When receiving this book I thought great, then on closer inspection I saw it was first published in 1924 under a pseudonym Captain X. Not so great, as sometimes books of that age can show it in the writing style. However this is an expanded version with a lot of extra text putting things in context and explaining exactly how various situations arose.
- Major Andrew Dewar Gibb
The modern prose is good and the original is equally as good. An excellent mixture of historical and humorous anecdotes. It is well to remember that the original book was written well before Churchill reached his pinnacle as Prime Minister and that the Gallipoli campaign had just finished during the time the author knew him.
Churchill was a man not without his critics but this books gives an excellent account of his direct leadership abilities, whilst never leading his battalion in a direct attack he was no stranger to No Man’s Land, he went out from his own lines on no less than 36 occasions in the 3 months he was CO of the 6th(Service)Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers during their time at Plug Street (Ploegsteert) near Ypres in Belgium.
One of first actions on joining the regiment was to ensure his own personal bath was sent out to him. He placed great store on personal hygiene and let his officers use his bath to aid theirs. For the men he obtained access to the vats at a local brewery, moral was lifted as the battalion was declared “liceless”
He was not above trying to introduce his own way of doing things although his lack of familiarity with infantry commands and on occasion issuing cavalry orders did lead to confusion on the parade ground! It would appear that those suggestions that were sensible were taken up whilst those that were not were casually ignored and he generally moved on quickly. His insistence on the availability of alcohol for officers did seem to increase his popularity (and is probably the reason for his transfer from the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards which was a “dry” Regiment!)
I enjoyed this book, it flows well, it concentrates on the brief time when Churchill was an active serving officer, whilst giving enough background. It covers what was no doubt a very important formative time in Churchill’s life, especially as it gave him, as a politician, a unique viewpoint into exactly what conditions were like on the Western Front at the time.
The book is well illustrated with photos and maps, including some of Winston’s own paintings he made whilst in reserve trenches. Also at the end of the book is a very detailed description of the area covered in the book as it is in current day, with directions by car and on foot to visit the various locations the Battalion was stationed in at Plugstreet. A mini guide book as such.
Price on dust jacket is £19.99 for the hard back but at time of review writing that was £16.58 on Amazon.
I’d recommend this for anybody with an interest in military history, leadership or those who are interested in Churchill and give it 4.5 Mr. Mushroomheads.