Anglo-Apologia

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Can reviewer Ralph Berry find nothing in the public life of Winston Churchill that was negative, or was there nothing of that nature in Andrew Robert’s new book: Churchill: Walking with Destiny?

Was Churchill’s reputed collaboration with Foreign Secretary Edward Gray [sic] to effect a partial mobilization of the Army, prior to Britain’s decision to enter the First World War noted?

Shouldn’t Churchill’s advocacy for poison gas warfare in Iraq, India, and Russia, and his actual use of it against the Bolsheviks in 1919 have been mentioned?

Who came up with the specious claim that Hitler wanted war in 1938 [over] the Sudetenland, when all his prior actions to reunite Germany were based on bluffs which hid his virtually nonexistent strengths? 

Shouldn’t the findings of the Wehrmacht officers who subsequently inspected the Czech border fortifications, and determined that they would have been sufficient to repel a German invasion, have countered that war claim?

Shouldn’t Churchill’s causation of the great Bengal Famine of 1943-44 be featured prominently, as it left between 3 million and 4 million Indian civilians dead?  Because he ordered their grain, and that arriving in relief ships from Australia, to be delivered to Europe instead for use in England, or to be stockpiled for future use in the yet to be liberated Balkans?

Shouldn’t his written comment scribbled on the report of that mass starvation, “Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet??” have given him a place in infamy?

Finally, why was his silence at Yalta that accepted the continued 46-year enslavement of valiant Poland and all other [Eastern] European nations seemingly ignored?

Will the hagiography of Churchill ever cease?

        —Russell W. Haas
Golden, Colo.

Mr. Berry Replies:

The difference between Russell W. Haas and me is that I have read the book whose review he complains about, and Mr. Haas has not. This places him at a serious disadvantage in controversy, as Andrew Roberts has addressed all the points he raises. I select some: Sir Edmund Grey was indeed Foreign Secretary, but Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, not the Army.  Hitler did indeed want war in 1938 and was bitterly disappointed when Chamberlain thwarted him. The views of the German commanders, on the strength of the Czech fortifications, have no force when the Anschluss meant that the  Czechs would have faced war on two fronts. Mr. Haas must detach himself from history to reflect on geography.  

“Churchill’s causation of the great Bengal famine:” Mr. Haas seems unaware that Churchill was fighting a world war which, at that time, Britain seemed quite likely to lose. The war, and not humanitarian relief, was the priority. In any case, there were good local reasons for scepticism: food shortages lead to hoarding and profiteering.  As for Gandhi, not everyone accepts him as a secular saint, including the Indian who killed him.

“His silence at Yalta…:” Frankly, this is rubbish. Churchill was acutely aware of the moral and political obligation to save Poland but was overruled by the facts of the Soviet Army in Europe, together with a complacent American attitude to Stalin—which did not last long. Churchill tried hard but could not beat against the brute facts of power.

Mr. Haas has no time for the review I wrote of the book he has not read. If he wants a serious critique of Churchill, he should read Peter Hitchens’ The Phoney Victory: The World War II Illusion (2018). His letter is merely a series of gestures uninformed by both history and the masterly biography Andrew Roberts wrote.

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