The Place to Find All Things Churchill

Book Review

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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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – European Unity

Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018

Page 42

Review by Robert Courts

Felix Klos, Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe, I. B. Tauris, 2017, 288 pages, $35. ISBN 978–1784538132


Before the 2016 referendum, both “Leave” and “Remain” sought to win Winston Churchill to their cause. Leavers relied on the famous Saturday Evening Post article from 1930: “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.” Remainers reject this, arguing that Churchill’s views changed over the following fifteen years. They focus instead on the speeches from Zurich onwards during the late 1940s. Just before the 2016 referendum, the publisher of this book by Felix Klos released a shortened version dealing only with those “European Movement” days and badged it “the must read book of the referendum.” Published more than a year later, this fulllength edition is engaging, well written, and well researched. Klos shows that both sides take too simplistic a view, whilst revealing Churchill’s thinking on “Europe” in more detail than ever before—but perhaps not quite in the way the author intends.

As anyone will know who is familiar with the notorious internet story about Churchill advocating the use of “poison gas”—fake news if ever there was any—Churchill’s talent for producing striking but loose phrases is a real problem for the historian. Klos makes quite clear, when Churchill spoke of a “United Europe,” that his meaning was not so plain as his language. When trying to understand the model that Churchill wished to create, readers would do better drawing an analogy with the “United Nations” than the “United States.”

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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Churchill as Literary Character: WSC in Fiction

Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018

Page 48

Jim Eldridge, Assassins, Severn House, 2016, 256 pages, $30. ISBN 978-1790290881 Portrayal * Worth Reading ***

H. B. Lyle, The Irregular: A Different Class of Spy, Quercus, 2017, 288 pages, $27. ISBN 978-1681440279 Portrayal *** Worth Reading ***

Susan Elia MacNeal, The Paris Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery, Bantam, 2017, 320 pages, $26. ISBN 978-0399593802 Portrayal ** Worth Reading ***

Review by Michael McMenamin

Michael McMenamin writes the “Action This Day” column. He and his son Patrick are co-authors of the award-winning Winston Churchill Thrillers The DeValera Deception, The Parsifal Pursuit, The Gemini Agenda, The Berghof Betrayal, and The Silver Mosaic.


Assassins is described by Amazon as “The first of a new mystery series featuring Winston Churchill and King George V” and “set in 1920s London.” It is not, but two out of three is not bad. It is a new mystery series, and it is set in 1920s London. Alas, the series does not “feature” Churchill or King George V, though both make appearances—Churchill in the first chapter and the King in the closing chapters.

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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Graphically Efficient

Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018

Page 47

Richard Wiles, Biographic Churchill, Ammonite Press, 2017, 96 pages, £10/$14. ISBN 978–1791453018

Review by W. Mark Hamilton

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


Biographic Churchill is one in a new series of small and short books that presents a unique way of looking at the world’s greatest thinkers. Each compact volume takes fifty defining facts, dates, thoughts, habits, and achievements and conveys this information to the reader using “infographics.” Author Richard Wiles examines Churchill’s life, world, work, and legacy. With an intentionally sparse text, the reader examining Churchill’s long and accomplished life is drawn to the custom-designed images on every page.

The book includes many lesser-known facts about Churchill, such as how many times he was shot at in his youthful military campaigns (more than fifty), his numerous health issues over a long lifetime, and a detailed account of his “very generous” drinking habits and profligate smoking (up to ten cigars a day). Churchill’s quotes and phrases fill the book, and the author estimates that Churchill wrote more than 16,000 pages and ten million words over sixty-four years, including a 345-page novel.

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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Un navire qui coule à pic

Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018

Page 46

Jean-José Ségéric, Churchill et la guerre navale, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2016, 435 pages, €39. 978–2343089980

Review by Antoine Capet

Antoine Capet is the former Head of British Studies at the University of Rouen. His book Churchill: Le Dictionnaire was published in January by Perrin.


The old saying, “the cobbler should stick to his last,” is frequently disproved—but not in this book. Captain Ségéric, retired from the French merchant navy and also a former officer of the naval reserve, must evidently be more at ease at the helm of a ship than with a pen. He is a poor writer: his French grammar and spelling would shame a schoolboy, his choice of words often wrong, and his sentences occasionally broken by incomprehensible punctuation. To make things worse, the proofs were clearly not read, leaving a deplorable number of typos. Readers with some knowledge of English or German will also notice how the author and publisher did not even bother to make sure the words quoted were correctly copied out. Added to this, Ségéric is completely lost in the complexity of British political history, describing Aneurin Bevan as an American, writing twice that Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty on 1 October 1939, asserting that Churchill had four children, and speaking of “Air-Marshal Tedder of the USAF.”

Like any author discussing Churchill and sea operations, Ségéric has to examine the Dardanelles expedition—Churchill’s degree of responsibility in the discomfiture, and the long-term consequences of the decisions he made regarding naval aff airs: financial in the 1920s and operational in the years 1939–1945. The reader gets the impression that Churchill learnt nothing from the fiasco of 1915, as his impulsive nature always inevitably got the better of him, even in his later years. The book presents the Norway campaign of 1940 as the best illustration of Churchill getting out of his depth because of his misplaced self-confidence. Whereas many people today hail his perseverance, Ségéric disapprovingly gives an unsourced quote (“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”) with the idea that this supposed recklessness was bound to make him a poor naval overlord. But the book is not an undiluted enterprise in condemnation, as Ségéric laboriously strives to apportion blame and praise according to his lights, which are unfortunately severely limited.

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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Road to Hell

Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018

Page 45

Anita Leslie, Train to Nowhere: One Woman’s War, Ambulance Driver, Reporter, Liberator, Bloomsbury Caravel, 2017, 336 pages, $20. 978-1448216680

Review by Celia Lee

Celia Lee is co-author with her husband John of Winston and Jack: The Churchill Brothers (2007).


First published in 1945, Anita Leslie’s Train to Nowhere enjoyed success, but, like other stories about the work carried out by women during wartime, it fast vanished into obscurity. In 2017, like a time capsule buried for seventy years, this gem has been rediscovered. Prepare to have demolished all your illusions of angel-like girls wearing shining white nurses’ uniforms and nun-like head-dresses. When you take up Train to Nowhere, you will find that The Road to Hell would have been a more fitting title.

Anita Leslie, cousin to Winston Churchill and from a genteel background of titled gentry living in an Anglo-Irish castle in Ireland, plunged head-first into war work by becoming a female ambulance driver in 1940. She worked first for the Motor Transport Corps (MTC) and then the Free French Forces, serving in Libya, Syria, Palestine, Italy, France, and Germany.

Well into the war, and having gained a great deal of experience with the British Army, Anita wanted to delve further and so became an ambulance driver in the French Army. If it was to be at the centre of more action she wanted, she certainly got it! She was sent to Naples and attached to a barracks at Pozzuoli. Wrapped in blankets, she slept her first night on a floor coated in insect powder.

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Books, Arts & Curiosities – The Clattering Train

Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018

Page 44

Peter Clarke, The Locomotive of War: Money, Empire, Power and Guilt, Bloomsbury Press, 2016, 418 pages, $30.00. ISBN 978–1620406601

Review by Christopher H. Sterling

Christopher H. Sterling is Professor Emeritus of Media and Public Aff airs at the George Washington University.


This is not a book focused upon Churchill, though the man and some of his writings (chiefly The World Crisis) do figure throughout. Instead, Peter Clarke’s latest history can be read in two ways. In the first instance, the book offers an assessment of the moralistic rhetoric used by national leaders compared with their military and economic actions both before and after the First World War. The second way to read the book is as a series of insightful biographical vignettes of a selection of those leaders. Either way, one’s time is well spent.

A retired professor of history at Cambridge University with numerous prior books to his credit, Clarke takes on the huge and still-expanding literature concerning the causes and effects of the Great War. As its centennial is now being observed, Clarke reaches back to the lives and writings of a key selection of British and American leaders (and one Frenchman—Clemenceau) in order to understand better what happened and why. His argument is that once set on its rails, the initiative or “locomotive” leading to war (the imagery dates to Trotsky) is hard if not impossible to stop.

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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

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