Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, the renowned fighter ace, and fellow pilots study a caricature of Hitler painted on a Hawker Hurricane in October 1940.

This was their finest hour

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)

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The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain

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More information about: This was their finest hour

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.

  1. the "Blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech of 13 May, given 3 days after the start of the German offensive in the West; his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister, reporting the formation of an all-party coalition government implacably resolved to fight on to ultimate victory
  2. the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech of 4 June, reporting the success of the Germans in over-running Holland, Belgium and France north of the Somme, and the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk, and preparing the British to fight on alone, if necessary.
  3. This speech, made to the House of Commons after France had sought an armistice on the evening of 16 June.

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, summing up the review as follows

He reported messages of support from the Dominions 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.

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