”The Gathering Storm” by Winston Churchill
- Word count: 957
- Category: Books
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The Gathering Storm
The Gathering Storm is the first volume of Winston Churchill’s inspirational, war narrative, The Second World War, published almost immediately after the Second World War. It is a book that delves into issues of statesmanship, with the author criticizing others both in the British as well as other governments whom he felt ‘put the party before the country’ (p.169-70). Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), was perhaps the only politician in the ‘thick of things’ during the second world war to have written about it. But having been a soldier (trained at Sandhurst), a journalist and a statesman, what would anyone expect?
The Second World War is a book written in form a personal memoir revolving around the British Government, the author being its head at one time, and therefore revolves around power, European government policies – especially appeasement – and also alliance building on the European continent during a time of crisis. Through the book, Churchill attacks policies he wasn’t against, heavily adducing evidence to support his claims. But like any politician, the thoughts expressed in this book heavily reflect his political persuasion, not only at home but everywhere. He passionately talks about ‘awakening’ western Europe and the United States of America to the danger posed by Germany and its Axis members to their nations. The author is aware not everyone agrees to this view and even puts it in writing thus ‘It must not be supposed that I expect everybody to agree with what I say, still less that I only write what will be popular’ (iv).
Saving Europe and Alliance Building
Winston Churchill, being a leader in a nation whose values and freedom appeared threatened by the ever-growing influence and militarization of Germany and its allies, talks about the urgency with which the countries of ‘the free world’ must unite to fight off this impending peril, ‘The veils of the future are lifted one by one, and mortals must act from day to day’ (p.634). In The Gathering Storm, the author explains why the Second World War, ‘the unnecessary war’, was actually not needed but a contingency.
Churchill gives the reader a sneak view of the inside dealings of the British government at the time; the heightened tension and emotion; memos, orders given, speeches made and even telegrams depicting everyday dealings, both intra and intergovernmental. Strategies used against Hitler’s dangerous, war maneuvers as are also covered, to give a view of what it was really like for the fate of the world to hang in the balance prior to the war and even during the war.
Churchill recounts in The Gathering Storm his calling for the unity in a Grand Alliance of the major powers then – Soviet Union, France and the United States of America. It’s noteworthy that these countries could not have joined forces to come to the aid of the United Kingdom, already under threat from Nazi Germany. This was made possible with his clarion call, “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” The book also covers well his realization that Nazi Germany was determined in its aim of controlling Europe. The author seems to have been influenced by Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and from then kept on constantly warning about Germany’s expanding military capabilities especially in the number and quality of its aircraft. Churchill almost regrets in The Gathering Storm that not many listened, only to be forced to listen with the start of the Battle of Britain.
Power and Appeasement Policies
The Gathering Storm gives us an inside look of the power games in play in the United Kingdom prior to and after the writing of the book. It brings out the competitive spirit of the author especially against Baldwin. But it equally rails against appeasement efforts of Churchill’s predecessor at the helm of the government, Chamberlain. He evidently has no kind words for appeasers, throughout The Gathering Storm, criticizing ‘how the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm” (ix). And almost laments now that the unnecessary war has come due to the bad policies of his and other governments in Europe, ‘love of peace is no excuse for muddling hundreds of millions of humble folk into total war’ (p.190).
The book is written in a well-rounded prose, almost matching that of Gibbon in its sense of humor and in freely flowing language. Churchill states his main themes clearly at the beginning and then builds on them and subsequently, almost the whole book is made up of ‘quotable’ quotes. What with the author’s ability to coin and turn phrases round to suit his style!
The Gathering Storm, appearing in the second world war around the time the war ended, was a very popular book. And following tradition, it was another of Churchill’s writings on the ideas of justice and freedom. The author’s passion and courage as expressed in the book speak and influence many to date, working like a wake up call to world leaders to be able to anticipate events and prepare before the enemy engulfs, defeating them. These memoirs as Churchill says of the book, determine how we look at the Second World War and perhaps Churchill’s flaw is promoting himself through the book. But in all, the themes of appeasement, power relations in Europe and alliance-making are well captured in this great book. Churchill bagged a Nobel Prize through this memoir.
Churchill, W.L.S. (1986). The Second World War: The Gathering Storm. New York: