The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 Info

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Spanning the years 1940 to 1965, The Last Lion: Defender of
the Realm
begins shortly after Winston Churchill became prime
minister—when Great Britain stood alone against the overwhelming
might of Nazi Germany. In brilliant prose and informed by decades of
research, William Manchester and Paul Reid recount how Churchill
organized his nation’s military response and defense, convinced
FDR to support the cause, and personified the “never
surrender” ethos that helped win the war. We witness Churchill,
driven from office, warning the world of the coming Soviet menace. And
after his triumphant return to 10 Downing Street, we follow him as he
pursues his final policy goal: a summit with President Dwight Eisenhower
and Soviet leaders. And in the end, we experience Churchill’s
last years, when he faces the end of his life with the same courage he
brought to every battle he ever fought.
 
NAMED ONE OF
THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY

The Wall Street Journal
The Daily Beast • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The
Daytona Beach News-Journal • Kirkus Reviews •
Booklist

 
“Majestic . . . This book is
superb. It has tremendous pace, rich detail and immense
drama.”The Washington Post

 
“Masterful . . . The collaboration completes the
Churchill portrait in a seamless manner, combining the detailed
research, sharp analysis and sparkling prose that readers of the first
two volumes have come to expect.”—Associated
Press

“Matches the outstanding quality of biographers
such as Robert Caro and Edmund Morris, joining this elite bank of
writers who devote their lives to one
subject.”—Publishers Weekly (starred
review)

 
“Breathtaking . . . brilliant and
beautiful, evocative.”—The Boston Globe

 
“A must-read finale for those who loved
Manchester’s first two books.”—USA
Today

 
“The final volume is . . . majestic
and inspiring.”People
 

“One of the most thorough treatments of Churchill so far
produced.”Library Journal (starred
review)

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Reviews for The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965:

5

Oct 09, 2015

To read a well written biography, and memoirs for that fact, can be an exceptional experience. The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 is a superb example. I loved all three parts of Winston Churchill's life story. Despite the death of William Manchester, Paul Reid did a superb job of concluding it. It was not the same, and we couldn't expected it to be just from the fact they are two different individuals, but was exceptionally done.

I suffered along with To read a well written biography, and memoirs for that fact, can be an exceptional experience. The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 is a superb example. I loved all three parts of Winston Churchill's life story. Despite the death of William Manchester, Paul Reid did a superb job of concluding it. It was not the same, and we couldn't expected it to be just from the fact they are two different individuals, but was exceptionally done.

I suffered along with Churchill the hard first years of WWII and with each setback the English, and later the Allies, endured. It was staggering to read about the difficulties the Americans and the English faced when dealing with each other, both politically and militarily, although I should have expected it. As a matter of fact, Britain was not prepared for war as a result of the appeasement that prevailed in Britain before the war. At times, if we didn't know the outcome, it could lead to the impression that they could have easily lost the war. I breathed much better after things start to turn on in their favor.

I think Churchill's determination to win the war and destroy Hitler, and his boldness from the start of the war, was crucial for victory. At the same time, it was astonishing to read how such a political master like him, manufactured his own downfalls. From what I understood his loyalty-above-all nature, besides his old-fashioned ways, heavily contributed to victory.
“In many ways Churchill remained a nineteenth-century man, and by no means a common man. He fit the mold of what Henry James called in English Hours “persons for whom the private machinery of ease has been made to work with extraordinary smoothness.” Reid grants the reader an comprehensive study of Churchill from WWII to his death in 1965. I enjoyed above all reading Churchill's own words, that Reid quoted him frequently, and I often found myself amused and impressed with his genius. Churchill was obstinate in his defense of the British Empire and lived to see it crumble before he died.

The Last Lion 3 is not just a biography, but much more, indeed it is a superb history masterpiece. He expands his work and grants the reader glimpses on personalities as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Stalin; as well as many key military leaders such as Eisenhower. It is an exceptional work, another of my all-time-favorites. Not to be missed!

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5

Nov 13, 2012

In the final volume of the Churchill biography, Manchester hands over the reins to Paul Reid. Hand-picked by the great biographer after a debilitating stroke, Reid picks up with Churchill holding the reins of power as Hitler has begun his sweep across Europe. Using Manchester’s style of historical writing and attention to detail, Reid plays the storyteller of the greatest part of Churchill’s life, the Second World War. The narrative shows both triumphs and pitfalls that could turn Churchill from In the final volume of the Churchill biography, Manchester hands over the reins to Paul Reid. Hand-picked by the great biographer after a debilitating stroke, Reid picks up with Churchill holding the reins of power as Hitler has begun his sweep across Europe. Using Manchester’s style of historical writing and attention to detail, Reid plays the storyteller of the greatest part of Churchill’s life, the Second World War. The narrative shows both triumphs and pitfalls that could turn Churchill from British statesman and hero to sell-out and defeated politician. Full of little known stories related to Churchill’s time in power, Reid masters the art of completing this major biographical tome. A must-read conclusion to a masterful biography, perfect for any reader with a passion for history and politics.

Reid presents Churchill has a fearless leader in Volume Three, whose main focus is World War II. While the Nazis take swaths of land across Europe, Asia, and Africa, Churchill holds strong for his people and never bows to the constant assault being waged against him. Even as the bombing campaign begins in Britain itself, Churchill tries to calm his people, through radio addresses and in speeches on the floor of the House of Commons. In the early pages of the book, Reid reminds the reader that Churchill was chosen to head up a coalition government when Chamberlain failed miserably to deal with Hitler, and it is this trust placed at his feet that is tested from the outset. Churchill also keeps his War Cabinet in the loop as best he can, while trying to forge much needed alliances and keep Britain from trading in the Union Jack for the swastika. Even post-War, when Churchill’s Conservatives go down to epic defeat, he does not let that worry him. His return to power, the first Churchill Government chosen by the people, in 1951 brings about a swan song filled with popular support, as well as those around him. No matter what the political stripes one wears, respect supersedes all when it comes to Winston.

Tied to his leadership within Britain, Churchill hones his skills as a great statesman. Reid depicts Churchill as the only man directing a war against the likes of Hitler and Mussolini while Stalin remains on the sidelines (having signed a pact of non-aggression with Hitler) and FDR hums and haws, hiding behind Congress’ Neutrality Act. By negotiating with the latter to send aid through a myriad of back channels and jumping on the opportunity to bring Stalin into the fold after the Nazis march into Russia in 1941 (a truly ironic act on Churchill’s part, as he loathes anything communist), Churchill is able to forge the Allied alliance to battle against the Nazis and eventually the Japanese to push them back and eventually nullify their gains. Reid highlights throughout the negotiation abilities of Churchill to bring about a single goal, VICTORY. Even as the Nazis are crushed and the spoils are being divides (as well as devoured by the Great Russian Bear), Churchill stays stately and tries his best to forge a post-War world in which all can live happily. Little did he know that appeasement of Stalin would forecast a lengthy standoff with the US.

Reid presents a strong biography, latching on wonderfully to Manchester’s previous two volumes. As Reid explained to the reader in the preface, while the book was nowhere near complete, extensive notes and documents were left for him to thoroughly link Churchill’s life with the foundation laid up to 1940 Reid’s powerful narrative brings the statesman to life, highlighting some of his quirks that emerged in his youth and early adulthood. With thorough anecdotes and a powerful narrative to keep the book moving forward (note: much of the first 900 pages of the book are centred around World War II, a literary quagmire that requires a strong ability to inject impetus), Reid succeeds in enthralling the reader throughout while providing scores of teaching moments for the avid history buff.

While the book (the entire series) is a strong biography, it is also a powerful historical narrative. Delving as deep as any book this writer has read on either World Wars or political gatherings, Reid and Manchester bring the minutiae that are glossed over by the history books to life. The intricate details of the steps leading to major decisions help the reader not only have a better understanding of the key players in the decision-making process but also the impetus for the decision. Not since reading Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, has this writer seen such an attention to detail on every nation involved and the piecemeal dismantling of territory by the victors. Reid is to be commended for all his hard work in this regard, though Manchester did begin the process with some intricate discussions leading up to and including the Great War.

As an overall series, the books are extremely powerful and take into account the ebbs and flows of Churchill’s life, both personal and political. Many people play roles in his life, coming and going at will, and none are too small to mention by either Manchester or Reid. This writer is reminded of Robert A. Caro’s work on LBJ, where they author paced himself and wrote of the intricate details of the politician’s life and personal relationships, all of which played a role in his rise to power. Any reader who has the time and is not scared by a plethora of information will surely soak up this series (both in fact) and love the outcome. Churchill is not a perfect man, nor do the authors try to make him appear to be. He is, however, a man who faced much adversity and encountered many roadblocks, around which he had to navigate in order to reach the pinnacle of his political and personal success.

If there was a single downfall to the book (and the series?) it would be that the last 20 years of Churchill’s life turn into a roller-coaster ride, with historical blips along the way. Realising that this would violate Manchester’s promise of a trilogy must be kept in mind, but just as the first volume offers a great deal of history outside of war (and within the House), the waning years of Churchill’s life deserve adequate attention. True, the man was no longer seeking power, but it still seems a pity to relegate years to a page or two.

Kudos to Messrs. Manchester and Reid for so spellbinding a biography. So much attention to detail went into the books and there is so much that the reader can get from them. Along with Caro, perhaps one of the best political biographies this writer has ever read.

Long live the memory of Winston Churchill! ...more
5

Oct 23, 2012


Manchester chose wisely.

Having written the first two volumes of The Last Lion, and then taken ill, Manchester could have tried an amanuensis, could have named any of hundreds of credentialed historians, or, for that matter, could just have let the project die unfulfilled. Yet he chose Paul Reid, who came with Marines to visit the author, to talk of the war and baseball. And came, invited, again and again. Like those of us who have waited 24 years, Paul Reid must surely have known he held a
Manchester chose wisely.

Having written the first two volumes of The Last Lion, and then taken ill, Manchester could have tried an amanuensis, could have named any of hundreds of credentialed historians, or, for that matter, could just have let the project die unfulfilled. Yet he chose Paul Reid, who came with Marines to visit the author, to talk of the war and baseball. And came, invited, again and again. Like those of us who have waited 24 years, Paul Reid must surely have known he held a sacred trust. He honored it.

This is the best book I read this year. And it was a good year. It covers a topic (The Second World War) I know fairly well. Reid tells the story with confidence. This is not an historiography. There's no waffling based on competing scholarly opinions. This is what happened, he seems to say. I like that approach, and not just because I happened to agree with his telling.

Churchill is here a great man. But he is wrong fully half the time, whether by the philosophy of the reader or the actual verdict of events as told by our narrator. He is painted both prescient and naive. It must have been exhausting to have dined with him.

Always there was language. Churchill: When I get to to Heaven I mean to spend the a considerable portion of my five million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject. But then I shall require a still gayer palette than I get here. There will be a whole range of wonderful new colours which will delight the celestial eye.

Churchill's sarcastic barbs are well-documented. Reid reminded me of one: When, in 1960, Churchill was told of Bevan's death, he mumbled a few words of moderate respect, then paused for effect before asking, "Are you sure he's dead?"

Reid too can turn a phrase. Telling of Churchill's public forays while V-1 rockets scudded into London, Reid writes, "Although Cherwell calculated that the odds were 648,000 to one against a rocket falling on Churchill on any given night, it was a time when only optimists bought green bananas."

I like this: The alliance was looking all hat and no cattle. And this: Yet Churchill, in presuming that the bonhomie he found at the president's table carried weight, failed to grasp a basic tenet of American politics: good cheer is non-binding. Only the U.S. Congress can bind, and Churchill did not understand just how binding the U.S. Congress can be. Oh, and this moment, with Churchill in Germany, finally, as the war was almost won: Later that day, as recorded by Brooke, Churchill took himself on a long trek down to the river, where "on arrival he solemnly relieved himself in the Rhine." Brooke could only see Churchill's back, but was sure the Old Man wore a "boyish grin of contentment."

Another reviewer sniffed at the audacity of someone trying to finish Manchester's work, quoting a paragraph by Manchester from one of the first two volumes as 'proof' that it would be ridiculous to try. The review seemed to be written before giving Volume 3 a chance. Surely it was written before reading this from Reid:

Sometime in the 1970s, the Fuhrer's remains were exhumed and incinerated for a second time. The ashes were flushed into the city's sewer system, where they suffered the fate of Mary Shelley's monster, borne away by the wave and lost in the darkness and distance.

One nit to pick. Reid writes, "Roosevelt (a truly religious man)...." No. First, it's the first I've ever heard anyone say that about Roosevelt. But there was no footnote or other explanation. Second, such a statement invites more discussion. What the hell does "a truly religious man" mean anyhow? Roosevelt was first a pragmatist and politician. He could lie to a man's face if it served his purpose and it often did. Refuse a boat full of Jewish refugees, knowing they would all die instead, because it would mean the loss of political capital. Reid even writes that Roosevelt "always enjoyed other people's discomfort." How does that square with a "truly religious man"? Roosevelt may have read the Book of Common Prayer, but that proves nothing. Did he read it as he committed adultery?

As I said, just a nit.

This is a magisterial work, magnificent. It was more than worth the wait.

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5

Nov 03, 2016

This outstanding narrative biography covers Churchill’s life from his return to government as Lord of the Admiralty soon after war broke out and on through his six years as prime minister during the war and beyond that to his death in 1965. The unfolding of the whole war from Churchill’s perspective was so compelling I almost didn’t want the book to end, despite a commitment that involved weeks with the audiobook version. It felt pretty mind expanding to be commuting along or stacking wood for This outstanding narrative biography covers Churchill’s life from his return to government as Lord of the Admiralty soon after war broke out and on through his six years as prime minister during the war and beyond that to his death in 1965. The unfolding of the whole war from Churchill’s perspective was so compelling I almost didn’t want the book to end, despite a commitment that involved weeks with the audiobook version. It felt pretty mind expanding to be commuting along or stacking wood for the winter while being transported to the decision-making nexus around Churchill with the fate of nations at stake. All the challenges he and Britain dealt with in the management of the war effort made for quite a human story. After being on the sidelines of government for a decade, he was more than ready to drive ecstatically forward with his hopeful plans, hungry for their realization, but he often was subjected to the agonies of his schemes being thwarted and of the cost in death and disaster resulting from many of the choices made. This human element behind all the fateful trajectories of the war seems essential for me to get past the otherwise indigestible evidence pointing to a failure of civilization, the smoking gun for which is the more than 50 million lives lost.

Reid took over the task of completing this third volume of Manchester’s trilogy on Churchill when strokes damaged his ability to write. He emulates Manchester’s narrative approach, but not his lofty style that often was laced with quirky metaphors and touches of humor. Reid noted in the introduction that Manchester was not an academic. Instead:
He was a storyteller who made history accessible by masterful use of the dramatists’ tools—plot, setting, and character. He and I often discussed this approach, and agreed that the biographer must get out of the way of his subject, who should be placed squarely within his times and be allowed to speak and act for himself.

The presentation confirms the general consensus that Churchill played a critical role in keeping up the morale and determination of Britain and her allies during the war. Also admirable was his engagement of Roosevelt in an effective way that brought essential supplies and armaments from America into the war effort through the Lend Lease program. His capacity as a military strategist and as a wise shaper of national destinies in various treaties along the way and at war’s end are more open to criticism and debate, and Reid gives plenty of fuel to both sides of these issues. And he is far from hagiography when he covers the topic of how adept or inept Churchill was in managing people and political coalitions.

The beauty in the tale of his life is the lively interplay between the paradoxical aspects of his personality. Was he mired to his detriment in imperialist Victorian mentality, or was it the core of his strength and optimism (i.e. right making might) that allowed him to ultimately drive past all obstacles to the defeat of Hitler? Was he unrealistically optimistic or was he prescient? Time and again, the maturity that kept him on his feet gave way to a proclivity to engage in childlike imagination and play. Could it be that the former depended vitally on the latter? His talent as a persuasive and engaging speaker seemed to keep bouncing up against his hunger for bullying or his unseemly pleasure in outsmarting his opponents in debate, often involving a special genius at sarcastic irony and innuendo. Churchill could go into rages when foiled or disappointed by colleagues, but knuckling down with all his energy to the tasks at hand was his true pattern. His alcohol drinking was exaggerated according to Manchester, who speaks of him nursing a weak drink for hours, but Reid finds support for a nearly continuous and massive intake matched by some special constitution that mitigated it interfering with his functioning. Similarly, the memoir of Churchill’s doctor led Manchester to infer he was a fellow sufferer with him in frequent states of depression, but Reed makes a pragmatic argument that Churchill showed the pinnacle of mental health defined by Maslow as the state of effective self-actualization.

Other aspects of his personality seem at odds with his accomplishments. Despite being an aristocrat used to having all menial tasks done by servants, he couldn’t resist frequently getting down and dirty, whether playing with abandon with his grandchildren or, in the quiet years, building brick walls or digging a pond at his Chartwell estate. During the Blitz, he perpetually toured bombed out neighborhoods in London after a Luftwaffe raid, connecting with the suffering of the common people. And even though he served as Defense Minister concurrently with Prime Minister, he took every available opportunity to get as close as possible to the action of a battlefield or to micro-manage battle preparations of his generals. The former reflected his tendencies in his long military history starting with his first soldiering in the Boer War. At times this aspect of his personality seemed to be the signature of a macho nut or of a regression to a child playing with toy soldiers. Yet in many cases as a leader of the war effort his tendency to take risky action in marshalling British forces to achieve an aim proved invaluable to success of battle campaigns. In other cases wiser heads prevailed when the risks outweighed the likelihood of failure. Roosevelt once remarked that Churchill would throw out 100 ideas, of which at least a couple would be brilliant.

All these sides come out in Reid’s artful presentation from the vast materials he mined over the six years it took to complete the book. From the introduction, it is clear that the book is primarily Reid’s work as energized by years of discussion of Manchester’s outlook. His friendship with Manchester that developed after journalistic coverage of a marine veterans reunion made a doorway to helping the writer-in-residence at a liberal arts college get past his extreme writer’s block. Reid gained his confidence with a draft of the segment on the Battle of Britain, so after his strokes Manchester engaged him to finish the whole thing under his guidance. But after his death in 2004 and Reed’s inability to decipher the many boxes of coded notes from Manchester’s decade of research on the project, Reid had to go back to the same resources and forge his own path. This included transcripts of Manchester’s interviews, Churchill’s own massive account of his war years (“History will judge us kindly,” Churchill told Roosevelt and Stalin in 1943, “because I shall write the history”), transcriptions of all his speeches, and the memoirs and diaries of contemporaries, which were often critical. (For the fascinating story behind this book, see A Problem of Churchillian Proportions from the New York Times Magazine, Nov. 1, 2012.)

From what I read of professional reviews of this book, the critics take Reed to task for not digesting newly available materials and historical research from the many years since Manchester started on the volume. Reed also showed some limitations in understanding the British form of government. But for me as an average reader, the reading of this was a marvelous experience. I learned a lot about the history of the war for many countries, though not in the organized way which historians would present according to campaigns, themes, and interpretative positions elucidated by hindsight. Instead, the reader typically experiences events as Churchill dealt with them, with important activity occurring on many fronts and spheres simultaneously.

At the right time we get on the world stage a man who had reason to call World War 2 the “Unnecessary War.” Warning about and standing up to Hitler had been Churchill’s clarion call for nearly ten years while on the sidelines of government, a period wonderfully covered in Manchester’s Volume 2 of “The Last Lion.” The rounds of appeasement in agreements with the Nazi government carried out by Baldwin and then Chamberlain at the helm shamefully failed in stages, as first Austria was declared a Germany’s, then Czechoslovakia was crushed, and finally Poland was invaded and divided with Russia. The French and British commitment to Poland brought them both into the war. A crisis of confidence in Chamberlain led to formation of a coalition government and entry for Churchill to join the cabinet as naval minister. For over six months there was plenty of preparation but almost no fighting save for a botched campaign to fortify Norway with British forces. The period led to some to call the situation the “Phoney War.” It was not so phoney to the Poles who experienced must slaughter of their citizenry and early imprisonment and enslavement of its Jews. Churchill was in a helpless position as he witnessed the French army make only a minor salient into Poland. Finally, with the invasion of France and Chamberlain forced to step down, Churchill’s rise to Prime Minister put him in the position to lead the war effort.

At this point, I have to stop on details about the war as there is just too much here that fascinated me. I’ll just throw out a few questions and my leanings on them. Of most personal import to me is the question of whether I consider the pervasive bombing of German populations in cities by the Allies a war crime or was it a critical step in breaking their spirit? I come down on the former. Initially the Luftwaffe targeted military targets in England, but it took only one case of an accidental bombing of a civilian neighborhood for Churchill to unleash a prearranged agreement for the Brits to begin civilian bombing in Germany. Whereas the entire four months of the Battle of Britain resulted in about 40,000 dead, the Allied bombings in Germany caused over 300,000 deaths, with the fire bombings of Hamburg and Dresden alone causing 45,000 and 25,000 deaths respectively.

How much was his investment in the North Africa campaign a waste of precious resources or a necessary move to prevent the Nazis taking the Suez Canal and the oil fields of the Middle East? The latter was borne out, but not the clear outcome at the time. Was he wise or foolish to keep pushing for diverting troops to the Balkans? Greece ending up outside the Iron Curtain at the end of the war can be attributed to his actions, but if he had his way maybe Bulgaria and Yugoslavia could have been vouchsafed for the Allies before Russia came sweeping in. Was he suckered by Stalin or was Churchill and Roosevelt’s negotiations and teamwork with this devil the best that could be done to win the war? The jury is still out on that one.

I close with a few choice examples of Reid’s narrative. On his combative style of debate, Sir Ian Jacob noted that he would “debate, browbeat, badger, and cajole those who were opposed to him, or whose work was under discussion.” Reid’s summary:
Churchill did not thrust and parry in such duels; he knew only how to thrust. Only later did it become clear that those who vehemently disagreed with him, and stated their case clearly, were those who won his respect.

On how boredom was an assault on Churchill’s equanimity:
“Idleness was a concept unknown to him,” recalled his daughter Mary. Idle ness was the handmaiden to boredom, and boredom was an enemy to be vanquished. When Chruchill found himself bored, recalled Scotland Yard’s Inspector Thompson, he became “a kicker of waste baskets, with an unbelievably ungoverned bundle of bad temper.”

He quotes an insider on how the official Chequers residence was the site of “long and liquid weekends” and “nobody got as wound up unwinding as Churchill did”:
The Old Man relaxed with a fury, and always with a quotient of wit and good cheer in inverse proportion to what might fairly be expected from a man who had just suffered a terrible week.

On Churchill’s lack of punctuality:
He was always late for trains…”Winston is a sporting man,” Clementine once told his bodyguard. “He likes to give the train a chance to get away.”

How his preparations for a speech in Parliament involved intense efforts to formulate just the right phrases and last-minute shenanigans that could drive his staff nuts:
The prelude to a speech in the House of Commons was opera bouffe. …His bath was a favorite venue for speech preparation (he was proud of being able to control the taps with his toes while he dictated). In the midst of other tasks, he would start muttering phrases to himself: “To the gates of India”; “this bloodthirsty guttersnipe”: “this star of England.” When a cabinet minister called Germans “sheep,” Churchill snarled, “Carnivorous sheep.” …When Hitler was the subject, Churchill struck and struck again … He fertilized every phrase with imagery, and weeded them of any word that could choke his message. He tried them out over dinner with colleagues, with different adjectives, different emphasis, to measure their rhythms and to hear how they sounded. …The climax of his ruminations would come on the day of delivery. Always at least fifteen minutes late, he might still be in bed, dictating the final draft to a typist, or inking in changes, when he should have been on his way to Parliament. Anxious whips would be telephoning him from the House, his staff would be begging him to hurry, his valet would be dressing him and flicking cigar ash from his shirt … Meanwhile, messengers held the elevator, and his chauffeur, outside, would be gunning the engine. Finally he would totter out, still dressing, tucking his spectacles and cigar case and loose cigars and his little snuffbox into sundry jacket pockets, checking the numbers pages to be sure they were in the right order.

On his attitude on his buddy Lord Beaverbrook, whom he tapped to get aircraft production up by hook or by crook:
Beaverbrook , he told Jock Colville, was “twenty-five percent thug, fifteen percent crook and the remainder a combination of genius and real goodness of heart.”

On the unusual features of Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, who many credit as most responsible for winning a war of attrition in the Battle of Britain but whom Churchill failed to support when proponents of large-scale definitive air battles ousted him:
He was a difficult man to like. Ever since Trafalgar, Britons had expected their military heroes to be Nelsons, and Dowding was far from that. Tall, frail, and abstemious, he was a bird-watching widower whose career had suffered from tactlessness, unorthodox view, and a remarkable lack of social graces. That he dabbled in spiritualism and was a vegetarian only augmented the perception of his flyboys that he was a strange duck.

Reid gets particularly eloquent over Churchill’s immersion in history:
In those such as Churchill, history, by way of imagination and discipline, becomes part of personal memory, no less so than childhood recollections of the first swim in the ocean or the first day of school. Churchill did not simply observe the historical continuum; he made himself part of it. Classical venues, and Churchill’s “memory” of them—from the Pillars of Hercules and on around the Mediterranean …--informed his identity in much the same way his memories of his ancestral home, Blenheim Place, did …He may have been born a Victorian, but he had turned himself into a Classical man. He did not live in the past; the past lived on in him. Harry Hopkins, who came to know Churchill well, noted the mystical relationship he had with the past, especially the military past: “He was involved not only in the battles of the current war, but of the whole past from Cannae to Gallipoli.” Alexander the Great, Boudicca, Hadrian, King Harold, Prince Hal, Pitt, and of course his luminous ancestor Marlborough had all played their parts in earlier scenes of the same play and upon the same stage that Churchill and his enemies now played their parts.

I leave you with a lasting visual image of the man to treasure:
Churchill’s most endearing trait was also his most remarkable. He was probably the most amusing warlord in history. His very appearance could endlessly entertain his family and staff. On June 16, Colville took urgent dispatches to the P.M.’s room and “found him lying in bed, looking just like a rather nice pig, clad in a silk vest.” Smoking a long cigar and stroking his cat, Nelson, he prowled the corridors of No. 10 wearing a soldier’s steel helmet …, a crimson dressing gown adorned with a golden dragon, and monogrammed slippers complete with pom-poms. ...more
3

Nov 06, 2012

I am sorry to say that Volume 3 did not come close to the two that preceded it. Lost was Manchester's turn of the phrase and grandiose style. This volume focused far too much on the minutiae of the war and far too little on the 20 years that followed it.

I challenge any reader to find any passage that even approaches this one from Volume I:

England's new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England's decent, civilized Establishment had rejected. They viewed Adolph Hitler I am sorry to say that Volume 3 did not come close to the two that preceded it. Lost was Manchester's turn of the phrase and grandiose style. This volume focused far too much on the minutiae of the war and far too little on the 20 years that followed it.

I challenge any reader to find any passage that even approaches this one from Volume I:

England's new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England's decent, civilized Establishment had rejected. They viewed Adolph Hitler as the product of complex and historical forces. Their successor would have to be a passionate mannequian who saw the world as a medieval struggle to the death between the powers of good and the powers of evil, who held that individuals are responsible for their actions and that the German dictator was therefore wicked. A believer in marshall glory was required, one who saw splendor in ancient parades of victorious legions through Persepolis and who could rally the nation to brave the coming German fury. An embodiment of fading Victorian standards was wanted, a tribune for honor, loyalty, duty and the supreme virtue of action, one who would never compromise with iniquity who could create a sublime mood and thus give men heroic visions of what they were and might become. Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people—a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martyrdom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it to them like great chunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it would be equally good to live or to die, who could be if necessary be just as cruel and cunning and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations or preaching super naturalism or foisting off myths of his infallibility or destroying or even warping the libertarian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England's last chance. In London there was such a man.

Manchester spent the whole of Volume II building to this moment, setting the stage for Churchill to burst forward and save the civilized world. And what does Reid do with the most epic and perfect of lead ins? He gives us a bunch of facts and figures and events and dates, but never captures the essence of his subject or at least this reader's imagination. It's like Shakespeare dying after Act IV of Hamlet and having George Will write the final act. Or having John Williams finish up the last movement of the Ninth Symphony for Beethoven. Reid's effort is a serviceable, even a good biography of Churchill during the WWII years. But it is not the masterpiece that was the first two volumes. ...more
5

Sep 01, 2017

When most people hear the name Winston Churchill, they typically think of him in the realm of his role as Prime Minister during World War II. By reading this book, I learned a lot about that time, and the struggles that he faced as he guided Britain through the war.
Little did I know just what he went through, dealing with the challenges of tackling Soviet Russia, the United States, as well as fighting the Germans, and the tempests within Parliament. Also, Churchill had a lot to deal with When most people hear the name Winston Churchill, they typically think of him in the realm of his role as Prime Minister during World War II. By reading this book, I learned a lot about that time, and the struggles that he faced as he guided Britain through the war.
Little did I know just what he went through, dealing with the challenges of tackling Soviet Russia, the United States, as well as fighting the Germans, and the tempests within Parliament. Also, Churchill had a lot to deal with following the war, creating a post-war Europe as the region recovered from the attacks it faced during the war.
Churchill probably can get quite a bit of credit for the upkeep of the morale of the people of Britain, especially during the German bombings of the Blitz. And because of that, the British people remained strong, despite bombings, severe rationing, coal shortages, and the losses of family and friends serving in the army, air force, and the navy.
Churchill guided a nation at war, helped in its post-war recovery, and strengthened a nation. ...more
5

Mar 16, 2013

On May 10, 1940, King George VI accepted Neville Chamberlain’s resignation as prime minister of the United Kingdom and its empire. Early that morning, Hitler had unleashed the German blitzkrieg on the Low Countries initiating the western front of the European Theater of the greatest war in human history. Before the day ended, King George had appointed the sixty-five-year-old Winston Churchill to replace Chamberlain and lead the government and its war effort to oppose Hitler. Thus, begins On May 10, 1940, King George VI accepted Neville Chamberlain’s resignation as prime minister of the United Kingdom and its empire. Early that morning, Hitler had unleashed the German blitzkrieg on the Low Countries initiating the western front of the European Theater of the greatest war in human history. Before the day ended, King George had appointed the sixty-five-year-old Winston Churchill to replace Chamberlain and lead the government and its war effort to oppose Hitler. Thus, begins DEFENDER OF THE REALM, third volume of William Manchester’s masterly biography of Winston Churchill, THE LAST LION.

Manchester died before he had written very much of DEFENDER. It was completed by Paul Reid, who worked from Manchester’s extensive notes. Knowing his time was limited, Manchester invited Reid to collaborate on DEFENDER in the apparent hope that together they would finish before Manchester’s illness disabled him. That plan did not work and Reid finished DEFENDER alone. I am happy to say that he was completely faithful to the excellence of Manchester’s first two volumes of THE LAST LION.

Most people are familiar with Churchill’s brilliance and courage during the first year of the war against the Nazis. Almost single-handedly, he rallied the people of Britain and their government to mount a courageous defense against Hitler’s war machine when the country was shamefully ill-prepared militarily, financially and psychologically. England was isolated. France had already capitulated. The Soviet Union was steadily retreating from the German blitzkrieg in the east. And the US was reluctant to enter a European war again. England’s prestige and ability to wage war experienced a grave setback at Dunkirk. A lesser leader than Churchill would have made a deal with the Nazis and Hitler was ready to give England terms. Reid tells the story of this first year of the British war skillfully. Forgive the cliché, but this is history that reads like a novel. It is compelling even when we know the story and its outcome.

But DEFENDER is much more than a war story. Equally fascinating is the character study focusing on the relationships between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Having saved western civilization from Nazism, Churchill was ill used by Roosevelt. Churchill and Roosevelt then were ill used by Stalin who emerges as the superior intellect of the three.

Roosevelt wanted concessions from Churchill in return for America’s help. Roosevelt delayed the US's entry into the war while he negotiated with congress and Britain. Churchill was easy pickings. He had a naive and romantic faith in America. He seemed to believe that America could always be counted on to do the right thing. He envisioned a post-war world in which America and the British Empire together would preside over an enlightened world dominated by the values of western commercial democracy. While touching to me as a reader, that was not a vision shared by Roosevelt who distrusted British Imperialism. Roosevelt set in motion a number of policies intended to bring self-government to the British protectorates around the globe, including India, the shining jewel of the Empire. Churchill, burdened by his romanticized notions of America, simply failed to understand or resist Roosevelt’s policies that ultimately would undermine the Empire that Churchill dearly loved.

Stalin out-maneuvered them both. He was willing to sacrifice countless Soviet lives in order to win a war of attrition on the eastern front. Such a strategy would have been unthinkable to the Americans or the Brits. But Stalin’s ruthless conduct of his theater of the war gave him an advantage in diplomacy. He knew that he was soaking up the majority of the Wehrmacht’s attention and that the Brits and Americans knew it too. He also sensed that the Brits and Americans were hesitant to mount a western front on mainland Europe against Hitler. So he exacted concessions in money and weaponry until the D-Day invasion. Later, then dealing with Truman and Churchill’s successor Clement Attlee, Stalin continued to exact concessions that enabled the USSR to establish most of Eastern Europe as a Soviet satellite.

Roosevelt was dead by the time Stalin’s post-war strategy began to unfold in Eastern Europe and Churchill recognized it only after he was out of office. But once he saw Stalin’s strategy for what it was, Churchill became one of the West’s most insightful and savage critics of Soviet expansionism.

There is so much more that could be said about this extraordinary biography. Churchill’s importance cannot be over-stated and his story is fascinating. As I read, I thought more than once that Churchill was able to rise to his unique moment in history precisely because he was from another time. He was a 19th Century man facing down the great threat of the 20th century, totalitarianism. He was singularly effective in meeting this challenge because he did not suffer from the ambiguity and fecklessness of the 20th century. His clarity and resolve was rooted in the 19th century and it may have made a better 21st Century possible for many millions of people.

BPL: This review begs clarification on the subject of Churchill's 19th century value system and whether I admire that quality in him.

My answer is that, in another circumstance, I would not admire it. But in the unique moment of history that he occupied, it came in pretty handy. Men of his generation in England had no humility or self-doubt about how the world should be. That gave him an advantage in rallying his country to war against the Nazis.

Otherwise, and in most circumstances, I would not find that quality attractive in a leader. I like what Voltaire said a few centuries earlier: Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is absurd. ...more
5

Sep 05, 2015

Description: Spanning the years of 1940-1965, The Last Lion picks up shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister—when his tiny island nation stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. The Churchill conjured up by William Manchester and Paul Reid is a man of indomitable courage, lightning fast intellect, and an irresistible will to action.

The Last Lion brilliantly recounts how Churchill organized his nation's military response and defense; compelled FDR into supporting Description: Spanning the years of 1940-1965, The Last Lion picks up shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister—when his tiny island nation stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. The Churchill conjured up by William Manchester and Paul Reid is a man of indomitable courage, lightning fast intellect, and an irresistible will to action.

The Last Lion brilliantly recounts how Churchill organized his nation's military response and defense; compelled FDR into supporting America's beleaguered cousins, and personified the "never surrender" ethos that helped the Allies win the war, while at the same time adapting himself and his country to the inevitable shift of world power from the British Empire to the United States.

More than twenty years in the making, The Last Lion presents a revelatory and unparalleled portrait of this brilliant, flawed, and dynamic leader. This is popular history at its most stirring.

Book 2 is missing from my collection so I'll steam ahead into this third book.

William Manchester died before finishing this book and using the extensive notes, it was finished by Paul Reid

4* Book 1
WL Book 2
5* Book 3 ...more
5

Oct 05, 2013

This is a magnificent conclusion to the life of Winston Churchill. It covers the period from May 1940 to when he died in January of 1965. It is the last volume of William Manchester’s trilogy on the life of this really oversized personality. This book just shines with so many stirring passages of the events of the era – Dunkirk, the air battles that saved England, El Alamein... His interaction and conflicts with those surrounding him, like Alan Brooke (Chief of the Imperial General Staff) and This is a magnificent conclusion to the life of Winston Churchill. It covers the period from May 1940 to when he died in January of 1965. It is the last volume of William Manchester’s trilogy on the life of this really oversized personality. This book just shines with so many stirring passages of the events of the era – Dunkirk, the air battles that saved England, El Alamein... His interaction and conflicts with those surrounding him, like Alan Brooke (Chief of the Imperial General Staff) and Harriman (America’s Lend-Lease representative), are well rendered.

Once he took the reigns of power Churchill is portrayed as the dominating force in England during the darkest days of World War II. After France had collapsed many felt that Hitler and Nazism were to be the New World Order. There were some in England (like Halifax) who wanted to reach an accommodation with Hitler. Not I said Churchill. He gave the voice of defiance to the Nazis – and what an eloquent voice it was. A voice that espoused liberalism and freedom in direct contrast to what was descending rapidly on Nazi occupied Europe.

Until the German invasion of the Soviet Union Churchill’s England stood alone – and after June, 1941, Churchill made it unequivocal that England stood with Stalin’s Soviet Union against the Nazi’s. We are given a view of Churchill as a man possessed of tremendous vitality. He looked over both overall facts and minute details – much to the annoyance of his military and political staff. Unlike Roosevelt, he could not delegate. Ideas continually poured forth at meetings, conferences, discussions - which could go on and on with Churchill doing most of the impassioned talking. He would constantly juggle different projects (like an invasion of Norway, expanding the war in Italy to the Balkans...) which may be the reason why he is seen as being reluctant to have the Normandy landings. For Churchill it was not enough to have just one project going on.

The only two individuals he could not dominate were Roosevelt and Stalin. Roosevelt, because he desperately required American military might to defeat the Nazis. Stalin, because after 1941 the Soviet Union was the main military opponent of Hitler’s Germany. Both Roosevelt and Churchill were duped and felt they could negotiate with Stalin. Stalin’s occupation of Eastern Europe showed how mislead they were.

Of the three volumes of Churchill’s life this is the best one (in my opinion) – not only due to the stupendous world events of that time period, but the writing style is exquisite and effervescent, and this on almost every page (and this book is over 1,050 pages!).

As a further note William Manchester (from my understanding) had little to do with the actual writing of this book. He basically left a series of disconnected interviews, notes...
(for more see http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/mag...)

This book is essentially the product of Paul Reid.

Also over 900 pages (of 1,055) are concerned with World War II. There is a splendid first chapter (called “Preamble”) which covers Churchill’s worldly or philosophical outlook.

And to make another remark, while I feel Churchill was most knowledgeable of events in Europe, I certainly do not share his views on maintaining the British Empire and colonialism.

And a particularly stirring passage from page 490 (my volume):
“The honorable fight for British survival made the war great for Churchill. His faith in the rightness of his cause and the valor of ordinary Englishmen was unbounded...he had won the allegiance of almost fifty million Britons gathered around wireless sets in homes and pubs, in West End clubs, and East End warehouses. Even as Singapore tottered, and as Rommel again drove toward Egypt... polls showed that 79 percent of Britons supported Churchill. These were people who, believing that peace was worth any price, had rejoiced in Britain’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia just four years earlier. His words then had failed to move them. Had they listened then, they would not have had to listen now as he told them of one disaster after another, and reminded them that he expected that they all go down fighting in defense of their country.

Now they listened, and Churchill persuaded them that the fate of mankind hung in the balance, and he roused their ardor, stitching the fabric of their resolution with gleaming threads of eloquence and optimism. Thus from June of 1940 to early 1942, at a time when defeat and enslavement of the Home Island seemed at first inevitable, then probable, and finally still quite possible, Churchill’s star continued to rise, to challenge the dark star of Hitler... The Fuhrer and Tojo were a pair of Genghis Kans bent upon the destruction of all that civilized men cherished. Churchill was determined to preserve it.”

...more
3

Aug 13, 2012

Three hundred some odd pages in. I've read a fair amount about Churchill over the years, since reading the first two last lion books. There are a lot of good, and very good biographies of the man available. This is an excellent biography. It is more Paul Reid than William Manchester, but he has done an excellent job. He does not hesitate to leave the main narration to explain subtle points.

After I finished it, I forgot to update the review. This book is excellent
5

Jun 06, 2013

I read the first two volumes years ago and was awaiting the third, but as Manchester got older and older I was afraid he would never finish it. Evidently he was afraid too and finally enlisted journalist Paul Reid to finish it. Manchester had done most of the research. The book finally came out last fall.

Manchester is, in my opinion, one of the best writers on contemporary history, well history written for the general public at least, though his books are wide ranging including a biog of Mencken I read the first two volumes years ago and was awaiting the third, but as Manchester got older and older I was afraid he would never finish it. Evidently he was afraid too and finally enlisted journalist Paul Reid to finish it. Manchester had done most of the research. The book finally came out last fall.

Manchester is, in my opinion, one of the best writers on contemporary history, well history written for the general public at least, though his books are wide ranging including a biog of Mencken and The World Lit Only By Fire (about the Middle Ages). His memoir of the Pacific War, Goodbye, Darkness, is excellent. I'll never forget his saying at the end that he and his fellow soldiers welcomed the atomic bomb as a savior because they assumed their next task was the invasion of Japan which they assumed would be more deadly than the invasion of Normandy. He wrote a biography of MacArthur which I haven't read and a history of the US from 1932 to 1972 called The Glory and the Dream and of course The Death of a President which I've recently discovered is out of print which seems wrong somehow. That one I haven't read but do, luckily, have a copy. You might remember also The Arms of Krupp which made a big splash when it was published. Haven't read that either.

Obviously much of Manchester's oeuvre is focused on WWII, but he writes primarily about people, rather than events, and his genius is getting into the skins of the people he writes about and bringing to the reader the details that make the people real and the events understandable in human terms. In the first Churchill volume his treatment of Churchill's childhood was extensive with its focus on his playing with wooden soldiers and striving for the attention of his parents (which he rarely got) as well as the love and care he got from his nanny who gave him what the parents did not. Childhood takes up a good portion of that book. No other biographer that I've read does more than narrate the bare facts of Churchill's childhood. But obviously childhood is critical to understanding the man who was literally written off by his parents as dumb and unpromising.

But to this final volume. In 1940, Churchill became the war leader. [Read Lukacs' June 1940 for a detailed account of how that happened.] Churchill had served in WWI (and in The Boer War), in the field but also at the Admiralty, but he was best known for the disastrous events at Gallipoli which he championed but was not really responsible for the execution of. After the war and throughout the 30ies, he was seen as a warmonger, especially as the rise of Hitler caused him to champion the need for Britain to rearm. He continue to serve in Parliament (to which he was first elected during the reign of Victoria. In June of 1940, he was already 65 years old.

I listened to this book on tape and either the reader was good at doing Churchill's voice or they used actual recordings of Churchill (unlikely) and a marvelous portion of the book is Churchill's own words which, during the war, inspired the Brits to endure and resist in the face of what looked like a complete takeover of Europe by Hitler. Shortly after Churchill became PM, he presided over the the marvelous evacuation of soldiers (not only Brits but some Poles and French) from Dunkirk after which he reminded the people that in spite of the success a retreat is not a victory. Then France collapsed and the whole world expected Britain to go pretty quickly. That was the time of the "We will fight them on the beaches...." speech.

I'm not going to tell the whole story. You know it but will love reading it again, sprinkled with Churchill's rhetoric. He was fearless. There's nothing else to be said. Though he knew the odds, he was determined and passed his determination to a whole people. You remember the "finest hour" speech where he said we will resist in the face of huge odds so that if the British Empire last for a thousand years (as Hitler expected his empire to last) all will say, "this was their finest hour."

Churchill traveled the world, uncomfortably in unheated, unpressurized Liberators to meet with his generals and allies. Roosevelt traveled to the big conferences (granted it was harder to him to travel and he sent Eleanor to rally the people at home and in the field) but that's all. Churchill traveled far and wide, often ill with pneumonia or heart problems. Stalin barely left his domain (afraid probably). Tehran was as far as he would go to meet with the allies though Churchill traveled twice to Moscow. Yalta was in Stalin's own territory. Other top level allied meetings were Churchill and Roosevelt only.

Gradually Churchill realized that he was becoming the junior partner in the alliance, though he was older than both Stalin and Roosevelt (and outlived both). As allied victory became inevitable (long before the war was won), it also became clear that the US and the USSR would eclipse Britain in the post-war world. Roosevelt particularly wanted to rid the world of colonialism and had no sympathy for the old Victorian's goal of holding on to as much of the empire as possible. In retrospect, Roosevelt seems naive, as he was naive in thinking he could work well with Uncle Joe. Interestingly, this is a tale of war from the British POV and neither Roosevelt nor Eisenhower come off as well as they do in American versions.

The war (1940-1945) takes up more than three quarters of this book which extends until Churchill's death in 1965. In 1945 Labour wins the election and Churchill leaves the Potsdam Conference, though his influence continued to be felt. You'll remember his famous speech in Fulton, Missouri (to which Truman had invited him to speak at the Commencement ceremonies of Westminster College) he warned that "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent."

I can't compare this volume easily with the others since I read them years ago, but I enjoyed it. The words may not all have been Manchester's, but he did the research and the focus is his. Thanks goodness for Paul Reid for this final chapter in the story. ...more
5

Aug 15, 2019

I've now read and enjoyed all three volumes of Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill. I've long admired Churchill especially his time as PM during WWII.
5

Nov 18, 2012

Oh my God, the conclusion to the greatest biography in the history of biographies! I never thought this book would get completed after Manchester died. I cannot express how urgently I want to read this book.
5

Dec 01, 2012

This is the third volume in a three volume series, a biography of Winston Churchill, begun by William Manchester. When it came time for the third volume, health problems forced Manchester to seek assistance--and Paul Reid finished the work after Manchester's death. Despite that sad history, the book works well and completes the trilogy very well.

This volume covers Churchill's life from 1940 until his death in 1965. At the outset, Churchill is named Prime Minister, achieving the goal of a This is the third volume in a three volume series, a biography of Winston Churchill, begun by William Manchester. When it came time for the third volume, health problems forced Manchester to seek assistance--and Paul Reid finished the work after Manchester's death. Despite that sad history, the book works well and completes the trilogy very well.

This volume covers Churchill's life from 1940 until his death in 1965. At the outset, Churchill is named Prime Minister, achieving the goal of a lifetime. The book begins with the grim reality of the start of the Second World War. Poland had been overwhelmed by the Wehrmacht. England and France finally had the gumption to take a stand against German, declaring war on Hitler's Third Reich. Churchill moved British troops to France to protect Western Europe from what Churchill referred to as "the Hun." As we know, the German Panzers, using Blitzkrieg, devastated the Allies' defense, and many British troops barely escaped at Dunkirk. Then, the story really begins, with Churchill rallying the people back home with his rhetoric, his confidence, his will.

The Battle of Britain, the loss of territory in the Pacific to the Japanese (Singapore, Burma, and so on), the loss of major warships to Japanese planes. . . . At the same time, German U-boats began destroying goods and food being shipped to Great Britain by cargo vessels. A time of great peril. Again, the volume highlights Churchill's efforts to rally his people and get the Americans to provide support.

The story in this work considers the double cross by Germany against its erstwhile ally the Soviet Union and the awkward alliance of Great Britain with the Soviet Union. The odd triangular relationships among Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Churchill is well described. Including the seeds of future problems as the leaders jockeyed for position.

And the war effort itself. We read of the African campaign, with Edwin Rommel dueling English forces. What would be the plan after that? We read of Churchill's intense efforts to carry out his strategic vision as to military efforts and the increasing head butting between him and the Americans (and, later, the Soviets).

One of the hallmarks of this book is the graphic depiction of Churchill's idiosyncrasies and how hard he could be toward his aides. He was single minded and often created misery in others as a result. Over time, the book makes clear the shift in power from Great Britain to the United States, and the tensions thereby created.

The story of World War II and Churchill's role is well told. So, too, is the stunning fall from power after Germany's defeat, Churchill's years in the wilderness, and his reaccession as Prime Minister )PM). His age was a burden in his second time serving as PM, but he persevered.

The family problems and his declining years are well told.

All in all, a most estimable biography. Reid served well in completing Manchester's final volume in the Churchill series. ...more
5

Jan 03, 2013

Americans suffer every day of their lives (individually and nationally) for their virtually complete ignorance of history. William Spencer Churchill was (my opinion) the greatest citizen of the world in the 20th century, making this book is a “must-read” for those seeking to understand the modern world. “Defender of The Realm” tells the story of Churchill’s life from his ascendancy into the Prime Minister’s job in 1940 until his death in 1965. Churchill’s finest hour was likely the year 1940 Americans suffer every day of their lives (individually and nationally) for their virtually complete ignorance of history. William Spencer Churchill was (my opinion) the greatest citizen of the world in the 20th century, making this book is a “must-read” for those seeking to understand the modern world. “Defender of The Realm” tells the story of Churchill’s life from his ascendancy into the Prime Minister’s job in 1940 until his death in 1965. Churchill’s finest hour was likely the year 1940 thru the first half of 1941 when England and Churchill stood alone to confront the malice and military might of the Nazi empire. His courage and leadership were magnificent and the chapter on the year 1940 is worth the price of the book. Too many Americans are convinced for no good reason that we live on the edge of some national catastrophe. Knowing and understanding the raw courage of Brittians in general and Churchill in particular in 1940 and 1941, when they stood alone against the greatest military power on the planet, would serve us well to put our situation into perspective.
“The Last Lion - Defender of the Realm” is the 3rd and final volume in William Manchester’s massive and scholarly biography of Winston Churchill. I read volume II when it was published in 1988 and the 24 years between volume II and volume III was a dreary wait for me. Manchester was my favorite American historian because his research was impeccable and his writing was clear, beautiful and often poetic. I purchased 'Defender of the Realm' enthusiastically because, while I knew it would not contain Manchester's writing, it would be the fruit of his research. I learned in the Forward that Manchester wrote the first 100 pages before he became too ill to continue and ultimately brought in Paul Reid to collaborate on the writing. Reid, of course, finished the book, and we the readers have much to be thankful for. Read’s writing is about 90% of Manchester’s, which makes it very good. ...more
4

Aug 31, 2012

A truly fascinating look into the life of Winston Churchill. I definately recommend this book to anyone who is interested in WWII or in history. I enjoyed the insights into Churchill's life not only as the Prime Minister, but also as a member of the British aristocracy. There is never much written in history texts about Churchill and that was the only previous way I had learned about him, so this book was a great breath of fresh air. Now I'll have to read the first two installments to cover what A truly fascinating look into the life of Winston Churchill. I definately recommend this book to anyone who is interested in WWII or in history. I enjoyed the insights into Churchill's life not only as the Prime Minister, but also as a member of the British aristocracy. There is never much written in history texts about Churchill and that was the only previous way I had learned about him, so this book was a great breath of fresh air. Now I'll have to read the first two installments to cover what I missed.

I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. ...more
5

Jan 08, 2014

In my review of volume II of William Manchester's magnum opus biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion, I said the following in anticipation of beginning the third and final volume: "Thankfully, volume III was finished after his death by an author of his choosing, but it would have been invaluable to have Manchester at the height of his powers, as he is here, to finish the story." Now after having finished the final volume, The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, In my review of volume II of William Manchester's magnum opus biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion, I said the following in anticipation of beginning the third and final volume: "Thankfully, volume III was finished after his death by an author of his choosing, but it would have been invaluable to have Manchester at the height of his powers, as he is here, to finish the story." Now after having finished the final volume, The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-65, that statement still holds true, but not in diminishing Paul Reid's accomplishment in carrying off what Manchester had begun. Reid's ability to take the outlines, notes and initial drafts and not only allow Manchester's voice to dominate the text, but to add his own stamp without taking off in a different course, is singular. However, the final two chapters of the book definitely betray the absence of Manchester's deft prose. Still, it is, unequivocally, the best biography I've ever read. I can honestly say, in total, with some three thousand pages, I was captivated from start to finish. A great work about one of my heroes.

Volume III picks up in 1940 with Winston residing at No. 10, in place as Prime Minister with a coalition government behind him. Britain faced it's "final hour" as Nazi German began regular bombings of England in hopes of bring the people to their knees. The Battle of Britain, and Churchill's dominating presence and encouragement of King, Country and People would set the tone for the defiance and courage of Britain during the years of World War II. Indeed this final volume spends a majority of it's text covering the War and Churchill's place and performance in it. The War dominates the book, and it's majesty derives from Churchill's interaction with the people, his relationship with the cabinet, his family and other World Leaders. But here is also the first minor criticism and contrast between this final volume and the first two. In the first two books, Manchester allows Churchill's diaries, writings and voice to dominate the text and descriptions- in fact Manchester defers to Churchill quite a bit, which gave them an intrinsic depth into the man himself. In Volume III, Manchester and Reid rely more upon the diaries and writings of Churchill's contemporaries. To be certain, the writings and assessments of Churchill's contemporaries played a significant role in the first two volumes, but in Defender of the Realm they became a majority of the substantive observations. Therefore, in small way, the reader goes from being with Churchill along his journey, intimate and close to his character and thought processes, to now being cast more in the role as observer.

While it is expected that the War would really be the crux of the last volume, Churchill's years after the war are only examined in the last hundred pages or so. Normally a hundred pages is quite a large portion of a biography, but when the read has spent close to three thousand pages up to this point, it seems like more of a cursory treatment. That's not to say that the authors ignore Churchill's postwar role, in fact, I believe they do an excellent job of recasting him in the "Cassandra" role of foreseeing calamity where others refused to notice with the quick evolution from World War to Cold War. But perhaps this is where Reid is more on his own as the author and Manchester's notes and previous work had not extended, and Reid was reluctant to go too far afield of Manchester's intent. That is only a guess, but the reading makes it fairly clear that the post war years are fully in Reid's command. Again, it is a minor critique in the face of such a dominating accomplishment, but it is worth noting. Yes, Churchill's influence was on the wane in some respects, but the author makes the case that evolved onto the world stage. And it would seem odd that someone would advocate for even more material from a three thousand plus page work, but it is a tribute to how well written and enjoyable the whole work is overall.

But here, also is where Reid shines. When he is fully in control, he stays with Manchester, but is able to steer through the final years of Churchill's life giving it meaning. He largely refutes Churchill's private Doctor, Lord Moran, and his memoir's thesis that Churchill's final years were dark and spent largely in depression. While there is some evidence of that, in particular Churchill's final two years, Reid counters that Churchill's retirement years presented a man, physically old, but mentally sharp. Despite this needed reassessment, Churchill's final years were still somewhat difficult with his health and various family problems. As he lingered, feeling the loneliness and impact of family and friends passing away before him, and indeed the passing of the Empire he so loved, one can't help but feel some of his emptiness. Even so, his impact and legacy continued on. And though Manchester may have devoted an Epilogue on Churchill's legacy, much as he provided an extensive Prologue in Volume I, the book ends with the state funeral and a brief description of the placement of a tribute to Churchill placed in Westminster Abbey, simply stating "Remember Winston Churchill".

In the final assessment, that is the ultimate contribution of this entire work: to help us to remember Winston Churchill. Despite the two minor critiques mentioned above, I believe Reid and Manchester's third Volume stands firmly alongside the first two volumes. Overall the entire three volume work is astonishing in what it is able to accomplish, to capture a man, his times, his mind and his influence in stellar prose that doesn't fail to captivate over three volumes. There wasn't a page in the entire work where I was tempted to scan or felt impatient with the pace. The pacing was perfect and the lessons were valuable. I hope that the book will serve more people and future readers to do as the closing words instruct: "Remember Winston Churchill". There many fascinating figures in history, but few so predominant and impactful on the world stage, in the 20th century, than Winston Churchill.
4.75 Stars for Volume III, 5 Stars overall for the Box Set. ...more
5

Oct 06, 2018

This was a long read, but well worth the time. While this book is the last in a trilogy by William Manchester on the life of Winston Churchill, it covers World War II from the British perspective. Paul Reid was selected by Manchester to complete this this volume using Manchester’s research notes. The writing style is very readable. While reading this biography, I always felt compelled to keep reading, not just to finish a long read, but to understand this man without whom the world today would This was a long read, but well worth the time. While this book is the last in a trilogy by William Manchester on the life of Winston Churchill, it covers World War II from the British perspective. Paul Reid was selected by Manchester to complete this this volume using Manchester’s research notes. The writing style is very readable. While reading this biography, I always felt compelled to keep reading, not just to finish a long read, but to understand this man without whom the world today would be completely different.

Churchill was a vital man. He was sometimes obstinate and very opinionated, but he was absolutely indispensable for the defeat of Hitler and Nazism. He understood what was at stake in the rise of both Nazism and Communism, long before most others. He saw Hitler as the most immediate threat to the world, but he never lost sight of the dangers of Communism even as he realized the need to work with Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany. I dare say that after reading about the friendship that came about between Churchill and FDR, Churchill seemed to have been a far better friend to FDR than FDR was to Churchill.

If you enjoy reading the biographies of vital people of world history, there are few better or more readable than “The Last Lion”. ...more
5

Dec 11, 2016

Defender Of The Realm

"Defender of the Realm, 1940 -- 1965" is the final volume of William Manchester's massive three-volume biography, "The Last Lion", of Winston Churchill (1874 -- 1965). The first volume, published in 1983, titled "Visions of Glory", covered Churchill's life from 1874 -- 1932, while the second volume, published in 1988, titled simply "Alone, covered the years 1932 -- 1940. This new sweeping third volume covers Churchill's life beginning with his ascension to the office of Defender Of The Realm

"Defender of the Realm, 1940 -- 1965" is the final volume of William Manchester's massive three-volume biography, "The Last Lion", of Winston Churchill (1874 -- 1965). The first volume, published in 1983, titled "Visions of Glory", covered Churchill's life from 1874 -- 1932, while the second volume, published in 1988, titled simply "Alone, covered the years 1932 -- 1940. This new sweeping third volume covers Churchill's life beginning with his ascension to the office of Prime Minister in 1940. It focuses upon the WW II years, follows Churchill during the years between 1945 and his second period as Prime Minister from 1951 -- 1955, and concludes with Churchill's years of comparative retirement up to his death. The biography was a near lifetime project for Manchester (1922 -- 2004). Manchester had researched the third volume of the trilogy, prepared well-organized and voluminous notes, and done some of the writing. Near the end of his life, however, Manchester realized he would be unable to complete the third volume. He selected journalist Paul Reid to complete the work.

The result of Manchester's and Reid's efforts is a detailed, dense study of 1200 pages. The book offers a thorough, multi-faceted look at the complex statesman that was Winston Churchill, in his determination, devotion to Great Britain and to civilization, brilliance, and frequent pettiness. Because Churchill's personal life was inextricably intertwined with his public life, this book goes far beyond biography. It is a masterful political and military history of the WW II years and, to a lesser extent, of the years following.

Churchill the man is most in focus in the 50-page "Preamble" to the book. Manchester and Reid offer a summation of Churchill's personality, leadership style, political, religious, and social beliefs, family and more. The Preamble offers an excellent overview to the momentous events described in the lengthy remainder of the volume.

The volume consists of eight large parts, the first of which begins in May 1940 and follows Churchill and WW II through December, 1940. Part two covers 1941, culminating in the United States' entry into the war and on Churchill's extensive efforts to get the United States involved. Part three covers military action in 1942, focusing on the alliance between Churchill and Roosevelt. Part four covers the period November 1942 -- December 1943, as plans for the invasion of France are discussed at length and ultimately agreed to. The readers sees a great deal of Churchill, Roosevelt and his aides, and Stalin. There is extended description of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. Part five covers the period between December, 1943 and the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Part six takes the narrative from Normandy to the German and Japanese surrenders. Part seven, less detailed than the earlier parts, covers the years between 1945- 1955, including Churchill's famed "iron curtain" speech in March,1946, in Fulton, Missouri, and his election as Prime Minister. The final brief part of the book covers the final ten years, 1955 -- 1965, of Churchill's long life.

There is a great deal to be learned about Churchill, about leadership, and heroism from this book. The most eloquent, moving sections of the work are sections covering early 1940 --1941, following the evacuation at Dunkirk. Great Britain truly stood alone for more than one year and was widely expected to fall to Hitler. That it did not was due in large measure to Churchill's fortitude and strength and to the respect in which he was held by the subjects of Great Britain. The reader sees different aspects of Churchill as the war proceeds and the political and military situation develops. Manchester and Reid spend much time on the land, sea, and air wars, the different fronts in the Soviet Union, France, the Balkans, and Italy, and in the War with Japan. The book offers both a political and a military education about the events of the war years. The authors develop well the tension between the British, Churchillian view of the aims of the war and the views of President Roosevelt and the United States. The authors emphasize Churchillian's devotion to the British Empire as contrasted with the American commitment to end colonialism. Hence to overall title of the Trilogy and characterization of Churchill as "The Last Lion".

The book is lucidly written although in its length it flags in places. In its history, it taught me much about the world in which I have lived. I also learned a great deal about the dauntless figure of Winston Churchill. The authors portray him, and properly so, as the seminal figure of the 20th Century. This lengthy, thoughtful book will be worth the attention of readers who wish to understand the 20th Century and one of the few true 20th Century heroes.

Robin Friedman ...more
4

Mar 22, 2013

This third and final volume in the Churchill biography covers the war and the period in which Churchill earned his place as the 2nd greatest man in the history of the Earth, 2nd only to Abraham Lincoln.
World War II was the greatest human event in the history of the earth as a result of the creation of the modern world of democracy in the West and the end of Europe's imperial colonial empires.
Churchill earned his place in history not by winning the war since it was the factories and ship yards This third and final volume in the Churchill biography covers the war and the period in which Churchill earned his place as the 2nd greatest man in the history of the Earth, 2nd only to Abraham Lincoln.
World War II was the greatest human event in the history of the earth as a result of the creation of the modern world of democracy in the West and the end of Europe's imperial colonial empires.
Churchill earned his place in history not by winning the war since it was the factories and ship yards of the United States that won the war. He won his place by not losing the war, which he did by refusing to surrender to the Nazi Germans. Shortly after Churchill became prime minister of Britain, following the resignation of the Munich appeaser Neville Chamberlain, the entire French nation surrendered to the Nazis. Most of the senior British government ministers were still appeasement lackeys of Chamberlain and they decided to surrender to the Nazis to avoid more killing.
Churchill got wind of the coup and defeated it saying we are not going to surrender. We are going to fight to the death.
So Britain fought on totally alone, losing battle after battle, for a year and a half until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and finally forced the pure politician Franklin Roosevelt to do the right thing and enter the war.
Once the enormous economic might of the U.S. was into the battle there was no longer any question about victory, it was just a matter of time.
Lincoln, of course, holds his place as the greatest man who ever lived since because of him there was a United States on hand to win WW II.
In the American civil war, when the South was clearly winning, a clear majority of the people in the North said this is not worth it. Let's just quit here and let the South go their own way. Lincoln used his iron will as President to make the North fight on and preserve our great nation. So in a very real sense it was Abraham Lincoln that won WW II.
Without question Churchill was a genius and a great natural leader. He was not what we call a nice person, however, because of his self-centered megalomania. He was uninterested in other people, but adored his family to a fault. He spoiled his only son Randolph rotten, which more or less ruined his son. Churchill, the author points out, was not a 20th century man. He was a 19th century man who worked hard through the war to preserve the British Empire.
As the war was coming to an end an election was held that Churchill naturally assumed his party would win and he would continue as the PM.
Interestingly, when he and his party lost in a landslide, he took it very gracefully showing another aspect of his greatness. Then having lost in the 1945 election it was assumed he would retire. His wife begged him to retire. But no, at 75 with health problems he stayed in parliament to head the opposition to the Socialists. Churchill is surely the greatest political orator of all time and he refused to retire since retirees don't get to give political speeches each day.
In the opposition Churchill convinced the public that the Socialist government had no idea what it was doing and he forced a general election in which he was again made the prime minister. He served in that capacity for another 4 years to almost 80 years of age.
Churchill then lived on to 90 years of age despite being a heavy cigar smoker and a controlled alcoholic to age 90. He received a funeral almost the equivalent of that for kings and queens. ...more
5

Aug 01, 2013

We already knew from the first two volumes, and from Manchester's reputation as a historian in other realms, that this book had the potential to be great. The concerns were two - would the coverage of Churchill during WW2 be too hagiographic, and would Paul Reid be able to take over from the deceased Manchester and finish the three-volume Churchill history in seamless fashion? The book passed both tests with flying colors.

This is a massive 1000-page tome that tries to give an overview of WW2 We already knew from the first two volumes, and from Manchester's reputation as a historian in other realms, that this book had the potential to be great. The concerns were two - would the coverage of Churchill during WW2 be too hagiographic, and would Paul Reid be able to take over from the deceased Manchester and finish the three-volume Churchill history in seamless fashion? The book passed both tests with flying colors.

This is a massive 1000-page tome that tries to give an overview of WW2 while delving into Churchill's actions and personality at the same time. It begins with a snapshot of Churchill's daily life that shows that, while he was graced with one of the most comprehensive minds of the 20th century, the man was not only an unrepentant colonialist that gradually found himself out of sorts with the post-WW2 world, he was also a pretty odd duck. We hear that about a lot of British historical political and cultural figures, but Churchill was particularly vexing, annoying and odd - which can make for great biography.

But the subject of this biography is not the only one that comes under tough scrutiny. FDR, Stalin, and all the major Allied generals are shown in a harsh but fair light. In some respects, Harry Truman comes across as a more consistent and trustworthy figure than FDR, which may drive some Roosevelt fans crazy - though I have a feeling Manchester and Reid are right.

The miracle of the coverage of the war is not merely that all events are put in appropriate historical perspective, but that we get the emotional day-to-day feeling of Londoners living through the Blitz and the V1/V2 assaults on the UK, as seen through the center of Churchill's vision. It makes the toughest days of WW2 come alive. Manchester and Reid also go into the details of preparing for summits like Cairo and Yalta, including the dangers of flying in the pre-jet era. It is astonishing that Churchill survived the war, given the risks he took in flying to meetings in the midst of air battles.

The authors do not spare any punches in describing the dysfunctional side of the Churchill family, as we learn how Randolph, Sarah, Diana, and Pamela all displayed oddities that may have been a betrayal, or may have been a result, of Churchill's own personality. Only Mary comes through this one unscathed.

The post-war years feel rushed, but that is to be expected, not only because the book has already meandered through 900 pages, but also because Churchill, after his last political years in the mid-1950s, went into his physical and mental twilight, and became increasing detached from the era of Mutually Assured Destruction and The Beatles. The authors do point out, however, that Churchill was one of the first politicians to understand the marriage of the H-bomb and ICBM rockets, and pushed to have the UK develop its own nuclear and thermonuclear capabilities.

Those with the patience to plow through a work of this length cannot find a better biography of Churchill, nor a better overview of WW2 from the UK perspective, than "The Last Lion." ...more
4

Jul 13, 2017

Winston Churchill is perhaps the most quotable politician who ever lived. In a season of shedding books, I'm considering buying a hardback compendium of Churchill quotes. One of my favorites from this book regarding another politician: Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.

I began Manchester's great work ( /Reid on the third) with the last volume, the only one available at my online digital library. Volume 1, Visions of Winston Churchill is perhaps the most quotable politician who ever lived. In a season of shedding books, I'm considering buying a hardback compendium of Churchill quotes. One of my favorites from this book regarding another politician: Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.

I began Manchester's great work ( /Reid on the third) with the last volume, the only one available at my online digital library. Volume 1, Visions of Glory 1874-1932, is queued up.

I can't express all the swirling thoughts about the man, but I do appreciate this: he valued face-to-face meetings so highly that he continually subjected himself to uncomfortable travel in order to look another leader in the eye and discuss the issues.

I had never understood why Churchill was voted out of office immediately after the European war was won. Now I do.

The joy of audio:
—Sharing the experience with the one I love, building memories of the Summer of Churchill, having a discussion partner. Once I thought we would crash into the Columbia River, so completely was Curt heaving with laughter while driving.
—Discovering 1.2 speed on Overdrive; this only worked on my computer at home. The book was 55.5 hours, and moving it along helped. I tried 1.4 but found I couldn't track with it that fast.
—The time factor: I can't visually read all the books I want, but I can get through more by adding audio.

The oy of audio.
—Blanking out...and suddenly realizing you have no idea what the narrator is talking about. I repeated many tracks.
—The transitory nature of the spoken word. I tried, oh how I tried, to staple quotes into my brain. Later, they had dissipated.

The narrator does a great Winston Churchill. All quotes are read imitating the characters' voice. His default reading voice, however, I found to be soporific. There was little change in inflection (I'm guessing 2 whole steps in musical terms); those soothing English syllables seduced our eyelids. ...more
5

Mar 05, 2013

Naively I used to think that the Brits would be speaking German if it had not been for Churchill; after reading/listening to this Amazing history -53 hour 27min - found that there would not be England as we know it or Europe or perhaps US. Hitler had plans to conquer Britain take all the men to slave labor camps . .. One can only imagine their fate and the fate of the whole world if Churchill had not lead the fight. This book give thorough history of WWII and could pass as a history book. It Naively I used to think that the Brits would be speaking German if it had not been for Churchill; after reading/listening to this Amazing history -53 hour 27min - found that there would not be England as we know it or Europe or perhaps US. Hitler had plans to conquer Britain take all the men to slave labor camps . .. One can only imagine their fate and the fate of the whole world if Churchill had not lead the fight. This book give thorough history of WWII and could pass as a history book. It should be taught in school. So many do not realize how close Hitler was to winning.
I consider this a great book but can tell not all written by late great Manchester.
A great companion to this book is the British Documentary series (available on Netflix) "Churchill's Bodyguard" based on memoirs of his actual bodyguard, Walter Thompson.
Many of the places and situations in The Last Lion are shown with actual footage in the series.
Also if one is going to take on this tome then one would be amiss not to also read/listen-audio version is excellent of Churchill's last private secretary, Anthony Montague Browne's "Long Sunset" which goes into more detail regarding Churchill's life after WWII leading to his passing.
...more
5

Dec 05, 2018

It is with great relief that I have finally finished this book along with its two predecessors. The three “Last Lion” volumes of Churchill’s life took up more than 3,000 pages. It was a lot of reading. An awful lot of reading. And I’m glad to have finally finished. Don’t misunderstand me, this was a great book (as were the other two). It was just…..long.

The author, William Manchester, actually passed away of a stroke before he could finish compiling his notes for this final narrative, so author It is with great relief that I have finally finished this book along with its two predecessors. The three “Last Lion” volumes of Churchill’s life took up more than 3,000 pages. It was a lot of reading. An awful lot of reading. And I’m glad to have finally finished. Don’t misunderstand me, this was a great book (as were the other two). It was just…..long.

The author, William Manchester, actually passed away of a stroke before he could finish compiling his notes for this final narrative, so author Paul Reid was brought in to mainly smooth the edges to make a coherent piece of work. There are naysayers that found this less than completely satisfactory, but to be honest, I can’t tell any difference in the two author’s styles. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Manchester knew he was too ill to continue and complete the trilogy, and Paul Reid was personally chosen by Manchester to bring the story of England’s most famous Prime Minister to a conclusion.

This book picks up right where volume 2 left off, and had we not known the history of Britain during World War II, we could easily describe the ending of volume 2 as a “cliffhanger”. Churchill is elected Prime Minister during England’s darkest days, 1940, just as things were starting to get ugly, as they were essentially a country grossly unprepared for a major war. Fortunately, there’s a lot of water surrounding England, and even more fortunate is that Germany doesn’t have that great of a navy – at least when compared to its air force and army.

So the only way Hitler and his goons can try to break the spirit of the British people is by bombing raids, which have now become a bit of legend. The morale of the countrymen is upbeat, however, and to be completely honest, it’s a bit hard to see why. It seems as though every page of the first half of this book details more and more tragedy, more battles lost, more ships sunk, more lives lost. There never seems to be any hint that England will survive. Yet Churchill is strong in his resolve, and manages to steer his people ahead with fiery speeches and unbridled optimism, even if all he has to offer is blood, toil, tears, and sweat.

Churchill is definitely one smart cookie. Sure, the book goes into a lot of detail about his eating habits, his drinking habits, and his smoking habits (It seems he had a weakness for the evils of all three), yet this man is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. As bad as things get, Winston Churchill is always looking ahead, and always keeping the interest of the vast British Empire in mind – which is actually still all over the globe when the war begins - when planning future conflicts.

Early on in the war, he’s smart enough to know England can’t win without Roosevelt and the Americans, yet the U.S. of A wants absolutely nothing to do with a war on another continent. Still, Churchill begs and begs an inflexible Roosevelt, who really is at the mercy of his constituents. He finally at least succeeds when the U.S. congress passes the Lend-Lease act, meaning, essentially that England can “lease” weapons from America. Then, of course, Pearl Harbor happened. You almost sense that Churchill was glad. Of course, most of the USA is concentrated on fighting Japan, which really doesn’t help the European conflict much.

It seems like, out of nowhere, that the tide turns for the allies around 1943. It’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly how, since Germany seemed to not be able to do any wrong prior to then. There are a lot of small things that added up: The breaking of the German Enigma coding machine, the Germans thinking they could easily beat Russia in the sub-zero temperatures of the Eastern Front, the Italians (not good fighters), the use of Radar (England had discovered it, Germany had not), and the fact that as smart as Adolph Hitler was, he was still a crazed lunatic who wouldn’t listen to his advisors.

Around 1943, Churchill along with Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, start planning for the post-war Europe. This will not be an easy task. Stalin is equally as vile as Hitler, so negotiating with him is never a walk in the park, and Roosevelt as well seems to have his own agenda. It’s almost as if Roosevelt and Stalin realize that the end of this war will essentially kill the British “Empire”, leaving the USA and Russia as the two superpowers, so why even bother much with Churchill? Still, Churchill plods ahead as best he can.

This books has more. Oh, so much more. In addition to meticulous details of most of the major battles, there’s also Northern Africa, Southern Italy, the Vichy French, Burma, Shanghai, what to do with Poland, and many many members of the British Parliament. Most in his home country regard Churchill as a hero, but when things are slow to recover after the war’s end, Winston is voted out and replaced by Clement Attlee whom Churchill describes as “A Sheep in Sheep’s Clothing”. So problems still persist after the war, and Churchill gets absolutely no rest, and has the Prime Minister job again in 1951 (when he was 77 years old!)

About eighty percent of this book focuses on 1940-1945. By the time the war ends, up until Churchill’s death in 1965, the author devotes a lot less reading space describing events post World War II. One could almost argue that a volume 4 could have been written (no! please! no!)

This book is the real thing. There’s no need to read anything about Winston Churchill other than these three magnificent, yet lengthy volumes. This man was a true hero, and I’m glad he lived a long life – despite being on the verge of death from all the wine, fancy food, and persistent cigars. It’s sad to think of what history could have been had this man not been alive. ...more
4

Aug 20, 2015

This is the final volume of William Manchester's great historical trilogy covering the life of Winston Churchill. It was completed and published a number of years after his June, 2004 death by his friend Paul Reid. Manchester's failing health prevented him from being able to put words to print since at least 2001. Reid had befriended him several years earlier but it wasn't until late 2003, literally months before his death, that Manchester finally enlisted Reid to finish the book.

It is This is the final volume of William Manchester's great historical trilogy covering the life of Winston Churchill. It was completed and published a number of years after his June, 2004 death by his friend Paul Reid. Manchester's failing health prevented him from being able to put words to print since at least 2001. Reid had befriended him several years earlier but it wasn't until late 2003, literally months before his death, that Manchester finally enlisted Reid to finish the book.

It is interesting to read Reid's Author's Note describing details of how he became familiar with Manchester's mountain of notes and combined them with his own research. Years of work produced a book which feels true to Manchester's narrative style. Reid himself had been waiting for this third part of the Churchill history since the second volume was published by Manchester, and his hard work and talent have brought the product to its successful conclusion.

"The Last Lion 3 ..." covers the years which defined how Churchill became the most famous Englishman of the Twentieth Century. During the decade previously, he had been a public official often mocked by the leaders of his own political party, whose complaints about the poor state of Great Britain's preparedness for countering the aggression by a resurgent Germany were ignored. Now, as World War II was beginning, he was proven to have been the most prophetic of his country's statesmen. He had recently been given the opportunity to lead the country. His powers as Prime Minister were so far-reaching, it would not be inaccurate to refer to him as a warlord. He acted as the chief of all of England's military forces, and micro-managed every important wartime activity from arms production to appointment of military leaders to war strategy.

Churchill ran the war with a "war cabinet" of officials who reported to him. Since he was the head of a coalition government, he had to accept the appointment of high officials from all parties. Some of his former political enemies even came from his Tory party, especially Lord Halifax and Neville Chamberlain. Churchill showed a marked lack of bitterness toward those who had earlier thwarted his own ambitions. I had previously marveled at his even-handedness when he described these individuals in his memoirs of the Second World War, and mistakenly ascribed his apparent generosity in describing them as indicating a different, more genteel kind of politics than we witness in the Twenty First century. In fact, Churchill had spent years reeling from personal attacks on him, and, as Reid points out repeatedly, he never forgot any of the mistreatment or treachery he was subjected to in his political career.

Indeed, there were Tories who ended up being subjected to Churchill's wrath by being assigned to dead-end duties in far-flung parts of the Empire. Even Halifax, the former appeasing Foreign Secretary, was banished away from the London center of political action, but he was assigned as the British Foreign Minister in Washington. Halifax's reputation would find redemption in large part through the valuable diplomacy he would exercise on behalf of his government with the Americans. Churchill would also publicly, for the sake of governmental unity, ban any ongoing recriminations against Neville Chamberlain. There are many people today who would probably be surprised to know that Chamberlain had been kept in the government as a member of Churchill's cabinet after his incompetence and lying finally caught up to him. Now, at the beginning of the war, there was simply nothing to be gained by reminding every citizen of whose poor judgement brought the country into peril. Chamberlain's untimely death was eulogized by Churchill in a "powerful and ... sincere address" (p. 212).

The most accurate description that can be made of Great Britain in the first two years of the war is that of a beleaguered nation without any powerful allies, trying to keep from being battered by an enemy with a far greater army and air force, while slowly but surely being strangled of essential food and supplies by German submarines and surface raiding ships (e.g. "Bismarck" and others). Some of the figures in the book that report on the thousands of tons of ships that were lost in the Atlantic monthly were simply staggering. There was a time in which ship building in England couldn't keep up with the losses, and food lost to U-Boat attacks was threatening to starve the home islands.

It would have been enough of a burden for Churchill to accept being subjected to the need to counter all of the enemy attacks which kept happening, while trying to gather and deploy forces to counter a feared cross-channel enemy invasion but, being a supremely intelligent and imaginative man, he constantly contemplated ways to keep bringing the fight to the enemy. Many of the plans he championed were disasters (Greece, Crete, the Tobruk siege, loss of "Prince of Wales", the surrender of Singapore), but he kept the civil and military populations of the country motivated to accept setbacks while surviving and continuing the fight. Reid mentions the quote from T.S.Eliot which succinctly described the fate of the country in those dangerous times, "History is now and England." (p. 237).

Hope for English survival became possible when the United States was thrown into the war at the end of 1941. England now had a formidable ally. We know, in hindsight, how Churchill and Roosevelt formed a strong friendship and led their countries to a strong alliance, which later included Russia, to defeat Hitler. Roosevelt had actually gone from quiet arms merchant to England to guarantor of delivery of arms and food across much of the North Atlantic, when he took the political risk of committing the U.S. Navy to escorting ship convoys over a large part of their eastward journey while the U.S. still exercised neutral status in the war.

Churchill, in fact, became a visitor of the Roosevelts in Washington before the end of that fateful December, cementing the commitment of the two leaders to establish a personal friendship in furtherance of a strong military alliance between their countries. Manchester and Reid point out that strains in the relationships of the leaders of the democracies eventually developed, due to different perceptions of ultimate war objectives.

Perhaps the largest object of contention was the manner in which allied forces would eventually go to war on the ground in Europe. Churchill and Roosevelt both agreed that some kind of landing needed to happen in France, preferably in the summer of 1943, although that date had to be moved forward another year. It was late in 1943 when a full commitment was made to, in effect, throw all of their eggs in one basket for the Normandy invasion. Churchill had originally conceived of this as an operation of a limited number of army divisions, with perhaps the main part of hostilities against Germany remaining in Italy, the Balkans and, believe it or not, Norway, combined with the added blows to the Germans from the Russian front and the allied bombings of Berlin and other German cities (see p. 713).

Reid and Manchester describe various instances in which the primacy of Churchill in standing up to Hitler gradually passed to Roosevelt. The increased emphasis on the cross-channel invasion that would eventually be called Overlord was partly the result of America's growing build-up of soldiers and material in England, combined with increasingly heavy pressure from Stalin to make a commitment for an all-out assault on the German western front.

We learn from the book that Churchill was slow to realize how much the leadership of planning and executing the war was becoming dominated by the Americans. He had already hinted strongly to his military chief of staff General Alan Brooke that he would command the allied armies in France. Churchill's undiminished confidence in his generals would be a recurring theme for the remainder of 1944, as shown by his strong support of the military strategies proposed by General Bernard Law Montgomery, even at the peril of the success of other allied operations that were already in effect.

At any rate, the aforementioned growing mountains of American armies in preparation of Overlord meant that the American army would field the greatest number of forces from Normandy until the end, and the British would have to abdicate the right to choose one of their own generals. Churchill would have to let Brooke know that the glory of leading the armies that would defeat Hitler in the West would be given to an American general. During the early Overlord planning, this man was not who you might guess. The main candidate was originally to be General George Marshall.

"The Last Lion 3 .." shows how the stresses of the war sapped the strength of Churchill. By 1945, he felt he was living on borrowed time. Nevertheless, he maintained a grueling travel schedule throughout the war, visiting the United States several times to confer with an increasingly aloof Roosevelt, and making strenuous long-distance trips to the numerous Big Three conferences with Roosevelt and Stalin.

In addition to their Big Three banquets and meetings, Roosevelt and Churchill both thought that they were capable of dealing with Stalin privately, with disastrous results. Stalin always knew what he wanted and never missed an opportunity to make demands of his partners for war materials and for committing their military forces to the fight with Hitler, regardless of whether sound military planning called for taking the time to ensure that those forces were well trained and utilized to best advantage.

Usually a booze-fueled state dinner accompanied each of their meetings at Tehran, Yalta etc., and, as we know from the book, Stalin the mass murderer could act the part of the convivial, joke-loving friend to his fellow leaders. His forceful personality was also evident at the formal negotiating sessions. A diary entry of Alan Brooke's described the humiliation he felt for his country when Stalin and one comrade controlled the Tehran conference, while Churchill and Roosevelt, accompanied by two dozen British and American top aides, made major concessions.

The great majority of the 1053 pages of text are devoted to Churchill's involvement in World War II. Every major North African, Mediterranean and European action of that war is covered in detail, including, of course, the masterful leadership Winston showed during the Battle of Britain. The war didn't kill him off, and he lived to experience the uncomfortable fate of politicians in democracies who get voted out of the offices they thought they had earned the right to keep. Shortly after the shooting ended in Europe, the cordial atmosphere within the British government's wartime coalition evaporated and an election was held. Churchill seems to have been shocked to be turned out of office after all of his great exertions of the previous years, but Reid and Manchester explain how long pent-up resentments among the populace placed power in the hands of Clement Attlee and the Labour Party.

The reader might expect the book to end here, as Churchill was forced into retirement. Although he would find himself in declining health, he would, however, take the mantle of opposition leader to the government he would constantly condemn for its socialist domestic programs. This aging man would, in the late 1940's, write his extremely detailed, readable, coherent six-volume history of World War II. As Reid numerates, he delivered over two hundred speeches, extraordinary when considering he wrote and edited all four hundred thousand words contained in them; and tirelessly fought for protecting his concept of the waning British Empire, and for European unity (see p. 988). He would eventually be returned to serve as Prime Minister during the 1950's, a time of towering challenges associated with nuclear proliferation and the Cold War. One could have asked, at any time since World War II, "hasn't he served and given enough of himself?"

Finishing the third volume of this remarkably well told story of this extraordinary individual left me pleased with a very enjoyable reading experience. After switching over to e-books for most of my reading, I quite liked reading this trilogy in hard cover. I guess some people are marathon readers, but I like to read books that are part of a series by devouring different styles of books in between the volumes of the series. Which reminds me that I still have three volumes to go in Winston's World War II memoirs. These are excellent companion volumes to part three of the Manchester trilogy, with the added bonus of being told in Winston Churchill's unsurpassed writing style. Time to download "Volume IV: The Hinge of Fate".






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