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The Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill


Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, this past week marked the fiftieth year since the death of one of the most iconic figures of our time and one of my political heroes, Sir Winston Churchill. During the early stages of the Second World War, with Hitler's armies advancing through Europe, and Britain under looming threat of invasion, Churchill was called on to assume the office of the Prime Minister. In May 1940, during his first speech in the House of Commons as Prime Minister, Churchill offered this declaration:

. . . 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.

Indeed, victory required Winston Churchill. His speeches would serve as a rallying cry for an empire on the brink of defeat. With the fall of France and the Battle of Britain about to begin, Churchill prepared his people to stand against Hitler. He famously declared:

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their Finest Hour.'

Colleagues, Churchill's defiant and resolute character united Britain and the Commonwealth with the realization that victory was their only option.

His years as Prime Minister are well known. However, his rise to leadership was the culmination of an incredibly storied career. Graduating from Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he was commissioned as an officer with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, leading to service and combat in the Indian Northwest frontier and the Sudan in the late 1890s.

By the turn of the century, Churchill had chosen penmanship over soldiering and was sent to South Africa to serve as a correspondent during the Boer War. There, while attached to a scouting expedition, Churchill was captured and became a prisoner of war. Defiant as ever, he managed to escape, returning to London to much recognition.

Upon his return, Churchill, turning to politics, won a seat in the House of Commons, where political life suited the young Churchill. His tireless resolve saw him achieve a rapid rise in the political ranks, eventually earning him a seat in cabinet, and by 1911 he became First Lord of the Admiralty, a position of significance given the war. Following the outbreak of hostilities and many difficult months in office, Churchill resigned from the government in 1915 and returned to soldiering. He would serve in France as lieutenant-colonel of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers until his return to politics later in the war.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Churchill found himself in and out of office and, by the outbreak of the Second World War, essentially a political outcast.

Then, in May of 1940, Britain called upon his unyielding character to turn the tides of war and lead them against, as he put it:

. . . a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.

Colleagues, his entire life had essentially been preparation for wartime leadership. Although Churchill said that without victory, there is no survival, I respond that without Churchill, there would be no victory. This week, may we recognize, remember and salute the incredible leader and the iconic figure that was Sir Winston Churchill.