Winston Churchill Reporting: Adventures of a Young War Correspondent
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In those far-flung corners of the world, reporting from the front lines between 1895 and 1900, Churchill mastered his celebrated command of language and formed strong opinions about war. He thought little of his own personal safety, so convinced was he of his destiny, jumping at any chance to be where bullets flew and canons roared. "I have faith in my star—that I am intended to do something in the world," he wrote to his mother at the age of twenty-three before heading into battle.
Based on his private letters and war reportage, Winston Churchill Reporting intertwines young Winston's daring exploits in combat, adventures in distant corners of the globe, and rise as a major literary talent—experiences that shaped the world leader he was to become.
It was a good time to be in London. The British capital buzzed with celebratory fervor as it prepared for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Churchill enjoyed the festivities, spending evenings and weekends socializing under the glittering candelabra of royal estates and in the city’s finest salons. His pending deployment, however, cast an unfortunate shadow over the frivolity. Had orders declared that he be sent to an active war zone, he would have responded with great enthusiasm, but sitting around and doing nothing under the sweltering Indian sun held little appeal.
The Boers occupied the crest of the mound. “The key to the battlefield,” Hamilton noted, “lay on the summit but nobody knew it until Winston, who had been attached to my column by the high command, somehow managed to give me the slip and climb this mountain, most of it being dead ground to the Boers lining the crestline as they had to keep their heads down owing to our heavy gunfire. ” Hamilton’s account continues: He climbed this mountain as our scouts were trained to climb on the Indian frontier and ensconced himself in a niche not much more than a pistol shot directly below the Boer commandos—no mean feat of arms in broad daylight and showing a fine trust in the accuracy of our own guns.
Photo Credit: National Army Museum, London/Art Resource. A chromolithograph published in 1898 depicting the Battle of Omdurman, Sept. 2, 1898. Photo Credit: National Army Museum, London/Art Resource. A painting by British artist Edward Matthew Hale (1852–1924) depicting the charge of the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman on September 2, 1898. Churchill took part in the charge in which 350 Lancers thundered headlong into some 2,000 tribesmen. Photo Credit: National Army Museum, London/Art Resource.
Winston,” Hamilton wrote, “gave the embattled hosts at Diamond Hill an exhibition of conspicuous gallantry (the phrase often used in recommendations for the [Victoria Cross]) for which he has never received full credit. ” Courage was the attribute Churchill most admired in men. “Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives,” he would later write. “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.
That night, still annoyed, Churchill watched British soldiers rounding up a number of Boer prisoners. Studying the captives up close, Churchill saw nothing to suggest their proficiency on the battlefield. The Boers did not wear uniforms and fought in their everyday clothing, much of it threadbare after the exertions of combat. They appeared to be a slovenly lot, like “loafers round a public house,” which—in Churchill’s mind—cast a great shadow of mystery over the whole lot: What, exactly, made these simple-looking men such a ferocious adversary?