A number of years ago, I picked up Their Finest Hour, which was the second volume of Winston Churchill’s series on the Second World War. I read it and enjoyed it. More recently, I found copies of the rest of the series and just finished reading the first volume, The Gathering Storm.
I enjoyed this book both as someone interested in military history and as someone involved in leadership. This first volume deals with the situation that was left over from the First World War. Decisions were being made both in Germany and in England that would affect what would happen in the 1930s.
While Hitler began his rearmament secretly, he soon discovered that everyone else had lost their taste for war. The rest of the European nations had lost so much in the first war that they would do anything avoid a second one. This gave Hitler a free reign.
There were numerous times that the allies could have put a stop to Hitler, as his military resources were not quite ready to take on England and France. But taking the route of appeasement, the allies allowed Hitler to rearm and to expand its borders.
Hitler was able to take Austria and Czechoslovakia without almost any opposition. The line that England and France finally agreed on was Poland and Hitler crossed that line as well.
In this book, Churchill gives a behind the scenes account of these early years of the war, including the eventual German invasion of Norway. Many people are unaware of what was taking place in Scandinavia, including the Soviet invasion of Finland. That invasion put England in a difficult spot as they wanted to supports the Finns against the Soviets but also wanted the Soviets an ally against the Germans.
I have no presumptions about this being an impartial history. Churchill was a very opinionated man and had much at stake. Still, it is a fascinating read for anyone interested in military history or politics. There are important leadership lessons found throughout The Gathering Storm. I look forward to reading the third volume.