My Early Life By Winston S. Churchill

How is it that a self-confessed schoolboy dunce should have risen to, long after his death, be voted by a public poll “The Greatest Englishman”?

The seeds are perhaps sown in this set of memoirs taking us from his infancy to the status of 26 year old Member of Parliament for Oldham. I finished reading it today.

Presented with engaging humility despite the arrogance of privilege, we see his intelligence, his resilience, his resourcefulness, his integrity, his at times reckless courage, and sheer stubborn determination.

His first serious injury was incurred a the age of ten in crazy family competition; his schooldays were not happy; his greatest enjoyment came from battle, whether in war or in seeking a place in parliament. The challenge of risking death seemed a driving force.

As a young soldier espousing the honourable conflict of an earlier age Churchill regretted the passing of gentlemanly warfare according to understood rules with sword and pistol; he rued the introduction of science as a weapon. Nevertheless he spent these early years seeking war zones across the globe with unashamed manipulation and delight. He escaped death with considerable ingenuity and sheer luck on more occasions than he perhaps deserved. He regarded war in the same light as sport; he was an intrepid polo contestant, participating in the winning of a number of trophies.

The writer’s descriptive prose is straightforward and very readable. As he often combined the roles of war correspondent and serving soldier there is much detail of the conflicts in for example Cuba, India, and South Africa, which does not appeal to this reader. Other aspects of his life are of course inextricably involved with this. He fought, ruthlessly, as hard as he could, but respected his opponents and believed in forgiveness and generosity in victory.

The header picture is the title page and frontispiece of my Folio Society edition of the work, first published in 1930.

Neil Gower’s front board design incorporates some details of the plentiful photographs in the book, which also contains a number of maps. Max Hastings’s introduction is usefully informative.

This evening we all dined on cheese centred fish cakes, either smoked haddock or cod and parsley; sautéed new potatoes and leeks; crunchy carrots; tender mangetouts; and piquant cauliflower and broccoli cheese, with which Jackie drank more of the white Zinfandel and I drank les four vents Fitou 2021.


  1. It’s hard to imagine the young man you’ve described with the cigar-chomping elder statesman. It’s almost like when children think their teacher doesn’t exist outside of the classroom.

  2. Interesting summary. I confess that I know very little about Winston Churchill aside from having read a few good quotes. Sounds like he was a warrior with honor in his early life.

  3. After inspiring a country to victory in an existential war with a brutal enemy, his countrymen kicked his butt out of power! I always thought that was a bit ungrateful, though time restored him to an appreciated place in history.

  4. Churchill had an unshakeable belief that he would not be killed in battle but would, presumably, die in bed. Hence the thousand and one reckless things he did, including attacking his four would be IRA assassins in a London Park, armeed only with a revolver.

  5. I greatly enjoyed reading your review on this book. I researched some about him when I was younger and I, immediately, felt a great respect for him. I often read quotes from him that are encouraging to me.
    Such a resilient, courageous, inspirational, seemingly tireless man.
    Thank you for sharing about his early life.
    Will you read or recommend any other books on his life or times in his life?
    (((HUGS))) ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Thanks very much, Carolyn. I do have more that I haven’t read, but I can recommend Boris Johnson’s “The Churchill Effect” X

  6. Churchill’s granddaughter, Celia Sands, asked my husband, Graham, to participate in a documentary about Winston.

    Graham played Winston, a non-speaking part. Amongst other places, the filming took place in Winston’s office and the garden but without showing closeups of his face.

    Graham had to have his nails manicured because Winston had perfect nails, and the hair on his hands was waxed because Winston didn’t have any!

  7. Intruiguing. Is this the injury “Before moving on to Sandhurst Churchill leapt from a bridge to escape two chasing friends and fell 29 feet suffering concussion and injuries to his cervical spine, right shoulder and kidney.”

  8. Unfortunately, there is lack of politician like Winston Churchill in our turbulent World. Nowadays politicians are weak and do not have leadership abilities. This is why we experienced a lot of problems around the World.

  9. Thanks, Derrick, Churchill was certainly an enigmatic man. A large portrait of him adorned one wall of my paternal grand-parents house, and they were staunch conservatives, while my maternal grand-parents lived less than a mile from them and were labour. As a benefactor, there is also a huge framed portrait of Grandad M, on a wall of the local Working Men’s club, under which Grandad H sat and drank his glass of ale on many a night! I learnt a lot about politics through them over the years. Both were great characters. Good memories, so thank you! Cheers. Joy

  10. Thanks for the review. Churchill has always struck me as a fascinating personality. Perhaps if our great leaders did not “[regard] war in the same light as sport,” as he did, we would have less wars.

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