CHURCHILL, Sir Winston Spencer, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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Churchill's own copy of 'Great Mistakes of the War'

CHURCHILL, Sir Winston Spencer (1874-1965).
Great Mistakes of the War, by Hanson W. Baldwin, New York 1950, viii+114 pages 8vo, red cloth (spine a little knocked and covers slightly stained). Churchill's own copy, with his marginal annotations.
This celebrated and remarkable copy of an important, though slim, volume by the American military journalist, Hanson W. Baldwin is described as follows by David Reynolds in In Command of History, 2004, pages 373-4 :
'Early in 1950 the American military journalist Hanson W. Baldwin reopened this debate [that Churchill favoured an attack on Italy and the Balkans to a cross-channel attack] from a different angle. His Great Mistakes of the War blasted what he deemed the American propensity to wage war without considering future peace. By contrast, he claimed, the British were always mindful of political imperatives - a classic case being their 'soft underbelly' strategy which, according to Baldwin, might have pre-empted Russian control of much of central Europe. In early April 1950 Churchill carefully read this part of Great Mistakes. He did not deny that he wanted to push northeast from Italy towards Vienna - indeed that became a theme of volume six [of The Second World War]. But Baldwin's assertions, many of them from Elliott Roosevelt, that Churchill wanted to mount a 'Balkan invasion' or 'jump eastward into the Balkans' provoked angry annotations in the margin - 'rubbish', 'wrong', even 'crazy'. ...'
Churchill's marginal annotations, on eighteen pages, are largely confined to the first half of the book, although he has also marked two entries in the bibliography at the back. The volume is accompanied by a note from Churchill's secretary to William (later Sir William) Deakin, his most important collaborator on The Second World War, conveying Churchill's wish that Deakin should read the work 'and try and get some of the books mentioned'. This is followed by a note from Deakin: 'Mr Churchill / I have read this book, and am collecting or ordering the books and periodicals on which it is based. / FWD, 11.4.50.'
 It was largely during the period 1945 to 1951 that Churchill was most busily engaged on the research and writing of his The Second World War, which appeared in England between 1948 and 1954. This was the time that he was out of office following his party's defeat in the general election of 1945 and prior to his return to Downing Street in October 1951. One can envisage him reading this small polemic in his retreat at Chartwell, perhaps propped up in bed, wielding his biro at the margins when the outrage took him.
[No: 22387]

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