The first weeks of September 1911 found a thirty-six-year-old Winston Churchill crouched on the beach at Broadstairs, Kent with shovel and pail, determinedly digging an elaborate suite of “stout fortifications and sand castles.”

Churchill, then Home Secretary and a leading light of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith’s Liberal government, naturally attracted the attention of a correspondent for the Daily Mirror, which next day ran a story titled “Mr. Churchill’s Spade Work.” Though he avowed that his purpose was merely to amuse his daughter and other children on the beach, Churchill’s close friends suspected that their Winston’s active imagination was at work on something else. Family lawyer and confidante Eddie Marsh read the piece and wrote, “I wonder if the Germans heard that the Home Secretary was spending his holiday in personally fortifying the South...

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