(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In series posts this past Tuesday and yesterday, I provided excerpts from diaries kept during WW II by Field Marshal Alan Brooke (later Lord Alanbrooke), Chief of the Imperial General Staff for most of the war. Alan Brooke had many sharp, even vicious, things to say about statesmen and soldiers, including Churchill. Please read the posts if you haven’t already.
Here’s one more example of Alan Brooke on Churchill:
"He knows no details, has only got half the picture in his mind, talks absurdities... And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Winston Churchill is one of the great Strategists of History...Without him England was lost for certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and time again."Now I want to give the rest of this post to Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert. I’ll add a few comments below the star line.
From Gilbert’s Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair, 1945-1965 (Houghton Mifflin, 1988) (pgs, 1332-1333):
[In February 1957] Lord Alanbrooke’s diaries were published with a copious and critical commentary by Arthur Bryant. No sing book gave a more distorted picture of Churchill’s war leadership, or would provide for many years to come so much material for critical, hostile and ill-informed portrayals of Churchill in the war years.Folks, if “He knows no details, has only got half the picture in his mind, talks absurdities...” are “momentary impressions” “written at the end of long and exhausting days,” why place them, years after the war, between the covers of a book?
Alanbrooke sent Churchill a copy of the book, The Turn of the Tide, with a fulsome, and at the same time embarrassed and apologetic dedication:To Winston from Brookie”My dear Brookie,” Churchill wrote, generously as usual, to Alanbrooke [from France]. “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book,” and he added: “On the whole I think that I am against publishing day to day diaries written under the stress of events so soon afterwards. However, I read it with great interest, and I am very much obliged to you for what you say in your inscription.”
With unbounded admiration, profound respect, and deep affection built up in our 5 years close association during the war.
Some of the extracts from my diaries in this book may contain criticisms, and references to differences between us. I hope you will remember that they were written at the end of long and exhausting days, often in the small hours of the morning, and refer to momentary daily impressions.
These casual day to day impressions bear no relation to the true feelings of deep-rooted friendship and admiration which bound me so closely to you throughout the war.
I look upon the privilege of having served you in the war as the greatest hounour destiny had bestowed on me.
If they must be put there “for History’s sake,” then why not make clear they’re nothing but “momentary impressions” that occurred to you “at the end of long and exhausting days.”
People would then understand that what Alanbrooke was saying was really more revealing of him under stress than Churchill as a war leader.
But Alanbrooke didn’t do that.
I’ll say more about Alanbrooke and Churchill Monday.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think even if they are only "momentary impressions."
I hope you have a nice weekend.