A petrolhead's alternative ode to Sir Winston Churchill


This day one-hundred-and-forty-two Novembers ago saw the birth of one of the most influential personas of the 20th Century. Mythified by some, scorned by others, but recognisable by all. There have been countless biographies, articles and memoirs written about Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill over the years. And this is definitely not one of them.


Things that may come to mind when thinking about Churchill are his resolute leadership during the Blitz and that famous V for Victory photo. And what of this for a speech: "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". #Goosebumps. Or what of this for a comeback when accused of being drunk: "My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly". Well played Sir, well played...

In my mind part of what makes this character so intriguing are not his poster-boy moments of fame, but rather his shortcomings and perhaps how he dealt with them. He became famous for his "severe" speech impediment, not to mention for almost flunking out of school. Even his marriage proposal to Clementine Hozier would allegedly have not come to be, had it not been for peer pressure to go ahead and pop the big question. In a way, a childhood and early adulthood that many modern-day teenagers can relate to as well.


His choice of a more military oriented career helped his name propel itself into stardom; but it was as far from a flawless career as can be. His involvement in the Second Boer War, where he was captured and then famously escaped made somewhat of a celebrity out of him. But it was also during his military career - this time in politics as the First Lord of the Admiralty - that he suffered perhaps his most costly defeat in the form of the failed operation in the Dardanelles in 1915. And how did he deal with this debacle? He resigned from Government and joined the Western Front.

His career in politics was far from immune to this pendulum-like trend. In his first stint as Prime Minister, his image has to this day come to represent Britain's valiant role in the Second World War: unconquered, unwavering, victorious. Ironically enough however, it proved rather easy to portray his second term at Number 10 through Britain's image at the time yet again: exhausted, overextended and with a need of revitalisation long overdue.


Perhaps it is a form of karma that every peak requires a trough. And that even failure - that most human of traits - helps create an image of flawlessness.

We, admirers and critics alike, each have our reasons for remembering Churchill on this day. Keeping the best for last, for me there is one particular item that sticks out rather curiously and for which Churchill was largely responsible: it was he who advocated in favour of and implemented the British navy's shift from coal to being oil-powered, ditching the safety of Welsh coal for the insecure scarcity of oil. All in the name of speed and performance.

So here's to you Sir Winston; a true unconventional petrolhead, long before it was cool.