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1942 – Britain At The Brink

 

‘Downing brings vividly to life the story of a terrible year’ Max Hastings, The Sunday Times, 2 January 2022.


Most people think that Britain’s worst moment of the war was in 1940 when the nation stood up against the threat of German invasion with the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. But in 1942 - Britain at the Brink, Taylor Downing argues that Britain’s darkest hour was actually in 1942 when the British people faced the prospect of military defeat.

In 1942, a string of military disasters engulfed Britain in rapid succession. The collapse in Malaya, the biggest surrender in British history at Singapore, the passing of three large German warships through the Straits of Dover in broad daylight, the longest ever retreat through Burma to the gates of India, failures and defeat of the Eighth Army to Rommel’s forces in North Africa, the siege of Malta and the surrender at Tobruk. All of this occurred against the backdrop of catastrophic shipping losses in the Atlantic and in supplying Russia in the Arctic convoys. The run of military failures created a crisis for Winston Churchill and his government. People began to claim that Churchill was not up to the job and his leadership was failing badly. Public morale collapsed. 1942 Britain At the Brinkexplores the story of frustration and despair in that year prompting the Prime Minister to demand of his army chief ‘Have you not got a single general who can win battles?’ Using new archival material, historian Taylor Downing shows just how unpopular Churchill became in 1942 with two votes attacking his leadership in the Commons and the emergence of a serious political rival. After El Alamein and Stalingrad the war took a favourable turn for the Allies: but this pivotal year is described in nail biting detail, bringing a fresh eye on the events of eighty years ago.