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Kieran Whitworth asks: How Much Churchill Do You Really Know?
Kieran Whitworth, The Churchill Quiz Book. London: Osprey, 2021, 258 pages, $15, Amazon $12.10, Kindle $8.40.
This is a marvellous book, and I cannot think why it has not been produced before. However well-read you are about Churchill, I can almost guarantee that you will learn something new within these pages.
Author Whitworth, a book buyer for the Imperial War Museum, was obviously inspired by the Cabinet War Rooms. He also produced book a 1000-question quiz book on the Second World War. On Churchill he offers about 800 questions, arranged chronologically, ranging from very straightforward to fiendishly difficult.
Some questions are multiple-choice, some are true-or-false, some are in the forms of anagrams. At least one in each chapter is linked to a photograph. Caution! Some are labelled EXPERT, and Whitworth really means that. Right from the start—Chapter 1, “Beginnings”—will probably stump the best of us. As an example has among its 20 questions are the following:
TRUE or FALSE? Churchill was born three weeks prematurely.
Churchill was baptised in the chapel of the stately home where he was born, but who was his godmother? A) Clementina, Marchioness Islington B) Clementina, Marchioness Camden C) Clementina, Marchioness Knightsbridge?
EXPERT. Who was Frederic Taylor, and how was he connected to Winston Churchill?
ANAGRAM. The stately home where Churchill was born was named after a battle from which European war? “a cops chief as showiness turn.”
How did you do on those?
You probably know that Churchill was born prematurely. You may well have visited Blenheim Palace and seen his birth room. But are you certain how many weeks premature he was? Three weeks sounds reasonable, so you might opt for TRUE. Wrong. It was actually six weeks.
Was there really a Marchioness of Knightsbridge? Did she own Harrods? I guessed Islington, and was wrong. It was Camden.
Frederic Taylor? The name confounded everyone we asked to tell us without tapping a keyboard or a book index. Even then it would be hard. Not many indexes both to list the doctor who presided at baby Winston’s birth.
How good are you on the names of all those European wars of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, those wars of succession? A little juggling of letters and it’s not too difficult to work out the War of the Spanish Succession. I suspect that most of us can manage Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, but would you have remembered the hyphen?
So, on those four, admittedly among the hardest, I managed to score only one. I hope you did better!
The small volume is heavily concentrated on 1939-45, not surprisingly since it was co-produced with the Imperial War Museum. Of the ten chapters, five are about the Second World War. The questions have been very well thought through, and cover almost every aspect of his life, although there is little about Churchill’s family.
Consistent and mostly accurate
Are there mistakes? That is part of the fun in working through the quizzes. If an answer doesn’t ring true you can go to your bookshelves and look it up. Nearly always you will find that Whitworth is correct.
There are a few very minor errors. Because the author has made very few, he will probably appreciate these minor nitpicks. 1) The Hitler purge, “Operation Hummingbird” (“Night of the Long Knives”), began on 30 June in 1934, not 1944 (page 89). 2) The Churchill government defeated in July 1945 was a caretaker Conservative government, not a coalition, the wartime coalition having ended in May (page 191). That’s really good going for a book with so many entries.
Usability might have been enhanced by less complicated division of questions: ten chapters, four sections per chapters, 20 questions per section. This makes it a little difficult instantly to find an answer a specific question. (The answers are grouped at the back.) On the other hand, the answer section is printed in a blue tint, and with a little familiarity this is not a major problem. It’s almost as if Whitworth intends to apply his text to a set of Trivial Pursuits cards—they’d make a nice pastime for Churchill gatherings. High quality coated paper is also a plus, because the little book will probably be handled a lot.
This delightful volume would be a worthy memento of a visit to The Churchill War Rooms in London or venues like Chartwell or Blenheim. Having visited any one, you will be in a much better position to answer the questions Whitworth poses.
Robin Brodhurst, a retired schoolmaster and military historian, is author of Churchill’s Anchor: The Biography of Admiral Sir Dudley Pound. He recently edited The Bramall Papers, a volume of documents and speeches by Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the General Staff.