Churchill Wanted Dead Or Alive

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9780002570176: Churchill Wanted Dead Or Alive

Celia Sandys goes ‘in grandfather’s footsteps’ to retrace young Winston Churchill’s adventures during nine months of the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa – where Churchill served as war correspondent, combatant (at Spion Kop and Ladysmith), prisoner-of-war and escapee.

The story of Winston Churchill’s breathtaking exploits during the Boer War, the springboard from which, overnight, he leapt to fame on the international stage. Within three months of his return he became an MP at the age of twenty-five.

Using both British and Boer sources, many previously untapped, Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys covers a hitherto neglected part of his life in which he circumnavigated military regulations in order to combine the roles of soldier and war correspondent.

Now that the isolation of South Africa has ended, people have come forward in droves to tell the author the stories they learnt at their grandparents’ knees. These grandparents recognised in Churchill a courageous ally or a formidable foe.

The author has visited campsites, battlefields, and the site of Churchill’s incarceration in Pretoria as a POW, and she’s followed the route of his escape to the Mozambique border.

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Review:

"The author", the jacket-blurb tells us, "is a granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. Her mother was Churchill's eldest daughter, Diana, and her father was Lord Duncan-Sandys, the former Cabinet Minister." That's some pedigree, for better or for worse. Sandys covers the same material as Churchill himself did in his enthralling My Early Life 1874-1904--his extraordinary adventures as a journalist in South Africa during the South African Wars--capture, escape, derring-do. Her status as a family member does not give her any particularly privileged perspective, but what it does do is to permit her a wonderfully louche hero-worshipping tone.

Her Churchill is a flawless, marvellous British hero; extraordinarily brave in the face of battle, energetic, resourceful. Purple prose describes Churchill's brilliant nature; chapters have titles like "A Knight Errant" and "A Triumphal Progress". Even his journalism is represented as having the tint of a Golden Age ("...conjures genuine excitement". Short staccato sentences are set against melodious passages: "he must rank amongst the greatest war correspondents"). In a more detached biographer this would all come over as a little vulgar, not to say unbalanced, but a memoir of one's grandfather is a slightly different thing. More to the point Sandys pretty much pulls it off: the reader gets swept along in the whole brightly-coloured brio of the thing. Surprisingly refreshing in its shameless puffing. --Adam Roberts

About the Author:

Celia Sandys is a granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. Her mother was Churchill’s eldest daughter, Diana, and her father Lord Duncan-Sandys, the former cabinet minister and member of his father-in-law’s wartime government. She is married, has four children and lives in Wiltshire. Her only previous book was From Winston With Love and Kisses: The Young Churchill (Sinclair Stevenson 1994). She has lectured in America, Canada, Japan and Britain.

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