Churchill Oke

Churchill Oke

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Churchill Oke

The Churchill Oke was a prototype flamethrower tank that was produced in 1942 and took part in the disastrous raid on Dieppe.

The Oke used a normal jettisonable fuel tank to carry the flamethrower fuel. It got its name from Major Oke, who first suggested the idea. It won the support of Lord Mountbatten, then Chief of Combined Operations, and was ready for operational use an impressive three months later.

The fuel tank was linked to a Wasp-type flame projector. The operator sat in the hull machine gunner's position on the Churchill. The cylindrical fuel tank was mounted horizontally across the back of the tank and was linked to the flame projector by a pipe that ran up the side of the tank. The flame projector was mounted in the front left of the hull, to the left of the Besa machine gun. The flame had a range of 40-50 yards.

Three Churchill Oke flamethrower tanks took part in the disastrous attack on Dieppe in August 1942. All three were destroyed before they could enter combat.

The Churchill Oke was soon replaced by the Churchill Crocodile, one of the most effective flame thrower tanks of the Second World War.

Churchill OKE - First flamethrower variation

Post by LegalAssassin » 13 Oct 2004, 22:13

Was used for the first time on the beaches of Dieppe with (of course) horrible result.
I'm doing a few tons of research on Operation JUBILEE at the moment and my problem now is that I can't fully identify which tank is in a photo.

Has anyone got any photos, schematics, anything at all about the OKE? Anything would be useful, but three search engines can find only 3 photos of it, none are near sharp enough to tell me anything about apperance.

The tank in the photo is either marked 8 or 9, but I can't see which it is. If it's an 8, I know it's an OKE, or if I can find any other way of identifying it.

Three OAKs were dropped off on the beach:
One Churchill Mk. 3 OAK -- BLUEBELL (T68759R)
and two Churchill Mk. 2 OAKs -- BUTTERCUP (T31655) and BLOSSOM (T68561R).

If I could tell which one on the picture is I could locate the position and work with one mystery tank less. So, anyone here have a clue?

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 21:30

Post by LegalAssassin » 14 Oct 2004, 22:09

Post by LegalAssassin » 14 Oct 2004, 22:16

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 23:37

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 23:38

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 23:39

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 23:40

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 23:46

Post by wright61 » 14 Oct 2004, 23:47

Post by LegalAssassin » 15 Oct 2004, 01:13

Can't thank you enough, you just did half the work for me!

Do you know the key for all numbers? That is, the entire list for the names of the tank each number represents.
I see you (probably) got the stuff from some other guy, could you ask him if you haven't got the key? I would, but the damn thing wont let me register.

Post by Aufklarung » 15 Oct 2004, 02:49

Yes, your first two pics are the same tank. here are some other Dieppe pics and sites. . 604_f.html

From the (now) Kings Own Calgary Regt Museum at The Museum of the Regts. I used to have to do duty as a Gallery guide for the LdSH(RC) wing. I met alot of the KOCR vets from Dieppe and after who volunteered at their wing. Great guys all.
I met a crewman of "Bert". 8)

Number was Troop # within the Sqn. #9 ("Blossom") was in 9 Troop 'B' Sqn. A better pic of her below. Some Squadron command tanks had a letter in front of a number but I don't know th meaning. # 'F2' was Calgary from SHQ 'C' Sqn.

First Letter of the name tended to reflect the Sqn but not in the case of RHQ. "Ringer" was the Adjt's tank and the only RHQ Tank to come ashore. 'A' Sqn stayed at sea. I have the stories of a few of the landed Calgary Regt tanks in writing if you're interested.

Post by LegalAssassin » 15 Oct 2004, 17:56

Very nice, thanks! Collections Canada is a great source for photos, I think I've saved every photo they have (on Dieppe) online to my harddrive

I'm interested in everything anyone has, as long as it's reliable information (makes it easier for me when I just have to check it, not sort out the bad ones) and as long as it's Dieppe. I've already got everything which can be found through Google and online archives, I've got tourist photos from lots of angles and I've even got a few blueprints of houses in Dieppe (! :p ).

Anything connected to Dieppe (including Puys, Varengeville (sp?) Pourville and the other locations) is of interest. Weapons and movements, eye witness accounts (I can't find any german), all information which can be found.
I hope I will be able to compile it all into a 3D film where you can see it all taking place in real-time, like a huge world where you can watch the battle evolve.
This is, of course, waaay in the future, but I will try to create such a thing when technology allows.

Post by Gerry Chester » 15 Oct 2004, 22:49

"Three OAKs were dropped off on the beach:
One Churchill Mk. 3 OAK -- BLUEBELL (T68759R)
and two Churchill Mk. 2 OAKs -- BUTTERCUP (T31655) and BLOSSOM (T68561R)."

This is incorrect, the three Churchills were in B Squadron's 9 Troop commanded by Sgt. L.D.Morrison, Lt. M.J.A.Lambert and Cpl. D.L.Brownlee respectively.

The three OKE s that went ashore on TLC 3 were 8 Troop's Mark Is - easily identified by the turret mounted 2-pdr gun as can be seen in the photo of Boar below.
Bull - T31862- commander, Capt D.J.Purdy
Boar - T32049 - commander, Sgt. J.Sullivan
Beetle - T68875 - commander, Lt/G.L.Drysdale

Taken by J.P.Pallud, German War Photographer.

Post by LegalAssassin » 16 Oct 2004, 01:18

Of course, stupid self! I deserve a good beating for looking on the wrong row!

You're correct, the ones I listed were all in 9 troop. According to my source, Barry Beldam's web published orbat file on Dieppe (, BULL and BEETLE were Churchill Mk 2 OKEs and BOAR was a Mk 3.

I've considered Mr. Beldam was a trustworthy source, are you sure your information is correct?

BBC – We will lie and falsify history to destroy white Britain

A senior screenwriter for the BBC has gone on record admitting that the corporation is actively working to engineer the population replacement of Britain and dispossess indigenous Brits of their homeland.

Earlier this month, lead screenwriter of the BBC’s Dr Who series announced that it was the corporation’s duty to phase white people from its screening.

The BBC has long been recognised as having been hijacked by Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) pushing their racist, social engineering ‘progressive liberal’ agenda, but it’s seldom that such a high profile figure has been so brazen in spelling it out.

Speaking to BBC’s flagship publication Radio Times, Steven Moffat revealed that while the corporation’s target audience were “progressive liberals” and SJWs, its propaganda was squarely aimed at “people who voted Brexit” – in other words conservatives, libertarians and patriots.

Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson lavished praise on Moffat for politicising the BBC show Doctor Who and placing it on “the frontline of the culture war.”

According to Robinson, the fact that the doctor now has “a lesbian of colour named Bill” as a sidekick, was evidence of just how ‘progressive’ the series has become.

Moffatt was behind the casting of a female and the subsequent emasculation of Dr Who, a role played by a male doctor since its first airing in 1963.

It would be “amazing” if neither the doctor nor his side kick were white, slobbered the Moffatt revealing his obsessive anti-white racist agenda.

Conceivably, the BBC will also lie to falsify the history of sexual perversion rampant in the odious corporation and its promotion and employment of the monstrous serial paedophile, Jimmy Saville

“We’ve kind of got to tell a lie,” Moffat told BBC journalists.

“We’ll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn’t have been, and we won’t dwell on that.

“We’ll say, ‘to hell with it, this is an imaginary, better version of the world.

“By believing in it, we’ll summon it forth.”

The truth is to be overcome by the political left in its relentless and rabid drive to destroy Western culture.

While the BBC intends to “summon it forth” the fabrication of history and bring about its warped ‘utopia’, the corporation has also been pro-actively engaging in racial discrimination.

Last month, the BBC was exposed for banning young white hopefuls on the basis of their skin colour from applying for a highly desirable internship and unique career opportunity.

The political left have proved themselves at every level of being utterly incapable of political impartiality in institutions they have long infiltrated and taken over.

The BBC is the sole beneficiary of the revenue raised by the TV Licence tax, which means that the corporation is forcing the British public to pay for its racist propaganda.

Still more sinister is the fact that it’s forcing indigenous Brits to pay for their dispossession of their native homeland.

The whistle is being blown!

Isn’t it time the British people reconsider their funding of the BBC and its nefarious and racist agenda?

Churchill tank

The Tank, Infantry, Mk IV (A22) Churchill was a British heavy infantry tank used in the Second World War, best known for its heavy armour, large longitudinal chassis with all-around tracks with multiple bogies, its ability to climb steep slopes, and its use as the basis of many specialist vehicles. It was one of the heaviest Allied tanks of the war.

The origins of the Churchill's design lay in the expectation that war in Europe might well be fought in conditions similar to those of the First World War, and thus emphasised the ability to cross difficult ground. The Churchill was hurried into production in order to build up British defences against a possible German invasion. The first vehicles had flaws that had to be overcome before the Churchill was accepted for wide use. After several Marks (versions) had been built, a better-armoured specification, the Mark VII, entered service with the British Army. The improved versions performed well in the later stages of the war. [2]

The Churchill was used by British and other Commonwealth forces during the North African, Italian and North-West Europe campaigns. In addition, 344 Churchills were sent as military aid to the Soviet Union during the Second World War and more than 250 saw active service on the Eastern Front.

Post by Aufklarung » 16 Oct 2004, 06:38

. Six LCTs carrying eighteen of the Calgary Regiment tanks began their approach to the shore just before 0530hrs.

The first to touch down carried 'C' Squadrons three Headquarters' tanks. Within minutes of each other, five more Landing Craft arrived at various points on the beach with 'C' Squadron's 13 Troop, 'B' Squadron headquarters and three of 'B' Squadrons five tank troops. Only one of these tanks brought ashore at first light was lost during the disembarkation "Bull" commanded by Capt 'Spike' Purdy, drove off an LCT ramp prematurely and sank in about 4 metres of water. While three members of the crew managed to escape, Purdy and Trooper Bill Stewart were drowned.

From An Illustrated History of the Ryal Canadian Armoured Corps John Mateinson and Michael McNorgan 2000 RCAC Assoc

It does not mention in any shape or form though the Flamethrower Crocs. Sorry.

Post by LegalAssassin » 16 Oct 2004, 19:33

Of course it doesn't - the Crocs weren't made yet!

The Oke was the first version of what would develop into the Croc. The use of it on Dieppe was a large mistake, the very next day the germans had constructed a prototype/copy of it which was sent promptly to the east front. Talk about giving research to the enemy!

What I doubted was Mr Chester's source (and his site) - the Mk of the tanks. As far as I can see, at the most two or three Mk 1 Churchill tanks landed that day, neither of them were Okes.

It's possible that the other Mk 1s were in the reserve (A sqn) which didn't land, but I have interested myself in A sqn.

Aufklarung, please send whatever stories you had, I'll need everything I can get. I have read the accounts of infantry who were on the same LCT as BERT, BOB and BILL and didn't disembark. Instead they went back and forth collecting wounded and brought them to the larger ships offshore.
These soldiers later manned at least one of the AA guns on the LCT and laid down some covering fire, resulting in the tobacco factory of Dieppe burning down. This caused the civillian population in the area from the coast to Paris to lack tobacco for several weeks afterwards.
On the way back to England the same soldiers shot a german aircraft down which was strafing the ship.

Post by Gerry Chester » 16 Oct 2004, 22:24

LegalAssassin wrote: According to my source, Barry Beldam's web published orbat file on Dieppe (, BULL and BEETLE were Churchill Mk 2 OKEs and BOAR was a Mk 3.

I've considered Mr. Beldam was a trustworthy source, are you sure your information is correct?

No need for any self-flagellation - I too have made my fair share of misquotes. Before going further, in 1937 the Boy Scout Troop of which I was a member, spent two weeks camping alongside a river near Nybro which I believe is fairly close to you home town.

I am not familiar with Mr. Beldam's work, however, as the link you gave gives a page with several errors and omissions the accuracy of it is suspect.

Rosie, HQ Squadron's 4th Churchill:
She, A Squadron and the balance of C Squadron were the floating offshore reserve - for a total of 28 Churchills that did not go ashore.

T Numbers:
Rounder - T68452
Brenda - requires the R suffix
Boar/Bull - the numbers are transposed.
Cheetah - correct number T62171
Canny/Confident - numbers transposed, Confident's requires the R suffix.

Ranger/Regiment/Rounder - all Mark IIs not Mark IIIs. The practice of numbering some Mark IIs in the 68K series is the possible reason for the error, however, Regiment's number clearly identifies it as a Mark I.
Canny/Confident - as the numbers the silhouettes are transposed.
Marks - As the Mark Is and IIs have a similar silhouette, notation should be placed against the above five Mark IIs and Burns, Bolster, Chief and Company, the Mark Is.

Auxiliary Fuel Tanks, depicted on the Marks I and IIs:
None were carried to go ashore, to do so would have been extremely foolish. For approach marches it was OK (we used them in Tunisia) but wwith the propect of facing imminent enemy fire it was not.

Regardless of the Boar/Bull number transposition, the 31K indicates they were both converted Mark Is. To the best of my knowledge OKEs, whether they were converted Marks I or 2 were classified as a Churchill OKE Mark I, as later were the two CS versions. The one that was delivered to the Regiment in which I served, the North Irish Horse, was a converted Mark II. I will try to dig out some more information on this.

Three OKEs were aboard TLC 159 for Operation Jubilee. Bull sank as she exited - Beetle (T68875) landed but broke her track almost immediately - Boar (T32049) reached the promenade before being ordered back to the beach to cover the withdrawal. Here is a photograph of Beetle:

The principal source for the above comments stems from the works of Hugh G. Henry. After receiving his BA and MA in history, specialising in in military and strategic studies, from the University of Victoria, he earned his Ph.D for his dissertation on the planning, intelligence and execution of the 1942 Dieppe Raid at St. John's College, University of Cambridge. For his works he enjoyed (among others) ready access to The King's Own Calgary Regiment Archives, Calgary the Directorate of History, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa and the National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

Churchill: Fire tore through historian's history

Homes at 344 and 346 Sheridan Avenue were razed after a devastating fire on March 23, 2021. One was the longtime home of Linda Becker and Albany historian John Wolcott.

Chris Churchill / Times Union Show More Show Less

2 of 6 John Wolcott, left, a founding member of Save the Pine Bush, studies maps with Andy Arthur at right and another volunteer. (Daniel Frinta) Show More Show Less

John Wolcott examines what he claims is 18th Century masonry at 515 Broadway. January 3, 1988

Times Union Historic Images Show More Show Less

ALBANY &mdash The fire started on the rear part of a second-floor apartment at 346 Sheridan Ave. and quickly spread to the neighboring home. By the time it was extinguished, at around 6 p.m. last Sunday, both buildings were ruined beyond salvation.

Significant fires are devastating, of course, and this one was hardly an exception. Thirteen people, including seven children, lost their home, said Albany Fire Chief Joseph Gregory. Thankfully, perhaps remarkably, nobody was hurt.

This blaze, though, had an additional consequence that made it particularly troubling to those who care deeply about Albany's history. The second ruined building, at 344 Sheridan, was home to Albany historian John Wolcott and his treasure trove of books, documents, maps and research &mdash much of which was ruined beyond repair.

"We're just grateful to be alive," Wolcott's wife, Linda Becker, told me, adding that she and her husband happened to be away on a rare vacation. "If we had been there, we might have been burned, too."

Wolcott, now in his 80s, won't be a stranger to longtime readers of this newspaper. He has been mentioned over the years in dozens and dozens of Times Union articles, where he has variously been described as a "defender of Albany's historic past," an "environmental and archeological crusader," a "self-taught architectural expert," and "a longtime urban gadfly."

In many of those stories, Wolcott is the quixotic defender of lost causes, as he unsuccessfully tries, again and again, to protect some structure or another from Albany's most dangerous enemies &mdash apathy and the wrecking ball. But Wolcott, honored by the Historic Albany Foundation with a Lifetime Achievement Award, also has significant successes to his name.

He is, for example, a founder member of Save the Pine Bush, which did just that. His research and advocacy helped to protect 48 Hudson Ave., the downtown building considered Albany's oldest. In 2014, Wolcott received international media attention when he claimed to have pinpointed the location of Fort Nassau, the old Dutch trading post.

"He's been at this for decades," said Tony Opalka, the city's historian. "I felt terrible that, in an instant, years of his research could go up in smoke."

That block of Sheridan, between Lexington Avenue and Henry Johnson Boulevard, is no stranger to significant fires. In 2018, one just a few doors down resulted in the demolition of six buildings. It is now one more vacant lot.

When smoke and fire returned to the street on Sunday, some panicked neighbors worried Wolcott and Becker might be trapped within their home. But William Terry, who lives across the street and has known John and Linda for decades, quickly reassured everyone the couple was away in Maine.

"We all look out for each other," Terry said as we looked at the rubble across Sheridan. He added it was particularly painful to watch demolition crews rip down a tree which Wolcott had lovingly tended. "That tore me up," Terry said. "That was his baby."

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Watching Churchill Take Command of History

When I told him, he frowned: “I thought there was nothing more to say about Churchill.” His words made me think hard, but I decided there were unquestionably some new things to say about one of the most celebrated figures in modern history. And that’s why I wrote In Command of History.

First of all, my book exposes a neglected side of this multi-faceted man. Much has been written about Churchill the politician, from his earliest days as a fiery Liberal to the “Indian Summer” of his second premiership. We also know an enormous amount about Churchill the warrior and strategist, particularly during the two world wars likewise about his prowess as an orator and his long career as a parliamentarian.

Yet Churchill made his living as a writer. Much of his literary output was journalism, ranging from hard-hitting political commentary to lightweight money-spinners such as “Are There Men on the Moon?” But he also produced some forty books, from the war reportage that made his name in the 1890s to his History of the English Speaking Peoples some sixty years later.

Thanks to Richard Langworth’s Connoisseur’s Guide to the Books of Sir Winston Churchill I had an invaluable overview to all the various editions. Robin Prior has written a perceptive analysis of The World Crisis and James Muller’s definitive edition of The River War will soon be available. But those two books represent only a fraction of Churchill’s oeuvre. Moreover, virtually all his literary correspondence is now open to researchers in the superb Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge, enabling us to trace how Churchill wrote his great works.

I’ve followed that paper trail for the six volumes of The Second World War, which were published in the United States between 1948 and 1953 (1954 in Britain because Cassell’s in London were hamstrung by continued paper rationing). In the Churchill archives there’s a file for almost every chapter. From them you get a good idea of the way Churchill wrote, what I call in shorthand his three D’s: documents, dictation, and drafts.

By documents I mean the telegrams, minutes and directives he dictated during the war. Printed month by month at the time, these were literally cut and pasted to form the basis of a chapter. To connect the documents Churchill dictated reminiscences of crucial wartime moments, particularly his meetings with the French in 1940 and his conferences with Roosevelt and Stalin later in the war. His “Syndicate” of research assistants contributed drafts on batdes such as Alamein, often drawn from confidential Whitehall archives to which they were given privileged access. The result was some “state-of-the-art” accounts of many key episodes of the war.

Each chapter went through numerous versions—maybe up to a dozen—so one can see what Churchill put in and decided to take out. In the process he sometimes toned down intemperate comments about wartime colleagues—generals who had failed to attack with sufficient gusto or foreign leaders who had become postwar statesmen, such as Tito, Eisenhower and de Gaulle. These cuts denied readers some of his choicest epithets about the French leader, such as “symptoms of a budding Fiihrer” or “a combination of Joan of Arc and Clemenceau.”

Under pressure from Whitehall, he also removed all reference to the Ultra Secret—the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park in cracking the German Enigma machines. Churchill’s grasp of signals intelligence and his support for Bletchley rank among his most significant achievements as a war leader. The omission of this story from his memoirs was not only to the detriment of his reputation, until rectified in the 1980s. It also subtly distorted his account of many of the major battles, implying that success or failure turned solely on the personal qualities of the commanders. That, of course, fitted Churchill’s great-man theory of history.

Even from this brief summary, it is evident that what we call in shorthand “Churchill’s memoirs” were complex pieces of work. All those documents and drafts made the volumes more than simply memoir the contributions from the Syndicate also made them more than simply Churchill’s.

Some British reviewers of my book seemed to think that this demeaned him, but it wasn’t my opinion. Churchill went through the drafts remorselessly. Although he nodded through some peripheral material—the defeat of Poland in 1939, for instance, is mostly the work of his assistant, General Sir Henry Pownall—Churchill gave close attention to passages that really mattered, sharpening the language and clarifying the argument. He also had a sense of the work as a whole. Sometimes his assistants suggested further revisions to a chapter but Churchill usually wanted to push on. He alone saw the memoirs as part of his larger agenda.

This brings me to the second big reason why I wrote In Command of History—to illuminate what I call “Churchill’s Forgotten Years”* between 1945 and 1951. In comparison with the Wilderness Years of the 1930s and his Finest Hour as Britain’s war leader against Hitler, this period has tended to fall under the dustsheets of history. Yet I came to realise, first, that one can’t understand the war memoirs without appreciating what else Churchill was trying to do at the same time and, second, that those years after 1945 offer a fascinating insight into what made him tick.

Let me explain what I mean with an archival anecdote. Turning over page after page can sometimes become tedious but there are revelatory moments as compensation. For instance, leafing through a file of background material for Churchill’s final volume six, I found an outline chronology of 1945 prepared by his assistants. Against the entry for the election of July 1945 Churchill had scrawled, “I Was Kicked Out.”

He wrote this in 1950, a reminder of how Labour’s massive victory still rankled. That election became the starting point of my book.

In July 1945 Churchill could easily have retired from public life: if you’ve saved your country, what do you do for an encore? Most men with his achievements would have accepted the fact of political defeat and bowed out gracefully. But Churchill, as we know, was not like most men.

For one thing, he had to keep on going. In my book I’ve noted how his experience in the 1910s in piloting early propeller airplanes provided him with a metaphor for living. “To stop is to fall” he said repeatedly. That was one reason why he wouldn’t give up the Tory leadership after the war.

But I think he was also reluctant because the election of July 1945 was not just a defeat but a humiliation. Steeped as he was in British history, Churchill knew one had to go back to 1906, and before that 1832, to find a greater landslide against the Tories. What hurt even more was that in 1940 he was the voice of embattled Britain, the lion who gave the people’s roar yet in 1945 he had seemed out of touch with the electorate. “I have no message for them,” he murmured sadly at one point in the campaign. In May 1940 he had become Prime Minister not through election but because of a Commons revolt against Chamberlain. When he went to the people for a mandate in 1945, they gave him, it seemed, a resounding “no.”

So Churchill kept going because of his nature but also, I think, in a search for vindication. He was determined to get back to Ten Downing Street as the people’s choice. This, I came to realize, was the essential backdrop to his writing of the war memoirs. Yes, Churchill was determined to get his own account of the war into print as soon as possible, as a preemptive strike on the verdict of history. He also intended to make big money from the venture, to set himself and his family on a secure financial footing. But the memoirs were only part of his postwar agenda.

Still hankering after the limelight, he accepted invitations to give major speeches. Fulton and Zurich during 1946 were perhaps the most influential orations of his career: “Iron Curtain” and “United Europe” became sound bites that echoed around the world, proving that Churchill had found his voice again. He ignored Tory pressures to resign, bamboozling Anthony Eden, his professional heirapparent, into handling much of the daily grind in the Commons. That gave him time to concentrate on speeches and on the memoirs.

By law the next General Election had to take place within five years, in other words by July 1950. Churchill therefore felt he had to finish the memoirs, or the bulk of the work on them, before that date. But the Twenties and Thirties, which he initially expected to breeze through in five chapters, expanded to take up half of volume I as he became fascinated by the counterfactuals, the what-ifs, of appeasement. Volume II covered only May to December 1940, as Churchill revisited his finest hour in passionate detail. After three years work, in the summer of 1949 he was still trying to finish volume three, which covered only 1941. All the time, the electoral clock was ticking.

In August 1949 the pressure increased dramatically. While on a working vacation on the French Riviera, Churchill suffered a stroke. (See “Churchill’s Dagger, FH 87:14. —Ed.) Compared with June 1953 this was a minor affair, but another revelatory piece of paper I found in the files alerted me to its psychological importance. In November 1949 Churchill dictated a reminder to his secretary: he must talk to his publishers about what to do with the memoirs in two contingencies—either a return to Downing Street or in the event of his death.

Reading this note, I realized that Churchill, never one to take long life for granted, was sobered by this new intimation of mortality. This helped to explain why he sent volume III to the publishers in what was clearly an unsatisfactory state, with too many documents and too little narrative. By the following spring he was admitting it was not his best work. From now on he cut corners in an effort to finish the race, but the combined pressures of health and politics make this understandable. To borrow his own vivid image about the servitude of authorship, Churchill had to kill the monster before the monster killed him.

Even at this new pace, Churchill would have been caught short had he won the election Attlee called in February 1950. Fortunately for him, Labour scraped back with a tiny majority, lasting another twenty months before Churchill finally won from the British voters the vindication he craved. By then, October 1951, five volumes had been published and the last was in serviceable draft.

There are many memorable passages in The Second World War. In The Gathering Storm, one of his best books, I particularly like Churchill’s account of a tedious farewell dinner in 1938 for the German Ambassador which he ends, deadpan, with the words: “This was the last time I saw Herr von Ribbentrop before he was hanged.”

Overall, however, the work is not Churchill’s finest piece of composition. In many places the documents, dictation and drafts are not fully blended—his publishers kept complaining about too many documents and too little narrative—and the volumes are much fuller on the first half of Britain’s war than the second. My book helps explain some of these flaws by showing what else was on Winston Churchill’s agenda at the time.

But that varied agenda— redeeming himself politically, delivering some of the greatest speeches of his career, and generating nearly two million words to stamp his version of the war on posterity—makes him seem all the more remarkable.

I finished writing In Command of History mindful of the comment of Harry Hopkins, Franklin Roosevelt’s workaholic emissary, after his first encounters with Churchill in January 1941: “Jesus Christ! What a man!”

David Reynolds is author of In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War, reviewed in FH 127. It was awarded the Wolfson Prize in 2004.

* This was the title of the 90-minute film made by the author with director Russell Barnes and Blakeway Productions, which was shown on BBC4 in the spring of 2005 and on BBC2 last September.

Watch the video: Churchill Show The Story Of Crazy Kennar