Churchill and Australia
Macmillan, $55 hb, 613 pp
It was a bright and bold idea of Graham Freudenberg to write a book on Winston Churchill and his long links with Australian political and military life. Though Churchill didn’t visit Australia – ‘wise man’, some said – he was a strong or even decisive influence at several turning points in our history and indeed our mythology.
Churchill exerted influence here long before 1940, when he became Britain’s prime minister. He sparred with Alfred Deakin in London in 1907; he was the political mastermind behind the Gallipoli landing in World War I; and in 1921 he helped to throttle the renewal of the nineteen-year-old Anglo-Japanese naval alliance. In the 1920s he delayed, for valid financial and strategic reasons, the creation at Singapore of a naval base intended to be Australia’s front-line defence against Japan in the next world war. He was a lonely giant in defying Hitler in that terrible year of 1940; and in the following years he clashed with Australia’s prime minister, John Curtin, on vital strategic questions.