Allied Leaders of World War II: Winston Churchill (Part 2)

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11163

"I told you so!" That's not a very polite thing to say but Churchill could have said that to the Brits when World War II began. He was one of the few to foresee Nazi aggression and speak out about it!



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 about a time when you were absolutely certain something was going to happen and, despite your best efforts to share what you saw coming with others, no one would believe you. How did it make you feel? Did the event actually occur? How did those around you react when they realized you were right?

There are so many interesting aspects to the life of Winston Churchill! Today, you examine Churchill's gift of foresight and how he was able to see approaching terror on the horizon, even when others said he was crazy!

Throughout this series, Allied Leaders of World War II: Winston Churchill, you will examine Winston Churchill's leadership during World War II (WWII) and the events that shaped him into the leader he was during that time.

In the first Related Lesson of this series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned how Churchill used his early failures to take the initiative to shape a successful political career. Before you dive into the content of this lesson, review what you have already learned about Churchill. Answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  • What was Churchill's greatest failure?
  • How did Churchill recover from this failure?
  • How did Churchill use failure to shape his leadership style?

If you are having difficulty answering any of these questions, use the information from the first Related Lesson to help you. When you are finished, review your responses with a teacher or parent.

In this lesson, you will continue to evaluate how the events leading up to WWII influenced Churchill as a leader.

Adolf Hitler's Nazi party began its ascent to power in 1933. While many countries throughout Europe questioned the Nazi's ideology and tactics, few engaged the German government for fear of starting another war. World War I (WWI) was a costly, deadly war, and no one was interested in repeating it. While most political leaders insisted on turning a blind eye to the Nazi threats and tactics, one person insisted that the British stand up to the major political force. That person was Winston Churchill.

Throughout the 1930s, Hitler and the Nazi party sought to expand their land and army. They began manufacturing more planes and weapons, and took over the Rhineland, all of which was forbidden by the treaty that had been established at the conclusion of WWI.

Despite the Nazis' obvious defiance of rules that had been set at the end of WWI, most British leaders continued to look in the opposite direction. Churchill, on the other hand, refused to look the other way. As a member of Parliament, he gave many speeches about the tyranny being committed by Hitler, and attempted to bring public awareness to these events.

Most in Britain began viewing Churchill as either crazy or desperate for another war, and ignored what he had to say. Continue reading about Churchill's unique opinions about Hitler during the 1930s in Gathering Storm (The National Churchill Museum). Why did the public and other political leaders refuse to listen to Churchill's warnings? Discuss your opinion with a teacher or parent.

Unfortunately, Churchill's predictions proved true.

In March of 1939, as Hitler continued his conquest of western Europe, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, promised Poland that Great Britain would declare war against Germany if the Germans invaded Poland. In September of 1939, the Nazi party invaded Poland, forcing the prime minister to declare war.

Chamberlain proved an unsatisfactory wartime leader, making some poor decisions in the beginning phases of war that prompted great division throughout the British government. In May of 1940, Chamberlain submitted his resignation and recommended that Winston Churchill take his place as prime minister. Many felt Churchill was the obvious choice due to his foresight regarding an inevitable war with Germany.

Watch how these events unfolded in The World Wars: Churchill Becomes Prime Minister (S1, E2) | History (The History Channel):

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  • How did Churchill's predictions make him an obvious choice for prime minister?

Discuss your thoughts with a teacher or parent.

Churchill left behind many memorable quotations, but one of his most memorable was said shortly after he became prime minister. On becoming prime minister during a time of war, Churchill stated, "I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial."

To what trial was Churchill referring? Based on what you know of Churchill, and what you have learned, not only about him but of the temperament of the time, how did previous events in and around his life prepare him to be prime minister of Great Britain?

Discuss the answers to these questions with a teacher or parent, then continue on to the Got It? section to compare your experience with Mr. Churchill's.

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