1893 - 1900


Walk with us, through the life of a legend

Life of Churchill

Young Soldier

The death of Lord Randolph Churchill on 24 January 1895, aged just forty-five, and before Churchill had been able to prove himself to his father, clearly had a profound effect. Churchill became a cavalry officer in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars only a month later but almost from the beginning his mind was set on following his father into politics. To do this he needed fame and fortune.

In the five years between 1895 and 1900, he sought them both by getting himself transferred to as many dangerous places as possible and then writing up his experiences as newspaper articles and books. He was shot at in Cuba, fought in what is now Pakistan, on the Afghan border, survived a cavalry charge in the Sudan, and made the headlines by escaping from Boer captivity in South Africa.

This section tells you how the young Churchill launched himself on the world.

1893 - 1900

Spring 1893 (Age 18)

Winston spent the term with Captain James preparing for his third attempt to get into Sandhurst. As always, mathematics was a struggle for him. ‘I am assured [that mathematical skills] are most helpful in engineering, astronomy and things like that,’ he wrote, ‘…and I am glad there are quite a number of people born with a gift and a liking for all this.’ He was not one of those people.

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10 Jan 1893

While playing hare and hounds, Winston experienced another miracle in his life: he survived an attempt to leap from a bridge to the top of a fir tree, but the twenty-nine foot fall ruptured his kidney. The Times grossly understated the extent of the injury when it reported that “he was very much shaken and bruised.” His parents spared no expense in providing the best medical care but he was six weeks in recovery and should have been longer.

28 Jun 1893: WSC enters Royal Military College, Sandhurst

Summer 1893 (Age 18)

Success and failure at school:
Winston was jubilant that, after three attempts, he had passed into the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Although he had achieved a standard which admitted him to the cavalry and not to his father’s desired infantry regiment, he wrote what his own son later called ‘a somewhat insouciant letter to Lord Randolph.’ He received ‘one of the most formidable rebukes of Lord Randolph that survive.’

Autumn 1893 (Age 19)

Sandhurst Victories: Winston entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst as a cavalry cadet because he had not qualified for the infantry, a circumstance of great disappointment to his father. He would soon be granted an opening in the infantry, but shortly after he entered school he was invited to attend a mess of the Fourth Queen’s Own Hussars, a light cavalry regiment.

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Winter 1894 (Age 19)

It was intended that Winston would join the 60th Rifles Infantry Regiment upon graduation from Sandhurst but his fervent desire to join the cavalry was expressed in a letter to his mother: ‘Promotions much quicker in Cavalry; Obtain your commission in Cav much sooner, 4th Hussars are going to India shortly.

Winston Churchill 4th Hussars

WSC passes out of Royal Military College, Sandhurst

Churchill did well at Sandhurst, graduating twentieth out of a class of 130 in December 1894. As he later wrote, “It shows that I could learn quickly the things that matter.” For the first time in his life his personal interests and his work were the same and he excelled. A distinguished career had begun.

Churchill received his commission from Queen Victoria with an effective date of February 20th, 1895.

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Lord and Lady Randolph embark on an ill-advised world tour

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30 Jun 1894

Tower Bridge opens in London


Lord Randolph becomes gravely ill

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24 Jan 1895

Lord Randolph dies

20 Feb 1895

Commissioned as a first lieutenant in Queen’s Own 4th Hussars

Spring 1895 (Age 20)

Churchill remembered his years at Sandhurst, from which he ‘retired’ with a commission in the 4th Hussars, as ‘hard but happy.’ He felt that he had demonstrated that he ‘could learn quickly enough the things that mattered.’

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Winston rushes to the bedside of his beloved Mrs Everest

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3 Jul 1895: Mrs. Everest dies


Young Winston makes his first political speech

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9 Nov 1895

Churchill makes his first of many visits to US

Nov 1895

On his first visit to the US, he is introduced to Bourke Cockran who was to become a mentor, teaching him the art of public speaking

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30 Nov 1895: Observes fighting in Cuba

Autumn 1895 (Age 21)

Later in life Churchill reflected on his years in the 4th Hussars. He recalled that the young officers envied the decorations and experiences of their senior colleagues and wondered whether their own chance to win glory would ever come

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Winter, 1895-96 (Age 21)

Returns from Cuba for a six month stay in England

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Spring 1896 (Age 21)

Winston later called this period ‘among the most agreeable six months I have ever spent.’ He had just come through a particularly trying situation in which he successfully sued and received an apology from a father of a fellow cadet who resented Churchill’s role in an unseemly attempt to exclude the cadet from the 4th Hussars as ‘unsuitable.’

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Summer 1896 (Age 21)

Churchill prepared to embark on India with the 4th Hussars he found his future ‘utterly unattractive. I look upon going to India as useless and unprofitable exile. I feel that I am guilty of an indolent folly that I shall regret all my life.’ To his mother he wrote, ‘It is useless to preach the gospel of patience to me. Others as young are making the running now and what chance have I of ever catching up.’

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Autumn 1896 (Age 22)

Churchill’s regiment, the 4th Hussars, arrived at Bombay Harbour and then travelled by train to Bangalore in southern India. In My Early Life, he wrote, “If you like to be waited on and relieved of home worries, India thirty years ago was perfection. All you had to do was to hand over all your uniform and clothes to the dressing boy, your ponies to the syce, and your money to the butler, and you need never trouble any more…’

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3 Oct 1896: Arrives Bangalore, India

Winter 1896-97 (Age 22)

Churchill always regretted that he did not have a university education but he covered this disappointment with his famous wit. He once noted that he had received many more degrees than he had passed examinations. Nevertheless, he was extremely well-read. That process began while he was in India, a period which he called ‘the university of my life.’

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Spring 1897 (Age 22)

May marked the end of Churchill’s almost superhuman effort to educate himself by reading yards of classic literature and studying the Annual Register for all years since his birth. Now his search for fame and action demanding his return from India. Though Lady Randolph resisted this on grounds of cost, and feared he would get a reputation for not sticking to anything, Churchill wanted action.

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26 Jul 1897

On 26 July Churchill made his maiden political speech. He was pleased with the press reports on his efforts.

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4 Sep 1897

Joins the Malakand Field Force commanded by Sir Bindon Blood

4 Oct 1897

Begins writing his only novel, Savrola

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14 Mar 1898

Publishes first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force

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Spring 1898 (Age 23)

“Everybody is reading it…”

Winston thought that his brother Jack would follow him into the Army but his mother knew that he would not pass the medical examination because of his eyesight, and she could not provide him with the necessary allowance.

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Summer 1898 (Age 23)

Churchill departs for Egypt and fights in the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan

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2 Aug 1898: Arrives Cairo

Autumn 1898 (Age 24)

‘In love, but not yet prepared to commit himself…’

The Nile War over, Churchill returned to England where he immediately became embroiled in controversy over his military and political activities. The Prince of Wales wrote him that ‘I think an officer serving in a campaign should not write letters for the newspapers or express strong opinions of how the operations are carried out.’

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2 Sep 1898: Cavalry charge at Omdurman with the 21st Lancers

Winter 1898-99 (Age 24)

Polo and The River War

Early in December 1898, Churchill returned to India to play in the annual Inter-Regimental Polo Tournament. On board ship, he worked on his manuscript for the River War, writing his mother on 11 December: ‘I have however made good progress with the book. Three vy long chapters are now almost entirely completed. The chapter describing the fall of Khartoum Gordon’s death etc is I think quite the most lofty passage I have ever written.’

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1 Dec 1898: Returns to India

Apr 1899

Resigns from army to pursue a political career

Spring 1899 (Age 24)

The First Political Campaign

In late March 1899, on his way home from Egypt, Churchill wrote to his grandmother explaining his decision to leave the Army for a writing career: ‘Had the army been a source of income to me instead of a channel of expenditure I might have felt compelled to stick to it. But I can live cheaper & earn more as a writer, special correspondent or journalist; and this work is moreover more congenial and more likely to assist me in pursuing the larger ends of life.’

Summer 1899 (Age 24)

The First Defeat

Churchill spent the summer of 1899 in his first parliamentary election campaign, attempting, unsuccessfully, to persuade Pamela Plowden to join him.

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6 Jul 1899: Defeated in his first attempt at Parliament

14 Oct 1899

Sails to South Africa as war correspondent

6 Nov 1899

Publishes The River War

15 Nov 1899

Captured by the Boers in South Africa

12 Dec 1899

Escapes from prison in Pretoria

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Churchill Boer War 1899

Churchill during the Boer War while writing for the Morning Post in 1899

Autumn 1899 (Age 24)

World-Famous Overnight

Autumn 1899 began with Churchill the war correspondent travelling by ship to South Africa to report on the Anglo-Boer War. It ended with Churchill the escaped prisoner travelling by train surreptitiously out of South Africa into Portuguese East Africa. In between these two journeys, Churchill became famous throughout the world.

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Winter 1899-1900 (Age 25)

Continually Under Shell or Rifle Fire

Churchill spent Christmas Eve at the headquarters of General Redvers Buller, scarcely a few hundred yards from where he had been captured by the Boers 36 days earlier. During January, General Buller gave Churchill a commission as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse despite the fact that he continued to serve as a war correspondent for The Morning Post.

1 (or 2) Feb 1900: Publishes Savrola

Spring 1900 (Age 25)

‘Politics, Pamela, finances and books all need my attention…’

Spring 1900 found Churchill very much engaged in the war against the Boers, heedlessly taking chances with his life on occasions where only his death would have afforded him any publicity. On one occasion, in April 1900, Churchill, as a correspondent, joined a cavalry attempt to capture a small hill, racing a group of Boer horsemen to the summit.

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16 May 1900: Publishes London to Ladysmith via Pretoria

Summer 1900 (Age 25)

‘[A war] is not a long line of continuous successes’

Churchill returned home on 20 July 1900 on the Dunottar Castle, the same ship on which he had arrived in South Africa eight months earlier. On the very next day he began inscribing copies of his latest book, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, beginning with an inscription to Oliver Borthwick, The Morning Post editor who had sent him there (see Finest Hour 105, p. 45). An election was in the offing so Churchill next set out for Oldham, for his second try at elective office.

5 Jun 1900

Enters Pretoria with British troops

20 Jul 1900

Returns to England

1 Oct 1900

Elected Conservative Member for Oldham

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12 Oct 1900

Publishes Ian Hamilton’s March

Autumn 1900 (Age 26)

‘…you must remember how much money means to me…’

Money, or his lack of it, was very much on Churchill’s mind after his election to Parliament for Oldham on 2 October. Thereafter, he toured the country during the remainder of the three-week polling period speaking on behalf of many Conservative candidates, including Balfour and Chamberlain.

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1 Dec 1900

Lecture tour of North America begins

10 Dec 1900: Meets Governor Theodore Roosevelt

11 Dec 1900

Lecture in Philadelphia

31 Dec 1900

Churchill earns more than any contemporary journalist

Finest Hour

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Writing, Articles & Books

In his lifetime, Churchill published more than 40 books in 60 volumes.

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Young Churchillians

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Young Churchillians


In his lifetime, Churchill published more than 40 books in 60 volumes.

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