Allied Leaders of World War II: Winston Churchill (Part 1)

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11162

People aren't failures; they just sometimes fail. Churchill's failure cost thousands of lives, yet he became a great leader! Learn lessons from his life and become his Facebook and TV image manager!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Think of a time when you have failed at something. Did you recover from that failure, or did you allow it to define you? In this lesson, you will learn about one of the greatest political leaders in all of history. What is remarkable about this leader is that his career began with one epic failure!

Who were the Allied powers during World War II (WWII)?

What exactly does the phrase "allied powers" mean? Discuss what you think it means with your teacher or parent. During WWII, the world at conflict was divided between the Allied powers and the Axis powers. Look at the November 1942 map below showing the Allied powers in blue and red, the Axis powers in black, and the neutral territories in gray. Answer these questions:

  • Which countries make up the Allied powers?
  • Which countries make up the Axis powers?
  • What is a neutral territory?
  • Which side has more land?

Discuss the answers to these questions with a teacher or parent.

WWII Allied and Axis Map November 1942

Image by Grachifan, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

You will notice there are several countries that make up both sides of the conflict.

Each side was led by the three countries that offered the greatest threat to the opposing side due to their military power. The leading countries on the Allied side were Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union (present-day Russia). The leading countries on the Axis side were Germany, Italy, and Japan.

In these Allied Leaders of World War II: Winston Churchill Related Lessons, found in the right-hand sidebar, you will study the role of the British Allied leader, Winston Churchill.

While Churchill is well known for his leadership before, during, and after the war, you will be primarily examining his role in the war, and the events that shaped his wartime ideology and leadership style. You may be asked to examine his life before and after the war, but in these cases, you will be looking at events that may have influenced his decisions and leadership style as a wartime prime minister. You will also study how his leadership during the war affected the rest of his political career.

In this first lesson, you will study Churchill's leadership during WWII by investigating his failures during World War I (WWI). Learn how this great military leader learned from his past mistakes.

Today, Winston Churchill is regarded as one of the best wartime leaders in all of history.

His leadership established a precedent of wartime leadership, and is a model to whom leaders around the world aspire. What is interesting about Churchill is that his greatness was partly due to his own epic failure. Born into a prominent family, Churchill climbed the political ladder quickly. When he was only 40 years old, he was made the political head of the Royal Navy during WWI. In 1915, he confidently devised an attack, known as Gallipoli, that would help the British gain important waterways between Europe and Asia. Gallipoli turned out to be one of the biggest military disasters in British history, with hundreds of thousands of British troops killed in a single attack!

It seemed Churchill's political career was over. He was quickly demoted to an insignificant cabinet position, and became a laughing-stock throughout Great Britain.

To learn more about the disaster at Gallipoli, read Winston Churchill's World War Disaster (Chris Klein, The History Channel) and World War I and its Aftermath: Admiralty, Army & Arsenal 1914-1919 (National Churchill Museum). Then, watch The World Wars: Gallipoli Derails Churchill's Career (S1, E1) | History (The History Channel):

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After learning more details of what happened at Gallipoli, does it shock you that Churchill went on to become prime minister and lead the British military during World War II? How do you think he could possibly have recovered from this type of failure? Discuss your opinions with a teacher or parent.

Despite his magnificent failure, Churchill felt he was born for greatness.

After Gallipoli, he left the cabinet position and joined the British army. Churchill proved a strong leader on the battlefield and slowly moved back up the ranks as a political and military leader. After WWI, he even served as Secretary of State.

Many in Churchill's position would have removed themselves from the public eye and sought a different career. But Churchill's failure only fueled his desire to be a great leader, and that failure helped mold him into the leader he was during WWII.

  • How could Churchill's WWI failure have influenced his leadership style and tactics during WWII?
  • How could failure have made him a stronger leader than if he had been successful throughout his entire career?

Discuss your thoughts with a parent or teacher, then continue on to the Got It? section to analyze Churchill's failures.

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