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A Judicious Churchill Judgment

By Davidduff

I mentioned earlier that I was thoroughly enjoying In the Footsteps of Churchill by the late Richard Holmes.  Here are some excerpts to give you the flavor of his shrewd judgment.  The first is in relation to Churchill's over-enthusiastic, to put it politely, support for rushing an ad hoc naval division into Antwerp to assist the Belgian defenders in 1914.  He was at the time in charge of the Admiralty and as Holmes emphasises he should have had his mind on far more pressing problems.  Alas, that was not inthe Churchillian style and teh bounder offered to resign his job if he could be given the command of this force.  Needless to say, Asquith would have none of it.  Holmes sums up his man thus:

Winston was a gambler, the antithesis of a chess player.  Indeed, his favorite games were roulette and backgammon, where a quick assessment of the odds allied to blind chance can lead to instant gratification.  There are ubdoubtedly moment sin even the greatest battles whenresolute action by a small number may tip the balance.  Antwerp was not one of them.  Unfortunately this was something that Winston was never able to accept in his heart, whatever his mind and pen might say.

That surely goes to the heart of the man for he was to repeat the folly on an even larger, more disasterous scale in the following year with his madcap campaign in Gallipoli which was such an unmitigated failure that it led to his sacking and what he must have thought was the end of his political career.  Further on Holmes takes Churchill to task with acidic severity over his post-war 'version' as written in by Churchill in his book, The World Crisis:

It was originally intended to set the record straight on his time at the Admiralty and on the Dardanelles (the first two volumes), and Winston  specifically disclaimed "the position of the historian.  It was not for me with my record and special point of view to pronounce a final conclusion.  That must be left to others and to other times." But the broad scope of the work, and above all its selective reproduction of documents that would otherwise have been subject to the 50-year rule, renders the disclaimer moot.  It fully merited Stanley Baldwin's jibe, in 1929, that Winston has written a five-volume autobiography and called it the history of the wolrd.  There is a limit to how much egomania even a well-inclined biographer can stomach, and I regret that 'The World Crisis' exceeds my own appetite. [My emphasis]

Ouch!


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