The Place to Find All Things Churchill

Book Review

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Dynamic Duo

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 48

Review by Kevin Ruane

Kevin Ruane is author of Churchill and the Bomb (2016) and teaches history at Canterbury Christ Church Univeristy.

David Cohen, Churchill and Attlee: the Unlikely Allies Who Won the War, Biteback Publishing, 2018, 356 pages, £22. ISBN: 978–1785903175


As a cursory internet search will confirm, the popular perception of the Winston Churchill-Clement Attlee relationship is largely shaped by two purportedly Churchillian remarks. The first—the wording alters marginally depending on where one looks— goes thus: “An empty taxi drew up outside Number 10 Downing Street and out stepped Mr Attlee.” The second has Churchill dismissing Attlee “as a sheep in sheep’s clothing.” From these quotes, it is reasonable to infer that Churchill regarded Attlee, the Labour Party leader (1935–55) and his deputy as Prime Minister during the Second World War, as a vacuous non-entity. There is, though, a problem with such an inference: Churchill did not actually utter the remarks upon which it rests. Indeed, when apprised of the barbs he was supposed to have shot in Attlee’s direction, Churchill became angry and upset.

Popular perceptions are quick to set but slow to shift. In 2002, the BBC commissioned a public television poll to determine the “Greatest Britons” of all time. Churchill came top. Attlee did not even make the top 100. In contrast, David Cohen reminds us in his new book Churchill and Attlee that in 2004 British historians were polled on the most successful UK Prime Minister of the twentieth century. Attlee came first, Churchill second. Historians, then, as opposed to the public, have never lost sight of Attlee and his importance.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Red Alert

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 46

Review by Nigel Hamilton

Nigel Hamilton is Senior Fellow in the McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Boston. War and Peace, the final volume of his “FDR at War” trilogy, will be published in May 2019.

David Reynolds and Vladimir Pechatnov, eds., The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt, Yale University Press, 2018, 660 pages, $35. 978–0300226829


At first glance The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt promises to be the book we—those of us still deeply interested in the history of the Second World War—were waiting for. David Reynolds is a distinguished historian of Anglo-American relations and Vladimir Pechatnov a leading scholar of Soviet relations with the West, having access to significant new primary sources.

The good news for readers is that the seventeen-page introduction—clearly penned by Professor Reynolds—is worth the price of the book alone: a wonderful, essayistic tour d’horizon of the three great leaders of the Allied coalition in the Second World War: their different personalities, their political aims, and their strengths and weaknesses, spiced with wonderful quotations. Told in 1944 that they resembled the Holy Trinity, Marshal Stalin—who had studied for six years at the Tiflis Russian Orthodox seminary—quipped: “If that is so, Churchill must be the Holy Ghost. He flies around so much.”

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Painting with a Purpose

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 44

Review by David Freeman

David Cannadine, ed., Churchill: The Statesman as Artist, Bloomsbury, 2018, 172 pages, £25/$30. ISBN 978–1472945211


Writing in his famous essay Painting as a Pastime, Winston Churchill said of his favorite hobby: “I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind.”

There have been several good books that gather together examples of Churchill’s paintings. This is the first book, however, that gathers together all of Churchill’s speeches and writings about painting. It is worth reading.

Sir David Cannadine writes and speaks frequently about Churchill. As a professional historian, his resume is unsurpassed. So it is notable that he does not underestimate the importance of painting in Churchill’s life. He has never been alone. Included in this book are essays by six people from the professional art world during Churchill’s time showing their appreciation for the statesman’s passion.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Warlord at Work

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 43

Review by David Freeman

David Freeman is editor of Finest Hour.

Allen Packwood, How Churchill Waged War, Frontline, 2018, 260 pages, £25/$34.95. ISBN 978–1473893894


Reflecting on his reputation after the war, Churchill noted: “People say my speeches after Dunkirk were the thing. That was only a part, not the chief part. They forget that I made all the main military decisions.” Indeed, Churchill did not just lead by inspiration; he waged war—exactly what he said he would do in his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister. How Churchill went about it is the subject of this gripping new study by Allen Packwood.

For many years Packwood has served as Director of the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge. His deep familiarity with the papers of Winston Churchill has resulted in this his first (and, I hope, far from last) book. Every page illustrates his extensive knowledge of the primary documents, for this book uses citations at the bottom of each page and not endnotes following the chapters or buried in the back. A quick glance down shows that Packwood is supporting his arguments with original archival documents. Even his secondary sources are mostly the published versions of primary materials, such as diaries, letters, and memoirs.

Armed with this formidable knowledge, Packwood does not attempt to provide a comprehensive account of Churchill as warlord. Instead he has chosen ten subject areas that interested him in particular as he set out “to try and answer the question what did Churchill do? How did he wage war?” Each chapter is a thoughtful but fast- paced and self-contained study. The chapters give a good chronological spread of the war years, starting in 1940 with Churchill’s decision as Prime Minister to serve also as Minister of Defence and concluding with his determination to run an aggressive campaign in the general election of 1945.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Maternal Love

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 42

Review by Zoe Colbeck

Zoe Colbeck is the General Manager for the National Trust at Chartwell.

David Lough, ed., My Darling Winston: The Letters Between Winston Churchill and His Mother, Pegasus Books, 2018, 598 pages, $35. ISBN 978–1681778822


This is the first time that the letters between Lady Randolph Churchill and her son Winston have been gathered into a book. Mother and son are said to have corresponded more than a thousand times. David Lough, whose previous book No More Champagne (2015) provided a meticulous examination of Winston Churchill’s finances, has unearthed and transcribed nearly 800 of these letters and selected 450 for inclusion in this fascinating book. The result not only tells us about the relationship between Winston and the former Jennie Jerome over the course of their shared lives and how it changed; it also illustrates the upper class life which they lived.

Lough observes that Winston’s letters have “great passages of self-analysis that make his correspondence with his mother such a valuable source of insight into his character.” It is fascinating to be able to see into Churchill’s mind this way, and I was really surprised by some of what I read. He realised that his education had been utilitarian: focused on getting him into the army. To reach his goal of becoming a politician, Lt. Churchill would have to increase his knowledge and read the books he would have learnt from had he gone to university. To this end he had his mother send him many books, as well as the records of the House of Commons, so that he could learn more about how Parliament worked.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Noblest Adventure

Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019

Page 40

Review by Raymond Callahan

Raymond Callahan is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Delaware.

Larry P. Arnn and Martin Gilbert, The Churchill Documents, Volume 21, The Shadows of Victory: January–July 1945, Hillsdale College Press, 2018, 2149 pages, $60. ISBN 978–0916308391


Churchill entitled the final volume of his war memoirs Triumph and Tragedy. The final volume of the Churchill War Papers underscores that dual theme. The astounding war effort that, under his leadership, the British people produced made victory possible. Without the British decision in May-June 1940 to fight on—a decision Churchill both organized and embodied—it is all too easy to imagine the war ending in a very different way, leading to a very different world. But, as this volume opens, victory had become certain. As that victory came in sight, however, so did the enormous cost. The Britain that would celebrate victory would be a very different country from the one that went reluctantly to war in 1939—much poorer and much reduced in power. In Corelli Barnett’s striking words, Britain ended the war “a warrior satellite of the United States.” It was also a country on the brink of epochal change. Looming ahead was the end of the coalition, a general election (the first since 1935 and involving an entire new cohort of voters), and the need to adjust to a new global configuration in which the United States and the Soviet Union would dominate, the British Empire would unravel and British society undergo the most dramatic, far-reaching revolution in its long history. Not all of this is reflected equally in the 2000 pages of documents in this volume, but all of it is there.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – “A Bloody Awful Row”

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 48

Review by W. Mark Hamilton

Stephen Roskill, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty: The Last Naval Hero— An Intimate Biography, Seaforth Publishing, 1980 (reprint, with a new introduction by Eric Grove, 2018), 430 pages, £16.99/$29.95. ISBN 978-1526706553

W. Mark Hamilton is author of The Nation and the Navy: Methods and Organization of British Naval Propaganda, 1889–1914 (1986).


Seaforth Publishing and British naval historian Eric Grove are to be congratulated for reprinting Stephen Roskill’s Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty. The timing is especially appropriate as the world observes the centennial of the First World War and the historic Battle of Jutland.

Grove’s new introduction is informative and interesting: he comments on recent scholarship since the original publication of Roskill’s biography in 1980 as well as on the contents of the book. He gives special attention to the controversy surrounding the Royal Navy’s substantial losses at Jutland and Roskill’s erroneous conclusion that the primary blame be accorded to defects in ship design, as opposed to the current scholarship ascribing the losses to poor handling of ammunition.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Wizard Still Beguiles

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 47

Review by Mark Klobas

Richard Wilkinson, Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel, I. B. Tauris, 2018, 304 pages, £25/$45. ISBN 978–1780763897

Mark Klobas is Professor of History at Scottsdale Community College.


When he memorialized David Lloyd George before the House of Commons in March 1945, Winston Churchill paid tribute to the profound and enduring legacy of his friend’s extensive political career. “Most people are unconscious of how much their lives have been shaped by the laws for which Lloyd George was responsible,” he declared, adding that “[t]he stamps we lick, the roads we travel, the system of progressive taxation, the principal remedies that have so far been used against unemployment—all these to a very great extent were part not only of the mission but of the actual achievement of Lloyd George; and I am sure that as time passes his name will not only live but shine on account of the great, laborious, constructive work he did for the social and domestic life of our country.”

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – A Friend in Need

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 46

Review by Richard A. McConnell

John von Heyking, Comprehensive Judgment and Absolute Selflessness: Winston Churchill on Politics as Friendship, St. Augustine’s Press, 2018, 200 pages, $27. ISBN 978–1587311604

Richard A. McConnell is Associate Professor in the Department of Army Tactics at the US Army Command and General Staff College.


Winston Churchill was a vigorous orator known for his expertise at arguing his point and implacably pursuing his goals. Yet he had the ability to pursue friendships with many of his political opponents. Today, when friendships across the aisle seem nonexistent, these two aspects of Churchill seem peculiarly paired. In Comprehensive Judgment, John von Heyking explores the notion that political statesmanship, although characterized by opposing viewpoints in conflict between political rivals, must include an aspect of friendship. In fact, one could argue that Churchill’s approach to politics simultaneously acknowledged the importance of the rules that govern society while also understanding that these rules were insufficient by themselves to create ordered governance. Friendship must augment rules for governing to be effective, von Heyking argues, and his achievement is to provide engaging descriptions of the philosophical foundations of such political fellowship in the context of the friendships of Winston Churchill.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Closing the Ring

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 42

Review by Raymond Callahan

Larry P. Arnn and Martin Gilbert, eds., The Churchill Documents, Volume 20, Normandy and Beyond: May–December 1944, Hillsdale College Press, 2018, 2576 pages, $60.  ISBN 978-0916308384

Raymond Callahan is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Delaware


This volume of the Churchill War Papers covers the climax of Britain’s war against Germany and its accelerating eclipse by an America whose war effort was peaking as an overstretched Britain began to decline. It shows Churchill fighting both to maintain Britain’s parity in the alliance and to preserve its power position in a postwar world beginning to take shape as the Nazi empire collapsed. It was a doomed endeavor but a remarkable rearguard action.

The assault on Western Europe (“Overlord”) was the key Anglo-American military operation of 1944. The cross-channel attack had been George Marshall’s obsession since American entry into the war. The British had, of course, known as long ago as the dark days of 1940 that someday they would have to re-enter continental Europe. But, more realistic than the Americans about both the fighting power of the Wehrmacht and the problems of amphibious warfare in the English Channel, the British had no intention of doing so until they had weighed the scale as heavily as possible in their favor. This is what the “Mediterranean Strategy” devised by Churchill and Chief of the Imperial General Staff Sir Alan Brooke (who, unlike Marshall, had faced the Wehrmacht in the field) was intended to do: engage the Germans where circumstances favored the allies, pull German strength from Western Europe (and Russia), erode it by steady attrition in battle, take Italy out of the war in the process, and, by opening the Mediterranean, relieve the strain on allied shipping.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Exercice Agréable or Tantalizing Taste

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 44

Review by James W. Muller

Antoine Capet, Churchill: Le Dictionnaire, Perrin, 2018, 862 pages, €29. ISBN 978-2262065355

James W. Muller is Professor of Political Science at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and chairman of the ICS Board of Academic Advisers


In the eighteenth century, the French Société des Gens de Lettres, led by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, compiled their famous encyclopedia, announced as a “Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers” and written to offer a conspectus of all human knowledge. Composed in the same ambitious spirit is this exceptional work by Antoine Capet, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, who was head of British studies at the University of Rouen until he retired in 2014. For the last decade he has been working on Churchill, and this dictionary is the fruit of his labor.

No one should suppose that he has simply compiled a long book full of explanatory entries related to Churchill and put them in alphabetical order. Churchill’s French biographer François Kersaudy points out in the foreword that Capet groups material into sixteen chapters by subject, many of them with further subdivisions, with entries listed chronologically. In My Early Life, Churchill recommends chronology as “the key to easy narrative,” and it serves Capet well.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Sing a Song

Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018

Page 48

Review by David Freeman

Don Cusic, Winston Churchill’s Love of Music, Brackish Publishing, 2018, 115 pages, $26.95. ISBN 978–0999053713


This little book shows that if Churchill did not have an aptitude for music, he certainly took much enjoyment from it.

There can be no doubt that Churchill’s taste in music did not run to the classical. The symphony, opera, and ballet were not for him. But music comes in many varieties, and appreciation can only ever be subjective.

Churchill enjoyed the music hall ditties of his youth and could quote the words of his favorites to the end of his days. He also treasured the school songs unique to Harrow, which he attended during his teenage years.

As a soldier, Churchill appreciated both traditional marches and the songs developed by those who fought in the First World War. As a man steeped in Biblical verse, he also took inspiration from hymns. He never tired of Gilbert and Sullivan and was fond of the musical ditties of Noel Coward, including “Let’s Not Be Beastly to the Germans.”

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – A Gentlemanly Love of Liberty

Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018

Page 46

Review by James W. Muller

João Carlos Espada, The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty: A View from Europe, Routledge, 2016, 212 pages, £115.00/$125.97, hardcover, ISBN 978–1472455727; £29.99/$49.95 paperback, 2018, ISBN 978–1138591592; $43.41 Kindle, ASIN B01GJZKJIC.


We learn on its first page that this book had its origin in a conversation in England between its Portuguese author as a young man and the Austrian-born British subject Karl Popper, a professor of political philosophy at the London School of Economics, then in his old age. The author, João Carlos Espada, with the woman who became his wife, had earlier taken part in the revolution that ended the long dictatorship in his country and was working as political adviser to Portugal’s democratically elected president Mario Soares. The president had arranged for Popper to deliver a lecture in Lisbon, where Espada had discussed with him his research on Popper’s critique of Marxism and his theory of democracy. Popper invited Espada to come to Britain to continue the discussion. Hence their conversation in 1988 at Popper’s house, which Espada tells us remained in his recollection after more than a quarter-century “as vivid as I recalled it when I left his home in the evening of that unforgettable first visit” (2).

The conversation took a particular turn by accident, when Espada espied, among the “highly selective collection” of books in Popper’s living room, not only works by Plato, Aristotle, Smith, Burke, Kant, and more recently Keynes and Hayek (1), but also Read More >

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Leadership Lessons

Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018

Page 45

Review by David Freeman

Lawrence M. Kryske, Churchill without Blood, Sweat, or Tears, Homeport Publishing, 2017, 156 pages, $15.99. ISBN 978–0692940174


One of the most frequently received requests by the International Churchill Society is for material about Churchill’s qualities as a leader. Lawrence M. Kryske is a retired US Navy commander and longtime Churchillian. No one is better qualified to write on the subject.

Churchill without Blood, Sweat, or Tears distills what Kryske has learned from more than fifty years of studying Churchill and a naval career that began with action during the Vietnam War and culminated as the first commanding officer of US Naval Station, Pascagoula, which was the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced, and most environmentally clean base in the world.

Kryske begins by identifying Churchill’s formula for success: vision + courage + determination = success. The main sections of the book break down each of the three ingredients by identifying qualities that advance, cultivate, and deepen them.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Rail-Splitter and the Bulldog

Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018

Page 44

Review by Robert A. McLain

Lewis E. Lehrman, Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War, Stackpole Books, 2018, 526 pages, $34.95. ISBN: 978–0811719674


Lewis Lehrman has produced a wonderfully rendered comparison of two very different statesmen. Indeed, while the author’s recent Churchill, Roosevelt & Company related the statecraft of two closely intertwined war leaders, the juxtaposition of Lincoln and Churchill would seem a stretch, until now. Lehrman quickly points out the radically different backgrounds and personality traits of the president and the prime minister, yet he also suggests compelling historical parallels. Both leaders guided their countries to victory through essentially existential crises unprecedented in scope, the American Civil War and the Second World War. Lehrman also notes that the modest and unassuming Lincoln served as Commander-in-Chief of an army that exceeded two million men, one of the largest in history to that point, while Churchill refused to yield even as the British Empire and Commonwealth, vast but impecunious and poorly equipped, faced Hitler’s might with no outside aid following the fall of France.

One of the most valuable aspects of this work is how cogently it reveals the similarity of traits that made Lincoln and Churchill such outstanding wartime leaders. Both men possessed an aptitude for military affairs and harbored a deep understanding of history. Most critically, Lehrman documents Lincoln’s and Churchill’s shared sense of moral clarity with regard to the respective evils of American slavery and Nazism. This awareness created a determination in both leaders to see the fighting through to the end, even when defeat seemed imminent and those around them lost heart and clamored for peace, or some sort of shameful accommodation.

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