Friday, March 07, 2008

The Churchill Series - Mar. 7, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Churchill's biographer Martin Gilbert writes in Continue to Pester, Nag and Bite: Churchill's War Leadership (Pimlico, 2005):

Churchill's ability to find, encourage and sustain individuals who he knew would make a significant contribution to the war effort was an important feature of his war leadership.

One of the most remarkable of these characters, for whom Churchill had to fight tenaciously, was a retired major-general, Percy Hobart, who before the war had been one of the main figures in the development of tank warfare.
Hobart, who was unpopular among the officials in the War Office, had been retired in March 1940 and refused reinstatement.
(Churchill asked why and was told Hobart had been)"impatient, quick tempered, hot headed, intolerant and inclined to see things as he wished them to be instead of as they were." (pgs. 79-80)
Churchill didn't let things end there. Gilbert tells us the PM wrote the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir John Dill:
I am not at all impressed by the prejudices against him in certain quarters. Such prejudices attach frequently to persons of strong personality and original view.

In this case General Hobart’s original views have been only too tragically borne out.
The neglect by the General Staff even to devise proper patterns of tanks before the war has robbed us of all the fruits of this invention.
We are now at war, fighting for our lives, and we cannot afford to confine Army appointments to persons who have excited no hostile comment in their career. The catalogue of General Hobart's qualities and defects might almost exactly have been attributed to most of the great commanders of British history. (pgs. 80-81)
Hobart served with distinction throughout the war, fully justifying Churchill's confidence and willingness to challenge the War Office.

Series readers, I hope no one springs forward this weekend to pester, nag or bite you.




Anonymous said...

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.

-Winston Churchill