Saturday, June 27, 2009

Last of Winston

I loved the book. It was incredible to read what Winston had to say about the war. I'm excited to read the other five in the series. I don't have an essay in mind, but I am going to leave you with some more of my favorite Winston lines.

Winston came up with his own explanation for why Londoners didn't suffer from pandemics during the Blitz due to so many people spending time in such close proximity. The explanation was ridiculous but funny, and then he said: "If this is not scientifically correct, it ought to be."

Winston was very supportive in his remarks about the French generally. Not so the Italians. He frequently told his Admirals that they couldn't just look at how many ships the Italians had and concede defeat. They had to remember that Italians were the ones manning the ships, and therefore the British outnumbered them easily. My favorite derogatory Italian statement though was on page 365. In a memo to General Wavell (in charge of North Africa), Winston was berating him for leaving so many troops in Kenya and for declaring the South African Brigade not well-trained enough for fighting. Winston wrote: "Anyhow, they are certainly good enough to fight Italians." Hilarious.

Pg. 369 is a memo Winston wrote to some of his generals, he wrote: "All water supplies between Mersa Matruh and the Alexandria defences must be rendered 'depotable.'" Then in a footnote he wrote, "This was the wretched word used at this time for 'undrinkable.' I am sorry."

Winston was never fond of defensive warfare. In some history books I've read, the authors claim that Winston wasn't a very good tactician. That might be the case, but from reading Winston's own words the feeling I get is that he was a risk-taker surrounded by people who wanted to play it safe. When he did convince people to take risks, it sometimes turned out brilliantly, and it sometimes didn't. He would shrug and say, "That's war," but others wouldn't let it go so easily. That's my take on it. However, I'm no expert. Yet.

On pgs. 462-463, Winston is explaining the military offensive designed by Wavell (Africa) and his compadres. Winston was very excited. He wrote, "We were all delighted. I purred like six cats. Here was something worth doing."

Pg. 464: More funny snideness directed at the Italians. The admiralty finally, after much urging by Winston, attacked the Italian fleet. It was a huge victory for the British. Winston wrote, "An ironic touch is imparted to the event by the fact that on this very day the Italian Air Force at the express wish of Mussolini had taken part in the air attack on Great Britain. An Italian bomber force, escorted by about sixty fighters attempted to bomb Allied convoys in the Medway. They were intercepted by our fighters, eight bombers and five fighters being shot down. This was their first and last intervention in our domestic affairs. They might have found better employment defending their fleet at Taranto."

Pg. 466: Winston sums up his view of waging war in a note to General Wavell, "As we told you the other day, we shall stand by you and Wilson in any well-conceived action irrespective of result, because no one can guarantee success in war, but only deserve it."

Pg. 470: Winston on the election to a third term of President Roosevelt. "Still, it was with profound anxiety that I awaited the result [of the election]. No newcomer into power could possess or soon acquire the knowledge and experience of Franklin Roosevelt. None could equal his commanding gifts."

474: Winston on finance. "From the time I formed the new Government and Sir Kingsley Wood became Chancellor of the Exchequer we followed a simpler plan, namely, to order everything we possibly could [of war materials and weapons] and leave future financial problems on the lap of the Eternal Gods. Fighting for life and presently alone under ceaseless bombardment, with invasion glaring upon us, it would have been false economy and misdirected prudence to worry too much about what would happen when our dollars ran out."

Pg. 484: Winston on lend-lease (the policy that allowed America to give for an undetermined length of time everything possible to Britain to facilitate in the fighting). " . . . the most unsordid act in the history of any nation."

Pg. 497: On the fact that Hitler was a crack-pot. The Russian ambassador to Germany in response to a lengthy meeting with Hitler: "Molotov replied that he had followed the arguments of the Fuehrer with interest and that he was in agreement with everything that he had understood."

In summary, this book was fantastically written and documented. Winston is the man--whether leading the British Empire or writing history, his genius is evident.

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