Churchill once said that "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm". Of course, there was a lot more to Winston Churchill's war leadership than his rushing with enthusiasm to the next failure. At the end of the day, the Nazis lost the war; but, for three long years, the British Army's only successful operations were evacuations, from Narvik to Dunkirk, from Greece to Crete. Churchill's greatness is not only that he never lost his enthusiasm, but that his leadership inspired the British people not to lose faith, even at the darkest hours of the war.
In this book, Max Hastings, one of the best British historians of WWII, analyzes the extraordinary success of Churchill's leadership during the war. Churchill's success is indeed astonishing. A maverick, but an ultra-conservative, Churchill came to lead Britain against the wishes of his own party because Labor wanted him to lead the coalition government. After the defeat of France, Churchill knew that the British Army could not face the full might of the Wehrmacht; but he sensed that the morale of the British people required action, and he was more afraid of inaction than of failure. He was an imaginative leader who took many controversial decisions; and he would have taken many more, if the general staff had not stood in the way. After the British victory at El-Alamein, the Anglo-American landing in North Africa, and the German defeat at Stalingrad, the tide turned. The war was not over, but it could no longer be lost by the Allies. Britain became a minor partner in the alliance with the USSR and the USA.
Many books have been written on Churchill and his war leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learned much from it. Max Hastings managed to bring something different from all the other books, including some events that are barely covered by other historians and the most controversial decisions of Churchill. Most importantly, this book made me appreciate that history might have been different without Churchill's extraordinary vitality and his larger than life personality, with faults as large as his qualities. In 1940, Churchill,s finest hour coincided with Britain's.