Speeches

Churchill’s Fighting Speech to US Congress

Churchill tells the US Congress that Britain is committed to fighting Japan

“It is the duty of those who are charged with the direction of the war to overcome at the earliest moment the military, geographical and political difficulties and begin the process so necessary and desirable of laying the cities and other munition centres of Japan in ashes, for in ashes they must surely lie before peace comes back to the world. ”

‘And here let me say: let no one suggest that we British have not at least as great an interest as the United States in the unflinching and relentless waging of war against Japan. But I am here to tell you that we will wage that war side by side with you, in accordance with the best strategic employment of our forces while there is breath in our bodies and while blood flows in our veins.

The African war is over. Mussolini’s African Empire and Corporal Hitler’s strategy are alike exploded. One continent at least has been cleansed and purged forever from Fascist and Nazi tyranny.

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War of the Unknown Warriors

July 14, 1940.

BBC Broadcast, London

During June and early July, the German Air Force was regrouped to open the vital first stage of “Operation Sea Lion” (the invasion of Britain) by destroying the Royal Air Force. The Battle of Britain began on July 10.

During the last fortnight the British Navy, in addition to blockading what is left of the German Fleet and chasing the Italian Fleet, has had imposed upon it the sad duty of putting effectually out of action for the duration of the war the capital ships of the French Navy. These, under the Armistice terms, signed in the railway coach at Compiegne, would have been placed within the power of Nazi Germany. The transference of these ships to Hitler would have endangered the security of both Great Britain and the United States. We therefore had no choice but to act as we did, and to act forthwith. Our painful task is now complete. Although the unfinished battleship, the Jean Bart, still rests in a Moroccan harbor and there are a number of French warships at Toulon and in various French ports all over the world, these are not in a condition or of a character to derange our preponderance of naval power. As long, therefore, as they make no attempt to return to ports controlled by Germany or Italy, we shall not molest them in any way. That melancholy phase in our relations with France has, so far as we are concerned, come to an end.

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Their Finest Hour

June 18, 1940

House of Commons

churchill bbcImage © BBC.COMI spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern Armies from Belgium at the moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse. This delay entailed the loss of fifteen or sixteen French divisions and threw out of action for the critical period the whole of the British Expeditionary Force. Our Army and 120,000 French troops were indeed rescued by the British Navy from Dunkirk but only with the loss of their cannon, vehicles and modern equipment. This loss inevitably took some weeks to repair, and in the first two of those weeks the battle in France has been lost. When we consider the heroic resistance made by the French Army against heavy odds in this battle, the enormous losses inflicted upon the enemy and the evident exhaustion of the enemy, it may well be the thought that these 25 divisions of the best-trained and best-equipped troops might have turned the scale. However, General Weygand had to fight without them. Only three British divisions or their equivalent were able to stand in the line with their French comrades. They have suffered severely, but they have fought well. We sent every man we could to France as fast as we could re-equip and transport their formations. Read More >

We Shall Fight on the Beaches

June 4, 1940

House of Commons

The position of the B. E.F had now become critical As a result of a most skillfully conducted retreat and German errors, the bulk of the British Forces reached the Dunkirk bridgehead. The peril facing the British nation was now suddenly and universally perceived. On May 26, “Operation Dynamo “–the evacuation from Dunkirk began. The seas remained absolutely calm. The Royal Air Force–bitterly maligned at the time by the Army–fought vehemently to deny the enemy the total air supremacy which would have wrecked the operation. At the outset, it was hoped that 45,000 men might be evacuated; in the event, over 338,000 Allied troops reached England, including 26,000 French soldiers. On June 4, Churchill reported to the House of Commons, seeking to check the mood of national euphoria and relief at the unexpected deliverance, and to make a clear appeal to the United States.


From the moment that the French defenses at Sedan and on the Meuse were broken at the end of the second week of May, only a rapid retreat to Amiens and the south could have saved the British and French Armies who had entered Belgium at the appeal of the Belgian King; but this strategic fact was not immediately realized. The French High Command hoped they would be able to close the gap, and the Armies of the north were under their orders. Moreover, a retirement of this kind would have involved almost certainly the destruction of the fine Belgian Army of over 20 divisions and the abandonment of the whole of Belgium. Therefore, when the force and scope of the German penetration were realized and when a new French Generalissimo, General Weygand, assumed command in place of General Gamelin, an effort was made by the French and British Armies in Belgium to keep on holding the right hand of the Belgians and to give their own right hand to a newly created French Army which was to have advanced across the Somme in great strength to grasp it.

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The General Strike

May 3, 1926. House of Commons.

The Royal Commission on the coal-mining industry, under Sir Herbert Samuel’s chairmanship, had reported on 11 March. Its principal positive recommendations were for the future; its short-term proposals involved a reduction of wages for the miners. The owners also wanted longer hours. These terms were unacceptable to the unions, and deadlock occurred. On 1 May the miners were locked out, and a special trade union meeting approved plans for a national strike to take place on 3 May. Negotiations took place throughout 2 May, and were broken off by the Government late at night when it learned that the Daily Mail compositors had refused to typeset the newspaper in protest against a fiery leader (editorial) by the editor, Marlowe. In such confused circumstances Britain lurched towards her first general strike. The feeling that Churchill had been one of the ministers most hostile to a negotiated settlement seriously damaged his relations with organised labour until the Second World War, and to some extent even after it.

—Sir Robert Rhodes James

The right hon. Gentleman has certainly preserved the calm and restraint which he enjoined upon others and, indeed, the extreme self-control which the House has shown throughout this Debate is the measure of the deep anxiety and sorrow we all feel at the miserable turn which the fortunes of our country have taken. We gladly recognise the efforts for peace which have been made by the Trade Union Committee, by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last and, of course, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who has striven with all the compulsive and persuasive powers of his nature and of his experience to bring about a warding-off of this shocking disaster in our national life.

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