Behind Winston Churchill.
When the name Winston Churchill is mentioned to most people, it generates images of a wartime Prime Minister leading the UK through its darkest time. He was viewed as the glue which held the nation together with his passionate and memorable speeches. Yet there was a much darker side to Winston Churchill, one which has been brushed under the carpet and denied until far too recently.
Time and time again throughout his political career, Churchill portrayed himself as a very racist individual. On one occasion in 1937 during a meeting with the Palestinian Royal Commission, he addressed the members with the following statement.
“I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
It is almost ironic that this man who was so passionately against the racist and anti-Semitic policies of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis followed a similar path during his career both before and after the war.
The author of ‘Churchill: The End of Glory,’ John Charmley, noted that Churchill spoke of religious and race hierarchy often in his life. His order read white protestants, white Catholics, Indians and then Africans. This alignment was seemingly referred to by Churchill on many different occasions.
Long before he was campaigning to become Prime Minister and meeting world leaders, Churchill was a military commander. During the First World War, he was Lord of the Admiralty and it was his and his fellow commanders lack of logical thinking which saw thousands of Allied soldiers cut to pieces on the beaches of Gallipoli, Turkey. Churchill acknowledged that he would need ‘50,000 soldiers’ to take the major stronghold of the Ottoman Empire and that it would be costly to take. However, instead of reconsidering when he didn’t receive this number of men, he pressed on. A successful naval assault would have paved the way for a straight forward infantry attack, yet the powers that be delayed for almost a month.
When the allies did attack, their enemy had regrouped and reinforced, leading to the unnecessary slaughter of allied soldiers. Churchill was arguably used as a scapegoat to some extent, yet he was amongst those who threw thousands of soldiers into certain death for no real gain.
The event which unequivocally sums up Churchill as a hideous individual is the Bengal famine of 1943. The famine in India, which was still part of the British Empire at the time, was triggered by the invasion of Burma by Japanese force a year earlier and it resulted in the deaths of over three million people. Churchill demanded that India export wheat to Europe to feed those displaced by the war, he repeatedly ignored requests to try and stop the people starving. He viewed Indians as second-class citizens, perhaps arguably lower, therefore he didn’t care for such loss of life.
Madhusree Mukerjee, the author of Churchill’s Secret War, recognised the intentions of Churchill's government and how little they cared for human life:
“[The War Cabinet] ordered the build-up of a stockpile of wheat for feeding European civilians after they had been liberated. So, 170,000 tons of Australian wheat bypassed starving India — destined not for consumption but for storage”
In addition to this, Churchill openly blamed the Indian people for the famine which killed so many. He felt that it was their fault for the food shortages as they were ‘breeding like rabbits’. His horrific attitude to a suffering population, caused primarily by British rule and then ignorance, killed millions of people and caused millions more to suffer.
He will most likely always be remembered more fondly for his leadership during WW2. However, many people outside of Europe will look upon Winston Churchill for exactly what he was: an ignorant racist and a murderer.
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