A descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, he was born at Blenheim Palace. As a young cavalry officer he took part in a cavalry charge. As a war correspondent he escaped from a prisoner of war camp in the Boer War. He entered parliament as a Conservative in 1900 but switched to the Liberal Party in 1904. During the First World War he served as First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1924 he re-joined the Conservative Party and became Chancellor of the Exchequer, but from 1929 he was out of office and became estranged from the Conservative leadership. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was brought into the Government in his old job at the Admiralty. When Chamberlain resigned in 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister, in which role he was an inspiring leader. Defeated in the 1945 election, he was Prime Minister again from 1951 to 1955. He wrote many books, and received the Nobel Prize for literature.
In February 1954 Churchill's cabinet discussed the possible decriminalisation of homosexuality, following an increase in the number of convictions for gay offences. Churchill said “Remember that we can’t expect to put the whole world right with a majority of 18.” He considered that public opinion was not yet calling for a change in the law, but holding an enquiry might be a way forward (the Wolfenden Committee was appointed later that year).
The following sayings are attributed to Churchill:
- "The traditions of the Royal Navy are nothing but "Rum, sodomy and the lash."
- "It is impossible to obtain a conviction for sodomy from an English jury. Half of them don't believe that it can physically be done, and the other half are doing it."
- "You might as well legalize sodomy as recognize the Bolsheviks."
- Martin Gilbert, Churchill: a life. Minerva Paperback, 1991, ISBN 0 7493 9826 4, page 61.