A Winston Churchill Thread.

László

Too Many Notes
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I suppose we all have our historical heroes; mine is Winston Churchill.

I bring this up because in addition to leading England in WW2 when it stood alone for over a year (and afterward to the war's conclusion), he was a brilliant author and historian. Though he went to Sandhurst (The UK's equivalent to West Point) and never formally studied writing, his writing style is compelling, not flowery, and doesn't seem old-fashioned in its pace and attention to detail.

Though I've read quite a few Churchill bios, and read his series of books on WW2, I'd never read his comprehensive volumes on WW1 (there are several in a series). I decided I needed to do that. So I'm in the middle of it. Best read I've had in years!

Churchill's first in this series, The World Crisis 1911-1914, written during the 1920s, takes the reader into the inner sanctums of the British, German and French military and the politics. In it are his memoranda to the cabinet, other actual records that he knows and explains how things came about, and so on. Churchill also knew the German players, was invited to view German military exercises before the war, was friendly with the French and German ambassadors, etc.

In other words, this isn't history by some later dude digging up the old records and reading old interviews and newspapers, as interesting as those histories can be.

This is a book by one of the major players.

Churchill was a cabinet minister in both the run-up to that catastrophe, as Home Secretary in the British cabinet, and later as the head of the Admiralty; in addition, he fought as an officer in the land war after 1915. This, after serving his country in the Boer War, and in Afghanistan 20 years before. If nothing else, Churchill was brave, and a patriot.

I've read a lot of WWI history, and it always seems to generalize the missteps that led to the war, the stuff that made the papers, etc.; Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August is a great example, a Pulitzer Prize winner about the war's run-up in very general terms, but with very few of the sharp details about what the parties on the inside were thinking.

Well, of course - she was an historian, not an insider. She wrote a fascinating book that's a wonderful and highly recommended read, but she was a child at the time, though her father was the ambassador to Turkey in the early days of WW1.

By contrast, Churchill was there. And it's fascinating.

During WW2 Churchill was asked how he thought history will remember him. He said very well, "since I intend to write it." The man had wit.

I was a kid when Churchill died in 1965. I knew he'd been important but I was too young to understand why. I remember watching the funeral procession on TV, and thinking, "What exactly was this guy?"

I guess the more I read him, the more I know and like.
 
Just about to hit the Z shed Sir as have a 5.15am flight tomorrow morning to Nevada for work.
But this is a subject dear to my heart and when I have time in front of my PC I will post some thoughts.
Great subject my friend and deeply dividing in England for some.
 
The one I like best of all is Churchill by Andrew Roberts. It really gives you the flavor of the human being and his history.

Just about to hit the Z shed Sir as have a 5.15am flight tomorrow morning to Nevada for work.
But this is a subject dear to my heart and when I have time in front of my PC I will post some thoughts.
Great subject my friend and deeply dividing in England for some.
There are no perfect human beings.

He was always controversial during his own lifetime, but one thing to remember is he was a product of the 19th Century, the Victorian era. Many of his views reflected that. We're all products of the eras we grow up in to some degree.

Regardless, there's no doubt that his leadership in Britain's decision to carry on against Hitler, his very personal diplomacy with the US that resulted in Lend Lease and the lifting of isolationist restrictions in the US on helping arm Britain (and later Russia after June, 1941) and sustain her during that crucial year of 1940-41, his ability to get past his anti-Communism and work with Stalin to win the war even before Pearl Harbor, were crucial to the outcome, and in my opinion without him the world would be different today -- not in a good way.

Churchill was behind the decision to save more than 300,000 men with the Dunkirk evacuation. He understood the necessity of preserving the RAF for defense and not send additional planes to France after the French were clearly beaten. He was behind the decisions made during the Battle of Britain, when all Britain had left was air and sea power.

These decisions took guts and were both necessary and intelligent.

In fact, his warnings beginning in the early '30s about the dangers of Nazism and the lack of preparation among the Western democracies were prescient, proved correct, and that's a big reason he was given the Premiership in May of 1940.

People fail to credit Churchill with having his military leadership do a study regarding whether Britain could in fact resist and invasion, and understanding that study before deciding to carry on. They fail to credit his efforts to get the US to work with them to create the Joint Chiefs of Staff and create a military alliance that actually worked, instead of each country proceeding in an uncoordinated way (the Axis countries never coordinated their military efforts, and failed miserably). They fail to credit his recognition of the necessity and value of code breakers at Bletchley Park. I could go on and on. They fail to credit his willingness to share nuclear research with the US when it became clear the Nazis were trying to develop atomic weapons.

There are so many things he did right.

Churchill and other democratic leaders of his era in the West were giants among men. Churchill, FDR, Eisenhower, Marshall, de Gaulle, and a number of others. All of them, even paranoid Stalin, respected Churchill.

Everyone has their flaws; Churchill had many. But he also had determination, grit, an ethical stance, and brilliance.

I also think the Labour government that was voted in immediately after the war got a lot less done than Churchill would have, and was part of the reason that Britain had to maintain rationing, etc., for years even after the war was won.
 
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The one I like best of all is Churchill by Andrew Roberts. It really gives you the flavor of the human being and his history.


There are no perfect human beings.

He was always controversial during his own lifetime, but one thing to remember is he was a product of the 19th Century, the Victorian era. Many of his views reflected that. We're all products of the eras we grow up in to some degree.

Regardless, there's no doubt that his leadership in Britain's decision to carry on against Hitler, his very personal diplomacy with the US that resulted in Lend Lease and the lifting of isolationist restrictions in the US on helping arm Britain (and later Russia after June, 1941) and sustain her during that crucial year of 1940-41, his ability to get past his anti-Communism and work with Stalin to win the war even before Pearl Harbor, were crucial to the outcome, and in my opinion without him the world would be different today -- not in a good way.

Churchill was behind the decision to save more than 300,000 men with the Dunkirk evacuation. He understood the necessity of preserving the RAF for defense and not send additional planes to France after the French were clearly beaten. He was behind the decisions made during the Battle of Britain, when all Britain had left was air and sea power.

These decisions took guts and were both necessary and intelligent.

In fact, his warnings beginning in the early '30s about the dangers of Nazism and the lack of preparation among the Western democracies were prescient, proved correct, and that's a big reason he was given the Premiership in May of 1940.

People fail to credit Churchill with having his military leadership do a study regarding whether Britain could in fact resist and invasion, and understanding that study before deciding to carry on. They fail to credit his efforts to get the US to work with them to create the Joint Chiefs of Staff and create a military alliance that actually worked, instead of each country proceeding in an uncoordinated way (the Axis countries never coordinated their military efforts, and failed miserably). They fail to credit his recognition of the necessity and value of code breakers at Bletchley Park. I could go on and on. They fail to credit his willingness to share nuclear research with the US when it became clear the Nazis were trying to develop atomic weapons.

There are so many things he did right.

Churchill and other democratic leaders of his era in the West were giants among men. Churchill, FDR, Eisenhower, Marshall, de Gaulle, and a number of others. All of them, even paranoid Stalin, respected Churchill.

Everyone has their flaws; Churchill had many. But he also had determination, grit, an ethical stance, and brilliance.

I also think the Labour government that was voted in immediately after the war got a lot less done than Churchill would have, and was part of the reason that Britain had to maintain rationing, etc., for years even after the war was won.
Just landed in Vegas (yuk) so will post some musings tonight at the hotel but your last paragraph is where my head is on Churchill and the huge disservice he was shown after the war by the people who were glad to have him do the dirty work.
Later...
 
During WW2 Churchill was asked how he thought history will remember him. He said very well, "since I intend to write it." The man had wit.

When I had the chance to visit London, I did a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral, where Churchill is buried. There was a gate closed across the middle of his stone in the floor, which I found curious and assumed it was a maintenance thing. Nope. The gate is there at Churchill's request - the tour guide said he wanted the gate over his grave because "no one walked over me while I was alive, and they're not going to do it when I'm dead."

I didn't have time to go to the Churchill war rooms, to my father-in-law's regret.
 
They fail to credit his willingness to share nuclear research with the US when it became clear the Nazis were trying to develop atomic weapons.
The Brits were actually ahead of the Americans early in the war and helped speed up US atomic weapons research. And not only atomic research but also, in what may have been even more important for WWII overall: powerful, precise & portable radar that could be used on ships, planes and in artillery shells.

From Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer Prize winner, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb":
American science, spurred on by British appeals, was finally gearing up for war. Churchill had sent over Henry Tizard in the late summer of 1940 with a delegation of experts and a black–metal steamer trunk, the original black box, full military secrets. The prize specimen among them was a cavity magnetron developed in Mark Oliphant's laboratory at Birmingham. John Cockcroft, a future Nobel laureate, with a vital mission, traveled along to explain the high-powered microwave generator. The Americans had never seen anything like it before.
 
From Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer Prize winner, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb":
American science, spurred on by British appeals, was finally gearing up for war. Churchill had sent over Henry Tizard in the late summer of 1940 with a delegation of experts and a black–metal steamer trunk, the original black box, full military secrets. The prize specimen among them was a cavity magnetron developed in Mark Oliphant's laboratory at Birmingham. John Cockcroft, a future Nobel laureate, with a vital mission, traveled along to explain the high-powered microwave generator. The Americans had never seen anything like it before.
Indeed! I read that book a couple of times since getting it, and you're absolutely right.

In addition, it's not widely known that in addition to Germany's somewhat moribund nuclear program that they couldn't do much about once the war turned against them, Japan had its own nuclear program going called the Nishina Program. In May, 1945, a German sub was captured containing a load of uranium oxide headed for Japan to use in their efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. This was after VE Day; I don't remember whether the sub surrendered having finally gotten the word on May 19th, or if it was forced to surrender by depth charges, etc. In any case, it certainly happened.

I don't doubt that whoever got nuclear weapons first, whether that would have been the Allies or the Axis, would have used them - in our case to prevent the one million casualties the military estimated American troops would suffer invading Japan, and in the Axis' case, out of sheer desperation.

As horrible and horrific the use of the weapons turned out to be, it was obviously a good call on Churchill's part.

If I recall, Truman said that if Congress learned that he had allowed the invasion with that many casualties, when they had the alternative of ending the war with the nuclear weapons, he'd have been impeached. An interesting sidebar is that Truman was kept in the dark about the Manhattan Project until FDR died.
 
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Ugh....I keep looking at the ginormous 3 volume "The Last Lion" books. I really need to get around to reading them one of these days. Now I need to go look for the books you mentioned in your first post.
Thing is, they're not a slog to read if you like history, as I know you do. The pacing is pretty good.
 
I have a good book for you Les, it is a counter to your own views about European events, but I know you like historical books, it's a good read by great man

The Ukraine war & the Eurasian world order by Glenn diesel, on Amazon.

For current affairs there are a few good substack journalists, I enjoy simpliciusthethinker and of course the podcast theduran, and Brian beletic

These last 3 have been spot on with current affairs analysis during this current historical moment, as over here anyway the 'news' has been just politics

Speaking of which stay away from bori's biography of Churchill. That man kaboshed the peace talks and since then 600k have died. He wanted to be a Churchill figure. He may even bounce back given the strange times we live in.

All the best, I'm still worried about nukes
 
Though I've read quite a few Churchill bios, and read his series of books on WW2, I'd never read his comprehensive volumes on WW1 (there are several in a series). I decided I needed to do that. So I'm in the middle of it. Best read I've had in years!
Glad to hear it!

Any recommendation on reading the initial volumes of which series first, WWI or WWII?
 
I'm a super fan of that period covering WWI, interim years and WW2. So many things happened, so many fascinating characters....and so many lessons that we should have learned. As a European I'm very conscious that for better and for worse my continent is shaped after the events on WW2, but also that those foundational ideas are long forgotten. And that scares me a lot.

The ideas and speeches of people like Churchill now sound completely alien to the new and not so new generations. We take everything for granted, we just care for our rights and forget about the (moral ) obligations, the sacrifices and hard times they went through.

That said, I was not aware about the quality of those books by Mr. Churchill...they are on my to-read list. Thanks for the heads up Lasz
 
Churchill Was An Interesting Cat. I Have Been Digging Into The Mississippi Bubble Lately And John Law. It Is Amazing How History Repeats Itself.
 
Last night, I checked our library, and they had a ebook of the second WWII volume Their Finest Hour. A quick read of the Battle of Britain chapter which was great.
Churchill's style is a bit dry but, as at @László noted, he was there.
Some of the things that stood out were the usual fog of war, and how close the Brits came to losing the battle of Britain thus giving Germany air superiority and likely invasion. A smaller point was that on September 15, which Churchill considered the most important day of the battle, after it was over Churchill took a nap from 4:30 pm to 8:00. And the 50,000 person observer network was more important than their low resolution, early generation radar.
 
Ok, so The Last Lion or the 2 sets by Churchill??? The WWII set is 45% off on Amazon
The Manchester/Reid Last Lion is a very good bio, but I like reading Churchill's own work best, because it really gives me a flavor of the human being.

For a bio, I do recommend Churchill by Andrew Roberts. It's very good, it's not too long a read, and it's interesting.
 
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