This is Stephen Napier's study of Churchill at war. It is a strategic look at the actions and decisions taken at various stages in the Second World War. Any study of Churchill is controversial as supporters and critics often fall into the Hero or Villain camps of the recent debate. History is rarely so black and white.
Churchill was of course absolutely right about the threat Hitler posed to the world order as he articulated during his wilderness years. He was on weaker ground when expressing his views on modern warfare. For example, he derided the future of tanks and believed that modern warships had little to fear from aerial attack.
His personal style of leadership certainly streamlined the cumbersome leadership structure both civilian and military. His Private Secretary, John Colville, commented on the great loyalty he engendered from Service Ministers and his drive and initiative but said he also meddled. Alan Brooke as Chief of the Imperial General Staffs was blunter, he said; "Winston made matters almost impossible, temperamental like a film star and peevish like a spoilt child."
Later in the war when Churchill's health was suffering, and his drinking getting heavier, Brooke's diary gives an indication of his frustration in relation to strategy in the Far East; "I am honestly getting very doubtful about his balance of mind and it just gives me the cold shivers. I don't know where we are going as regards our strategy and I just cannot get him to face the true facts."
While it is true that Churchill's flood of ideas and diversions frustrated many, he usually gave way when push came to shove with military leaders. It is also the case that he was often one of the few contributors of fresh ideas, even if most were not practical.
The book has plenty on my own area of interest - Britain's Balkan strategy. Churchill was a strong advocate of the indirect approach, the 'soft underbelly' of Europe. A common complaint of Brooke was that Churchill often advocated a diversion of forces. The failed Kos and Leros campaigns are probably the best example of this, but Churchill was also in favour of Operation Jupiter in Norway well into 1944.
The Americans were particularly concerned that his Meditterenean strategy shifted resources from the invasion of France and the Soviets pointed to how few German divisions were diverted from the Eastern Front to Italy. On this Churchill was supported by Brooke, but others argue that the war could have been over a year earlier had Overlord happened in 1943.
I hadn't appreciated the strength of Churchill's reservations about Overlord. So much so that Marshall (US Chief of Staff) threatened that if the British wanted to ditch Overlord in favour of operations in the Balkans, the USA should switch resources to the Pacific.
In the end, I think Brooke had it right when he said; "Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again.... Never have I admired and disliked a man simultaneously to the same extent."
Whatever your view of Churchill this is a very good history of the strategic decisions taken during WW2. Well worth a read.