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Churchill: A Biography. by Roy Jenkins.

Some notes, and an appreciation, by Patrick Skelly

Within this massive work, annotated and indexed, lie pages 549 to 800, "Part V - The Saviour of his Country and the Light of the World? - 1939-1945". Considering that Churchill spent (by my count) 180 days in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operation between August 1942 and February 1945 - six months out of thirty - the detail of what was happening there, the balance between decisions of state and of war, is fascinating.

Of particular interest to me are the background (p. 784) for, and his later regrets about, not attending the funeral of President Roosevelt, and by this, the lost opportunity for an initial rapport with President Truman.

Through the narrative in this period there is much emphasis given to the handling of General Charles de Gaulle. The contributions of the Free French were invaluable, but one must wonder how much of it happened in spite of, rather than because of, de Gaulle.

One passage, on p 741 in regard to the then-impending D-Day, seems appropriate today when we have even more general officers than in World War II:
"Even on casualties, Churchill was full of ambiguity. He certainly did not wish to see another Somme, but he always believed it was the duty of troops to engage the enemy. He never liked quiet fronts or great quantities of staff officers ensconced in comfortable uselessness. Suddenly in early May he focused on those in Algiers, no longer a focal point of the war: 'The best thing would be to form a Sacred Legion of about 1,000 Staff Officers and let them set an example to the troops in leading some particularly desperate attack.' No such thing happened, of course, nor in reality did he mean it to. He was just blowing off against the excesses almost invariably involved in any mass military organzation."

A few memorable quotations, which might again be useful:

"He was brilliant - brilliant to the top of his boots."
- Lloyd George about Douglas Hyde (p. 705),
but thought equally apt for the French General Giraud.

"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing.
Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

Cromwell's dismissal of the Long Parliament (p. 579),
repeated by L.S. Emery to the House of Commons on 4 May 1940.

"The right honourable gentleman must not allow himself to be converted
into an air-raid shelter to keep the splinters from hitting his colleagues."

Lloyd George to/about Churchill on 8 May 1940 (p. 580), who had
accepted responsibility for losses in the 1940 Norwegian campaign.

"If we manage it well, it will take
only half as long as if we manage it badly."

Churchill, at an Ottawa press conference of 31 December 1941 (p. 675),
when asked how long it would take to achieve victory.

"Britain and America were now married
after many months of walking out."
(to King George VI)
"They [the Americans] were not above learning from us,
provided that we do not set about to teach them."
(to the War Cabinet)
Churchill, January 1942, after returning from Washington.

Page references are to the trade-press Penguin Putnam Plume edition printed November 2001, 1001+ pages, ISBN 0-452-28352-3

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