All Behind You, Winston: Churchill's Great Coalition 1940-45

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9781781313312: All Behind You, Winston: Churchill's Great Coalition 1940-45
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On 14 May 1940, the Evening Standard published a cartoon with the caption "All Behind You, Winston". It showed Churchill, the freshly installed prime minister, rolling up his sleeves to confront the oncoming menace of Nazi Germany. In his wake, leading the endless ranks of the British people, marched the most prominent figures of his new coalition government.

It was a potent expression of a moment when Britons of every class were truly all in it together. It also contained a truth that Churchill's titanic historical reputation has since eclipsed: that neither he nor the country would have prevailed but for the joint effort of this remarkable "ministry of all the talents". Indeed, without the vital support of the Labour Party, and its leader Clement Attlee, Churchill might never have become prime minister at all.

Now Roger Hermiston tells the story of the men â?? and women â?? who steered Britain through its darkest hour, showing how they helped to win the Second World War, and how they laid the foundations of the "New Jerusalem" that followed. Along the way, he explores the roles played by characters as diverse as the mercurial newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, who supplied the planes that won the Battle of Britain; the pugnacious trade union baron Ernest Bevin, who kept the nation working; Lord Woolton, the minister for food â?? a man so widely loved he was dubbed "Uncle Fred"; and Sir John Anderson, one of the first people to contemplate the awful power of the atom bomb. Hermiston also considers the achievements of more junior ministers, including the only two women in Churchill's government: the left-wing firebrand Ellen Wilkinson, and the Conservative Florence Horsbrugh, who played a pivotal role alleviating the suffering inflicted by the Blitz.

Five years after that cartoon, Churchill predicted that history would shine a light on "every helmet" of his"great coalition". As it was, many were forgotten. This book seeks to recover their memory, and to celebrate a generation of politicians who rose above party to put their country first. 

 

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About the Author:

ROGER HERMISTON is a journalist and was assistant editor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme from 1998-2010. It was there that he first encountered George Blake, when editing an interview with the former spy in 1999. His first book, Clough and Revie, was an acclaimed dual biography of two of English football's most famous and controversial managers.

Review:

'By the book's end the reader will be in no doubt that Churchill did an amazing job in holding together and directing the nation during one of its most difficult eras'  - Sky and Bullets

Summer Reads Pick: ‘Of all political coalitions, the piece de resistance must be the 1940-45 administration: warring egos held together by sheer will’ ‘Of all political coalitions, the piece de resistance must be the 1940-45 administration: warring egos held together by sheer will’ - Sunday Telegraph

‘a forensic study...makes for gripping reading; it is a genuine page-turner, written in objective, but always absorbing, fashion’ - Kentonline

‘[Hermiston] takes a firm grip, writes well and refreshes the [familiar] narrative with a substantial helping of original research. The result is an accessible political history, enlivened by shrewd, vivid portraits...Hermiston is excellent on the Labour contingent of Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison and Hugh Dalton, while showing how wrong it would be to claim that they dominated the home front.’ - History Today

‘Roger Hermiston’s bright idea [to explore the achievement of the coalition]... is so obviously right that it is surprising that no one, so far as I know, has done it before. His book is skilfully constructed... The sometimes tense relationships within the coalition make a good new slant on a familiar story, and Roger Hermiston tells it well.’ - John Campbell, Finest Hour magazine

‘A must for anyone interested in British wartime politics... So much is known about Churchill and the struggles he faced during Britain’s darkest hours that it is almost unimaginable that there could be still more information out there. But Roger Hermiston has proved otherwise, brilliantly examining the fraught relations...and the relentless internal difficulties facing Churchill for five horrendous years.’
  - Soldier Magazine

'[Hermiston recalls] personalities now widely forgotten, and with evocative illustrations'

  - Church Times

'The war was won on the front line, in the air, at sea and on the factory floor. However, it might not have happened without the influence of the coalition government...it is all here in this excellent book by Roger Hermiston. Highly recommended!' - War History Online

'Not only did this {Churchill's 1940-45 administration} Conservative-Labour-Liberal coalition steer Britain through its most perilous years and win the war, it also initiated social reforms that were to shape post-war Britain. These staggering achievements are brilliantly described in Hermiston's All Behind You, Winston' - Irish Independent

'In this highly readable account...the ideological differences and personality clashes between the large egos of Bevin and Morrison, Beaverbrook and Attlee are described in fascinating' - Maj Stephen Coulson, The Lady

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