During the Second World War, in one of his many letters to English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt quipped, “It is fun to be in the same decade with you.” When Neville Chamberlain offered his resignation to King George VI in 1939, the king asked Chamberlain to name his successor, as was customary. Chamberlain immediately recommended Churchill for the job. As John Keegan puts forth in his 2002 biography, Winston Churchill, it was perhaps the best decision by any member of the Allied governments during the war. Churchill was the only head of state who recognized Hitler and what he represented immediately. He warned against Hitler’s repeated promises of “last territorial demand” as he crossed into one sovereign country’s border after another. It was Churchill who offered hope and steely resolve to the British people when they quite literally stood alone against what had rapidly become the strongest military the world had ever known.
Churchill, a poor academic student, wanted to live a military life from an early age. It took him three tries before gaining admittance to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He saw action in what is now Pakistan, as well as the Sudan and South Africa. To augment his military pay he became a war correspondent, offering his accounts to various British newspapers. Captured during the Second Boer War in Pretoria, he managed to escape from his prison camp, and found his way back to England. The trek made him a national celebrity, and also served to open the door to politics.
Keegan describes Churchill’s incredible strength prior to and during World War II, and his unwavering belief that democracy would England and her allies would prevail. Keegan puts particular emphasis on Churchill’s speeches, which are heralded as some of the greatest of all time, and provides a comprehensive picture of Churchill as politician, writer, soldier, husband, war leader, and ultimately as a man.
You can find more information about Churchill at The Churchill Centre.
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