The "Last Lion" Keeps Roaring

April 8, 2013

A Book Review

The Last Lion
I have read William Manchester’s previous two books about Winston Churchill and thought they were quite wonderful.  When Manchester died in 2004, I wondered how far along he was with his third and final volume about Winston.  Writer Paul Reid took Manchester’s volume of work and has just completed the final work.  It’s very long – 1,053 pages and small type and very, very few chapters – but well done.  It certainly captures Churchill’s determination, his vivid imagination, his humor and great vision as the greatest allied leader of the Second World War – and, perhaps, the greatest leader of the 20th Century.

I knew that Churchill had been defeated as Prime Minister soon after his brilliant leadership of the second world war, but I was not sure why.  This book goes into detail to describe the post-war platform of Churchill’s opposition – the Labor Party.  The British economy was in terrible condition, and the Labor Party promised that government would solve everyone’s problems.  They proposed nationalizing key industries and paying large bonuses to returning soldiers, sailors and airmen.  Four to five years later, the economy had not improved, and Churchill was returned to the office of Prime Minister.

The book impressed on me how accurately Churchill understood the Soviet Union’s objective of conquering as much of Europe as they could.  He was far ahead of President Roosevelt and other leaders at the time in predicting their aims.  When Churchill turned 80 on November 30, 1954, Clement Atlee, who was the leader of Britain’s opposition party, praised Churchill for his wartime speeches and leadership.  Churchill replied as follows, and I quote:

“I was very glad that Mr. Atlee described my speeches in the war as expressing the will not only of Parliament but the whole nation. Their will was resolute and remorseless, and as it proved unconquerable, it fell to me to express it – and if I found the right words, you must remember that I have always earned my living by my pen and by my tongue. It was a nation and race dwelling around the globe that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the ROAR. I also hope that I sometime suggested to the Lion, the right places to use his CLAWS.”

In his final address to the House of Commons, Churchill ended his remarks with these words:

“The day may dawn when fair play, love for fellow man, respect for justice and freedom will enable tormented generations to march forth secure and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.”

Westminster Abbey Churchill Plaque

On the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, at the request of the Queen and Parliament, placed a 67" x 76" poster-sized polished green marble slab in the floor of that thousand-year-old monument to English history.  All who enter cannot help but see it just a few feet inside the great west doors.  Engraved are the words:

 Remember Winston Churchill

This wonderful literary work will certainly help us do all that!  I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

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Yes, Churchill was defeated by Labor Party soon after his historical leadership in the WWII; the nation had a choice to be a province of Nazi Germany or stay a leading free nation. Britain chose the second path, as many nations do. However, the cost of war was overwhelming and the people soon turned against their rescuer, as most nations do!

True leaders know very well the cost of successful leadership and the consequential popular bickering; but they do the right thing; saving the country is the objective not wining the popularity contest.

Churchill was the greatest leader of the 20th Century.

Beautiful comments on Winston Churchill.
Thank you Marriott for commending such a fine man.

I also thought this book was a tremendous conclusion to the series and well worth the wait. Churchill wasn't perfect, but his leadership and his conviction changed the course of history, particularly in the dark days between Dunkirk and the US coming into the war after the tragedy of Pearl Harbour.

The story of how William Manchester passed the torch to Paul Ryan was pretty inspiring too. He took such care to ensure his work would be faithfully and thoroughly completed.

Thanks Bill, I shall have to read that book. I must say as a Brit, and I mean no flattery, that I attribute a part of Churchill's success to the fact that he was half American. He was very modern in his thinking when others weren't – and of course being half American equipped him better to negotiate with the Roosevelt administration. What's more, I think the subsequent Labour government suffered precisely because it didn't have as strong a relationship with the US government.

But Churchill wasn't perfect; he was very hard on the striking coal miners in 1926 (who were striking against a succession of pay cuts) at a time when the Prime Minister and the King were being more moderate. As the book will have said, Churchill's hostility and aggression at that time became infamous and a generation of miners, my grandfather included, hated Churchill for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. As for me, I think Churchill is exonerated by his brilliant leadership during WW2. In fact I believe he's one of the greatest Britons of all time – though I never said that in Grandpa's hearing!