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Subject: Churchill's History of the Second World War -- opinions? rss

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Pete Belli
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Remember his own words: "History will be kind to me, for I shall write it."

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Ben Tate
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Should be read shortly before or after Lord Alanbrookes diaries, which will provide much context and hindsight corrections (imho)
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William Gaskill
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Churchill was still living when I read the series so it's been awhilewhistle .Time of course blurs a lot but from memory it
was an enjoyable read & from that point of view well worth the effort.

It's his version of history,written no so long after the actual events so it should not be considered the end all version.

Still he had a major roll in the events he is writing about so IMO
worth the read.

OD
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Colin Raitt
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I read and enjoyed them. He has a good grasp of public opinion, the character of leaders and logistics. On the whole he is reliable, helped by getting most of his wartime decisions right. His justification of the Dieppe raid and bombardment of Vichy ships are flawed in my opinion. Large amphibious raids are stupid, the defender will call in overwhelming reserves before you can pull out. In and out during the same night is the only way and that can only be done with a company or less. The French Navy in North Africa would have scuttled before letting Hitler get his hands on the battleships. Churchill needed more faith in them. I know some people see strategic bombing as wrong too. Night bombing of cities causes heavy civilian casualties and pushes them into the arms of the military but it was difficult for the Germans to defend against, reduced the resources available to the German armed forces and the nazis were firmly in command so little domestic dissent was possible. I recommend BH Liddell Hart's History of the (first)world war and History of the second world war.

He has the advantage over almost all other historians of being the British prime minister for the majority of the tale. The other national leaders never wrote a history, mostly because they came to a bad end. Hitler (suicide), Mussolini (lynched), Stalin (clung to power to the end)and Roosevelt (Polio) were all wordy men who could have penned a book but they died in office. Tojo was free to write from 1944 to 1945 but didn't (attempted suicide then hung for war crimes). Churchill and De Gaulle were voted out of office. Churchill was in opposition from 1945 till 1951 when he wrote these books. De Gaulle was also in opposition from 1946 till 1958 and wrote Memoires de guerre, the translation might be worth a try.
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Alfred Wallace
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Obviously there's a certain bias to it. But we read all kinds of other memoirs, right? Why not this one? He's a great writer and it's certainly a grand subject (both the author and his topic). I dunno about six volumes' worth; I've just read parts of it looking for his opinion on this or that. If you're looking for a fresh perspective--compared to whatever other writer you choose to name--it'll certainly give you that.
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Andy Parsons
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Peso Pete wrote:
Churchill was an unrepentant Imperialist, so anyone who reads his works should be aware that he was a product of his times when Victoria was Queen and Britannia ruled the world. As a result, his history is big on what Britain contributed, somewhat less impressed on what America contributed and pretty much dismissive of what Russia contributed.


Indeed, it would have been very difficult for someone who regarded socialism as "...a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy" to give the Soviet Union its full credit for the defeat of Germany.
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Lee Kennedy
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Peso Pete wrote:
Churchill was an unrepentant Imperialist, so anyone who reads his works should be aware that he was a product of his times when Victoria was Queen and Britannia ruled the world. As a result, his history is big on what Britain contributed, somewhat less impressed on what America contributed and pretty much dismissive of what Russia contributed. Also, he seems to agree with the German General's excuses that it was all Hitler's fault and that they were simply following orders.

I don't mean to denigrate the series. It is actually well-written and is pretty much what was the zeitgeist of the time in which it was written and as long as it is interpreted as such, it is an enjoyable read.

I read through this about a year ago and I'd say this description is accurate. The other thing to keep in mind is that this was written close enough to events that many things were still classified. You won't find any mention of the role code breaking played for instance. Instead generals just make brilliant decisions that disrupt German plans.
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David Hughes
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I think it is pretty well essential, though even more than most sources you have to weigh what he says in the scales of why he says it.

The suggestion that you read Churchill along with the Alanbrooke diaries is a good one, with one caveat: the diaries are drier than the sands of the Western Desert...

If you are interested in Churchill's "history," I much prefer The World Crisis; he was a younger man and to an extent the prose reflects this; he was closer to the action in WW1, especially with regard to Gallipoli and Jutland, which gives the narrative a real immediacy; and probably the most important distinction, he wrote TWC in part to restore his reputation, where as the WW2 history was written for posterity. As a result, much of TWC is a sustained tour de force of rhetoric on the page - you can hear him speak it inside your head.

I found it unputdownable - not something that you can say about most military history, no matter how interesting the topic.
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John Buse
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Quote:
The suggestion that you read Churchill along with the Alanbrooke diaries is a good one, with one caveat: the diaries are drier than the sands of the Western Desert...


But there's enough snarkiness about virtually everyone Alanbrooke worked with to keep them interesting...
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David Hughes
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jbuse wrote:

But there's enough snarkiness about virtually everyone Alanbrooke worked with to keep them interesting...


There is plenty of bitching, but the notion that Brooke was the only chap in the room with a brain got old for me very quickly.

Not helped by the fact that I was reading my Dad's copies of the abridged versions, aged about 12. Too young to fully appreciate them, by a long chalk. I still have them, too.
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David Brown
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Churchill is fascinating because he got so much wrong, but one really big thing right


I'm not sure he got anything right - WWII screwed Britain, we should have been like the USA and kept out of it. Stalin's Russia was every bit as bad as Hitler's Germany, so why didn't the UK declare war on Russia when they invaded Poland?

Hitler was never going to invade the UK, so why didn't we just keep out of it? If you look at Britain and Germany today you would be hard pushed to think that Germany lost (yes I know it's a long time ago, but we've only just finished paying back the USA for the money we needed to fight it). I think many of the problems the UK have had over the years, can be traced back to the descruction caused by WWII, which I don't think we ever recovered from. To me Churchill was an arogant fool, who was living in the past.

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Adrian Hyde-Price
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Magnicent! Must be read by all, both for the wisdom and the beauty of the language. Americans should read it and pay attention to the proper spelling of many words they find difficult to spell correctly.

Enjoy!:D
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James Pinnion
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thirtybrowns wrote:

Hitler was never going to invade the UK, so why didn't we just keep out of it? If you look at Britain and Germany today you would be hard pushed to think that Germany lost.



"The only thing worse than a battle won, is a battle lost."

I would have to turn thirtybrowns quote against him. It is a tribute to the leaders of the wallies IF you would be hard pushed to think that any country lost the second world war. But something was definitely won, it can be celebrated every time a free vote is held anywhere in continental Europe.
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Andy Daglish
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jpinnion wrote:
thirtybrowns wrote:

Hitler was never going to invade the UK, so why didn't we just keep out of it? If you look at Britain and Germany today you would be hard pushed to think that Germany lost.



"The only thing worse than a battle won, is a battle lost."

I would have to turn thirtybrowns quote against him. It is a tribute to the leaders of the wallies IF you would be hard pushed to think that any country lost the second world war. But something was definitely won, it can be celebrated every time a free vote is held anywhere in continental Europe.


thirtybrowns wrote:
Quote:
Churchill is fascinating because he got so much wrong, but one really big thing right


I'm not sure he got anything right


A view of Churchill as a drunk who lost an empire by starting and then pressing a war at the behest of Jews who kept him afloat during an unsuccessful period tends not to come across in his history. A trouble with loose, "all possibilities" grand strategic wargames that start in 1939 is that they tend not to end in 1941, or if they do, Britain is considered to have lost. A more common & related problem is that they usually claim to cover "everything up to 1945".

As for the golden legacy the United Kingdom bequeathed Europe by saving it three times in 150 years, it can be summed as a record of remarkably comprehensive failure leavened only by moments of hilarity. Britain remained the sole example of political stability, but generally far poorer than the strength of its economy would suggest.
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Robert Ridgeway
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Just a couple of points:
1) I've never read him quoted in a military history, though plenty of political histories ~ and it's in politics that I personally value what Churchill's got to say;
2) as pointed out by others, this series could be seen as simply his immediate post-war spin-control -- your question reminds me of a comment by a former Soviet friend: "Every Univ. had a room loaded up solely with the works of Lenin - which nobody ever read (we just laughed at all of his enormous yet empty labor collecting dust!)."
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Jim F
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aforandy wrote:
jpinnion wrote:
thirtybrowns wrote:

Hitler was never going to invade the UK, so why didn't we just keep out of it? If you look at Britain and Germany today you would be hard pushed to think that Germany lost.



"The only thing worse than a battle won, is a battle lost."

I would have to turn thirtybrowns quote against him. It is a tribute to the leaders of the wallies IF you would be hard pushed to think that any country lost the second world war. But something was definitely won, it can be celebrated every time a free vote is held anywhere in continental Europe.


thirtybrowns wrote:
Quote:
Churchill is fascinating because he got so much wrong, but one really big thing right


I'm not sure he got anything right


A view of Churchill as a drunk who lost an empire by starting and then pressing a war at the behest of Jews who kept him afloat during an unsuccessful period tends not to come across in his history. A trouble with loose, "all possibilities" grand strategic wargames that start in 1939 is that they tend not to end in 1941, or if they do, Britain is considered to have lost. A more common & related problem is that they usually claim to cover "everything up to 1945".

As for the golden legacy the United Kingdom bequeathed Europe by saving it three times in 150 years, it can be summed as a record of remarkably comprehensive failure leavened only by moments of hilarity. Britain remained the sole example of political stability, but generally far poorer than the strength of its economy would suggest.


I think this is one of the most offensive and least insightful posts I've come across on BGG. I'm really hoping it's meant to be ironic and I've just missed it.
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David Brown
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But something was definitely won, it can be celebrated every time a free vote is held anywhere in continental Europe.


But I think the cost to the UK has been too high. WWII, both the human and financial costs, have destroyed the country it was trying to save. Halifax wanted peace and if it wasn't for Chruchill, probably would have got it.

I think the UK would be a much better place to live in now if it wasn't for Churchill wanting us to go to war. I think eventually Hitler's Germany like most dictatorships would have fallen apart. Although they may have taken Stalin's Russia with them. Would the human cost have been different, yes I think less people would have been destroyed.

And remember large chunkd of Eastern Europe had one dictator replaced by another, and free votes are only a very recent innovation in those parts.

I still maintain Churchill was a buffoon getting us into the war, and when he did, his meddling cost many British lives (Norway, Greece, Africa, where he withdrew troops to support the stupid Greece adventure just as we were about to knock Italy out of Africa - there are others). How some people describe him as the greatest British person is beyond me. His actions screwed Britain.
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Robert Ridgeway
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thirtybrowns wrote:
How some people describe him as the greatest British person is beyond me. His actions screwed Britain.

Accepting his going to war (= his actions) & placing the UK and Empire at its final peril (and yes, despite being on the winning side, all of value was not long in decaying afterward*), then Churchill's primary value was as THE supremely uplifting propagandist for the British and West, which has been argued as his greatest function in WWII.

*see George Harrison's quip with a WWII veteran in "A Hard Day's Night"
 
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Alfred Wallace
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...aaaaannnd unsubscribe.
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Jim F
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thirtybrowns wrote:
Quote:
But something was definitely won, it can be celebrated every time a free vote is held anywhere in continental Europe.


I think the UK would be a much better place to live in now if it wasn't for Churchill wanting us to go to war


I think Britain would be a better place now if we hadn't gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Could you identify the problems we have now that relate to Churchill's decision to stay in the war?

I say stay because of course we were at war with them when Churchill became PM in 1940. Any agreement to pull out of the war would have required acceptance from Hitler. What would these terms have been?

Churchill was not a great strategist but he gave the British people something they were very short of in 1940 - namely hope. To dismiss him as a 'buffoon' is to completely underestimate him.

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David Brown
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eah, this thread is kinda deviating from the initial topic and going in directions I hadn't intended. Thanks everyone for your input, I've now put the books in question in my 'to read' queue.


Sorry, I guess that was my fault. It's because I don't like the man and I wouldn't read anything by him as I belive it would be very biased - I someone quoted earlier 'History will be very kind about me as I'll write it'
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David Brown
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I think Britain would be a better place now if we hadn't gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Agreed

Quote:
Could you identify the problems we have now that relate to Churchill's decision to stay in the war?


You mean apart from bankrupting the country, the many dead ( on both sides - remember he rubber stamped the terror bombing of German cities)

Quote:
I say stay because of course we were at war with them when Churchill became PM in 1940. Any agreement to pull out of the war would have required acceptance from Hitler. What would these terms have been?


No idea what the terms would have been, we never asked, and no matter what they were they couldn't be trusted, but Hitler was a land rat who saw the east as the place to expand. We could have come to terms and let the Third Reich disintergrate, like most dictatorships do, or punch themselves stupid against Russia (Russia the country we aliagned ourselves with who had invaded Finland, the Batlic States, parts of Romania and Poland.

And lets face it, we were quite happy in our Empire, ruling conquered countries
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Cole Wehrle
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I think Churchill's history is interesting but not a terribly good way to understand Churchill or the war--however it can provide nice insight with context. Checkout "Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939" then maybe the Jenkin's biography. I think after you get that kid of context the choices he makes in his history make a little more sense.

In short, Churchill's history tells you more about him than the War. There are far more compact and useful books out there if you are looking for the ladder but in understand the former the work is invaluable.
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Commander Harris
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There's also an abridged version of the six volumes, which Churchill wrote himself. In case someone wants to read it but finds six books is too much, still only a bit shy of a 1000 pages though.
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Jim F
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This debate has outgrown me. I'm going to gracefully bow out.
 
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