Filed under: History, World War II | Tags: 1940, Churchill, Houae of Commons, Nazi Germany
Seventy-five years ago today, Winston Churchill stood defiantly before Parliament and delivered a speech that roused not only Britain, but the free world. Churchill had long warned that Adolf Hitler was a threat to the free world, and that Nazi Germany represented tyranny. He was convinced that only Britain and her American cousins stood in the way.
In 1933, the Army of the United States numbered 137,000 men, the 16th in the world. The French army was 5 million strong. Roosevelt declared the United States neutral. Russia invaded Poland from the east. 1940: Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister. Germany invaded Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Dutch army surrendered, Belgium capitulated.
May 29 to June 3, trapped British forces were evacuated from Dunkirk by a vast flotilla of Navy ships and brave little boats manned by British volunteers. At the outset, it was hoped that 45,000 men might be rescued, but the seas remained calm and the Royal Air Force fought to deny the enemy air supremacy. Over 338,000 allied troops reached England, including 26,000 French soldiers. That was the situation when Winston Churchill, the new Prime Minister, rose to speak to the House of Commons and the British people.
The speech is long, and to be found here in its entirety It ended with these long remembered stirring words:
…we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. 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, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
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