On 18 June, after France fell to the Germans, Winston Churchill delivered his 'Finest Hour' speech, rallying the country for the imminent battle for Britain.
Photo: Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, the renowned fighter ace, and fellow pilots study a caricature of Hitler painted on a Hawker Hurricane in October 1940. (IWM CH 1412)
Mo Mowlam analyses the "Finest Hour" speech
Mo Mowlam MP describes what led to Churchill giving the "Finest Hour" speech and gives her reaction to Churchill's inspiring words.
Lady Soames and Gore Vidal offer their thoughts on the origins of Churchill's oratorical skills.
Lady Soames, Churchill's daughter, describes his astounding memory and his skills as an orator. Gore Vidal, meanwhile, claims Churchill was influenced by an Irish-American speaker called William Bourke Cochran.
This was their finest hour is the title commonly used for a speech delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 18 June 1940. It was given just over a month after he took over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the head of an all-party coalition government.
It was the third of three speeches which he gave during (roughly) the period of the Battle of France.
He justified the low level of support it had been possible to give to France since Dunkirk, and reported the successful evacuation of most of the supporting forces. He resisted pressure to purge the coalition of appeasers, or otherwise indulge in recrimination. He reviewed the forces still available to prevent or repel any attempted invasion,[note 2] summing up the review as follows:
He reported messages of support from the Dominions[note 3] and justified confidence in victory, even if it was not yet clear how that victory could be achieved.
The peroration – quoted below – even at a moment of great apparent danger to British national survival talks not only of national survival and national interest, but of noble causes (freedom, Christian civilisation, the rights of small nations) for which Britain was fighting and for which Churchill thought the United States should – and given time would – fight.[note 4]