“Never Surrender,” by John Kelly

“Never Surrender,” by John Kelly

51IF+WYB0VL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Nev­er Sur­ren­der: Win­ston Churchill and Britain’s Deci­sion to Fight Nazi Ger­many in the Fate­ful Sum­mer of 1940, by John Kel­ly. Scrib­n­er, 2015, 370 pp., $19.88, Kin­dle $14.99.

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May 1940: Lord Hal­i­fax “sound­ed like a ner­vous solic­i­tor read­ing from a half-thought-out brief….When Churchill spoke of fight­ing on alone, the man­tle of his­to­ry—Agin­court, Water­loo, Trafal­gar, the Arma­da—sang through his sen­tences.”

Here is a well-writ­ten and orga­nized review of main­ly well-known events, retold with dra­mat­ic prose and crisp analy­sis. It’s an ide­al book for young peo­ple unfa­mil­iar with the scope of Churchill’s achieve­ment in 1940, and, indeed, for any­one who wants a good account of the events that saved West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.

Halfway through the book the per­ils mount and Churchill becomes prime min­is­ter: Dunkirk is evac­u­at­ed, France falls, and the tem­po inten­si­fies in the rapid march of events. By the end of May 1940, the war cab­i­net faces a bit­ter choice: fight on, with no obvi­ous route to vic­to­ry, or accept an armistice or cease-fire, on what­ev­er terms Hitler (who is anx­ious to make them) might offer. Kel­ly describes the stark options, and their lead­ing advo­cates: Hal­i­fax the prag­ma­tist, Churchill the “max­i­mal­ist and roman­tic.”

Churchill, Kel­ly writes, “opened up his imag­i­na­tion and invit­ed the House and the coun­try in,” telling Britons they were defend­ing not just their coun­try, but the world cause: “Churchill’s par­tic­u­lar genius as a leader lay in his abil­i­ty to make peo­ple feel they had to rise to his lev­el, which had the effect of mak­ing them a lit­tle big­ger and braver than they were….”

Kelly’s fine writ­ing and feel for those per­ilous times, puts us in mind of Lar­ry Arnn’s lec­tures in the Hills­dale Col­lege online Churchill course. Some things, Dr. Arnn said, are indeed worth the ulti­mate effort. “Some things you may have to die for.”

We need to keep that thought in mind today.

Read com­plete review on the Hills­dale Churchill Project site.

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