Monday, May 05, 2008

The Churchill Series - May 5, 2008

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

Churchill certainly had his critics. One was Field Marshal Alan Brooke (later Lord Alanbrooke), Chief of the Imperial General Staff for most of WW II.

Brooke kept a diary during the war. Here are some of historian Christopher Harmon's comments on aspects of it concerning the Churchill-Alanbrooke relationship.

Another reason for (his) criticism of Churchill is high-minded and strategic, if not necessarily correct.

Alanbrooke felt that this admittedly-great man had no strategy; as late as December 1941, when Alanbrooke became C.I.G.S., he remained "appalled" by the "lack of a definite policy....Planned strategy was not Winston's strong card. He preferred to work by intuition and impulse."

Proving he does possess a sense of humor, Alanbrooke twice formulates the problem as antithesis: "God knows where we would be without him, but God knows where we shall go with him," says an entry for 1941. Three years hence he writes: "Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again." […]

What Alanbrooke never adds to such accounts of conference room combat is that Churchill would never overrule the Chiefs of Staff when they agreed among themselves. Arguing, testing and debating were part of proper civilian oversight. Alanbrooke missed the point. He thought he was saving Britain from wild variants of hare-brained strategies.

Alanbrooke's diaries are remarkably silent about most of the many things these two war horses agreed about. Both believed Germany must be defeated before Japan. Both emphasized Mediterranean operations, where British and Allied troops retook North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy.

Both felt in 1943 and 1944 that Alexander's army in Italy was neglected and condemned to fighting without real offensive power by various Pacific ventures and the unnecessary plan to invade southern France (Dragoon). Both believed in what is today called "joint warfare," and pushed air power.[…]
Alanbrooke, by the way, was an avid birder and photographer. Shortly after he returned to England from the Casablanca Conference he called a staff officer into his office. The officer was expecting to hear of war plans; instead he was shown photo of a bird which Alanbrooke said was "quite rare really. I was very lucky."
Christopher Harmon, "Churchill and Alanbrooke." Finest Hour (No. 112)


Anonymous said...

John: What do you think of the report of forged papers showing up in the British Archives claiming that WSC was in cahoots with arch-fiend Heinrich Himmler? I wonder what kind of crackpot would do such a thing? The report I read noted that the pertetrator is "in poor health" and, thus, would not be charged. It's true that both Himmler and Goering attempted to make a separate peace with the Allies in the closing days of the war, but there is nothing at all to substantiate a "connection" between Churchill and Himmler.
Tarheel Hawkeye