Winston Churchill Book Defends the Leader’s Health Habits


The Telegraph mentions in an article that A.W. Beasley, a New Zealand orthopedic surgeon, has written a book about Churchill’s health.

Winston Churchill put his body through a lot  during his lifetime. The book explores Churchill’s habits and it suggests that his health allows a good depiction of how he lived.

When he was in his 30s, Churchill had a knee injury as the result of steeple chasing. During these years, he also dislocated his shoulder when he grabbed a ring on a wall at the Bombay Harbor on his first visit to India. While he was visiting Bangalore, he had a thumb laceration when a splinter from a rifle range hit him. When he was running from his Boer captors, he had a bout of claustrophobia and panic attacks when he had to hide in a mine in South Africa. During all this, he had his speech defect investigated and had what Beasly calls “fugue” (amnesia caused by severe mental stress).

In his 40s, he suffered more injuries. A suffragette carrying a whip tried to push him under a train. After WWI the plane he was piloting crashed. In 1921, he severely injured his wrist when he was thrown from a camel when he visited the Sphinx. In 1922, he had appendix removed.

In 1931, he was hit by a car that resulted him being hospitalized for a week; then he got pleurisy which is an inflammation around the lungs.

During Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister in the early 1950s, he put his lit cigar into a box of matches, thus burning his fingers.


Injuries aside, Churchill was not a very healthy man. He began to have health problems that weren’t injuries in the 1940s. In 1941 alone, he had a tooth abscess and a heart attack on Pearl Harbor later in the year. In 1943 he suffered pneumonia twice, once in England and “full blown” pneumonia in Carthage. In 1953 he suffered from a severe stroke, and could not return to work until four months later in October.

When Churchill was finally able to return back to office, he was not at full capacity. He remained in office for two years and he finally retired in 1955.

Beasley is able to discuss these things that Churchill survived with colorful analogies; one of them being likening the brain as a boxing glove. Beasley discusses what the doctors had available to treat their patients with during these times. Pneumonia was a deadly disease before the advent of penicillin. He also talks about the reality of treating a political figure who is ill and the nation depends on the figure’s health.

When Churchill died his personal doctor, Charles Wilson (Also known as Lord Moran) composed a novel which  Wilson breaks patient confidentiality. This controversy is still discussed to this day, and it is one that Beasley is bothered by.

Beasley takes offense when Moran suggests that Churchill suffered from depression. Beasley believes that Moran misinterpreted Churchill’s phrase “black dog” as being personal, whereas it was the term Victorians used to describe feelong low.

Beasley believes that Churchill was not a heavy drinker like Moran claims him to be. Churchill was an old-fashioned aristocrat with old aristocratic habits. Beasley publishes pictures of Churchill’s signatures from 1962 and 1963 and shows that the latter was better.


Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill  11-30-1874 - 01-24-1965 Prime Minister from 1940 - 1945 then 1951 - 1955
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill
11-30-1874 – 01-24-1965Prime Minister
1940 – 1945
1951 – 1955 

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE