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Churchill's War, vol ii: Triumph in Adversity

Churchill's War, vol ii: Triumph in Adversity
 
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The second volume of Churchill's War covers the middle years of this disastrous conflict. After the first volume chronicled an almost unbroken series of disasters in his life, from Gallipoli and the Chanak crisis to the defeat of France and the military fiasco in Greece, the second sees him enter happier times, with great naval victories, El Alamein and the landings in North Africa.

The contract for the biography was signed with major British publishers in October 1972. The first volume appeared fifteen years later, in 1987, the second fourteen years after that. It benefits from the release to the public domain of thousands of files, including the most secret, which even the official biographer has been unable to see. In the next thirty years of its gestation, the world has turned, the landscape of history has shifted, and entire areas now tremble to the tread of the enforcers of political correctness.

Mr Irving himself is no longer the enfant gâté of the media. Publishers who fell over themselves in the 1970s to publish him now come under assault from international organisations if they even hint at doing so again. (The secret files of Macmillan Ltd show that in July 1992 - on the same day as the author was returning triumphant from the KGB archives in Moscow with the Goebbels diaries - their editors-in-chief took the decision, under outside pressure, to burn all his remaining works in secret.)

We hear in this volume odd stories about Mr Churchill's habits of receiving his staff in a state of nudity, and no less quirky stories of another great prime minister's habit of reaching decisions according to what the hands of the clock told him, or the voice of his long dead dog.

The human Winston Churchill reaches boldly out of this second volume, as from the first: bullying, bold, incorrigible, and callous, hectoring his own ministers but subservient to both Moscow and Washington and mindlessly sacrificing the British empire's interests when those powers so dictated. The unpalatable picture that emerges of this war leader in Real History is unchallengeable - that he willingly fomented, prosecuted, and indeed prolonged the war against Hitler, not in pursuit of any fundamental British empire interest, for Britain and her empire were never threatened by Hitler's Germany; but to acquire money and power after years in the wilderness and poverty; and that he was undismayed to see the British empire ruined in the process.

The volume reproduces a hundred photographs and documents, many in colour. In special appendices Mr Irving reveals that the two war leaders Roosevelt and Churchill maintained secret lines of communication, both by radiotelephone and through ultra-secret channels, through which they exchanged batches of messages most of which have still not been revealed.

1051 pages

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What I love about David Irving's histories is that they are always written "in the moment" from the subject's point of view. This makes for a very exciting narrative all culled from Irving's deep researches in the archives, diaries, letters, and interviews with people close to the subject. It is like you are reliving history as it actually happens.

The first two volumes of the biography show a very balanced view of Churchill, both positive and negative, as any historian should approach a subject. In many ways, it was Churchill's negative characteristics, his stubbornness, vanity, his desperate clutching for political power when it was all but gone, and ruthlessness with his opponents, that proved to be exactly what Britain needed to win its war with Hitler. The negative consequence of this was of course the loss of Britain's Empire and Soviet supremacy in Eastern Europe.

Irving's archive work all over the world has brought forward some amazing gems of knowledge concerning many of Churchill's contemporaries in England, and also of people like Roosevelt and the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King whose dabblings with mysticism and superstition provide some comic relief to the narrative. More serious and controversial is Churchill's wartime dealings with Stalin.

Much like his biographies of the major players on the German side of the war, Irving has created another historical gem backed by massive documentary detail, this time about the goings on of "our" side. Another stunning achievement.
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