Chosen for Summer 2015-16 People’s Book Prize Collection.

This engaging poem depicts Winston Churchill as a hero, in traditional epic style and echoes the works of Homer and Virgil. The metre adds an emotional intensity to the events of 20th century history more usually found within Classical literature. The narrative covers the period from 1940, when Great Britain faced perhaps the greatest threat to its very existence as an independent nation: invasion and defeat by the rampant forces of Nazi Germany, to 1941 when the United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In this acute crisis King George VI appointed a man whose reputation and earlier political success were questioned by many influential figures. Yet public opinion and some wiser men and women of substance, such as Lord Halifax, the alternative choice as Prime Minister at the time, determined the outcome.

Their choice was thoroughly vindicated by the events that followed. His courage, boldness, rhetoric and inspiration united the country in its solitary stand against the might of the Luftwaffe and the potential landing of the dreaded Wehrmacht on British soil. Under his leadership the Royal Air Force defeated the Luftwaffe’s attack, foiling Hitler’s plans to invade England to the extent that he began to think instead of attacking his apparent ally, the Soviet Union, and to leave Britain to wither alone.

Churchill knew that that he had only won a respite, but he set about to strengthen the country and to turn it from defence to aggression. The bomber force was developed, the army enlarged and re-equipped, the navy set to the task of eliminating German surface marauders and submarines. The population at large were motivated to make a supreme effort to resist the still extant threat to their whole way of life.

Until Hitler attacked Russia, Britain stood alone, confronting a Europe largely controlled by the Nazis and their allies. To Stalin he offered full support: Hitler was the immediate threat to a civilised world. Only when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the USA into the war, did he realise that Germany – and Japan – were sure to be defeated. He had led the British people from the brink of utter disaster to the expectation of victory.


Author Details
Brian Hodgkinson, who taught history for many years, has published three books of poems, as well as others on history, philosophy and economics. He is currently working on a narrative poem on the history of the Second World War.

You can read more about Brian Hodgkinson on his author page.


Brian Hodgkinson was interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford about his poem.
Listen to the recording here.

“As an epic poem, he has certainly chosen a fitting subject. Who better to match the wit and tongue of Odysseus, the drive of Aeneas to survive, the hope of Dante to retrieve something precious from the clutches of hell, and the pride of Satan fighting against all odds to remain defiant?
Hodgkinson certainly gets Churchill’s character correct. He has also centered on two themes for his epic: the memory of the wound of Gallipoli, which threatens repeatedly to undo all Churchill is fighting for, and even more potently, the ties Churchill has to the British people… Churchill’s connection to the common citizen is conveyed in thrilling terms quite often. The heart of the poem comes with one of Churchill’s morning-after visits during the Blitz:

He visited the stricken Londoners
When fires still raged, and ruined buildings stood
Like skeletons amidst the rubble heaps;
Where tiny paper flags—the Union Jack—
Waved bravely on some workers’ shattered homes.
…When Churchill came
Unsure of his reception, he was mobbed.
‘Good old Winnie,’ many of them cried.
‘We can take it! Give it to ‘em back!’
A woman shouted, ‘See he really cares.’
She’d seen that he could not restrain his tears.”

Robert James, Finest Hour

“Definitely read it out loud because the marvellous thing about the poem is the beat of the drum of destiny which rouses the spirits and reminds us to look out for war stalking the world and be ready to fight for real freedom.”
You can meditate too blog.

“This is an amazing book written in ‘heroic poem form’. The author writes beautifully and with ardour! …I read it three times during one day.”
From a 5* Amazon ReviewRead full review here.

“Brian Hodgkinson’s encyclopaedic knowledge of history and beautiful mastery of language enable him to convey with mounting intensity the events leading up to the declaration of war…. For greater emotional impact read this heroic poem aloud.”
From a 5* Amazon ReviewRead full review here.