Finished Roy Jenkins’ biography of Churchill yesterday. As I mentioned before, it’s not exactly easy reading, but it wasn’t so bad as to make me give up.
Whenever I hear the story of Churchill’s first month as Prime Minister, I am amazed. If you’re not familiar with the story—and World War II history is a subject on which I am woefully undereducated myself—you should take a moment to look it up. Churchill was chosen Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, the same day Hitler invaded France. Churchill spent the next month desperately flying back and forth to Paris, trying to talk the French government into keeping up the fight—yet he couldn’t commit more British troops to help the French, because he needed those troops to save Britain if France fell. On May 26—only sixteen days after he became Prime Minister—the British army was evacuated from France in the “Miracle at Dunkirk.” France capitulated on June 22; Churchill told the French that they must hand over their navy, lest it fall into the hands of the Nazis, and he ordered the British Navy to sink any French vessels that refused to turn to a British port. Some 1,200 French soldiers were killed as a result of this tragic, but correct, command decision. On July 10, two months after entering office, the Battle of Britain began.
It’s really amazing stuff.