World Coins

Winston Churchill's beginning in Oxfordshire

Editor's note: The following is the first of a six-part Coin World series about collecting the medals, coins and paper money honoring Winston Churchill, prepared by Michele Orzano for the March 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

The year 2015 also marks the 75th anniversary of Churchill’s first term as prime minister of Great Britain, from 1940 to 1945.

He was one of those larger-than-life personalities who realize significant enough accomplishments that they can go by one name and be instantly recognized.

Even these many years after the events that brought him prominence, Churchill remains one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century.

Numismatic tributes for Churchill are abundant and more are on the horizon as anniversaries of significant events in his life arrive. Coins, medals and paper money laud his many accomplishments. Many of these items recognize his strength and unfailing march to victory during World War II, but a few medals mark his postwar activities.

“Soldier,” “politician,” “author,” “artist,” “historian,” “statesman,” “raconteur,” and “wit” are a few of the words that describe him and his contributions to his country and the world.

As he told the British people and Great Britain’s friends and enemies around the world in his first speech as prime minister, on May 13, 1940, three days after Nazi Germany invaded Holland and Belgium:

“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory — victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

The beginning

He was born Nov. 20, 1874, at Blenheim Palace near Bladon in Oxfordshire, about 60 miles northwest of London.

After graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Churchill joined the British Army, serving in British India, Sudan, and other places.

In 1899, while a war correspondent for The Morning Post, a London newspaper, he became a prisoner of enemy forces during the Second Boer War, a conflict between Great Britain and Dutch settlers in South Africa.

His escape from his captors and other war-time events were the basis for his newspaper articles. He would go on to write many books, as well as speeches, and magazine articles throughout his long life.

One of his best known books is the six-volume The Second World War, published from 1948 to 1953. The moral of the book is best captured in Churchill’s own words: “In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Goodwill.”

While his writing output and political campaigns awed even his critics, Churchill was also a husband, father and grandfather, before, during and after Britain’s turbulent years of war and recovery.

On Sept. 12, 1908, at the age of 33, he married 23-year-old Clementine Hozier. In 1922 the couple purchased Chartwell House in Kent, which remained the family home until Churchill’s death.

Though his duties often required long periods of separation, his wife and family and Chartwell and its gardens would remain his means of support and solace. 

Keep reading our series about Winston Churchill's numismatic legacy:

An abundance of coins and medals depict Sir Winston Churchill in war and peace

Coins, medals recognize Winston Churchill served his nation in its time of greatest need

Post-war coin and medal issues pay tribute to Winston Churchill in his final years

Medallic items are more abundant than coins and notes honoring Sir Winston Churchill

In 2016 Great Britain will honor Churchill on £5 notes, the nation's first polymer notes

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