March 7, 2016

Finest Hour 171, Winter 2016

Page 04

Churchill in Combat – By David Freeman, January 2016


Churchill in CombatOne hundred years ago this winter Winston Churchill took command of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and led it into combat on the Western Front. This was to be his last experience as a uniformed officer in battle but not his last time under fire. To mark the anniversary we have invited leading specialists to recount Churchill’s many adventures in combat.

The regions along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan remain as dangerous today as they were in Churchill’s time. Con Coughlin, who reports on this area of the world, vividly describes Churchill’s first journey into battle on the North-West Frontier and notes the striking similarities between then and now.

Churchill’s account of his charge with the 21st Lancers at Omdurman (page 50) and the campaign surrounding it has excited readers for more than a century. Unfortunately, the full account set forth in the rare and costly first edition of The River War has remained unknown to most, since all subsequent editions have been abridgments. James W. Muller explains his prolonged effort to bring the restored and now fully annotated original text back into print this year.

Churchill’s early political career is bordered by his soldiering experiences in South Africa and Europe. Candice Millard takes a fresh look at the Boer War episode that first propelled Churchill into Parliament, while Douglas Russell describes the hazards Churchill endured in the First World War after he was driven from power by the Dardanelles campaign.

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City

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Although he was an observer and not a combatant, Churchill first came under fire during the Cuban War of Independence in 1895. This story has been well told by Hal Klepak in his recent book Churchill Comes of Age. Few people, however, know that Churchill made a triumphant return to Cuba more than fifty years later, a story Klepak sets out for us here.

In Finest Hour 169 Terry Reardon described Churchill’s involvement with the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow in both World Wars. In this issue Reardon gives us the full story of the construction of the Churchill Barriers built to fortify the anchorage against U-boat attacks.

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the “Iron Curtain” speech, Churchill’s historic address delivered at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, that came to be seen as the first public recognition that a Cold War was underway. Brendan Sofen looks at these remarks and three other important speeches Churchill made at American universities.

Finally we have a dozen books reviewed, including one that tells Churchill’s story as an epic poem.

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