Brits Forgetting Winston Churchill

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Hattip to Allahpundit at Hot Air.  One in five British adults were unable to identify a picture of Winston Churchill in a recent survey.

As part of the survey, carried out to mark this week’s 70th anniversary of Churchill’s prime ministerial tenure, more than 1,136 people were asked to identify three prominent 20th century PMs including Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

One in five (19%) adults failed to name Churchill, with the figure rising to 32% of 25 to 34-year-olds and 44% of those aged 16 to 24.

Following the pattern, researchers projected the rough date when the leaders would no longer be recognised, with Churchill’s demise predicted in 80 years’ time…

The survey, which involved people naming black and white headshot photos of the prime ministers, saw Churchill mistaken for Stephen Fry, Robert Hardy, Michael Gambon, Charlie Chaplin, Oliver Hardy, John Betjeman and Roy Hattersley, the Royal Mint said…

Kevin Clancy, head of Historical Services at the Royal Mint, added: “It’s shocking that one of our greatest statesmen runs the risk of potentially being forgotten.

Well, I guess it’s comforting to know that America isn’t the only nation with rotten schools and filled with people with the historical memory of a Mayfly.  For anyone reading this who might be unsure who Winston Churchill was, suffice it to say that he, more than any other single man or woman, did the most to defeat Adolph Hitler and the hideous Nazi movement he headed.

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When a nation becomes so decadent that it forgets its heroes, it should not be surprised to lack them when they are most needed in the future.

Update I: Time to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.  The best way to learn about Churchill is to read some of the books he wrote, and he wrote 43 of them.  In addition to being a statesman, Churchill was a great writer and a fine historian.

Go to the link below to get an overview of each book he wrote:

http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/writings

The magnum opus of Churchill as a writer is his six volume history of the Second World War.  An outstanding one volume analysis of this work is David Reynold’s In Command of History.

A good short one volume biography of Churchill is Paul Johnson’s recent biography of the Great Commoner.

At the other extreme is Sir Martin Gilbert who has written endless volumes about Churchill and is the author of the official multi-volume biography that was started by Winston Churchill’s son Randolph.  Gilbert is a great historian and I have benefited from, and enjoyed, each of his works that I have read.

In regard to films on Churchill, probably the best is the Wilderness Years, a mini-series starring Robert Hardy, the younger generations will recall him as the Minister of Magic in the Harry Potter series, who magnificently portrays Churchill’s lonely fight in the Thirties to awaken Britain to the menance of Nazi Germany.

Another first rate film on the same subject is The Gathering Storm, with Albert Finney in the role of Churchill.

A recent film on Churchill as Prime Minister during World War II is less successful, trying to cram too much into two hours, but Into the Storm is still worth watching.

12 Responses to Brits Forgetting Winston Churchill

  • Pathetic.

  • I should add don’t blame the schools, Don. They are busy with more important things like teaching the kids “how” to learn and ensuring high self-esteem. Who cares what happened 50 years ago?” The dude was probably just some old white guy.

  • True Mike. The schools obviously have to keep their priorities straight: politics and sensitivity first, knowledge if there is time.

    The truly dismal aspect of this is that more than a few of the teachers are probably not that clear on Churchill, probably dimly remembering him from a politicized survey course on British History they took in high school or college.

  • Perhaps I’ve found a way to make children reconnect with Churchill:

  • I bet more than 1 in 5 Americans won’t be able to identify FDR. School is where you’re locked up while your parents work. We learn from TV.

  • “We learn from TV.”

    God help us all.

  • Yet only in 2002 Winston Churchill was voted the greatest Briton by over 500,000 votes. A little more representative than 1000 in this survey. Besides which if the poll was taken in London then it is almost like the pool was undertaken in a foreign country, London is so cosmopolitan now.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/2509465.stm

    Saying that, we live in a culture which recognises only youth and celeb gossip which is a fairly recent import from the USA, (thank you USA!!). If you’re not in the media ever other day then you aren’t anyone!!

  • Sorry for the typo, it should have been ‘poll’, not pool.

    I live about 15 miles from Sir Winston Churchill’s family home – Chartwell which is now part of the National Trust. Visting there is like stepping through history, letters from all the world leaders during World War II and post war. Gifts from all over the world in gratitude for his efforts and with a library full of books he’d written. I came out feeling very insignificant. I learnt more there than in all the lessons at school.

  • If we learn everything from TV, then I suspect that Britons would fare better in this poll if taken today. Mr. Churchill appeared in an episode of Dr. Who a few weeks ago, so he should by now be readily identifiable. :-)

  • Bear in mind the article was in the UK newspaper the Daily Mail, I was once offered a
    copy free with a Latte and refused to accept it. My dad used to read
    it and it always wanted to make me slit my wrists.

    On the wider note about engaging the younger generation, I have twin
    boys of 14 and if anything as a result of the likes of the History
    channel etc they have a better appreciation of history and WW2 than I
    ever did at their age. They have recently come back from a WW1 tour of
    Belgium, we didn’t do that sort of thing when I was a lad.
    I wrote a book with my boys in mind called Churchill’s Secret Skills
    which takes Winston’s WW2 talents for running the war and applies them
    to modern business. I figured if I could keep them interested enough
    to read it through to the end then I had just about pitched it right.
    You have to keep it engaging and throw in as much humour as possible.
    Teenage kids are a tough crowd

  • I can sort of understand mistaking him for Oliver Hardy by a photograph.

  • I bet plenty of British school kids have heard of the Spitfire, though.

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