Masters and Commanders
How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke
Won the War in the West
By Andrew Roberts
Featuring brand new archival material
To be published by Allen Lane on 25th September 2008, priced £25
Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Marshall and Alan Brooke met for the first time in the Oval Office on Sunday 21 June 1942, for what was meant to be a routine strategy meeting. But after lunch, as a pink slip of telegraph paper was handed to the President and then to the Prime Minister in silence, a routine meeting turned into one of the most significant moments of the Second War.
The paper announced the fall of the Mediterranean port of Tobruk which for months had been a strong symbol of resistance in North Africa, and the surrender of thirty thousand men was for Churchill “one of the heaviest blows I can recall during the war.” It was at this desperate juncture that there began the three-year relationship between the four chief strategists of the Western Allies, the quartet of power that ultimately crafted the victories that were to come.
Drawing upon previously unpublished archival material including the extensive verbatim reports of Churchill’s War Cabinet meetings which Roberts has discovered, as well as the diaries of many of the key players at the time including Alanbrooke himself, Roberts vividly paints the drama and passion that went into the formation of Allied grand strategy. Though we assume that emotion, charisma and persuasiveness have a large part to play in politics, it is easy to forget that the same is true of grand strategy, and that these two political Masters and two military Commanders were flesh and blood. In Masters and Commanders Roberts shows how the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians ultimately rested on the decisions taken by four strong-willed and tough-minded men, each with his own view on how to win the war.
Documenting the clashes – sometimes resorting to shaking fists in faces – as well as the agreements, jokes and asides, Masters and Commanders examines the role that individuals can play in shaping history.
Andrew Roberts is a biographer and historian whose previous books include Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), which won the Wolfson History Prize and the James Stern Silver Pen Award for Non-Fiction; Napoleon and Wellington (2001); Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership (2003), which coincided with four-part BBC2 history series, and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (2005). He appears regularly on British television and radio and writes for the Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator, the Literary Review, the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph.
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