Churchill and the Generals by Mike Lepine
Danann Publishing, 136 pages, £29.99, $55.00. ISBN 978-0993016944
Reviewed by RICHARD A. MCCONNELL
Churchill and the Generals is a quick and excellent read for those looking for a concise primer on the unique leadership dynamics embodied by Churchill and the generals whom he led. Although brief, the portraits of the military leaders include engaging details that span through their childhood, education, military service, personal quirks, and challenges or triumphs interacting with Churchill.
All of this comes wrapped in an attractive package that includes beautiful illustrations, numerous photos of the subjects, two DVDs containing vintage footage of the Second World War, and an excellent photo timeline from 1939 through the end of the war. Whether well acquainted with the subject or a beginner, you will find Churchill and the Generals to be a must read.
Lepine’s pen portraits start with Churchill himself. Naturally this takes up the largest section of the book as Lepine expertly pilots the reader through Churchill’s life and career. Some of the most engaging portions are descriptions of Churchill’s early life such as his relations with his parents, his childhood nanny Mrs. Everest, and his interactions with senior military leaders when he was but a junior officer in the British Army. Readers will see taking root the seeds of character that germinated to create the national leader of the Second World War.
As for the generals, Lepine assigns a moniker to each that he describes as helpful signposts to the personalities depicted such as “Wavell, the Scholar,” “Wilson, the Dependable,” and “Dill, the Bridge Builder.” The full complement of personalities among Churchill’s generals ran the gamut from soft-spoken and selfless public servants like Hastings Ismay, who seemed to get along with everyone, to the brash and egotistical Bernard Montgomery, who seemed to make enemies every time he spoke. Altogether Lepine’s portraits form an engaging collage depicting a team of leaders working under great stress for the very highest stakes.
For historians, leadership scholars, and laypersons, Churchill and the Generals is an essential read. It is said that war is a human endeavor characterized by numerous relationships between leaders directing the effort. Those leaders consist of a collaborative team of military personnel and their civilian masters. Churchill and the Generals depicts the challenging collaboration that Churchill orchestrated with all its triumphs and blemishes. These were not perfect people, but their collaboration during a time of great tribulation defined a generation and reshaped the world.
Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Richard A. McConnell is Assistant Professor of Army Tactics at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. The full text of this review will appear in Finest Hour 170 due out this fall.