After failing in his first attempts to be elected as a member of parliament, Churchill came into the public eye in 1899. He had traveled as a journalist to South Africa during the Boer War, a bitter conflict between secessionist white settlers and the British government, but he was captured as a prisoner of war. Escaping from captivity, he became a hero in Britain for his daring exploits.
Churchill returned to Britain and succeeded in his goal of entering Parliament. He was now a career politician, although he also fought in World War I on the Western Front. In fact, his political career was a checkered one. Spells in high office combined with periods of obscurity, especially during the 1930s. Then a certain Adolf Hitler became the leader of a dangerously reinvigorated Germany. Strangely, Hitler’s rise to power was eventually also to propel Churchill back to the political heights.
Churchill emerged during war as the British prime minister, a man who had vowed to defeat Hitler at any cost. And of course Churchill’s record as a British wartime leader has been the foundation of his reputation as a great man. But the gratitude felt by the British people for his wartime leadership did not protect Churchill from controversy.