Hollow Heroes: An Unvarnished Look at the Wartime Careers of Churchill, Montgomery, and Mountbatten by Michael Arnold opens the curtain where the reader can see beyond the spin and public relations images given to learn the “unvarnished” stories of the three men.
Churchill, Montgomery, and Mountbatten were three of Great Britain’s key leaders during and following World War Two. I remember Churchill being credited with the comment that history would be kind to him because he intended to write it. Yet, when researching I only find at best, “According to some accounts he (Churchill) told Stalin and Roosevelt at the 1943 Tehran Conference that ‘History will judge us kindly,’ and, when asked how he could be so confident, he replied: ‘because I shall write the history’ (which he did, of course, in a massive tome on the Second World War). Other accounts have Churchill saying in 1948 in a House of Commons Speech: ‘For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history.’ In both cases, the spirit of the misquotation is very much evident, albeit in rather different contexts. And it’s entirely likely that intending to ‘write history’ was the kind of clever double entendre to which Churchill might willingly have referred more than once.” My point – Churchill wanted to make sure his spin was the one remembered. (Source: http://eganhistory.com/2012/10/30/on-doing-history-empathy-accuracy-in-the-undergraduate-classroom/).
The book unveils the truths behind their public images. Arnold’s book shows a different view of each man. His approach is demonstrating a large part resume is inaccurately being built on false results, chicanery, and deceit.
The author looks at the influence and obstruction of officers who obtained their rank based on their “social class”. He demonstrates the negative impact of “class-based officers” on the performance of the British Army in World War II. He quotes the views of the Americans that saw far too often the British failed to base officer promotion on effectiveness. Instead, it was on social background. Conforming was more important to the British.
Montgomery’s fear of and jealously of Patton is clearly shown.
Churchill’s self-preservation attitude and bungling are shown in his handling of Field Marshals Wavell and Auchinleck, two of Britain’s finest commanders of the war. Their service was largely lost to Britain because of Churchill’s constant interfering in field matters especially after the fall of Singapore.
Arnold includes the case of Major-General Dorman-Smith. Dorman-Smith was one of Britain’s most brilliant original thinkers. Sacked by Churchill for what appears to be his overachievement as the tactician who had produced Britain’s victory over Rommel at the first battle of Alamein, This was an inexcusable sin in some eyes.
Mountbatten’s fumbling in India is also accurately portrayed. It shows the “man for the century’s” overly embellished reputation.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffeehouse, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.