Winston Churchill's life, legacy and greatest quotes: Learn about the famed Prime Minister

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Have you ever used the phrase "blood, sweat and tears?" If so, you have Winston Churchill to thank.

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Churchill said to the House "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many months of toil and struggle."

Churchill is often regarded as Britain’s greatest Prime Minister and was even voted the "Greatest Briton" in a 2002 BBC poll. But what did he do to earn that title in the eyes of the public?

Who was Winston Churchill?

Winston Churchill served as the British prime minister twice – from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. He’s most well-known for his part in leading Britain to victory in World War II.

Churchill was born in 1874 in Oxfordshire to a rich, aristocratic family, according to the UK Government. Churchill was first elected a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1900 but later held high ranks in the Liberal government as well.

As the First Lord of the Admiralty in World War I, he spearheaded the failed Gallipoli Campaign, for which he was criticized and demoted to a lower cabinet position. This led Churchill to resign from the government and serve on the front lines as an infantry officer in France.

He returned to politics briefly in 1924 when he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer but lost his seat five years later in the general elections.

Churchill succeeded Neville Chamberlain in 1940 as the Prime Minister and created the position of Minister for Defence, which he also held. During World War II, Churchill united the country – anyone who shared the goal of defeating Hitler’s Germany was an ally, he maintained, according to Britannica. After Hitler’s sudden attack on the Soviet Union, Churchill swiftly constructed the "grand alliance" between the Soviet Union, Britain and the United States. This alliance, especially between Churchill and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, largely contributed to the military success of WWII.

Labour party leader Clement Attlee succeeded him in 1945. After this defeat, he traveled to the U.S. in 1946 and made one of his most well-known speeches, where he argued Britain and the U.S. should remain allied as “an iron curtain has descended across the continent” – the threat of Soviet Union communism.

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Why was Winston Churchill removed from office?

The first time Churchill was Prime Minister, he was forced to step down as Prime Minister after the Labour Party won the general election in 1945. It was called “one of the biggest electoral swings of the twentieth century,” winning 393 seats while the Conservatives won only 197, according to the UK’s Imperial War Museums. Attlee unseated Churchill as Prime Minister.

Churchill was reelected in 1951, during which the Conservative Party accepted the Labour Party’s newly created welfare system. But at 77 years old, his age and health issues meant he often conducted business from his bedside, the UK Government says. Churchill resigned in 1955 due to poor health. Still, Churchill did not stray from the political limelight. He remained in Parliament until 1964.

When did Winston Churchill die?

Churchill died on Jan. 24, 1965, just two weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 90. Churchill was survived by his wife Lady Clementine Churchill, his son Randolph and daughters Sarah and Mary. He also had two other children – Marigold, who died of sepsis at less than 3 years old, and Diana, who died just two years before him at 54.

Winston Churchill quotes

Churchill was also widely known for having a way with words – he won a Nobel Prize in Literature for his historical writings on both the World Wars and wrote every word of his speeches himself, NPR reports. Here are some of his most notable quotes, from the International Churchill Society:

  • "You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: 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."

  • "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!"

  • "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.'"

  • "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. “

  • "Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world, 'We are still masters of our fate. We still are captain of our souls.'"

  • "This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

  • "We have surmounted all the perils and endured all the agonies of the past. We shall provide against and thus prevail over the dangers and problems of the future, withhold no sacrifice, grudge no toil, seek no sordid gain, fear no foe. All will be well. We have, I believe, within us the life-strength and guiding light by which the tormented world around us may find the harbour of safety, after a storm-beaten voyage."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winston Churchill quotes: Who was the famed Prime Minister?