Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945

Overview

Carlo D'Este's brilliant new biography examines Winston Churchill through the prism of his military service as both a soldier and a warlord: a descendant of Marlborough who, despite never having risen above the rank of lieutenant colonel, came eventually at age sixty-five to direct Britain's military campaigns as prime minister and defeated Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito for the democracies. Warlord is the definitive chronicle of Churchill's crucial role as one of the world's most renowned military leaders, from...

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Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945

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Overview

Carlo D'Este's brilliant new biography examines Winston Churchill through the prism of his military service as both a soldier and a warlord: a descendant of Marlborough who, despite never having risen above the rank of lieutenant colonel, came eventually at age sixty-five to direct Britain's military campaigns as prime minister and defeated Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito for the democracies. Warlord is the definitive chronicle of Churchill's crucial role as one of the world's most renowned military leaders, from his early adventures on the North-West Frontier of colonial India and the Boer War through his extraordinary service in both World Wars.

Even though Churchill became one of the towering political leaders of the twentieth century, his childhood ambition was to be a soldier. Using extensive, untapped archival materials, D'Este reveals important and untold observations from Churchill's personal physician, as well as other colleagues and family members, in order to illuminate his character as never before. Warlord explores Churchill's strategies behind the major military campaigns of World War I and World War II—both his dazzling successes and disastrous failures—while also revealing his tumultuous relationships with his generals and other commanders, including Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As riveting as the man it portrays, Warlord is a masterful, unsparing portrait of one of history's most fascinating and influential leaders during what was arguably the most crucial event in human history.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert Kagan
Winston Churchill's life spanned the last decades of the British Empire, and to read Carlo D'Este's enjoyable new biography is to recall the sequence of disasters that befell Britain between the final days of the Victorian era and its brush with extinction in World War II. American pundits these days speculate rather glibly about national decline and imagine that, if it comes, it is something that can be safely and intelligently managed. But genuine geopolitical decline is a serious and often deadly business. Churchill spent the better part of his life fending off increasingly dire threats to Britain's place in the world, and then to its very existence as an independent nation. A biography of Churchill is in some ways a biography of the British people, with all their remarkable successes, devastating failures, occasional silliness, arrogance and insouciance, and finally their incredible bravery.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

D'Este (Patton: A Genius for War) is a master analyst of 20th-century military leadership, and this book may be his finest yet. Showing a remarkable knowledge of archival and printed sources, he tells the complex story of a statesman and warrior. As a child, Winston Churchill was "headstrong, highly opinionated, and virtually impossible to control." Those traits remained throughout a life he often regretted having spent in council chambers rather than on battlefields. His experiences as a young man in India, South Africa and the Sudan left him with both an abhorrence of war and a passion for soldiering. D'Este skillfully demonstrates how these traits shaped Churchill's persistent advocacy for preparedness and negotiation as means of averting war and his determination to see war through when deterrence failed. D'Este camouflages neither personal weaknesses nor questionable policies. But his expertise as a military historian provides contexts too often lacking in evaluating Churchill's roles in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, 1940's Battle of Britain and the D-Day invasion in 1944. Elegantly written, this tour de force belongs in every library addressing the 20th century. 16 pages of b&w photos, 9 maps. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Over 500 books have been written-just in English-recounting the life and career of Winston Churchill, undoubtedly one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Thus one might ask whether we need yet another thick tome dedicated to his exploits. In this case, yes, we do! D'Este, a military historian of tremendous skills, has already crafted impressive and massive biographies of George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower. Now, he turns his manifold talents to examining the military career of Churchill, who considered himself above all a soldier first and a statesman second. Churchill never forgot his experiences either in the Boer War as a young soldier or in the decidedly unhappy Gallipoli Campaign in World War I, where his decisions as First Lord of the Admiralty led to the remarkable and deadly debacle in the Dardanelles. These wartime events shaped his strategic approach to the second and greatest of world wars, a conflict where his strengths and weaknesses as a leader would be clearly shown. D'Este has produced an outstanding work that should take its rightful place alongside the dozens of other studies of this most remarkable statesman. Highly recommended for all collections.
—Ed Goedeken

The Washington Post
“An engaging narrative. . . . Well-researched, balanced, and highly readable. . . . Carlo D’Este provides us with a very human look at Churchill’s lifelong fascination with soldiering, war, and command . . . with an eye for colorful quotation and telling anecdote.”
History Wire
“The many biographies of Winston Churchill have tended to paint him from a political perspective. In his new book, military historian Carlo D’Este shifts the focus onto Churchill the military leader and how his passion for wartime endeavors led to the improbable British victory in the Allied cause.”
The Chicago Sun-Times
“Masterful. . . . D’Este provides a blow by blow on all of the events of World War II. He is especially good at rendering the devastation Britain faced during the Blitz and the preparations for the Normandy Invasion.”
Booklist (starred review)
“D’Este astutely lauds Churchill’s soldierly courage but questions how Churchill-the-politician acted as, in effect, an operational general.”
Booklist
"D’Este astutely lauds Churchill’s soldierly courage but questions how Churchill-the-politician acted as, in effect, an operational general."
Robert Kagan
“Winston Churchill’s life spanned the last decades of the British Empire, and to read Carlo D’Este’s enjoyable new biography is to recall the sequence of disasters that befell Britain between the final days of the Victorian era and its brush with extinction in World War II.”
Nigel Hamilton
“Epic. . . . A briliantly exciting narrative. . . . D’Este has given us, finally, the lion not only in winter, but at war: impetuous, brazen, misguided, but indefatigable, indomitable, and magnanimous: the greatest and most energetic generalissimo of the 20th century.”
Rick Atkinson
“Carlo D’Este, among our very best military historians, has found in Winston Churchill a subject worthy of his talent. Warlord takes the familiar subject of Churchill’s amazing life and makes it glitter anew.”
Max Hastings
“Carlo d’Este, one of the finest historians of the Second World War, brings to his new book all his skills as a military analyst. Even those who think Churchill’s life familiar will find this a wonderfully stimulating study.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060575748
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/10/2009
  • Pages: 845
  • Sales rank: 790,116
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Carlo D'Este, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and a distinguished military historian, is the author of the acclaimed biographies Patton: A Genius for War and Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, among other books on World War II. He lives in Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Warlord
A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945

Chapter One

Toy Soldiers

The toy soldiers turned the current of my life.
—Churchill

He rather resembles a naughty, little sandy-haired bulldog, and seems backward except for complicated games with toy soldiers.
—Clara Jerome, Churchill's grandmother

It was only fitting that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born "amid velvet muffs, fur coats and plumed hats" in the early morning hours of Saint Andrew's Day, November 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, the ancestral home of the Marlboroughs. According to his parents his arrival in a temporary cloakroom adjacent to the grand ballroom was unexpected. As the newest descendant of one of the icons of British history, Winston Churchill began life in a hurry, a trait he would never relinquish.

His cousin and close friend Shane Leslie once noted that his birth seems to have been hastened by a gala event at Blenheim that night, the annual Saint Andrew's Ball, in which his mother, Jennie, participated with her customary ardor. "His previous and perhaps presumptuous arrival [his mother] alluded to as Winston's effort to make his first speec. . . . and historians will suppose that the band struck up martial music for his entry." In fact his birth was probably accelerated both by the fact that his mother had not only fallen during a shooting party six days earlier but had taken a rather jarring ride in a pony carriage that afternoon and was dancing enthusiastically when her labor pains began. His parents had intended that his birth take place in their London home inMayfair, but, as he would throughout his long and tumultuous life, Winston Churchill could be counted upon to do the unexpected.

An announcement in The Times three days later read: "On the 30th Nov, at Blenheim Palace, the Lady Randolph Churchill, prematurely, of a son."

Not only is the declaration by his parents that he was born some two months prematurely highly dubious, but in that day it would have been a medical miracle had he even survived. Hardly anyone in the Churchill family's immediate circle of friends fell for the ruse. Churchill himself seems not to have believed it, once noting with evident amusement, "Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it."

Churchill's parents have been unflatteringly described as "remote and tantalizingly glamorous. Randolph's glittering, bulging eyes and oversize whiskers hiding a small, intense face caused him to resemble a tenacious miniature Schnauzer, while darling 'Mummy' was another spectacle altogether." Indeed the descendants of the first and only notable Marlborough "were a thoroughly disreputable family, in debt, had scandalous relationships with women, and were incredibly rude to people, with only smatterings of respectability." Randolph and Jennie Churchill were exceptions; they captivated English political and social circles. "Neither Randolph nor Jennie needed to out-dazzle each other," noted Shane Leslie. "They both shone of their own light unlike the usual conjugal pairs who reflected each other like the moon and the sun."

Few who met her ever forgot Churchill's mother, Jennie Jerome, a vivacious, raven-haired American. She was one of the best known and most fascinating young women of Victorian England, for her great beauty, joie de vivre, and marriage to one of Parliament's rising stars, and as a woman of considerable repute, with a legion of lovers. She was the product of a traditional silver-spoon, upper-class upbringing that included a finishing school in Paris, where she met her future husband. Jennie was one of three daughters of a formerly ultrawealthy New York financier, cofounder of the famed Jockey Club, and onetime owner of the New York Times, Leonard Jerome, who had lately fallen on hard times as a result of the stock market collapse of 1873. The Jerome sisters, Jennie, Leonie, and Clara, were once described by a contemporary wit as, respectively, "the Beautiful, the Witty and the Good."

Jennie Jerome Churchill's admiring nephew Shane Leslie has described her as: "a magnificent type whose fierce yet faithful character [was] so utterly fearless towards those she loved, so scornful of those she disliked."

As a parent Jennie left a great deal to be desired. She typified the upper-class women of her age for whom parenting did not rank high on their scale of priorities. Life in Victorian England as the wife of Lord Randolph Churchill was meant to be one of hedonistic pleasure, whether in the bedrooms of her lovers or the endless round of social events, parties, hunts, and attendance at high-profile racing events at Ascot and the annual regatta at Henley.

Notes Shane Leslie, "Destiny had not slipped her into the world to play with Princes or to tread the Primrose path of politics. She had been furnished with some virile qualities of steel in her veins. . . . Men she could consider and treat as they generally treated women. There was the pantheres. . . . in her temper—otherwise it would have been impossible for her to fulfill her only real destiny and duty which was to breed Winston." Herbert Henry Asquith's second wife, Margot Tennant, did not know who Jennie was when she first encountered her in 1887 at a race meeting. "She had a forehead like a panther's and great wild eyes that looked through you. . . . Had Lady Randolph Churchill been like her face, she could have governed the world."

Jennie was a woman of great contradictions who possessed far more than mere beauty. She disdained the Victorian dictates of humility and a woman's place in society. Her single-mindedness (which she passed to her two sons) was reflected in her commanding nature. After her boys were grown her causes ranged from founding a magazine to work aiding the wounded in South Africa during the Boer War.

Warlord
A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945
. Copyright © by Carlo D'Este. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fine study of Churchill's wars

    Carlo D'Este is a renowned historian of World War Two. His previous books include Decision in Normandy, Bitter Victory: the battle for Sicily 1943, Fatal decision: Anzio and the battle for Rome, and a biography of General Patton.

    Now in this extraordinary book, he studies Churchill's role in Britain's many wars from 1897 to 1945. Churchill wrote in 1897 from the war on India's North-West Frontier, "All who resist will be killed without quarter. The Mohmands need a lesson - and there is no doubt we are a very cruel people. . with fire and sword in vengeance . we proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation. . I wonder if people in England have any idea of the warfare that is being carried on here . no quarter is ever asked or given. The tribesmen torture the wounded & mutilate the dead. The troops never spare a man who falls into their hands - whether he be wounded or not . The picture is a terrible one . I wish I could come to the conclusion that all this barbarity - all these losses - all this expenditure - had resulted in a permanent settlement being obtained, I do not think however that anything has been done - that will not have to be done again." Very prescient, given the current Anglo-American commitment to endless, futile war on Afghanistan.

    Churchill participated in Britain's wars across Africa, from north to south. The Daily Mail's war correspondent wrote of Omdurman, "It was not a battle but an execution." Of the Boers, Churchill asked, "What sort of men are these we are fighting? They have a better cause - and cause is everything."

    D'Este calls World War One 'the most colossal folly in the history of mankind'. Even within this folly, Churchill's disastrous Gallipoli scheme stood out.

    Early in World War Two, Churchill directed reinforcements from North Africa to Greece. This stopped General O'Connor from taking Tripoli, leaving it open for Rommel to seize. "This removal disastrously changed the course of the war by spawning disastrous setbacks in Greece and North Africa - and later in Crete." D'Este believes this was 'the most serious strategic misjudgement of the war'.

    Churchill argued that Allied operations in the Mediterranean would not delay the cross-Channel assault beyond 1943, but of course they did just that. The Italian campaign, as D'Este notes, 'simply distracted the Allies from their real task: crossing the English Channel and opening the endlessly delayed second front."

    He recounts the great 1944 controversy - should the Anglo-American air forces knock out the French railway system to prevent Hitler reinforcing his troops in Normandy, as Eisenhower, backed by de Gaulle, proposed? Or should they carry on bombing Germany, as air-force chiefs Harris and Spaatz, backed by Churchill, wanted?

    Harris and Spaatz adhered to the Trenchard doctrine that strategic bombing alone could win wars, so they thought that the D-Day invasion was unnecessary. Eisenhower, rightly, overruled them all.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well done, interesting, and concise.

    Mr. D'Este has crafted a much needed and incisive look at Churchill the soldier and war chief. D'Este zeroed on his subject with laser like precision and was never distracted from his stated mission of presenting and defining Churchill's life-long attraction to all things military; particularly the British military. Other works have touched on Churchill's military service, experiences, and leadership but none, to my experience, have done as thorough a job of presenting Churchill the soldier. It's a brisk read that doesn't waste a page, paragraph, or word as D'Este presents a "warts and all" look at one of the two or three leading citizens of the Twentieth Century.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An excellent depiction of an important aspect of Churchill's life

    Warlord by Carlo D'Este presented an interesting aspect of Winston Churchill's life in that it emphasized his influence both good and bad on the military campaigns of both world wars. Without question Churchill was one of the giants of the 20th century; however, as a military strategist and tactician he blundered as often as he inspired the war efforts. He was as much a thorn in the side of his military commanders as a help and guide. His courage was unquestioned but his military judgements were often disastrous. i

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A treat for the mind

    I am certain that as you read this book you will hope that it never ends. A fascinating, human portrait of one of the most interesting men of the last century. A must read in combination with Churchill: A Life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    A New Look at Churchill Confirms my Respect for the Man

    This presentation was enlightening. I have always been a Churchill fan but have to admit that most of what I knew about him was from his own writings. Warlord exposed some weaknesses I wasn't fully aware of. The book was still overwhelmingly pro-Winnie and I haven't changed my overall opinion of him.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2009

    War and Peace in the 20th Century

    A remarkable view of history as lived by Winston Churchill. An excellent vision of the man and the world he lived in and had a strong hand in shaping.

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