The Winston Churchill Rant

"I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes ... to spread a lively terror"

      - Winston Churchill (May 1919)


Recently the BBC aired something they called "Great Britons", a series of shows featuring a contest in which viewers could vote for their own "Greatest Briton of All Time". The winner, as you might have guessed: Winston Churchill. I suppose it all comes down to how you define "great", because he certainly could be called a great big this and that, but the BBC couldn't really come right out and use language like that, now could they? Personally, I just want to know for which reasons exactly he was chosen.

I wonder if it was for planning the attack on Gallipoli that lead to the needless and meaningless deaths of tens of thousands of British, Australian and New Zealand troops? He was, after all, the main booster, both politically and militarily, for that campaign during WWI. Being the First Lord of the Admiralty and all, he of course stayed far away from any danger himself. However, as he sipped on his tea, or perhaps Scotch, he sure did a "Great" job of planning and promoting that pointless battle in that pointless war. I wonder if all those young men, as they ran into the oncoming machine gun fire knowing they were about to die as nothing more than expendable cannon fodder, sang "Glory glory what a wonderful way to die" due to the fact they were dying for Winston? And I wonder if they all thought "Wow, that Winston Churchill chap is sure a great bloke. He's definitely got my vote for Greatest Britoaaaaaah"?

Or perhaps he won for advising the British air force (the RAF) to use poison gas against the Kurds in Iraq back in the 1920's when they - the Kurds - were fighting against British occupation. The Kurds were indeed gassed, as Winston had wanted. A very "evil" thing to do if you're, say, Saddam, but a "Great" thing, perhaps, if you happen to be Winston.

Or possibly he won for the war-crime-if-ever-there's-been-a-war-crime known as the firebombing of Dresden. It's quite well-documented that he ordered the bombing and the deliberate and intentional slaughter of tens of thousands of German civilians as revenge for Hitler's bombing of London earlier in the war. Killing all those civilians in Dresden served absolutely no military purpose! A "Great" act of vengeance... if you're into that sort of thing.

So which was it I wonder? The mass slaughter of those young troops in pointless and futile attacks on Turkish trenches back in WWI? The mass slaughter, using poison gas, of Kurds in Iraq in the 1920's? Or the mass slaughter of German civilians in the fire-bombing of Dresden near the end of WWII? So many "Great" acts of slaughter. Which one do you think won it for him?

And for any bleeding heart liberals out there, those of you who simply don't get it and want to whine on about none of these things being worthy of voting for, don't be so concerned, it wasn't just these things alone that made Winston "Great", no, he also made some really good speeches that kept people's spirits up during The Blitz. And, obviously, those speeches were not just really "Great" they were also enough, clearly, to negate all of his war crimes or "Great feats of leadership" or whatever you want to call them. That's self-evident, right? Or else he couldn't have won. (Does that work for Hitler too? Because he also made some really big speeches in his time).

Anyhow, stop your worrying and just accept it, Winston is The Greatest Briton Of All Time. Or was that The Greatest British War Criminal Of All Time? I forget, but, either way, there's no denying he sure was "Great"!

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003


To see a few more History rants click here: History: Main Page


For some modern American history read this: History Has Spoken: Bush Finally Seals The Deal


And for some Canadian history check this out: The Mindless Nationalism Rant: Vimy Ridge, Vimy Ridge, Vimy Ridge


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winston churchill

I wouldn't necessarily blame Churchill for the disaster at Galipolli. The British Commander in charge of the landing, put everyone on shore and then had them all take a break and settle down, (and he had his lunch and nap) instead of moving them inland against the Turks who were vastly outnumbered and short of ammunition and could have been easily defeated. regarding the British mindset at the time - they literally believed in freedom and liberty for everyone (except their colonials). Churchills dad made a fortune buying opium from India and selling it in China. although I agree with your points, looking back at events and values from a previous time it is easy to spot hipocrisies of the people at the time.. I wonder what later generations will think of us and our hypocrisies eg. over-consumption, or obsession with media - tv, internet and facebook 'friends' etc.. petr

Winston Churchill

I could not agree more. There is a sense in which his obvious and disgusting criminality makes him the greatest Briton ever! I don't think that was the point of the BBC survey but there you are!

Pity you cannot get your facts right

If you actually look up the facts about Churchill, poison gas and the kurds, you will see that he was in favour of gas to disable, not to kill. This he made very clear as you can read here: By disabling, this means they would not have to be killed by conventional weapons, but they would be defeated. A far more humane view towards an enemy in my opinion. In the end, there is no evidence people were 'slaughtered'. The gas was fired from the ground, with minimal effect. As for your other points making Churchill out to be some kind of criminal - many mistakes in the First World War were made because they were using 19th Century tactics with 20th Century weapons. When you read wider about Churchill, you will understand how he himself was appalled by this. And as for being a coward, it is well documented that he resigned from politics in the First World War to see active service on the front. Something not very common in politicians! Sadly, the deaths in the second world war were the result of both sides, started by the Nazis. of bombing civilian cities, with devastating results. I do not think the many deaths that occured were the aim, but to break the resolve of the people. That doesn't justify it, but it does say that judgement in hindsight - and 60 years later is easy - especially to the simplistic minds of those who weren't there or involved in the decision making, or had gone through what the Nazis had already started..

Re :- Pity You Cannot Get your Facts Right

Churchill himself was keen to argue that gas, fired from ground-based guns or dropped from aircraft, would cause *only discomfort or illness, but not death* to dissident tribespeople; but his optimistic view of the effects of gas were mistaken. It was likely that the suggested gas would permanently damage eyesight and *kill children and sickly persons, more especially as the people against whom we intend to use it have no medical knowledge with which to supply antidotes.*