by Hal Klepak
Stroud, Eng.: Spellmount History Press / Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 2015. Pp. 228.
Illus., maps, chron., notes, biblio., index. $46.95. ISBN: 0750962259
Churchill’s First War
In the first book on Churchill’s 1895 Cuban adventure, Prof. Klepak (emeritus Royal Military College of Canada) looks at the man’s first campaign. In 1895, shortly after being commissioned in the British Army, Churchill went to Cuba on his own, as a correspondent, in part to test his reaction to being under fire; he got his wish on his 21st birthday, in a minor skirmish at Iguara on November 30th, during which his deportment was such that the Spanish awarded him the Medalla Militar, Primero Classe, the first of his many decorations.
Churchill’s time in Cuba was short, but Klepak uses Churchill’s experiences during those three weeks as the focal point of an inquiry into the man within the framework of his times. So he offers us a look at Churchill’s family background, education, and social life. Even for a member of a wealthy upper class family, there were a number of important aspects of living in the age that are now often overlooked, such as the role of personal connection on careers and the surprisingly steep financial demands under members of the upper classes had to exist. Of course Klepak also offers some insights into the ins and outs of the military life of the British Empire at its height.
In the process of telling us about Churchill’s background, we get a nuanced account of the Cuban Revolution and the Spanish response and of Churchill’s brief role in the events. Klepak discusses how the Cuban adventure influenced Churchill’s views on war and politics, and in two particularly useful chapters, uses the young man’s own writings, including not only his newspaper dispatches but also private letters, to throw light on his rather impressive skill at political and military analysis.
This is a good read for anyone interested in Churchill.
Note: Churchill Comes of Age is also available in several e-editions