By Den Ardinger 32° KCCH

Arguably the most famous Master Mason of all time was Sir Winston Churchill.  He was a man of such accomplishment that the books, movies, articles, and speeches made about him number in the many thousands.  Historians and statesmen to this day discuss whether he made the history around him or whether the times defined his responses.  Whatever the case, one of the 20th Century’s most influential men was one of us.  Sir Winston Churchill was a Master Mason.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in Oxfordshire, England on November 30, 1874.  He was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and his American wife, Jennie Jerome.  He was born into an aristocratic family with deep ancestral ties with high positions in government and business.  He had a younger brother, Jack, and the brothers spent their early years raised by their nanny, Elizabeth Everest.

From early age, Winston was raised in a series of boarding schools that prepared him as a cavalry cadet at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst where he started in September 1893.  He graduated as a second lieutenant in February 1895 and saw duty in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars regiment where he was stationed in Aldershot.  His father died a month later.  Winston, anxious for action, traveled extensively. With his mother’s influence he traveled to Cuba during their war of independence, New York City in America, and then on to Bangalore, India for 19 months.  It was while in India that he began reading in-depth and writing long articles, letters, and his first books.  He made writing his habit which was favorably received.  He continued it in earnest for the rest of his life. 

He left the Hussar’s Regiment in 1898 but his quest for adventure was insatiable.  He traveled to the Sudan and served in the 21st Lancers.   It was at this point in life he began his parliamentary career as a Conservative and a Tory Democrat where he won his first victory in Oldham in Lancashire in 1899.

When the Second Boer War began between Britain and the Boer Republics, he traveled there as a journalist and was taken prisoner after his train was stopped by Boers.  As a POW, he was taken to Pretoria in December 1899 and interned but he escaped from prison and made his way to Portuguese East Africa.  His escape was widely publicized. He then rejoined the army as a lieutenant and was among the first troops to retake Pretoria where he accepted the surrender of the 52 Boer guards who had been his captors.  He then resigned in July 1900 and returned to Britain.

As an unpaid Member of Parliament at the age of 25, he wrote of his adventures in South Africa and used the money to tour Britain, America and Canada meeting many influential people on his way.  He took his seat in the House of Commons in 1901 and gradually moved in politics from Conservative to Liberal.  Through the years he held many positions that started with President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty.

It was at this time Winston became a Freemason.  He was initiated in Studholme Lodge No. 1591 on May 24, 1901.  He was passed to the Fellowcraft degree on July 19th and raised a Master Mason on March 5, 1902.  His father was also a Mason and he came from a long line of distinguished Masons.

Winston married Clementine Hozier in September 1908 and they were married 57 years.  They had five children; Diana in 1909, Randolph in 1911, Sarah in 1914, Marigold in 1918, and Mary in 1922. 

When World War I broke out, he rejoined the army and was attached to the 2nd Grenadier Guards on the Western Front in 1915-1916.  As a Lieutenant Colonel, he briefly commanded the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers where he was frequently shelled and narrowly escape death on the Belgian Front.  He then returned to government and served as the Minister of Munitions until the end of the war.

In the years between World War I and the beginning of World War II in 1939 he held a number of influential positions, warned of Germany’s rising power under Adolph Hitler, and passionately warned against appeasement.  His years of greatest impact as a statesman were during 1940 to 1945 when he served as Prime Minister.  His inspirational rhetoric roused his people to defend their island and secure victory over Nazi German and the Axis Powers.  Through the long and bitter war his command of the English language was a weapon no force could stand against.  

Winston was not reelected Prime Minister in 1945 but was reelected and served from 1951 to 1955.  He accepted the Order of the Garter from Queen Elizabeth in 1953 and was knighted Sir Winston.  By then his health was beginning to fail and he suffered a serious stroke on June 23, 1953 but he fully recovered by November.  He retired as Prime Minister in April 1955.

He remained active for the rest of his life and died in London on January 24, 1965.  He was mourned worldwide.  Statues, postage stamps, parks, mountains and ships have been proclaimed in his honor.  He was named an honorary citizen of the United States among thousands of other titles.

Sir Winston S. Churchill…more than a man, a Mason.

Sir Winston Churchill in December 1941 Photograph by Yousuf Karsh