ROOSEVELT AND CHURCHILL: THE ATLANTIC CHARTER

Reviewed by: SIMON HAILL

The first thought that crosses the reader’s mind when looking at the cover of this book is “I wonder what else can be said about the meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt off Placentia Bay in 1941”. He/she will not be disappointed for out of a total of 203 pages only 29 pages are devoted to covering the significant events surrounding the creation of the Atlantic Charter that that took place in HMS Prince of Wales and USS Augusta over a period of a few days. The consequences of this Charter were significant and still influence our relations with the USA today.

Part One covers the conference itself whilst Part Two, that forms the bulk of the book, is a biography of the significant characters involved – for example Churchill and Roosevelt.  Some of the remaining characters described in this section are probably less well known to the reader – I did not know very much about Sumner Welles and Sir Alexander Cadogan until I read the book. However, the book does not really achieve what it says on the tin – that of presenting a new dimension on the Atlantic Charter.

The book is written in a chatty journalistic style which would perhaps mirror that of one of the more popular tabloid journals and the biographies do make for an interesting read – particularly where they recount how the individual was involved in the creation of the Atlantic Charter. Interestingly the Charter, in effect a treaty between Britain and the USA, was never actually signed by anybody – it merely being typed out by the onboard secretarial staff and then distributed to the principal participants. An interesting photograph of the document with handwritten amendments by Churchill himself adds to the slightly surreal creation of the manuscript.

The photographs are of high quality and evocative in content – especially as many of the naval personnel shown in HMS Prince of Wales were lost in the South China Sea only a very few months after the pictures were taken.

Rather expensive at £25 (Kindle version £7.99) this book may not represent especially good value when its actual content is taken into account. All the biographies of the principal participants can be accessed elsewhere, whilst the description of the meeting in Placentia Bay (Part One) is somewhat light in content.

Perhaps try and borrow someone else’s copy.