Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Churchill's First War

Young Winston and the Fight Against the Taliban.

Con Coughlin

The second of the books I picked up in Heathrow, along with this one I have already reviewed. For some reason, I find books cheaper in the UK than here in Canada, at least those on the Bestsellers shelf, but I digress.

The author of this book does not have a history as an author of historical biographies, but comes from the subject as a journalist in the field in Afganistan, and the 'fight against terror' in the middle east (he is currently the Defense Editor for the Telegraph).

At first the link between Chruchill and the Taliban seemed to me to be a stretch, just to get a modern tag-line on a historical book, however, at this particular time in Churchill's life, he was directly involved with the conflict on the North West Frontier, or the border between British India and Afghanistan. However, the links that I thought would be tenuous or forced between Churchill's experiences on the North-West Frontier and the modern conflict in the region turned out to be subtly and inextricably linked. The peace that was finally negotiated by the British Raj and the Pashtun tribesmen on the frontier was maintained under Pakistani rule, and only finally broken 100 years later with the interventions of the USA and Allied forces in recent years. The lifestyle of the tribesmen on the frontier, had changed little in that time, and the issues that were faced by Churchill, and the style of fighting of the tribesmen and the problems that caused an invading larger army had little changed, even with the technology that modern forces can muster. It was not for nothing that Churchill's account of the conflict The Story of the Malakand Field Force was reprinted at the time of the US/Afghanistan conflict, and read by all the major players in the theatre.

The book also gave an insight into the personality of Winston Churchill, specifically his early life. He was a great man, and a polymath, but not someone I have much studied, other than the information you pick up by osmosis being born and raised in the UK. His goal of always becoming a career politician, and how he went about achieving that goal, especially in his early military career, was interesting to read, and certailnly piqued my interest to find out more. I went on to watch the Gathering Storm, which is obviolusy a much later time in his life. It has also made me want to go find a copy of Young Winston, as it has been an age since I watched it.

Back to the book though. As a historical piece, and also as a book that puts a light on the current day happenings on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, I can but recommend this book.

Find it here on

N.B. the book goes by the subtitle 'Young Winston at War with the Afghans' in North America.

No comments:

Post a Comment