2015 Churchill Anniversary: A Very Colourful Life
EDITOR'S PICK: With the anniversary of his death, we take a look at the key Winston Churchill facts- and why he stuck out like a sore thumb.
Winston Churchill by Yousaf Karsh, 1941
The British Bulldog, as he was nicknamed, even had his final resting place engraved with the words, ‘I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.’
As David Cameron and Tony Blair are yet to wow us with stories of great valour or Nobel Prizes, we take a look back at some of the most interesting facts about Winston Churchill
Did you know?
1. Winston Churchill was famously anti-prohibition and called the banning of alcohol in the US ‘an affront to the whole history of mankind.’ When he was accidentally knocked down on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1931 he took the opportunity to sneak a tipple at the hospital.
2. Churchill's 1884 school report reads: 'Conduct has been exceedingly bad. He is not to be trusted to do any one thing[...] a constant trouble to everybody, and is always in one scrape or another. He cannot be trusted to behave himself anywhere.'
3. We all know about Churchill’s famous penchant for cigars, but did you know that at 15 his mother begged him to give up the habit in exchange for a gun and a pony.
4. Churchill was an accomplished painter who proved his salt at the Sotheby’s Auction in 2014 of his daughter Lady Mary Soames’ estate. The most accomplished of the 15 paintings up for sale, The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell , sold for £1.8 million. Apparently he used to take grandchildren to the pond to prove that he could make his fish move simply with the wave of his walking stick.
The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell by Winston Churchill
5. Churchill trained his pet budgerigar Toby to hold a salt spoon and had him walk up and down the dining table to impress guests.
6. After his famous We shall fight on the beaches speech in the House of Commons in 1940 Churchill whispered to a colleague, “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody all we’ve got”.
7. Churchill covered up a UFO sighting during World War II after a squadron of Royal Air Force bombers recorded a hovering metal disc following them down the British coast.
8. He has been in the British pop charts twice with recordings of his speeches set to music by the RAF’s Central Band called The Voice Of and Reach for the Skies.
9. Winston Churchill’s book The Second World War received a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.
10. After his armoured train was ambushed in 1899, news correspondent Churchill was taken prisoner by the Boers in South Africa where he escaped by vaulting a wall.
11. Pounding his chest and baring his teeth, Churchill did a mean impression of a gorilla – according to his nephew John Spencer Churchill.
12. Churchill was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1940 and in 1949.
13. He was quite the ladies’ man and proposed to his wife Clementine in a scene comparable to any rom-com, in the rain under the ornamental Greek temple at Blenheim Palace, whilst Violet Asquith was still in love with him.
Keen to learn more? Take a look at the Science Museum's new exhibition about Winston Churchill.