Book Review – ‘Staring at God – Britain in the Great War’

A few years ago I was very fortunate to undertake an unplanned tour of the Ypres battlefields from the 1914-1918 Great War. My wife and I were enjoying a short holiday in Brugge and decided to spend a day on a guided tour (because the weather was so brutally cold – it was mid-December – we had exhausted all the indoor museums and the only option left was outdoors. At least on a tour we could be inside a warm vehicle!).

Two memories remain from that tour. The first was finding without planning, thanks to our luck of having a first class military historian as our guide, the area where my Grandfather was taken prisoner in 1940 during the retreat to Dunkirk (he then spent the period 1940 to 1945 in various German Prisoner of War camps). The second was, despite my own natural curiosity in the war from my background as a military officer, a new fascination with the Great War of 1914-1918.


I have read many books since on the military aspects of the war, so to find a book which focuses on what could be described the ‘home front’ has been a thoroughly unexpected education. ‘Staring at God – Britain in the Great War’, by Simon Heffer, is his third volume of the period 1838-1939, and covers 1914-1919. There are 12 sections in the book, logically following the sequence of the period, overlapping chronologically where necessary to maintain the dialogue. We travel from Build-Up, War, through to a Coalition, then consider Conscription, the Political Coup of 1916, Attrition (Somme and Passchendaele), and end with the Armistice and then the Aftermath.

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The International Churchill Society – celebrating individualism

This week I attended a champagne reception for the International Churchill Society (of which I am member) at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill. The event launched the new Churchill book ‘How Churchill Waged War’ by ‘Allen Packwood’. The evening was opened by Randolph Churchill, and then Mr Packwood provided an overview of his book and the research he had undertaken into the subject (he is the senior archivist at Churchill College).IMG_1813

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Inspect, not expect – a vital leadership lesson

I have been reading William Manchester and Paul Reid’s book ‘Defender of the Realm’ – the final book in the ‘Last Lion’ trilogy biography of Winston Churchill. It is an exhaustively researched and detailed account of Churchill’s life in World War Two. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940 he was 65 years old and during the next 5 years of leading the country in war suffered at least 3 heart attacks or minor strokes. He also developed pneumonia twice. Yet he emerged from his exertions in 1945 70 years old, victorious, lived another 20 years and became known as arguably the greatest ever Englishman!

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Building a creative culture

With the increase in popularity, and effectiveness, of ‘working from home’ as a standard operating procedure in many not-for-profit organisations clear instructions from you as the leader are always needed to establish a creative environment. Moreover, my organisation, which has members/impact in 87 countries across the world, often sees my staff travelling and operating in different time zones and often the other side of the world where they need to have the flexibility to make decisions and not waste time.

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