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Churchill - Military genius or menace?

Stephen Napier

‘. . . the wonderful thing is that three quarters of the population of this world imagine that Winston Churchill is one of the strategists of history, a second Marlborough, and the other quarter have no conception what a public menace he is and has been throughout the war! It is far better that the world should never know and never suspect the feet of clay on that otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again . . . Never have I admired and disliked a man simultaneously to the same extent’
Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff

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‘. . . the wonderful thing is that three quarters of the population of this world imagine that Winston Churchill is one of the strategists of history, a second Marlborough, and the other quarter have no conception what a public menace he is and has been throughout the war! It is far better that the world should never know and never suspect the feet of clay on that otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again . . . Never have I admired and disliked a man simultaneously to the same extent’ Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff

ISBN: 9780750986847
Format: Hardback
Author(s): Stephen Napier
First Publishment Date: 7 September 2018

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  1. This isn’t a light read - but a good one for students of Churchill. review by AM - Warship World on 07/03/2019

    Churchill - Military Genius or Menace? (£25.00 - Hardback)

    By Stephen Napier

    The book begins by tracing Churchill’s path from pre-war political outcast to man of the hour. It shows he totally believed it was his destiny to lead the country in time of war but also that the concentration of power in his hands required strong and capable military chiefs to stand up to him. For this reason, they often had an uneven relationship with him but were generally able (if not always) to make him see reason. His imaginative mind was an endless source of ideas, the problem being that he had so many that it became a full-time job separating the bad from the good - but there is no doubt that the good got results. Brooke, his CIGS from December 1941, wrote: “Churchill had ten ideas every day, only one of which was any good - and he didn’t know which one it was.”

    It was arguably clear from the outset that Britain, even with Imperial help, couldn’t defeat Germany and Italy on her own and Churchill’s initial strategy is shown to have been based on holding off Hitler until America entered the war, a gamble he won. Subsequent joint British and American strategy in Europe and the Far East/Pacific is shown to have often been at variance, but with agreement generally reached where it mattered. Against Germany it came down to two alternatives - either a Mediterranean one, as favoured by Churchill, or a direct assault across the Channel onto the French coast. The Americans firmly believed that a landing in France in 1942 was needed to draw German forces off Russia but Churchill wasn’t prepared to risk a direct confrontation so soon in view of the troop levels and resources then available, a view that was to prove correct. The Torch Landings in NW Africa were the direct result, getting US troops into action in 1942 as desired by Roosevelt and providing a base for the invasion of southern Europe via Sicily and Italy. In the shorter term at least, the peripheral Mediterranean strategy ahead of the main thrust into France in 1944 was a victory for Churchill. The book covers this and the other strategic aspects well, although some better maps would’ve helped - the Mediterranean one needed a magnifying glass to read it.

    Military Genius or Menace, however? My conclusion is that he was actually neither; rather, a supreme motivator and hard taskmaster who got things done. It was his leadership of the nation rather than his military or strategic skills that earned him his place in history.

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