Winston Churchill: Entertaining Stories, Classic Quotes, and Witty Insults

Winston Churchill is one of a dozen personal heroes in my personal Hall of Fame. In my opinion, he was the greatest statesman-leader of the 20th century.

Italian Cruise Lines

Late in life Sir Winston took a cruise on an Italian liner. A journalist asked why he chose an Italian ship instead of a British one. He replied, “There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb. And third, in time of emergency there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.”

The Unveiling of Your Bust

During a visit by Churchill to Virginia, a memorial sculpture to the wartime Prime Minister was dedicated. A busty southern lady gushed to Churchill when she met him in a receiving line. “Mr. Churchill, I want you to know I got up at dawn and drove a hundred miles for the unveiling of your bust.” “Madam,” replied Churchill, “I want you to know that I would happily reciprocate the honor.”

A Plethora of Platitudes

In the 1930’s a Liberal Party statesman spoke on the League of Nations.  The speaker soared to rhetorical heights as he depicted the day when there would be no war amid an era of international brotherhood. Afterward, a listener asked Churchill what he thought of it. “Well,” he commented, “It was good. It has to be good, for it contained all the platitudes known to man with the possible exception of ‘Prepare to meet thy God’ and “Please adjust your trousers before leaving’

Poisoned Coffee

At a party, Winston Churchill found himself seated next to Lady Nancy Astor. When the coffee was served, the acid-tongued Nancy said, “Winston, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.” “Nancy,” Churchill replied, “If I were your husband, I’d gladly drink it.”

Political Speech or Public Hanging

Once Churchill was sitting on an outside platform waiting to speak to crowds that packed the streets to hear him.  Beside him the chair lady of the proceedings leaned over and said, “Doesn’t it thrill you, Mr. Churchill, to see all those people out there who came just to see you?” Churchill replied, “It is quite flattering, but whenever I feel this way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”

The Naked Prime Minister and the American President

During Churchill’s first visit to the White House, President Franklin Roosevelt entered Winston’s room unannounced. FDR was startled to see Winston stark naked and gleaming pink from his bath. FDR quickly put his wheelchair in reverse. But Churchill stopped him, saying, “Pray enter. His Majesty’s First Minister has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.”

Ancient Chinese Custom

In 1942 Churchill’s leadership of the war was coming under political attack again.  To deflect criticism, Churchill tried to strike a humorous tone with a recital of a tale from ancient China. “There was a custom in Ancient China that anyone who wished to criticize the government had the right to address the Emperor provided he followed that up by committing suicide. Very great respect was paid to his words and no ulterior motive was assigned.  That seems to me to have been from many points of view a very wise custom, but I certainly would be the last to suggest that it should be made retroactive.”

Participating in the Normandy Invasion

Churchill insisted on participating in the historic and massive Normandy invasion.  He wanted a “front row seat” on a British battleshipGeneral Eisenhower was horrified. You can’t put the Prime Minister in the heart of the invasion.  But Churchill would not be deterred.  Finally, Eisenhower snitched off Churchill to the King. The King confronted Churchill.  Churchill insisted that it was perfectly safe.  The King replied, “Well if it is perfectly safe, then I am coming with you.  If you go, then I go.”  Churchill backed down.

 The Love of His Life

At a formal banquet in London, the host asked the dignitaries to respond to the question, “If you could not be who you are, who would you like to be?”  When it came time for Churchill to answer, he stood, took his wife’s hand, and said, “If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be–Lady Churchill’s second husband.”

Classic Quotations

  • Appeasement: An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.
  • Survival: It is no use saying, “We are doing our best.”  You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.
  • Body Guard of Lies: In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.
  • Fanatic:  A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
  • Future: It is a mistake to look too far ahead.  Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.
  • History: The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.
  • Criticism: Eating words has never given me indigestion. I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.
  • Opponent:  I like a man who grins when he fights.
  • Russia: Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
  • Socialism: The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • Democracy: Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
  • Exercise: I get my exercise being a pall-bearer for those of my friends who believed in regular running and calisthenics.

Witty Insults

  • He is a modest man with much to be modest about. (Clement Attlee, Labor Prime Minister)
  • Occasionally he stumbled over the truth but hastily picked himself up as if nothing had happened. (Stanley Baldwin, Conservative Prime Minister)
  •  He is the only bull I know who carries his china closet with him. (John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State)
  • He is a sheep in sheep’s clothing. (Ramsay MacDonald, Labor Prime Minister)
  • He has the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought. (Ramsay MacDonald, Labor Prime Minister)

Last Recorded Words of Sir Winston Churchill

The grand journey has been well worth making–once.

(Main Sources: Churchill: Speaker of the Century, by James E.Humes; Winston Churchill: Wit and Wisdom, by James C. Humes. See previous blog posts for additional books on Winston Churchill.)

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