In 2002, Winston Churchill was publicly voted top of the list of 100 Greatest Britons. He is best known for guiding Britain through the darkest days of World War Two to eventual Allied victory. But had he not been Prime Minister during the war years, he would still be remembered as an extremely famous politician.
He served again as Prime Minister in 1951, while he had previously held all of the great offices of state. He was also a prolific writer and orator – publishing millions of words and delivering thousands of public speeches. Here are fifteen more fascinating facts about the number one Brit.
1. Essential luggage
Winston Churchill took 60 bottles of alcohol with him when he set out for the Boer War.
2. Escape from a POW camp
In 1899 Winston Churchill was held POW in South Africa, and after hearing that his release was unlikely, he made a 300 mile escape by jumping freight trains and walking. His escape made him a national celebrity in Britain.
The first known use of the term “OMG” was in a letter to Churchill. A letter published by the US Library of Congress from Admiral John Arbuthnot “Jacky” Fisher to Churchill sent in 1917 contains the phrase.
4. On prohibition
During the Prohibition era in the USA, Churchill referred publicly the Constitutional amendment banning alcohol as “an affront to the whole history of mankind.”
5. Religious beliefs
After being told that he could not drink in front of Saudi King due to the King’s religious beliefs, Churchill said “my religion prescribed an absolute sacred rite smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after, and if need be during all meals and the intervals between them.” Describing his drinking habits he once remarked “I drink champagne at all meals, and buckets of claret and soda in between.” He also noted that “Hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy” were the four essentials of life.
6. Favourite brands
Churchill’s favorite brandy was Hine, his preferred Champagne Pol Roger, and his top Scotch Johnnie Walker Red Label. His famous Churchill Martini consisted of a glass of chilled English gin supplemented with a nod toward France (vermouth was understandably difficult to source).
7. Broken beer bottles
It is said that after his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons in 1940, Winston Churchill whispered to a colleague, “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got!”
8. An emotional man
Churchill was regularly moved to tears in Parliament – something which was far from common at the time. Three days after becoming Prime Minister for the first time, his old Liberal colleague and former wartime Prime Minister David George made a moving speech telling the House how fond he was of him. Labour Party MP Howard Nicolson wrote, “Winston cries slightly and mops his eyes”.
9. The life pod
During World War Two, Winston Churchill required a pressurised chamber known as the life pod to fly due to his health. It included a phone, an ashtray and an air circulation system so that he could smoke.
10. How to resist capture
When Winston Churchill travelled by ship during World War Two, he had a lifeboat mounted with a machine gun so that he could “resist capture at all costs.”
Both Winston Churchill and King George VI had wanted to accompany the Allied Expeditionary Force on D-Day, and were only dissuaded by an Admiral who said he would not take responsibility for them.
12. Operation Unthinkable
Churchill drew up plans for a surprise attack against the Soviet Union in 1945. Dubbed “Operation Unthinkable,” the plan would have rearmed up to 100,000 former Wermacht soldiers and aimed to enforce the will of the Western Allies on what could become a dangerous enemy.
13. Not a grammar Nazi
When asked to comment on the contentious grammar law which states that one is not to end sentences with prepositions, Churchills’s rejoinder? “That is nonsense, up with which I shall not put.”
14. Nobel Prize
In 1953, Churchill won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Committee credited him “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”
15. On meeting his maker
His epitaph states, “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”