To help pass the time on our road treks, especially during the 2,000-mile drive between Key West and Newport, Dick and I have been listening to the 42-disc set of William Manchester and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. We finished disc #32 as we were slip-sliding into Charleston, SC, on I-26 and had no other choice except, as Winston would advise, to keep buggering on during Charleston’s historic “bomb cyclone” snowfall on Wednesday. We are staying put for at least another day, as snowplows and salt evidently are in short supply. At the moment, Charleston’s streets and sidewalks resemble a skating rink.
Despite its thoroughness and tremendous drama, The Last Lion can be faulted for not giving more of a nod to the “mountain of scholarship of the past 23 years, and thereby misses altogether many of the new controversies and sources.” According to Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, The Last Lion was to have been published in the late 1980s or early 1990s, “the era for which it was meant,” but was delayed due to several strokes suffered by Manchester.
To Rich Lowry at NRO, the best movie of 2017 is “Darkest Hour,” which he calls “an extraordinarily deft and moving depiction of the outset of Winston Churchill’s prime ministership during World War II.” Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill should be “signed, sealed and delivered” by the Academy Awards to Oldman right now, Lowry recommends.
On the day Churchill became prime minister, “Hitler’s army invaded Western Europe in earnest, sweeping all before it.” During Churchill’s first weeks as prime minister, Hitler’s army trapped British and Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Dunkirk was a “colossal military disaster,” Churchill told the House of Commons. Operation Dynamo prevented annihilation at Dunkirk and allowed Britain to keep up the fight.
Or as Winston counseled his Cabinet, “We shall go and we shall fight it out, here or elsewhere, and if at last the long story is to end, it were better it should end, not through surrender, but only when we are rolling senseless on the ground.”