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This study of Winston Churchill's reputation aims to disprove the legend--fruit of postwar canonization--that wartime Britain was united in adulation of its peerless leader. Gardner, a prolific popularizer of British military history (Allenby of Arabia, etc.) draws on newspaper columns, letters, and memoirs to show that ""Winston,"" like any other politician, was even during the gravest moments of the war subject to constant harassment from friends and foes alike. Among the snipers were such notables as General Alan Brooke, Sir Stafford Cripps, Aneurin Bevan, Leslie Hore-Belisha, H. G. Wells, and a host of lesser knowns in Parliament and among the left-wing press, who downed the P.M. for sins ranging from imperialism to poor battle plans and personal eccentricities. Their digs are skillfully woven into a narrative which follows Churchill from his outcast years in the '30's through the war and his repudiation in 1945. With all this, Gardner does make a point. But is it an important one? Certainly the eminences he quotes were unlikely to have surrendered their critical faculties to any politician; whereas the general public did in fact give Churchill overwhelming support. Also, the format, by implying that the criticism was unjust, enables Gardner to dodge the task of evaluating Churchill as leader. Instead, he casts his subject dramatically as the beleaguered hero of a two-front war, fighting Nazis abroad and Britons at home. Far from emending the Churchill myth, such a portrait will add to it. A well-written, entertaining, untaxing account.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin