Churchill and Fisher (Hardback)
Titans at the Admiralty
A vivid study in the politics and stress of high command, this book describes the decisive roles of young Winston Churchill as political head of the Admiralty and the ageing Admiral ‘Jacky’ Fisher as professional master and creator of Dreadnought, locked together in perilous destiny. Upon these ‘Titans at the Admiralty’ rested Allied command of the sea at the moment of its supreme test, the challenge presented by the Kaiser’s navy under the dangerous Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz.
Churchill and Fisher exhibited vision, genius, and energy, but the war unfolded in unexpected ways. German cruisers escaped to Constantinople bringing Turkey into the war, and though Coronel’s disaster was redeemed at the Falklands, Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet was forced to seek refuge from U-boats; the torpedo and mine became prominent, to German advantage. There were no Trafalgars, no Nelsons. Press and Parliament became battlegrounds for a public expecting decisive victory at sea. Then the ill-fated Dardanelles adventure, ‘by ships alone’ as Churchill determined, on top of the Zeppelin raids brought about Fisher’s departure from the Admiralty, in turn bringing down Churchill. Wilderness years followed, with Churchill commanding a battalion on the Western Front and Fisher chairing an inventions board seeking an electronic countermeasure to the lethal U-boat.
This dual biography, based on fresh and thorough appraisal of the Churchill and Fisher papers, is a story for the ages. It is about Churchill’s and Fisher’s war – how each fought it, how they waged it together, and how they fought against each other, face to face or behind the scenes. It reveals a strange and unique pairing of sea lords who found themselves facing Armageddon and seeking to maintain the primacy of the Royal Navy, the guardian of trade, the succour of the British peoples, and the shield of Empire.
This is a most enthralling story, well told by Barry Gough. He has distilled and weighed the rancour, political intrigue, strategic and operational challenges and the (mostly) dismal record of the war at sea up to Jutland. The well-known politicians and admirals return to life with all their proclivities – admirable and less so. Gough gives us a fresh interpretation of these portentous times which build on the writings of previous generations of historians and naval commentators. It is a book to be valued as a standard treatise of the times for students of the period – whether they are in the ‘fishpond’ or not.Australian Naval Institute, Tim Coyle
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At 600 pages this book is by far the lengthiest of my Christmas picks but will reward the reader’s investment in time with a dramatic narrative of two titans of the Admiralty locked in perilous destiny at the start of World War I. The author is a prize-winning historian and biographer, well fitted to undertake such a monumental saga, a story for the ages. For those wishing to delve deeper extensive references and an 18-page bibliography are provided.Julian Stockwin action-adventure historical fiction
As featured in competitionPathfinders International, October 2017
With most historians writing about the Western Front as the centennial recollections continue, this foray into the lives of Churchill and Fisher as they battled for naval supremacy over Tirpitz's triumphs comes at just the right time. Barry Gough's examination of the disputes and agreements that saw these two giants of the British government present their respective cases, is an essential piece of first world war history.Books Monthly
The author has produced a portfolio of well-received and prize-winning naval histories. This work is an impressive re-evaluation of the Churchill and Fisher papers that includes two very helpful photo-plate sections – Very Highly Recommended.Firetrench
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As featured in.The bookseller 16/6/17