Category Archives: History

Defender of the Realm

The Last Lion - Defender of the Realm

I just finished listening to the audiobook (via Audible) of “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965” by William Manchester and Paul Reid.  I had not read the book.

Very sad that it had to end!  A wonderful, fittingly magnificent effort.  My dog was also quite pleased to be getting in some extra walks lately while I listened along.

At approximately 3,200 minutes, I can say that not a single boring minute passes by; each one contains at least one interesting part of the great story, a story that is wonderfully told.  Manchester/Reid do an excellent job at presenting Churchill himself, and I felt that the book left me with a greater understanding of what drove him in politics and statecraft.  The challenges and objectives of the many other players involved in the story are also well described.  The book works very well as a history of the Second World War and its aftermath.

If I didn’t “laugh out loud”, I did at least chuckle aloud more than once.  I admit that I was brought to tears during the description surrounding VE Day – the end of the war, the crowds, the speeches, the imagery of people all over the British Isles lighting victory fires on high hills as they had done since ancient days.  Thankfully, I was sitting at home during this part of the book and not out walking the dog.  😎

One aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed with the discussion of the various technologies of the day; how they developed, what they could and could not do, and how they were used.  I found “DotR” to be a useful resource in this respect.

Clive Chafer does a wonderful job with the reading.  I particularly enjoyed when he drops down into his ‘Winston’ voice.  I can’t say how accurate the voice is, but you definitely know when he is quoting WSC and, of course, what is said is often quite interesting and entertaining.  Although I am relatively new to the audio-book experience (I think this was my third one), it occurred to me that there must be ‘star’ readers developing in the industry, and Mr. Chafer must be among them.  When looking at listening options in future, seeing Clive Chafer’s name on an audiobook will help make the choice for me.

Comments Off on Defender of the Realm

Filed under Books, Britain, Churchill, History

Raise a glass ~ Winston Churchill was born 139 years ago today


Remember him, for he saved all of you: pudgy and not very large but somehow massive and indomitable; baby-faced, with snub nose, square chin, rheumy eyes on occasion given to tears; a thwarted actor’s taste for clothes that would have looked ridiculous on a less splendid man. He wore the quaintest hats of anyone: tinted square bowlers; great flat sombreros squashed down on his head; naval officer’s caps rendered just slightly comic by the huge cigar protruding beneath the peak. On grave and critical occasions he sported highly practical Teddy-bear suits few grown men would dare to wear in public. He fancied oil painting, at which he was good, writing, at which he was excellent, and oratory, at which he was magnificent. His habits were somewhat owlish (a bird he faintly resembled), and he stayed up late at night, often working mornings in bed with a lap tray for his desk. (Once, after the war, when I called on him at 11:00 A.M., he inquired whether I wished a drink, ordered me a whiskey and soda, then, reaching for the empty glass beside him, told his manservant: “And bring me another.”

– From World War II by (the late NY Times Foreign Affairs columnist) C.L. Sulzberger

Comments Off on Raise a glass ~ Winston Churchill was born 139 years ago today

Filed under Britain, Churchill, History, Wine & Spirits

Iron Curtain – The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956


So how did the Soviets create the Eastern Bloc?  It wasn’t just by ‘being there’ when the war ended.  The presence of tanks and soldiers?  Granted, that was how their reach and influence was extended, but it was the utter destruction of civil society – Soviet style – that really was behind the Soviet ‘success’ ~ the immediate presence of secret police and the breaking down of all opposition, including any independent organization within the civil societies of these countries.  Applebaum’s use of the 1944 date in her book title is key; these, and many other steps, which led to the post-war Soviet-led horror show in Eastern Europe, were all very orchestrated by the Soviets.  I thought the title was also very apt: the ‘crushing’ of Eastern Europe.  This is what happened, insomuch as the Soviets (and domestic true-believers, fellow travellers and power-seekers) could accomplish ~ the independent vestiges of civil society, the things that make up ‘life’, were purposefully crushed.

This is another excellent history from Anne Applebaum; her “Gulag” is also recommended.  I had previously read Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago”.  That was the toughest, darkest thing I have ever read; it was literally disturbing to me during the time that I read it.  I’m glad I did read it, but Anne Applebaum’s review of that system was also excellent to read.  Solzhenitsyn’s style could be so angry and intimate at times, I appreciated reading a more objective summary.  I would recommend reading both, although “Gulag Archipelago” is a steep investment.

In terms of both books, really, it is tough to believe that such a system dominated so much of the globe for so long, and so recently.  And it continues today in some jurisdictions.  For me personally, it makes me all the more appreciative of what we have in the West.  Freedom baby.


Comments Off on Iron Curtain – The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

Filed under Books, History, Liberty

Mandela Day

Mandela Free

Comments Off on Mandela Day

Filed under History, Liberty, Life

On the names of British navy ships

Queen Elizabeth class carrier

In early May 2003, I posted on the proposed new British aircraft carriers, and made some comments relating to how the names of warships today were often based on less-than-inspiring things — cities, towns and counties, for example (or, in the case of the US Navy, Secretaries of the Navy).  The names of British warships were more inspired in the first half of the 20th century.

I wrote:

HMS Dreadnought; the QE class battleships HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant; the Revenge class battleships HMS Revenge and HMS Resolution; the Bellephoron class battleship HMS Superb; the Orion class battleships HMS Conqueror, HMS Monarch and HMS Thunderer; the KGV class battleship HMS Audacious; the Royal Sovereign “R” Class battleships HMS Repulse (and Revenge and Resolution); the Majestic class battleships HMS Magnificent, HMS Majestic, and HMS Victorious; HMS Renown; HMS Venerable; HMS Formidable, HMS Irresistable, and HMS Implacable; HMS Triumph.

Other British Royal Navy ship names: Active, Adamant, Ardent, Blazer, Brilliant, Defiance, Discovery, Excellent, Indefatigable, Invincible, Success, Terror, Venerable, and, of course, Victory.

I dunno ~ I think if I was the captain of an enemy ship and I heard the HMS Revenge or the HMS Terror was heading my way, there might have been some psychological warfare going on there.

My post was responded to by Ghost of a flea who identified his favourite ship name, and extolled the necessity of Britain building her new carriers to the benefit of future world peace and order.

As we see this week, the last piece of the puzzle for Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth class carrier – the aft tower/island for HMS Queen Elizabeth – has been shipped.

Specifications on the new carrier are here.


Comments Off on On the names of British navy ships

Filed under Britain, History

Tobar an Dualchais ~ an online collection of oral histories of Scotland


Here’s an interesting site ~ a collection of oral histories from Scotland, many in Gaelic, of course.

I have bought via iTunes the Alan Lomax collection of Gaelic Songs of Scotland.  Some wonderful stuff there.


Comments Off on Tobar an Dualchais ~ an online collection of oral histories of Scotland

Filed under History, Music, Scotland

A Moveable Feast (Restored Edition), Audiobook


I’ve been listening to this audiobook, mostly while walking the dog, and am enjoying it immensely.  I’d never read the book, and really can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this restored edition.  Hemingway’s life in Paris in the mid-20s; Paris, that ‘moveable feast’.  Gertrude Stein. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ezra Pound.  James Joyce. Oh, and Ernest Hemingway.

That period between the wars.  They didn’t have much, but got enough money to eat and drink well on occasion; to bet on the horses, before moving on to watching bicycle racing; to walk through the streets of Paris; to mingle with other writers and try to learn from them; to encounter people who were just living through that ‘lost generation’, mostly ‘tight’; they compared war medals and war wounds; to borrow books and read and read; to sit at street-side cafes, and just write.

In reading reviews about this edition, there are discussions about how it improves Hemingway’s portrayal of Fitzgerald.  I’m not so sure it was ever really a bad review anyway.  That he might have gotten hammered sometimes?  That he might have adjusted his stories for the market?  Wow, shocking.

I’m enjoying the narrator’s voice, as well; he’s got a Michael Enright thing going.  I’m probably half way through it, but am loving it.  Give it a try.  I will pick up the restored print edition once I’ve listened through.


Comments Off on A Moveable Feast (Restored Edition), Audiobook

Filed under Books, History