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on October 31, 2012
I have been nervously awaiting this book for years. My first encounter with Manchester came when volume one first came out. I was a child, and I went to visit my grandmother (who was in London during the Blitz); she held the book up to show me what she was reading. "The man." she said. "The great, great man."

Years later, I read the first two volumes almost in one sitting - couldn't put them down - and have reread large parts of them over the years (every time I looked some piece up I'd find myself sitting down for an hour or two because I couldn't stop). I remember when Finest Hour reported that the trilogy would never be finished: it was like a punch in the stomach.

I had my doubts about the ability of another author to write worthily of Manchester, and I was afraid this volume wouldn't measure up. No need to worry: this is every bit as much a page-turner as the last two volumes. It's not QUITE Manchester - I thought I could feel a bit of a difference in style, somehow - and yet it IS extremely good, much better than I had expected.

Like the first two volumes, we begin with a preamble ("The Lion Hunted") in which we are (re-)acquainted with the book's subject. There is a certain amount of repetition of material from the two earlier preambles, but much good new material as well. I've read thousands of pages on Churchill, but even I found some good new anecdotes and quotations here. After that we're hurled right into the middle of the most dramatic days of World War Two. The unexpected, catastrophic defeats; the incompetence and perfidy of the people in charge of France - it doesn't take much from a writer to make this an exciting story, and yet I don't think it has ever been told better than this. Really, just what I had hoped for from Manchester himself. If the later parts of the book don't quite keep the same level of excitement, neither do the events they recount.

My only complaint is the ending: really, the book just stops. Read the end of volume II: I would have expected Manchester himself to end with a climactic summary, perhaps returning to his major insight from the start: the central significance of Churchill in history is that he was a product of the late nineteenth century who was able to bring the virtues of the era of his formative years to life again at a time when they were needed, and when the British people were not yet too far from them. Actually, I do have one other complaint, and it's with the publisher: the dust jacket doesn't match the first edition dust jackets of the first two volumes. Doesn't look as good on the shelf as I would have liked.

All in all, this is a worthy final volume. Manchester himself would be proud, and there can be no doubt that this trilogy would be Churchill's favourite biography. Highly recommended, to fans of the first two volumes and newcomers alike.
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on December 26, 2012
William Manchester, and his appointed successor Paul Reid, have successfully and thoroughly concluded the life story of the greatest British statesman of the 20th century, and one of, if not the foremost statesman of the Second World War.

In spite of several reviews that diminish the work because Paul Reid took over from William Manchester, and the contention was that Reid was not as good a writer, I have to take exception to the charge. I could not tell where Manchester left off and Reid began. The writing is excellent, and yes, there is a world of information, especially about the war, but in all fairness to Reid, he had to cover this ground thoroughly because it was such an important part of the long and productive life of Churchill.

Having read a good deal of the war and Churchill, I still found many things of interest in this book. One good example is the excellent information on the Battle of Britain, when England stood alone in the face of the Nazi menace. We all know of the long odds against the British and their bravery in fighting off the Luftwaffe during this critical time, but the book introduces us to the British Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. Mostly disliked by the people around him, and essentric in his own British way, it was Dowding that was the champion of radar as far back as 1937 when he ordered work to begin along the eastern and southern coasts with a chain of stations, some of which were low-level with ranges of 50 miles and the others, high-level with a range of 120 miles. This enabled the British to detect German squadrons in many cases before they entered the English Channel. It was this radar that helped them to scramble fighters to meet the menace as it approached the island. COnsidering that Dowding in July, 1940 had eight hundred single engine aircraft to hold off a much larger force, it was in a sense, a miracle for Britain. The German Second and Third Air Fleets were comprised of 750 bombers, 250 Stuka dive bombers, 600 Bf109 fighters and 250 twin Bf110 fighters, but Dowding placed the emphasis on knocking out the bombers and not getting into dog fights with the fighter escort. Goring tried to keep up appearances and lied about the results, but the German strategy was changing. And, even though they knew the location of the two factories that Rolls Royce used to build the Merlin engines, they never bombed these facilities. By September, Hitler elected to concentrate on London and bomb the British to the peace tables. That did not work out well for Adolph.
Another important person in all of this was Lord Beaverbrook, who worked in producing the aircraft needed to fight this air battle. In July, 1940, British workers produced 496 fighter planes, which was an astounding accomplishment. In addition, Beaverbrook's Civilian Repair Organization was busy salvaging parts from fighters shot down over England and in some instances, were able to resurrect German planes that would next fly as a RAF craft.

It is without a doubt that 1940 was Winston's best year, although in many ways the darkest for England. They stood alone. France had fallen, Europe was a Nazi land mass, Hitler and Stalin were beginning their workings toward an alliance, and America stood away from the fight largely because of the isolationist movement and FDR's firm decision not to let his political foes take him down for getting America involved in the war. And while the RAF had performed splendidly in the air, the evacuations from Dunkirk were still fresh in everyone's mind and England was in a sense, a nation with a moat around it awaiting landing barges to finish them off.

In a large sense, it was Churchill's determination that led England during this dark time, and yet, Churchill's big problem was that he knew he could not challenge Hitler on the continent, and thus tried to snipe at him in other areas, which largely centered throughout the Mediterranean Sea. For a time, North Africa enjoyed some success, and then Rommel appeared and the British were once more in flight, and add to this the humiliating surrender of Sinapore in the Pacific, and greatly in need of a victory. Churchill began to draw criticism because of the lack of victory, and then Montgomery gave him a sound victory over Rommel at El Alamein and this got the monkey off of Churchill's back.

Finally, by the end of 1941, America was in the mix and the English were no longer alone. By June of 1942, Hitler had invaded Russia and the Allied effort, while still recoiling from defeats, at least had the potential to break the enemy's back.

There is a great deal of information about the war and especially the workings between American and England. Both Eisenhower and Marshall favored an invasion in France, while Churchill looked to menace the Germans along the periphery, thus the invasion into North Africa (Torch) and the later invasion on the south of France (Anvil, later renamed Dragoon). As during the first war, Churchill's designs as in the Dardanelles, was to go around instead of directly at. The American logic was simple: cut to the chase, go the shortest route and kill the beast. The American version won the day, certainly at the urging of Stalin, who was losing in civilian and military casualities, 10,000 people per day (YES PER DAY), and had no sympathy for what might turn into a high kill rate. England was very deadly in their night bombings of German cities (especially Hamburg and Berlin)but that was not impressing Stalin, who continued to demand more, and quite rudely. Churchill had to contend not only with Uncle Joe's bad manners but also FDR's vision of a world after the war where Britain played a lesser part.

Much of this story shows, as it should, how events unfolded during the war, and how Britain and Churchill began to be overruled by Stalin and Russia. In effect, this war broke England and WSC was faced with the grim knowledge that after the killing was over, England would no longer be a first rate world power. It was certainly not the role that Winston wanted to play, but the inevitability of losing most of the empire was there, and FDR was probably the most heartless in his desire to see that England was no longer a colonial power.

The books shows us a large support cast. Of interest was Winston's only son, Randolph. Randolph was just not a happy man, and while his father loved him, he was a contrary person. His sister Mary later wrote that he could pick a quarrel with a chair. He married the beautiful Pamela Digby who ditched him for Averill Harriman. I hate to be ugly, but he looks like Clementine in drag to me.

Overall, I think this is a fine conclusion to the story of one of the most interesting people in the history of our modern world. As the author/s points out, you would likely have to go back 400 hundred years to the reign of Elizabeth I to find the strength of character of such a leader of the British people.

I very much recommend this book to anyone interested in Churchill.
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on July 18, 2017
Paul Reid does a masterful job of assembling William Manchester's very comprehensive research on Winston Churchhill during the WWII years. A brilliant work filled with fascinating turns and twists which have shaped the arc of history from those times until now and for years yet to come. A thrilling work for all of us who are interested in the events that have altered and illuminated our times.
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on August 11, 2015
This book is well worth your time. It gives exceptional insite into the man's personal flaws as well as his superb assets. I truly believe England would have fallen had it not been for Churchill. His "Blueblood" sense of entitlement was a turn-off. Unlike many great heroes who chose to suffer with their people/troops, ( and while England was experiencing all kinds of shortages just for survival), Churchill was importing Cuban cigars and eating/drinking as if no war was taking place, He overstayed his trip to America, vacationing on the beaches of Florida with his entourage of valets, secretaries etc. At the same time, he had an indomitable will and unshakeable love for England and freedom. He is arguably one of the best speech writers and motivators of people who ever lived.It is hard to imagine anyone more tenacious: he would never give up.

It was fascinating to read about the clashing of the giant egos: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin etc. Roosevelt seemed unbelievably naive when it came to Stalin and communism and felt by the force of his own personality he could "charm Uncle Joe". To Churchill's dismay,Roosevelt met with Stalin without Churchill being invited (BIG mistake). The American publisher, Henry Luce, made Stalin Time magazine's Man of the Year (twice!) lauding him and the Russian people. Roosevelt (and others in our government) wanted China to be the fourth primary nation after the war instead of France because of disdain for De Gaulle. Our leaders had a completely blind faith in Chaing Kai-shek who was corrupt beyond belief. The realization of how little major players knew and understood what was unfolding makes one wonder how we won the war (except the other side happen to make more mistakes than we did). The book gives a heart wrenching description of the heroic sacrifices of the people, the soldiers, and our military leaders who were victims/participants in this colossal war of all time.
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on May 8, 2015
This book is required reading for any student of WW2 and the historical fallout that followed afterwards.... especially for American readers. Churchill was a remarkable man in that he seemed to be generally right on about the major thrust of what would happen if such and such was not done. And after reading many, many, WW2 books about American generals and war personalities and then coming to this one, I was forced to admit that he is given short shrift in too many biographies about American WW2 personalities.

Churchill was truly one of the great and towering personalities of our time and certainly FDRs equal (if not his better). Although tough and a fighter, he was a "man of peace" of the "right kind", constantly seeking to poke and prod the world in the direction of right human relations, never giving up and coming at it from every angle, time and time again until he either prevailed or had to give up.

Highly recommended!
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on August 12, 2016
I first began this journey through the life of Churchill as seen through the imagination of William Manchester in 1982, when the first volume of this series came out. I didn't know most of the people that I know now, my house had not been built, it was a Christmas present from a relative who is no longer alive. These are the sorts of thoughts that fill ones head when finishing the last volume in this series, 1200 pages that cover the last 25 years of Churchill's life.

I will say that I am still think that Roy Jenkins' biography is still the best, most concise and contains the most insight (Jenkins was not only in Parliament, but in Parliament when Churchill was also a member). He understands the central institution that defined Churchill. My second favorite is Churchill's own "My Early Life," a book I read in middle school which affected my world view forever and ever.

The three books that are part of this series definitely have merit. I wholeheartedly believe that this third book, 1200 pages and all is worth a read. It was unfortunately not completed by its original author, the great William Manchester, author of so many excellent histories in the past. I think some of the immediate and intimate details that filled Manchester's earlier works is lacking in this one, and one should be prepared to refight all of World War II in making the way for VE Day. Ultimately these faults are not decisive in affecting the overall quality of the book.

That said, this book is a marvelous achievement. Churchill is on display, warts and all, his gifts, his weaknesses and his stirring eloquence. There is Churchill the masterful strategic thinker at odds with Churchill the less capable tactician.

It probably will be more than a little daunting to undertake the journey I did 34 years ago, but I think at the end of it all the trip is worthwhile.
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on February 22, 2015
It's a monumental undertaking covering The War and the advent of the Cold War from Churchill's and the British perspective. A lot of important, often startling revelations that we never hear about in histories written from the American perspective--like the prickly relationship of Churchill and Roosevelt; their attitudes about Stalin, de Gaulle and Chiang Kai-shek; and their disagreements over strategy and resources. Some of us know Roosevelt for what he was--one thing that emerges in this history is what scoundrels the Allied leaders were...but Churchill was a scoundrel for Great Britain, de Gaulle was a scoundrel for France. Roosevelt was a scoundrel for Roosevelt. Stalin was a monster, recognized as such by Churchill who nonetheless trusted and supported him to win The War; FDR never acknowledged the monster side of Stalin, whom he admired to the day he dropped dead in Hot Springs.

We Americans who read any history at all generally believe that FDR did the Lend-Lease program out of the goodness of his heart and to keep Britain alive until the US could enter the war. It wasn't quite like that, and I feel ashamed over the price--prices--Roosevelt exacted from England for whatever we sent them in those terrible, dark days. In our histories we also don't get a real sense of the horrors Germany rained upon Britain, or the suffering and courage of the Brits during the bombing.

Tidbits about the private lives of the Churchill family and the foibles of the great man himself--sometimes reading like a gossip column--add perspective and richly colored embroidery to this huge work. Seeing Churchill as a human in no way diminishes this giant among men.

Anybody with a serious interest in WWII history or military studies ought to read this. It was so interesting that now I'm going to have to get the first two books of the trilogy. My mental image of Churchill is limited to the rotund figure with the cigar and the bowler hat. I want to meet Churchill the dashing young warrior and polo player.

Most important is the lesson we ought to be taking today about the consequences of appeasement, of limited objectives and of expediencies.
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"Defender of the Realm, 1940 -- 1965" is the final volume of William Manchester's massive three-volume biography, "The Last Lion", of Winston Churchill (1874 -- 1965). The first volume, published in 1983, titled "Visions of Glory", covered Churchill's life from 1874 -- 1932, while the second volume, published in 1988, titled simply "Alone, covered the years 1932 -- 1940. This new sweeping third volume covers Churchill's life beginning with his ascension to the office of Prime Minister in 1940. It focuses upon the WW II years, follows Churchill during the years between 1945 and his second period as Prime Minister from 1951 -- 1955, and concludes with Churchill's years of comparative retirement up to his death. The biography was a near lifetime project for Manchester (1922 -- 2004). Manchester had researched the third volume of the trilogy, prepared well-organized and voluminous notes, and done some of the writing. Near the end of his life, however, Manchester realized he would be unable to complete the third volume. He selected journalist Paul Reid to complete the work.

The result of Manchester's and Reid's efforts is a detailed, dense study of 1200 pages. The book offers a thorough, multi-faceted look at the complex statesman that was Winston Churchill, in his determination, devotion to Great Britain and to civilization, brilliance, and frequent pettiness. Because Churchill's personal life was inextricably intertwined with his public life, this book goes far beyond biography. It is a masterful political and military history of the WW II years and, to a lesser extent, of the years following.

Churchill the man is most in focus in the 50-page "Preamble" to the book. Manchester and Reid offer a summation of Churchill's personality, leadership style, political, religious, and social beliefs, family and more. The Preamble offers an excellent overview to the momentous events described in the lengthy remainder of the volume.

The volume consists of eight large parts, the first of which begins in May 1940 and follows Churchill and WW II through December, 1940. Part two covers 1941, culminating in the United States' entry into the war and on Churchill's extensive efforts to get the United States involved. Part three covers military action in 1942, focusing on the alliance between Churchill and Roosevelt. Part four covers the period November 1942 -- December 1943, as plans for the invasion of France are discussed at length and ultimately agreed to. The readers sees a great deal of Churchill, Roosevelt and his aides, and Stalin. There is extended description of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. Part five covers the period between December, 1943 and the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Part six takes the narrative from Normandy to the German and Japanese surrenders. Part seven, less detailed than the earlier parts, covers the years between 1945- 1955, including Churchill's famed "iron curtain" speech in March,1946, in Fulton, Missouri, and his election as Prime Minister. The final brief part of the book covers the final ten years, 1955 -- 1965, of Churchill's long life.

There is a great deal to be learned about Churchill, about leadership, and heroism from this book. The most eloquent, moving sections of the work are sections covering early 1940 --1941, following the evacuation at Dunkirk. Great Britain truly stood alone for more than one year and was widely expected to fall to Hitler. That it did not was due in large measure to Churchill's fortitude and strength and to the respect in which he was held by the subjects of Great Britain. The reader sees different aspects of Churchill as the war proceeds and the political and military situation develops. Manchester and Reid spend much time on the land, sea, and air wars, the different fronts in the Soviet Union, France, the Balkans, and Italy, and in the War with Japan. The book offers both a political and a military education about the events of the war years. The authors develop well the tension between the British, Churchillian view of the aims of the war and the views of President Roosevelt and the United States. The authors emphasize Churchillian's devotion to the British Empire as contrasted with the American commitment to end colonialism. Hence to overall title of the Trilogy and characterization of Churchill as "The Last Lion".

The book is lucidly written although in its length it flags in places. In its history, it taught me much about the world in which I have lived. I also learned a great deal about the dauntless figure of Winston Churchill. The authors portray him, and properly so, as the seminal figure of the 20th Century. This lengthy, thoughtful book will be worth the attention of readers who wish to understand the 20th Century and one of the few true 20th Century heroes.

Robin Friedman
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on August 13, 2013
Only order this if you are an ardent fan or history buff. It is voluminous. I bought the hardcover, the kindle would have been better easier to lug around. I read it in chunks. I found many if the revelations new to me. The U. S. was not benevolent in its treatment of our British allies. There are many characters involved as you would expect. The more interesting parts of the book are when it discusses the strategies both militarily and political up to and during the war years. It becomes tedious after the war years while attempting to save the country from the failures of the labour party after the war. The book is about him but I thought Clementine was not given much in the way of her part in his life. I have now read all three volumes, I was not disappointed with it overall and do recommend it for those special people.
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on May 22, 2014
This third volume of the Last Lion series is a great capstone to Manchester's biography on Winston Churchill. A biography that gives a detailed insight into the formation, trials and measure of a truly great person. Manchester and Reid (who wrote most of this third volume due to Manchester's failing health) give us the good side with the bad side, his prejudices, bias' and shortcomings that produced a person of such iron will that he successfully led Britain through World War II. The writers present the options that could have been taken during the course of the war, the reasoning of Churchill to take one option over another and at times why he was overruled by his own staff and the Americans. It is that measure, continuing to lead while be overruled on some of his ideas, that makes him a remarkable leader. This particular volume, must in my opinion, be read after the first two volumes in order to truly understand who this person is, the people in his life and the influences that they exert on him. If you want to understand World War II, these three volumes are good place to start. If you want to understand Winston Churchill, these three volumes are some of the most interesting and insightful but well written reads to give that understanding.
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