Category Archives: WWII in Europe

Book Review: God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours

Churhchill book cover

God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours

☆☆☆☆☆ Recommended

God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and offers Hope for Ours presents new insight into the life of Great Britain’s former British Prime Minister and wartime leader Winston Churchill. Co-written by Churchill’s great-grandson Jonathan Sandys and journalist Wallace Henley, God & Churchill details how the significant role of Churchill’s spirituality and Christian faith helped guide him through the twentieth century’s twin conflagrations: in the trenches during First World War, and in greater depth leading Great Britain and Allied leadership through most of the Second World War.

With God & Churchill, we are offered an exceptional book on Allied leadership’s cornerstone figure during World War II. So what makes this contribution to the collection of work on the twentieth century’s greatest leader unique and a ‘must have’? Sandys and Henley give substantive evidence for Churchill’s destiny towards greatness—his unwavering belief in God’s plan for his life and leadership. Additionally, the author’s use of substantive sources—primary and secondary—many in Churchill’s own words, speaking of his destiny for greatness on the world stage, fills gaps not covered in earlier works on the former British Prime Minister.

For 2015, the publishers at Tyndale Momentum have added God & Churchill to the growing body of literature on Churchill during another tumultuous period in our world’s history. Sandys and Henley draw parallels between Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany and today’s growing terror in Iraq and Syria through ISIS and its growing world-wide influence. At a time when religious beliefs are the central theme for a different form of war today, the authors offer hope: “Here, then, is our hope for the cataclysmic time in which we live: The same God who brought forth Winston Churchill (and other deliverers) still rules over history, and he has a deliverer—or deliverers—for our season as well…. It might even be the ultimate Deliverer.” [1]

Sandys and Henley offer extensive contrast between what role the church was to play for Hitler and Churchill; such views which were the core of their respective ideologies—and their fates as the authors suggest.

As the era of the Second World War becomes more distant, research historians and writers continue to write more objectively, with less bias foregoing ‘romantic views’ of the war’s culture in modern memory. What does remain is a clearer view of Winston Churchill—‘warts and all’ as historians like to say. In God & Churchill, Sandys and Henley have done commendable work in adding to our knowledge of the popular wartime leader. British historian Geoffrey Best, Senior Member and retired professor at St. Antony’s College, Oxford in Churchill: A Study in Greatness, in recounting Winston Churchill’s state funeral (30 January 1965), decreed by the Queen and usually reserved only for royalty, writes:

For a former private secretary privileged to be in the small party that went with the family to the interment, there was no forgetting the ‘two single figures’ he saw from the train: ‘first on the flat roof of a small house a man standing at attention in his old RAF uniform; and then in a field, some hundred yards from the track, a simple farmer stopping work and standing, head bowed, and cap in hand’. For the millions who link with the funeral had to be television, the most unforgettable moment was probably (as it certainly was for me) the great cranes [grey heron; bird] along the south side of the stretch of river between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, dipping their masts in tribute as the launch went by, ‘like giants bowed in anxious thought’.[2]

Such was Winston Churchill’s positive impact on history and the world; a man whose leadership and legacy we may never see again.

God & Churchill will appeal to those readers interested in Winston Churchill, early-to-mid twentieth-century British history, as well as Great Britain’s role during the Second World War. Those who study leadership in particular will find the book essential reading. Readers and students interested in a deeper dive into the study of Churchill, the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education offers the following course (most semesters) titled: Churchill: Soldier, Politician and Statesman (Online). This is a tuition-based live class delivered via distance learning methodology and open to learners worldwide.

[1] Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley, God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and offers Hope for Ours (Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale Momentum, 2015) 237.
[2] Geoffrey Best, Churchill: A Study in Greatness (London: Oxford University Press, 2003) 327.

Best, Geoffrey. Churchill: A Study in Greatness. London: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Sandys, Jonathan and Wallace Henley. God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and offers Hope for Ours. Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale Momentum, 2015.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 19, 2015 in Book Reviews, WWII in Europe


Book Review: Colditz: The Full Story

From Zenith Press: Colditz: The Full Story by P.R. Reid

From Zenith Press: Colditz: The Full Story by P.R. Reid

Reid, P. R. Colditz: The Full Story. Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2015. Pp.344. $18.99 (paper).

If 1963’s classic The Great Escape is among your favorite movies, you’ll want to add P.R. Reid’s definitive book on the POW experience, Colditz: The Full Story, to your library. First published in 1984, this new Zenith Press edition includes appended material not included in earlier editions. Just like The Great Escape’s co-writer, Paul Brickhill (RAF pilot, POW at Stalag Luft III), Reid (British Army officer) was also a prisoner of war held by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Colditz castle was conceived by the Nazis as an escape-proof POW camp to hold those prisoners who had repeatedly escaped from other stalags throughout Germany. Reid and a few other prisoners managed to escape the 12th century castle beginning in 1941 until the camp’s liberation in 1945. These richly-detailed escape attempts are the core of Reid’s Colditz.

Imprisoning so many bright and ingenious men in this atypical setting provided Reid with a wealth of stories to draw upon. His narrative suggests that the castle offered more avenues of escape compared to conventional stalags and POW camps in Germany. Castle walls, attics, floors all gave the determined prisoners of Colditz additional means of escape from what we’ve learned in Brickhill’s The Great Escape (also in book format). And yes, tunnels were dug at Colditz.

Reid’s chronological narrative illustrates that despite the continuous escape attempts, there was much civility shown the Allied prisoners by their captors. This was surprising and unexpected in light of the horrors and murder that had taken place in the concentration death camps.

New to this new edition is Appendix 5, “Prisoners of War in the Western Theaters of the Second World War.” Here Reid writes why officers were compelled to escape as compared to “troops”—enlisted men—held in their own POW camps. The Geneva Convention mandated that prisoners of war were separated into these two categories. Furthermore, troops could work “in factory or field”[1] for the enemy without repercussion of aiding the enemy.

In Reid’s view, troops were allowed these freedoms of work, in many cases outdoors, giving them the feeling of freedom, if only during the day. Officers did not have this option. Officer prisoners were entitled different treatment through the Geneva Convention. Most importantly, Reid adds “Further, it was clearly understood by the signatories of the Convention that an Officer would and should consider it a matter of honor to attempt to regain his liberty and return to his fighting unit—in other words to escape.”[2]

By separating officers from men as prisoners of war whenever possible, Nazi Germany effectively removed the leadership component of escape throughout the stalag system. At Colditz Castle, designated Oflag IV-C during the war, housing a prisoner population dominated by officers highly motivated to escape was a never-ending challenge for the German captors.

In “Appendix 2,” Reid lists “Escapes” by name and rank—successful and not successful—and their contingent country: British, Polish, Dutch, French and Belgian. I won’t list those numbers here however. That would spoil the reading experience of this important work.

This book is highly recommended. Like re-watching a great movie, you’ll want to read Colditz a second time to ‘pick up’ what you’d missed on the first pass.

[1] P.R. Reid, Colditz: The Full Story. (Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2015) 330.
[2] Ibid.

Reid, P.R. Colditz: The Full Story. Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2015.

Scott Lyons

%d bloggers like this: