The third volume in the multi-volume biography of Winston S. Churchill begins with a study of Churchill's ebullient mood on the eve of war in 1914. It contrasts his initiatives and achievements as First Lord of the Admiralty with the recurring setbacks of the first four months of war, leading to increasing public criticism. The enthusiasm and forcefulness with which Churchill argued for an offensive naval policy, first against Germany, then against Turkey, impressed and influenced his colleagues. But as the war progressed the leading government ministers -- Asquith, Kitchener, Grey, and Lloyd George -- became skeptical of his arguments and were wearied by his fervor. By the end of 1915, Churchill's obsession with the Gallipoli campaign had seriously weakened his political credibility.
"What about the Dardanelles?" This was the cry Winston Churchill was to hear so often between the two world wars. it epitomized the distrust in which he was widely held as a result of the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition. The blood of the dead of Gallipoli was laid to his charge again and again. By examining in detail the complex evolution of British war policy, Martin Gilbert has discovered that the precise nature of Churchill's involvement and responsibility differed greatly from what his contemporaries believed and from what quickly became popularly accepted.
In this book, Mr. Gilbert also uncovers significant new facts about the political crisis of May 1915, by which Asquith was forced to form a coalition government, with Churchill relegated from the center of war policy-making to a position of increasing political isolation. Seven months later, while commanding a battalion on the western front, Churchill brooded upon his failure, and confided his aspirations and anger to his wife in daily letters of great emotional intensity. He returned from the trenches in May 1916 hoping to re-enter political life. But his repeated attempts to regain his lost influence were unsuccessful. For the final year of Asquith's premiership, Churchill held no political office, and was frustrated by his total lack of power.
In his study of Churchill's attempts to control and influence wartime policy, Martin Gilbert provides an indispensable introduction to the political controversies which divided and weakened the British government. He also demonstrates his conviction that the study of recent history can no longer be based upon accepted versions of events , but should be founded upon a scrutiny of the contemporary record -- much of it until recently secret. He has examined many thousand original documents, letters and diaries, and over seventy official and private archives, establishing in detail the factual narrative and describing the evolution, shifts, and conflicts of policy. His discoveries result in a perceptive and critical assessment of Churchill's character and contribute a new, lucid, and valuable chapter to our understanding of the history of British policy during World War I. His work on this volume, by exposing many of the myths surrounding Churchill's career between 1914 and 1916, establishes Martin Gilbert in the front rank of modern historians.