Churchill is often referred to as the greatest orator of the 20th century. The speeches he made during the summer of 1940 established the policy of 'no surrender', and made people feel they were not alone in the struggle against Hitler.
He had a supreme command of English, but he was not a natural public speaker. He would often practise his speeches for many hours and had a slight stammer and lisp.
'... We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ...'
From 27 May to 4 June 1940, some 226,000 British and 110,000 French troops were rescued from the channel port of Dunkirk, by a fleet ranging from small civilian pleasure boats to Navy destroyers. Churchill spoke to the British nation on 4 June. His honesty about Dunkirk being a massive defeat for the Allies won his listeners' trust, but he also used his rhetoric to inspire the British people to come to terms with their predicament and fight on. Because these words are so famous, it's often overlooked what made them so effective. By telling the British people how heroic they were going to be, he gave them no choice but to play out their parts in the script he had written, or be shamed.
'War of the Unknown Warriors', 14 July 1940
'... This is no war of chieftains or of princes, of dynasties or national ambition; it is a war of peoples and of causes. There are vast numbers, not only in this island but in every land, who will render faithful service in this war, but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded. This is a War of the Unknown Warriors; but let all strive without failing in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted from our age ...'
During May and June of 1940, the Germans overran France, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg and, on 17 June, France sued for peace. The German Air Force was regrouped during June and early July, to open the first stage of the invasion of Britain by destroying the Royal Air Force. The Battle of Britain began on 10 July.
'This is your victory!' - 8 May 1945
'This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried. Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the unbending resolve of the British nation. God bless you all.'
The German forces in Europe surrendered to the Allies on 7 May 1945. During the celebrations that followed the announcement of the end of the war, Churchill appeared on the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall, to speak to the vast crowd. After the words 'This is your victory!', the crowd roared back, 'No - it is yours!'
The audio has been reproduced by courtesy of Curtis Brown on behalf of the Estate of Sir Winston Churchill.
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