In order to examine the question you must first define greatness, it is described as a status brought upon yourself in which excellence is achieved in the face of adversity . Winston Churchill is an excellent example of greatness because in the face of adversity( the second World War ) he excelled and he persevered through his so called `wilderness years` and then excelled as Britain’s war time leader . Churchill’s dogged perseverance to express exactly what he thought was the best possible way forward for Britain meant that he was disliked by many in Parliament but also admired by many at the same time . Martin Gilbert recognised this situation saying ” some detested him , and others from his earliest years , saw him as a person of exceptional qualities , and as a future Prime Minister”. Often great people are misunderstood because they can see the bigger , longer term picture and in order to become great they must persevere and speak their minds in order to convince their people , this is the case with Winston Churchill ” from his earliest years he has an uncanny understanding and vision of future unfolding events ” .Often people are great because they have the ability to make themselves understood by their people and they have the ability to communicate clearly with their people , Churchill had an ” ability to use his exceptional mastery of words , to convey detailed arguments and essential truths ; to inform , to convince and to inspire” Martin Gilbert . There are two distinct periods in Churchill’s political life , his wilderness years when he was greatly misunderstood in his position as First Lord of the Navy in which he made a number of errors which in the long term helped him in the second period after 1940 when he became Prime Minister in a time in which he inspired the British people through clear communication in times of adversity . I will look at both of these periods in detail to conclude whether to be great is to be misunderstood . I would argue that in order to be great then you must make your self understood and persevere and not give up until you are understood Winston Churchill shows this quality through his misunderstood wilderness years into his triumphant leadership years.
A low point of Winston Churchill’s admiralty reign came in the shape of the Dardanelles blunder as it has been described, it rocked the political life of Churchill . Churchill’s known zest for war got the better of him causing him to ignore the advice of Naval experts and to push through his own Napoleon inspired strategies that proved to be catastrophic . However even after the event whilst contemporaries where slating his part in the plan , Churchill never gave up trying to persuade the British public on his intentions , even in his resignation speech to the commons he clamed the Dardanelles was an “legitimate gamble” and phrase which was to haunt him for along time to come. During his time out of power Churchill with the aid of Lord Fisher desperately tried to explain there own side of Dardanelles , fighting for a commission to be set-up , an commission which wouldn’t completely clear Churchill’s name but would exonerate him from some of the blame . Later Historians shocked by the carnage on the Western front looked more favourably on Dardanelles having been impressed by Churchill’s apologia in The World Crisis .They claimed that Churchill had more military inspiration than all of the other Generals put together . Others such as Sir Basil Liddell Hart and Professor Arthur Marder endorsed Attles view that it was “one strategic view of war” which seems to exonerate Winston Churchill from much blame. However I would conclude that contemporaries got it just about right, Dardanelles was badly planned and executed and for this reason Churchill must take an adequate share of the responsibility . Victory was never as close as he promised and it was a mistake for him to divert such huge resources to an exposed subsidiary theatre of operations. I think that although Churchill never liked to admit that he was wrong after Dardanelles he was quoted as saying ” in war you don’t have to be nice, you just have to be right ” this quote suggesting that Churchill recognises his failure regarding Dardanelles .I would also look admirably on his attempts to make people understand his policy , even through his wilderness years whilst out of parliament he continued to campaign for months in order for a commission to tell his side of the story , this determination to make people understand him is one of the main factors in which made Winston Churchill great in my opinion . This fits in with the theme of revealing in adversity because Churchill was out of office and disgraced in the views of many men he still campaigned in a dignified manor to make such men understand. An situation recognised by Austin Chamberlain ” Winston is never seen to such advantage as adversity . It will only be temporary , but he is showing great dignity and good temper” , this quote seems to imply that Churchill revels in adversity and will use it to his advantage , this is contradicted by an quote from his wife Clemintine ” I never seen Winston so demoralised” however I would agree with Piers Brendon that Churchill in private he was demoralised however in public this seemed to spur him on an work even harder.
In order to be great you must not give up and keep fighting for what you think is right although Winston Churchill may not have been right concerning the Dardanelles conflict he kept fighting to explain his action to the British public through the commission , this is one aspect of how Churchill became great – his dedication to working/ fighting for what he believed was right until he is finally understood .At the time many contemporaries such as Sir Francis Hopwood said about Churchill that he is tiresome to deal with and I fear trouble in any position to which he may be called” I wouldn’t agree with this statement because Churchill did have some successes amongst his blunders caused by youthful exuberance such as in his position of Minister of Munitions and his rise from young radical to First lord of the Admiralty I would agree more so with Edward Gray who commented “he was a genius who’s faults would be forgotten in his achievements ” which was easy to say considering the benefit of hindsight .At the time though there was great misunderstanding of Churchill which is highlighted by George Wyndham who said ” I would rather sweep the streets than be Winston Churchill” . This makes Winston Churchill perseverance to fight for his views even more outstanding considering the hatred shown to him from leading Tories especially.
During his second period as First Lord of the Navy , Winston Churchill was described by Andrew Roberts as making ” an number of blunders ” due to a number of personal flaws which at the time made Churchill an less than ideal leader of the greatest Navy on earth . For example Churchill showed less than admiral qualities whilst dealing with the Germany invasion of Norway some would argue that he was so indecisive that when British troops landed in Norway they had been separated from much of their equipment due to Churchill constantly changing his military strategy . Churchill was condemned by Andrew Roberts for his strategies regarding German U-boats . Churchill blatantly disregarded the advice of top Naval strategists and aimed to attack the Germans using packs of British ships to hunt down the U-boats whilst leaving merchant ships practically defenceless . This plan backfired on Churchill because the U-boats where so hard to hunt down in the open seas . Back at home Churchill tried to cover up his mistake claiming that half of the 57 U-boats Germany had started the war with had been destroyed , this was contradicted by Captain Arthur Talbot who claimed that only 9 of the 57 U – boats had been destroyed , Churchill showed a ruthless streak by personally making sure that Captain Talbot was sent to sea. George Steven’s recognises Churchill’s manipulation of facts by claiming that “he adapted his facts to his phrases” and Piers Brendon recognises this commenting on Churchill ” he quickly discovered that facts deprived for their significance on interpretation and that by skilful argument he could arrange them into any pattern that he choose”. This is an important skill for being the leader of a country at war , it is vital to boost the morale of your people to maintain the war effort , I would argue that Churchill was polishing his skills for an more important use. During his rein as First Lord of the Navy he constantly interfered with issues out side of his control for example his up most fish request calling for an increase in fish production a matter that he had no control over at all .Piers Brendon recognises this saying ” Churchill unlike his predecessors took every aspect of the Navy under his province – men , ships , ordnance and administration” to the extent that he almost caused the resignation of the entire Admiralty board and the Commander in Chief of the Nore Fleet. I would argue that although this is not the best personal attributes of an First Lord ,as an War time Prime Minister it is important for them to direct the whole effort , something that Churchill seemed already perfect to do, I would also argue from this source you can already see the structure of an great man because he is being misunderstood in terms of his role , he has the vision and the presence to command a wide range of resources instead of just a narrow one as is the Admiralty would be better of in an higher position such as Prime Minister . A.G Gardiener agrees on the war in Churchill’s blood by commenting “the whole spirit of Churchill’s politics was military: the smell of powder is about his path , and where ever he appears one seems to hear the crash of musketry and so feel the breath of battle”.
From as early as the early 1930`s Winston Churchill warned of the threat of ” the intensifying Nazis machine” and called for ” rearmament , for martial virtue, for the revival of the British race” . This statement was condemned by Niclson for “sounding cracked and tinny as though played through an Edwardian phonograph” I can infer from this , may be because during the 1920`s Churchill had campaigned for the need of Military economics , many politicians assumed that he was just trying to get back at the government . He was described at the time as being an ” dangerous relief the past – a dangerous has been” Christopher Sykes . Still Churchill campaigned , warned and informed of the threat of the Nazis , although Piers Brendon comments that Churchill wasn’t ” as consistent about the immanence of war , about the necessity of rearmament , even the wickedness of Hitler as he later claimed ” .I don’t agree with this source because in the context of other people supporting his view where few and far between which makes Winston Churchill’s stand seem massive , Churchill was a master in the art of arguing his point , in order to stand up in the commons and hear the shout of ” sit down Winston” ever time he wanted to speak , this must have taken great courage and its not surprising that he couldn’t keep up his attempts to persuade parliament to the dangers of Hitler. Especially considering the Baldwin accusing him of “alarmisim and exaggeration” , the biggest surprise is the comment of the Prime Minister Lloyd George , someone who had an close relationship with Churchill in the past and had praised him saying he was an ” man of dazzling talents” so when he asked Churchill to end ” his crusade” and commented in private that Churchill was ” more trouble than he was worth” this adds sustenance to the level of adversity that Winston Churchill faced. Further more Andrew Roberts says how ” Churchill’s views on Nazis Germany made him particularly unpopular” this adds weight to my argument of how his perseverance makes him great . Martin Gilbert agrees with this view commenting that “Churchill was an lonely voice in the wilderness during the 30`s” and was an “downtrodden muted voice of inspiration”.
During this period Winston Churchill was described as an “warmonger” by many of the opposition Tory back benchers , I would argue against this view because before Churchill’s warnings regarding the Nazis he and his wife Clemintine had travelled to the middle east in order to try and make peace between the Arabs and the Jews this proves that Churchill wasn’t always an ” warmonger” as he had been accused of by some opposition. This adds sustenance to the argument that through what ever adversity or abuse was thrown at Churchill he never gave up trying to persuade Parliament of the threat of the Nazis regime . At the time Churchill was campaigning on the future of India saying that it was ” self mutilation to lose such a jewel in the kings crown” his campaigning caused a stir and Churchill campaigned from 31 up until 35 when the India act had been passed , this also made him unpopular thin the house of commons and increased the amount of adversity that he was facing to warn Britain about the Nazis .
Even after the threat of the Nazis had been acknowledged and Prime Minister Chamberlain had travelled to Munich to agree peace with Hitler whilst giving away the majority of Chezchslovakia in the processes and returned home an hero , Churchill still defiant against the euphoric elation of the British people called for rearmament , at this time his message was even more unpopular within the country and even his own constituency organisation tried to repudiate him. It must have taken great courage for Churchill to carry on campaigning even though he was soon to be proved right when on the 3rd of September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany. Churchill’s triumph was vindicated when he was made first Lord of the Admiralty again and subsequently Prime Minister a role in which he feels that he had been destined for ” I felt as though I was walking with destiny” PM Churchill on appointment by the King.
I would now ague that to just make your self understood wasn’t enough to make yourself classed as great , this is however Winston Churchill’s greatness is vindicated in my opinion. During his time of greatest adversity and threat to Britain from the Nazis he inspired , informed and motivated Britain almost on his own through his most important attribute in his arsenal as Atlee described it ” his tongue” . President Kennedy added at the time Churchill used all ” of the resources of the English language , proving that the word was mightier than the sword”.
Winston Churchill didn’t only inspire the masses of the British population through breath taking speeches as described by Piers Brendon ” he dramatised the lives of its citizens , he made them seem to themselves and each other clad in the fabulous garments appropriate to this great historical moment” .He also inspired the ” people in high places” as he described them by calling for them to ” set an example of steadiness” . I would argue going back to the question that had he not made himself understood through adversity then he wouldn’t have been in this position in order to lead Britain in a job he thought he was destined for.
The magnitude of Winston Churchill’s control through speech over the British public draw conclusions to the enemies leader Hitler. I would sight an comparison through their use of speech however Churchill was a vision of greatness , his attraction achieved through the respect of his people , triggered by a triumph through adversity and not an barrage of propaganda. Piers Brendon describes this comparison as Churchill being “neither mad nor bad”. The extent to which Churchill’s greatness has risen him is perfectly summed up by the fact that in 1933 he was being blasted in Parliament as an warmonger and then nine years later he met an Scientist R.V Jones who commented after meeting Churchill ” I had the feeling of being re- charged by a source of living power” . This shows the magnitude of Churchill’s rise to greatness.
In conclusion I would argue that Winston Churchill was great because of two factors his determination to make people understand his ability to foresee what was best for his country and his ability to use an mastery of words to convey and inspire people, rich and poor , male and female .
His failures as the First Lord Of the Navy where due to his ruthless streak , his willing to manipulate the facts for his own means and his interference with matters out side of his control. However these are the exact same qualities that made him an ” model war time leader” . He had an ability to make the right decision quickly , fore see future events unfold and wasn’t afraid to be ruthless if it was in the best interests of Britain.
I believe that Winston Churchill has proved himself to be great in one aspect because through his early years he has shown the admiral quality of making himself understood , although he may not of been right every time he always campaigned for what he believed in and never shied away from telling his side of the story through skilful use of dialogue, this is something that would stand him in good steed for what was to come.
In terms of a hypotheses I have come to the conclusion that in order to be classed as great , its “not to be great is to be misunderstood” or to simply see the longer term picture ” it is in fact to make yourself understood through times of adversity and show people the bigger longer term picture and explain it until they understand it through your own skill or through events.