Everyone knows Winston Churchill as the unwavering British bulldog who helped lead the Allies to victory during World War II, but his career and personality were much stranger than many people realize. In truth, Churchill was a complex character with a range of eccentricities, quirks, and contradictions. These 20 facts show the lesser-known side of one of the most celebrated — and bizarre — leaders in history.
1. He loved taking bubble baths
When you picture Winston Churchill, you probably imagine him as a tough, no-nonsense political leader, perhaps giving a speech or smoking a cigar. What you presumably don’t think of, is him enjoying a relaxing bubble bath. But the truth is, Britain’s leader loved nothing more than a soak in the tub.
In fact, bathing was a lifetime pleasure for Churchill. Even when he went on trips to remote Africa or the war trenches of Flanders, he would track down a bathtub; if there wasn’t a tub already there, one would be packed for him! Plus, the famous Prime Minister apparently liked his baths to be just the right temperature: 98°F to be exact!
When time allowed, Churchill liked to take two baths a day. He also liked to practice “full immersion” when he was in the tub, submerging himself fully under the hot water and exhaling bubbles like a dolphin as he did so. But bath time wasn’t all play for the Prime Minister. He would often dictate to his secretaries while he was relaxing in the tub; they had to sit outside the door and note down what he was saying.
Churchill’s love of baths was so strong, in fact, that it even made it into his political speeches! On December 8, 1900, for instance, he addressed the New York City Press Club by saying, “England and America are divided by a great ocean of salt water — but united by an eternal bathtub of soap and water.”
2. He once led a daring escape from a prison camp
Churchill is most famous for his time as Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II, but his legend was arguably made in 1899. That was the year he led a courageous escape from a prison camp — and sealed his fate as a British hero.
The remarkable event took place shortly after Churchill graduated from a military academy. He was 25 years old and went to Cuba to work as a newspaper correspondent and a military observer.
“There is no ambition I cherish so keenly as to gain a reputation for personal courage”
The young Churchill was dispatched to South Africa next, but the armored train he was traveling on was ambushed by Boer fighters — the descendants of Dutch settlers at war with the British at that time. Churchill was taken prisoner and marched to a prison camp. But the future PM would use all his cunning to break free, scaling a wall in the cover of darkness with two fellow prisoners, who actually turned back.
Churchill, however, did not plan to go back to the prison. In his escape, he stumbled fortunately upon the home of a British coal-mine manager. His fellow Brit let Churchill hide in a mineshaft for three days as the Boers searched for him before sending him in a rail car full of wool into Mozambique. Churchill was then able to catch a ship back to the front line in South Africa, with a hero’s reputation.