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Never Surrender: Winston Churchill and Britain's Decision to Fight Nazi Germany in the Fateful Summer of 1940
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Never Surrender: Winston Churchill and Britain's Decision to Fight Nazi Germany in the Fateful Summer of 1940

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  150 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
A remarkably vivid account of a key moment in Western history: The critical six months in 1940 when Winston Churchill debated whether the British would fight Hitler.

London in April, 1940, was a place of great fear and conflict. Everyone was on edge; civilization itself seemed imperiled. The Germans are marching. They have taken Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, and Czechos
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Scribner
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Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled, “Winston Churchill and Britain’s Decision to fight Nazi Germany in the fateful summer of 1940,” this book examines the early months of WWII from the perspective of Britain, although the fate of France also features highly. In some ways, this excellent book reminded me of others I have read about the early days of the war and, in particular, the fall of the Chamberlain government; such as, “Troublesome Young Men” by Lynne Olson or “Minsters at War,” by Jonathan Schneer. However, this i ...more
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
Very readable account of the decisive months of 1940.

John Kelly’s book tells the story of the decisive six months of 1940 that could have sent world history down a very different path as the members of the British War Cabinet debated whether to negotiate with Hitler or to continue the war.

The story starts with the winter of 1930/40 during the Sitzkrieg through to Hitler’s postponement of Operation Sealion. Kelly has used War Cabinet papers, other government documents, private diaries, newspaper
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Most people in France and Britain, high and low, in the interwar years were determined not to repeat the mistake of going to war as in 1914. When France and Britain went to war again in 1939, they were dreading the specter of another Western Front, and they were almost completely unprepared for the war that was actually fought. In some sense, it was easier for the French to surrender in 1940 with the military situation as bad as it was; France probably could not realistically have done otherwise ...more
Bevan Lewis
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Kelly surfaced on my radar with his 2015 release Never Surrender. I hadn’t heard of him before, although I note he has produced a couple of interesting narrative histories, one on the Black Plague and the other on the Irish potato famine. He began his writing career with a title on clinical trials in the 1990s. His new title heads away from matters medical, instead focussing on the diplomatic and political intrigue of Britain in the first year of World War 2.
Kelly draws on a variety of sou
Jill Hutchinson
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi-wwii
"Peace in our time"....a phrase that would forever besmirch the name of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain after the Munich Accord. Before the ink was dry on that agreement, Hitler was attacking Poland and the war was on. Chamberlain received a vote of "no confidence" and enter Winston Churchill. The first few months of the war, known as the "phony war" gave the Allies (at that point only Britain and France) some time to consider their plans of action.

This book covers one year, 1940, when the ha
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Never Surrender – And we never did!

John Kelly has written an excellent narrative history which all history lovers will enjoy reading and learning from. What is important about this book is that it charts the first six months of 1940 while the phoney war was taking place and high politics in Britain and the internal debates could have sent the country in another direction. It must be remembered that at the time Churchill was on the outside and Lord Halifax was pushing for the country to negotiate
The book begins in 1919 with Britain’s strong resolve of “never again to go to war”; with three million dead no one wanted to think of war again. Kelly writes a careful and detailed story; Churchill is rarely mentioned in the first one hundred pages of this 384 page book. Once WC appears in the story, he becomes dominate and a colorful figure in the narrations.

Kelly is a narrative historian who is meticulous with a detailed history. Kelly covers not only pre-war attempts to maintain peace but th
Chuck Barber
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Having seen the movies “Dunkirk,” which beautifully portrays individual experiences of that event but provides precious little context, and “Darkest Hour,” which necessarily has to conflate or invent events to fit within two hours, I decided to read a history of the British decision to go it alone in 1940. As an American, I knew bits and pieces. For us, after all, the War started on Pearl Harbor Day. This book put the pieces together for me - why were France and England so ill-prepared? How did ...more
Dave Hoff
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
1940, What a year for Britain. A phony war and politics Negotiate with Hitler, prepare to fight to the end? Then the Belgians surrender, the BEF pushed back to Dunkirk. French half hearted response to protect the evac. The British 145th Brigade, commanded by the great grandson of the man who ordered the charge of the Light Brigade left to fight to the last man. Then the French quit and the British Royal Navy wiped out the French war ships that refuse to flee to English waters. Book concludes on ...more
Matthew Barlow
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book proved to be a remarkable look at the behind the scenes debate that was taking place during what was possibly the most difficult moment in British history, without doubt in the twentieth century. Many of us who were not alive at the time easily assume that British participation in WWII was without question and that Winston Churchill was without reproach. This book flips both of these beliefs on their heas.

Kelly's analysis of the events of 1940, specifically the summer of that year, she
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been waiting for this one for months, and frankly, it was worth it.
Never Surrender is yet another brilliant and masterful job by John Kelly, who, it must be noted, has never failed to grip me with his illustrative and generous prose and insights. This is the rare genius of an author who, quite literally, brings to life one of the greatest men of the twentieth century. This is the unique and unequaled promise of Mr. Kelly, whose understanding of history is vast, and who can sift through the
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kelly skilfully weaves politics with a lot of behind the scenes colour in describing the process that led to Churchill succeeding Chamberlain as Prime Minister. This is an interesting book. It gave me a much clearer understanding of why some people disliked or distrusted Churchill while others almost idolised him. I've reviewed it on
John Walker
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The title says it all. Although not perfect, Winston Churchill had the guts to stand up to Hitler and rally his country to fight pure evil. Those were the days when people actually stood up to be counted in a time of world peril. Too bad there aren't too many around today who could lead their nation.

Read the book. If you aren't that informed on World War 2 and if you are you will be inspired.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Kelly's Never Surrender reminds us how the world sat on the thin edge of doom in the summer of 1940. Even though World War 2 had just begun, it might have ended far earlier, had Britain chose to capitulate as Hitler's military prowess swept across Europe. This book reads like a thriller, albeit a slow developing one, as the events gradually and inexorably move toward England having to take nerve-shattering decisions, none of which was remotely appealing: either make peace with Hitler or pro ...more
Stephanie Hatch
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much has been written about this period of WWII (the lead up to Britain and its Empire alone in the war) but I have yet to encounter a book that unfolds it so eloquently and clear for even a person who is unfamiliar with the tale would have no problems understanding. I usually get bogged down in the menagerie of key players and esoteric politics but this book did a great job at keeping it all straight and blending it together. It might come off as a bit sensational but it also captured the gravi ...more
Mike Gunderloy
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
We all (or mostly all) know that Britain gave up on appeasement and moved to fierce resistance when Churchill came in as Prime Minister. This book looks into the way that transition happened, bringing together the military action, the diplomacy, and the internal struggles in the British political establishment. Rather tedious in parts but overall a good addition to my understanding of the start of WWII.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating in depth study of the behind the scenes disagreements and politicking from the pre war months up to the Battle of Britain. Well researched and written, a worthwhile read for all students of WWII and Churchill.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Walsworth
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good book although I think this would be a challenging read if one has a limited knowledge of pre WWII.
Jonathan Z.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jonathan by: My mom
At times it reads like a history text book, at times it reads like a memoir. It just started to get good when it ended.
May 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book is frustrating because it has so much potential, but clearly the editor (or perhaps Kelly himself) gave no fucks. There are copious copyediting errors, and after a while, I had to tune them out just to get through the book. Admittedly, a portion of my time got spent error-checking, Googling, looking up points of interest, and so forth.

What is good: this is an easy, narrative sort of history book. It gives a sense of the players, play by play, but fails to do so in an interesting manner
I was expecting more of a story on Winston Churchill so I ended up being disappointed in what this book had to offer. This book contains instead a lot of the discussions and politics leading up to Britain deciding to go to war so exactly as the title says. However, it's also filled with lots of tedious and repetitive details so it was a difficult book to traverse.

There's a lot of discussion in the first half about Chamberlain and the ultimate decision to have him removed as prime minister and th
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaway-entry, own
This book enlightened me to the reality of the possibility England may not have fought Hitler. To me there could have be no question Great Britain would react the way it did. But ignorance is bliss. It was much more complicated and not black and white. This book explains just how convoluted the situation was and all the personalities and egos involved. And boy were there egos. It also tells the stories of horrific decisions made to save England after the fall of France to the Nazis. The feat Gre ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Kelly's truly brilliant commentary on the early months of Churchill's triumph as prime ministers mister is not simply an impressive piece of scholarship, But an exciting portrayal of a crucial moment in world history. Kelly is a fine storyteller, so, while we all know Britain would come through in the end, Kelly leaves you both involved and empathetic to their challenges of the war's early days. Finally, while unsparing in his analysis of Churchill, Kelly's clear admiration of the PM's talent, m ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a really good book about the events in the UK that led to Churchill's decision to fight the Battle of Britain and not to surrender or make a deal with the Germans as they advanced on the western front. We think of this all happening at once and with unanimity, but there was considerable discussion and debate, not only in the UK but with the French. Nothing was certain except Churchill's belief that it was better to fight first, and then, and only then, if Germany emerge victorious in the ...more
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Interesting and excellent book. During World War II in the beginning stages of it, Nazi Germany invaded and took over a majority of European countries, In which those countries surrendered. Despite nightly bombings by the Germans in London and other areas in Great Britain, The British refused to give in and surrender and instead fight the Nazis. The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lead Britain throughout overwhelming odds and fought back the Nazis.
Frances Sparrow
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book very much. I was a teenager during Churchill's reign and this book brought back many memories. I then gave it to my Great Granddaughter to read as she is interested in History. My Pastor recently mentioned that he is very interested in History so I ask my Great Granddaughter to give it to him when she finishes.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
A little hard to follow.... Very technical and a slow read. I was a bit disappointed because I was looking forward to reading about one of the great leaders in world history.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Never Surrender” by John Kelly is the quintessential history book: plenty of primary sources, great structure, flavorful prose, parsimonious, and very exciting.
Sally Monaghan
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of the behind the scenes efforts of the British and French to oppose Hitler's Germany. I thought it would give more history in Churchill himself.
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John Kelly specializes in narrative history. He is the author of The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People; The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death; The Most Devastating Plague of all Time; Three on the Edge; and more. Kelly lives in New York City and Sandisfield, Massachusetts.
More about John Kelly

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“diary. “I couldn’t help but think how ill conditioned Churchill looked and the fact that there was a tray with plenty of liquor on it alongside him and he was drinking a Scotch highball, which I felt was indeed not the first one he had drunk that night. . . . The affairs of Great Britain might be in the hands of the most dynamic individual in Great Britain, but certainly not in the hands of the best judgment in Great Britain.” 1 likes
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