill said. They ignored him. He stood alone in a room full of his collogues. He knew well the feeling. He was a lone voice crying out against an impending doom and no one took heed to his words. 

         A year later, Hitler invaded Poland, breaking his promise. Chamberlain was shoved out of office, and Churchill became prime minister in May 1940. In his first speech to the House of Commons as prime minister, Churchill said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.  We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

World War I turned out to be a picnic next to the diabolical battles of World War II. France fell to the Nazis in June 1940. In July, German fighter planes covered the night skies over Britain for three months of devastating air raids.

On June 4, during his Dunkirk speech to the House, Churchill’s last sentence stated, “The New World could rescue and liberate the Old `in God’s good time.’”  This was the theme that continued throughout his famous Finest Hour speech to the House of Commons on June 18, 1940. Adding, “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.” The United States provided Churchill with the aid he needed. As I tell in Waltz with Destiny, thousands of American pilots volunteered to man planes and Franklin D. Roosevelt provided ammunition, guns, tanks, and those planes.

“Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

         History has a funny way of rewarding someone for their valor. Churchill helped win the Allied victory; however, British voters voted against Conservatism and their prime minister two months after Germany surrendered in 1945.

Through the cracks left by Marxism, the ugly head of Socialism reared its viper head upon the heels of Communism. So, what did Churchill do?  “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” 

Churchill left for the States, but not for a much-needed vacation. His first speech was in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946. He spoke about the anti-democratic Iron Curtain, and that “a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization” had descended across Europe. Upon returning to Britain, he gave a thought-provoking speech to the House of Commons, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

In 1949, Orwell came out with his novel Nineteen Eighty-four about a Communist country named Oceania. Oceania was governed by an all-controlling Party that brainwashed the population into unthinking obedience. His leader was called Big Brother. They rewrote the history books because their belief was, “Who controls the past controls the future.” 

Don’t miss April’s blog for the exciting conclusion.

Destiny of Heart:
Book 3: Civil unrest, an incurable sickness, and a lost love, plunge the McConnells’ into a battle for survival.  “…you become emotionally immersed in every page, every struggle, every triumph. ‘God can’t wipe away a person’s past…But He can help us rewrite the ending.’”  Linda S. Amazon Reader

         Waltz with Destiny: Book 4: A story-book romance swirls into a rendezvous with destiny. “…the crown jewel of the Destiny series! Brakefield brings 1940s Detroit to life, along with the WWII battlefields of Italy.” Kathleen Rouser

Catherine is the award-winning author of Wilted Dandelions, Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, Waltz with Destiny, and Love's Final Sunrise and two pictorial history books, The Lapeer Area and Eastern Lapeer. She has been published by Guideposts Books, CrossRiver Media, Revell Books, Bethany House Publishers, and Arcadia Publishers. You can learn more about her at,quote%20means%20may%20be%20found.


  1. Thank you for continuing this look into Churchill's life. I don't remember studying about him, but it's probably that I haven't retained the knowledge. I appreciate the recap.

  2. Connie, I am happy you are pleased. I explored the character of Winston Churchill and what drove him. I was very glad I did! You will see why next week!

  3. Amazing man, and so many truths. I'm afraid that today we not only have leaders bent on controlling a flawed narrative of the past, but masses of people who are too arrogant to learn from that which really happened. Lord, come quickly.