‘Mary Churchill’s War’ Review: What Did You Do in the War, Mary?

Mary, the youngest of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s five children, was 17 at the outbreak of World War II. When her father was named prime minister, her family moved into 10 Downing Street. She was with him at key moments, when he wrote his speeches, addressed Parliament and dined at home with eminent politicians. She accompanied him on tours of the blitzed cities of Cardiff and Bristol, was his aide de camp at conferences in Quebec and Potsdam, and saw him march down the Champs-Élysées at the liberation of Paris. Throughout all this, she kept diaries, now published as “Mary Churchill’s War.” They are both a historic record of wartime Britain and an unabashed love letter to her father.

Mary was short and stocky (Winston was only 5 foot 6) with a pretty, square-jawed face. She held her own among the formidable people she encountered, from Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden to Noël Coward and Lord Mountbatten (whom she dubbed “Glamor Pants”). She describes being seated at lunch next to Charles de Gaulle, “a stern, direct giant” who tells her (she quotes him in French) that “France now only exists in the souls of her faithful sons and in the hearts of those in a foreign land who still fight against tyranny. ”

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