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Beware of the memoir
on 25 January 2013
As with all memoirs, they have a tendency to be self-serving. Churchill's is no different. Though, as ever, the story of this man is well told. His accounts of his own political feelings and struggles, within his own government as well as with Allies, are very interesting aspect covered in this work. Churchill's contributions and his handling of Stalin and Roosevelt were masterful, and his far-sighted mind was able to see the dire threat posed by both the Nazi-Fascist alliance and the COM intern, long before anyone else seemed to. His relationship with the United States, carefully cultivated, encouraged the Americans to see Britain as a cause worth helping. The Lend-lease and Convoy support were essential before their entry into the war.
However, he is disingenuous over his military commands and decision making abilities. Churchill was the ultimate ameuter strategist. The Royal Navy and British Army paid for his naivety in Norway in 1940, when, ironically, his disastrous campaign and the blame for it was deflected onto Chamberlain - the man Churchill would replace less than a month later.
A masterful manipulator - and opportunist (as Hitler was) Churchill manoeuvred himself into the Premiership 'hot seat'. From there his interference in military affairs was most unwelcome. His campaigns in Crete and Greece in 1941, over which he had considerable influence, were a disaster also. While he understood the political context of military strategy, he was debilitating unable to understand how to execute it.
His reputation had slumped by 1942 to such an extent his position was under threat. But the new generation of British commanders were resistant to his meddling, and the victories in Burma in late 1942, in North Africa, followed by the Atlantic in May 1943 removed the threat. As Hitler began to interfere more and more, Churchill withdrew, and with it British battlefield performance increased. Nevertheless, he continued to interfere in military strategy, leading to the failed Dodecanese Campaign, one of the last German success of the war.
Not much of his failings make into his memoirs.
His Mediterranean strategy, though ineffective without Normandy - which he was utterly opposed but forced into by the Americans - facilitated the victory on the Western Front(s), and kept Italy firmly rooted in the camp of NATO at the end of the war. I was one of his stand-out achievements.
Churchill's real contribution to the war effort came at the home front as well as his ability to deal with the Allied heads. Improving morale and hardening resolve prepared the nation for the long struggle ahead. That was his legacy; a titanic and mesmerising orator who could galvanise a nation.