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by Celia Sandys

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7867-0704-6

A charming, unassuming account by Winston Churchill’s granddaughter of the adventures that made him famous during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899—1902. Churchill was just 25 at the outbreak of the war between Britain and the Boer Republics, but he had already published well-regarded books on wars in India and the Sudan. His combination of service in the army and in the press had not made him the favorite of the brass hats; still, he was one of the best-paid reporters covering the war (though not, as Sandys claims, —the highest-paid war correspondent of the day—). In her trip around South Africa, Sandys followed the route taken by her grandfather, spoke to the descendants of many of those who played a role in the events, and found material that had lain unnoticed. Churchill was captured by the Boers while helping (in cheerful disregard of his noncombatant status) free an armored train from an ambush. Although it was conduct that, as Sandys shows from contemporary accounts, would have earned him a Victoria Cross if he’d been anything but a war correspondent, it landed him in a prisoner-of-war camp in Pretoria. His escape 25 days later raised many an eyebrow. It has often been alleged that he took advantage of the plan of two other prisoners to make his escape, yet Sandys is persuasive in demolishing this canard. Churchill’s risky and exciting trip through enemy territory down to the coast 300 miles away and his arrival in Durban just after the British had suffered three defeats in battle launched his career in Parliament. Even the military establishment gave grudging approval. —I must say I admire him greatly,— said Commander-in-Chief Sir Redvers Buller. —I wish he was leading irregular troops instead of writing for a rotten paper.— A pleasant and undemanding excursion into the experiences of the young Churchill in a more chivalrous time. (24 pages b&w photos, 6 maps)