In the first eight months of his wartime premiership, Winston Churchill surmounted more crises than many leaders face in an entire career. He became Prime Minister as a fast-disintegrating ground war in Europe, and a German blitzkrieg as intense as that against Poland eight and a half months earlier, overran Holland, Belgium, and France, and drove the British army to retreat and evacuation at Dunkirk. The consolidation of the German occupation in Norway and Denmark, and the French decision to sign an armistice with Germany, further isolated Britain. There was an ongoing state of emergency at home as Britain, led by a determined Churchill, struggled to expand its army, navy, and air forces at breakneck speed. The pivotal weeks of the Battle of Britain, the “finest hour” when Britain stood fast against the unremitting onslaught of the German Luftwaffe, saw Churchill at his most energetic and indefatigable.
The extraordinary story covered in this volume brings these eight months before us in the diaries, memoranda, letters, telegrams, Cabinet minutes and speeches of Churchill and his closest colleagues. It puts us at Churchill’s side in some of the most tumultuous events of world history, and offers an unparalleled view of his leadership qualities and his challenges, as he organizes the war effort, bolsters morale, confronts those who stand in his way, seeks ways out of a seemingly impossible situation, and works tirelessly to involve the United States in the fight against Nazi domination. This is history as it was lived, during the crisis months of a war whose outcome formed the modern world.