Those words were spoken by Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, otherwise known as Winston Churchill, one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century. A British politician, an officer in the British army, a historian, a writer, and an artist; Winston Churchill was a man who saw every failure as an opportunity to do more and do it better.
Churchill was born in 1874 into aristocratic family, the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the noble Spencer family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic political leader and set an example for Winston early on. As a young man, he served as an army officer, where he saw a substantial amount of action in the Sudan, Cuba, British India, and the Second Boer War. Eventually, Winston Churchill became mildly famous as a war correspondent and began writing and publishing books about his campaigns.
As a natural politician, Churchill quickly rose through seats of Parliament from 1900 to 1910. By the time 1911 rolled around, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, a post he continued into the First World War. During this time, he became known for his emphasis on favoring the use of airplanes in combat. He even took flying lessons himself. Meanwhile, he launched a program to replace coal power with oil power for military grade vehicles and equipment like submarines and destroyers. In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, Churchill became involved with the development of the tank.
Interestingly, Winston Churchill resigned from government in November of 1915, after serving several months as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because he felt that his energies were better spent with the military. He kept his post in parliament and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the British Army. In that time he served several months on the Western Front, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. In 1919, Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air.
Winston Churchill was known best for his charisma and strong opinions that often went against the grain. During the Indian Independence movement in the 1930s, he opposed Gandhi’s peaceful disobedience revolt and favored letting Gandhi die if he went on a hunger strike. Churchill also considered himself a strong Constitutionalist, and strongly opposed the Labour Party in 1924, as he felt it did not fully support the existing British Constitution.
At the start of World War II, hours before Germany invaded France, it became clear that Neville Chamberlain wasn’t equipped to lead the country through the war. He then resigned, and George VI asked Churchill to step up as Prime Minister. At age 65, the war energized Winston Churchill. Though he was unpopular among the Conservatives and the Establishment, his speeches had a powerful effect on Parliament and the House of Commons. His most famous speech was before the Battle of Britain:
… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
The second of Churchill’s most memorable speeches was given in response to the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein:
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Learn more about Churchill’s life and accomplishments when you read or own his rare, first edition works: The First Collected Works of Sir Winston Churchill: Centenary Limited Edition, Marlborough His Life and Times, or his last great work, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.