Sunday, 11 October 2009

The World Crisis Part 1 1911-1914

Winston Churchill's book :D. I happened to see it and thought I'd see what he said about the first world war, seeing as it was mentioned in my history text book. I really enjoyed it actually. Although I was a little disappointed when I started it and realised that I hadn't bought the whole thing, and that loads of the later stuff was missing (the edition I've got appears to have the first two volumes in it, although I'm not entirely sure yet...). Anyway, having got to the end of Part 1 I figure that as most editions will have that bit as one book on its own this was the right place to review it.

I was slightly surprised at how nicely written it was, but then, Churchill was once a journalist. It's definitely biased towards naval events, and Churchill suggests that the naval arms race was the main reason for the war. Hmm... Interesting that he then goes on to advocate increasing our arms in the inter-war years. You would've thought that if he saw that as pretty much the cause of WWI he'd want them to avoid it in the prelude to WWII. Obviously it's all somewhat slanted what with being a bit of a personal account based a lot upon memory and stuff, but it's still really interesting. There's a lot of documents included, memos and stuff like that, from whatever Churchill was involved in at the time. And he seems to have had a knack of getting involved in just about everything. You get a real sense of energy and determination from the sheer flurry of messages that were sent all over the place, particularly when you realise that this must just be a fraction of the messages sent. I think the fact that there is so much primary source quoted in it makes it a much stronger book--you can see for yourself what Churchill's talking about. Although I have to confess it does get a little tedious to read through all the beurocratic stuff.

There was one fascinating passage about something I'd never heard about before, and as I have a bit of a thing for WWI aviation, I was quite surprised. Basically, a squadron of the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service, I suppose you'd call it the forerunner of the Fleet Air Arm, although it was amalgamated into the RAF in 1918 and the FAA didn't come about until later) went to Belgium, sat on the shore, and started harassing the Germans. They started out just using their planes, then the Squadron Leader thought it'd be a great idea to start using armoured cars to bash the Germans on the ground as well. So they started racing round the countryside, using the planes to scout and the cars to attack any small enough convoys of Germans they happened to see around. Apparently (although I've no idea how Churchill could have learnt this, it might just have been him deciding that it had a huge effect because he had a bit of a thing for commandos), this caused quite some chaos, quite out of proportion to the size of the force deployed. Churchill says this is where he got the idea for the tanks, although how much that was his own idea (after all, the Germans were developing something similar, completely independent of the British). An interesting book at any rate.

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