We have detected that you are using an older version of Internet Explorer and to have access to all the features on this site, you will need to update your browser to Internet Explorer 8. Alternatively, download Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.

The most overrated leader of WW2

LAURENCE REES: The single most overrated leader?

SIR MAX HASTINGS: There were so many. A basic fact about leaders in Western Democracies, was that Roosevelt and Churchill constantly found themselves imprisoned by propaganda, because when you appointed a general or an air marshal or an admiral, the newspapers and the radio for months thereafter built him up into a great popular hero. Once he’d been built into a great popular hero he became fantastically difficult to sack. So there’s no doubt that Portal would have loved to have sacked Bomber Harris in the winter of 1944-45, but he couldn’t because propaganda had told everybody this was Bomber Harris; the master of Britain’s bomber offensive, a great popular figure. Macarthur in the Far East, a great national figure; there is an almost endless roll call of inadequate commanders who had been allowed to become so famous that they couldn’t be fired.