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The U-Boat Mastered – two galley-proofs for The Second World War, heavily emended in Churchill’s hand.
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The U-Boat Mastered – two galley-proofs for The Second World War, heavily emended in Churchill’s hand.

Published: London: 10 February & 19 April, 1950

Stock code: 88386

Price: £35,000

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Working material towards Churchill’s The Second World War is rarely encountered on the market, offered here is a revealing pair of galley proofs towards the section covering the climax of the war against the U-Boats. This account was originally intended for Volume IV but was eventually incorporated into the first chapter of Volume V, The Closing of the Ring, entitled “The Command of the Seas”. Elsewhere in his famous account of the conflict Churchill had described the “U-Boat peril” as “the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war”, and here he opens with the assertion that “The story of the Battle of the Atlantic colours the whole sombre fabric of the war. Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea, or in the air, depended ultimately on the outcome of this mighty struggle …” before offering his dramatic narrative of the fulcral period of the battle. As late as November 1942, Churchill writes, “Allied losses at sea … were the heaviest of the whole war,” with a holograph addition, folded into the second version that “at the same time all our escorts had to be cut to the bone for the sake of ‘Torch'”, the Allied landings in North Africa. The battle was turned by a number of factors: the arrangement with the President to send “all suitable American aircraft fitted with the latest type of radar to work from the United Kingdom”; the more effective combination of air and sea power, “the long-range air cover at last kept down the shadowing U-boats, and broke up their concentrations, while the close surface escorts dealt with the attackers”; and of course, probably most significant of all but still unmentionable in 1950, was the Ultra intelligence being processed at Bletchley Park, here concealed in a “cryptic reference to ‘other measures'” (Pearson, The Command of History, p.320). Churchill concludes triumphally, and with a glance forward to Overlord; “In June the shipping losses fell to the lowest figure recorded since the United States had entered the war. The convoys were coming through intact and the Atlantic supply line was safe. This decisive event in the war alone rendered possible the supreme operations of 1944.” A fascinating documentary insight into Churchill’s working methods on his most celebrated history.

The first consisting of cover-sheet and 6 printed leaves, with 3 interpolated typed leaves on the versos of discarded galleys for another section; the second , cover-sheet and 5 leaves. The first is extensively annotated in blue pencil, and blue and red ink, with Churchill’s holograph emendations and additions, together with the corrections of Charles Carlyle Wood, the veteran proof-reader who Churchill had retained as a result of the typo-strewn first issue of The Gathering Storm; the second has just a couple of minor corrections, but is signed off with with Churchill’s red pencilled initials on the cover sheet. The first hole-punched in the top left-hand corner, cover sheet with this corner partly torn away, overall a little toned; the second punched and retaining the original treasury tag fastening, also lightly toned, overall very good.

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