Title: His Finest Hours: Great War Speeches of Winston Churchill.
Author: Winston Churchill (compiled by Graham Stewart).
Genre: Non-fiction, WWII, politics, history, speeches.
Publication Date: 1939-1946 (book published 2009).
Summary: The greatest British statesman and a truly outstanding orator, Winston Churchill steered his nation through the bloodiest war in history. His famous speeches raised the morale of an anxious people - but also warned them of the perils ahead. Opening with his 1939 broadcast and closing with his prophetic statement in 1946, thia book presents Churchill's most rousing wartime speeches. Graham Stewart's perceptive commentary introduces each speech by explaining its background and the key events of the time and together with iconic war-time photography, is a concise and compelling history of the Second World War.
My rating: 10/10.
♥ One thing that has struck me as very strange, and that is the resurgence of the one-man power after all these centuries of experience and progress. It is curious how the English-speaking peoples have always had this horror of one-man power. They are quite ready to follow a leader for a time, as long as he is serviceable to them, but the idea of handing themselves over, lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to one man, and worshipping him as if he were an idol; that has always been odious to the whole theme and nature of civilization… But in Germany, on a mountain peak, there sits one man, who in a single day can release the world from the fear which now oppresses it; or, in a single day can plunge all that we have and are into a volcano of smoke and flame.
♥ I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…
♥ Even in Germany itself there are millions who stand aloof from the seething mass of criminality and corruption constituted by the Nazi Party machine. Let them take courage amid perplexities and perils, for it may well be that the final extinction of a baleful domination will pave the way to a broader solidarity of all the men in all the lands than we could ever have planned if we had not marched together through the fire.
♥ I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
♥ Behind them - behind us - behind the armies and fleets of Britain and France - gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians - upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken eve by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of truth and justice: ‘Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.’
♥ I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, 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.
♥ ...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…
♥ Much will depend upon this; every man and every woman will have the chance to show the finest qualities of their race, and render the highest service to their cause. For all of us, at this time, whatever our sphere, our station, our occupation or our duties, it will help to remember the famous line:
‘He nothing common did or mean,
Upon that memorable scene.’
♥ What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned upon us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, ‘This was their finest hour.’
♥ I leave the judgement of our action, with confidence, to Parliament. I leave it to the nation, and I leave it to the United States. I leave it to the world and history…
♥ Who can foresee what the course of other years will bring? Faith is given us, to help and comfort us when we stand in awe before the unfurling scroll of human destiny.
♥ We are fighting by ourselves alone; but we are not fighting for ourselves alone. ...we await undismayed the impending assault. Perhaps it will come tonight. Perhaps it will come next week. Perhaps it will never come… But the ordeal sharp or long, or both, we shall seek no terms, we shall tolerate no parley; we may show no mercy - we shall ask for none.
♥ But all depends now upon the whole life-strength of the British race in every part of the world and of all our associated peoples and of all our well-wishers in every land, doing their utmost night and day, giving all, daring all, enduring all - to the utmost - to the end. This is no war of chieftains or princes, of dynasties or national ambition; it is a war of peoples and of causes. There are vast number not only in this island but in every land, who will render a 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.
♥ It is with devout but sure confidence that I say: Let God defend the right.
♥ It is a message of good cheer to our fighting forces on the seas, in the air, and in our waiting armies in all their posts and stations, that we send them from this capital city. They know that they have behind them a people who will not flinch or weary of the struggle - hard and protracted though it will be; but that we shall rather draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival, and of a victory won not only for our own time, but for the long and better days that are to come.
♥ Do not imagine, as the German-controlled wireless tells you, that we English seek to take your ships and colonies. We seek to beat the life and soul out of Hitler and Hitlerism. That alone, that all the time, that to the end.We do not covet anything from any nation except their respect.
♥ Good night then: sleep to gather strength for the morning. For the morning will come. Brightly it will shine on the brave and true, kindly upon all who suffer for the cause, glorious upon the tomb of heroes. Thus will shine the dawn...Long live also the forward march of the common people in all the lands towards their just and true inheritance, and towards the broader and fuller age.
♥ It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamps stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.
♥ No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism than I have for the last 25 years. I will unsay no word that I have spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding. The past with its crimes, its follies and tragedies, flashes away. I see the Russian soldiers standing on the threshold of their native land, guarding the fields which their fathers have tilled from time immemorial. I see them guarding their homes where mothers and wives pray - ah yes, for there are times when all pray - for the safety of their loved ones, the return of the bread-winner, of their champion, of their protector. I see the 10,000 villages of Russia, where the means of existence was wrung so hardly from the soil, but where there are still primordial human joys, where maidens laugh and children play.
♥ We have at least four-fifths of the population of the globe upon our side.
We are responsible for their safety and for their future. In the past we have had a light which flickered, in the present we have a light which flames, and in the future there will be a light which shines over all the land and sea.
♥ I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father’s house to believe in democracy. ‘Trust the people’ - that was his message. I used to see him cheered at meetings and in the streets by crowds of working men way back in those aristocratic Victorian days when, as Disraeli said, the world was for the few, and for the very few. Therefore I have been in full harmony all my life with the tides which have flowed on both sides of the Atlantic against privilege and monopoly, and I have steered confidently towards the Gettysburg ideal of ‘government of the people by the people for the people.’
♥ I should like to point out to you that we have not at any time asked for any mitigation in the fury or malice of the enemy. The peoples of the British Empire may love peace. They do not seek the lands or wealth of any country, but they are a tough and hardy lot. We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.
Look at the Londoners, the Cockneys; look at what they have stood up to. Grim and gray with their cry ‘We can take it’, and their wartime mood of ‘What is good enough for anybody is good enough for us.’ We have not asked that the rules of the game should be modified. We shall never descend to the German and Japanese level, but if anybody likes to play rough we can play rough too. Hitler and his Nazi gang have sown the wind; let them reap the whirlwind. Neither the length of the struggle nor any form of severity which it may assume shall make us weary or shall make us quit.
♥ When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told them their prime minister and his divided Cabinet, ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken. Some neck.
♥ Let us then address ourselves to our task, not in anyway underrating its tremendous difficulties and perils, but in good heart and sober confidence, resolved that, whatever the cost, whatever the suffering, we shall stand by one another, true and faithful comrades, and do our duty, God helping us, to the end.
♥ But now I must speak of the great republic of the United States whose power arouses no fear and whose pre-eminence excites no jealousy in British bosoms. Upon the fraternal association and intimate alignment of policy of the United States and the British Commonwealth and Empire depends, more than on any other factor, the immediate future of the world. If they walk, or if need be march, together in harmony and in accordance with the moral and political conceptions to which the English-speaking peoples have given birth, and which are frequently referred to in the Atlantic Charter, all will be well. If they fall apart and wander astray from the commanding beacon-light of their destiny, there is no end or measure to the miseries and confusion which await modern civilization.
♥ That, I think, is a defence for the people of Italy - one defence - although there can be no really valid defence for any country or any people which allows its freedom and inherent rights to pass out of its own hands.
♥ Such a course might well, in practice, turn the sense of liberation, which it may soon be in our power to bestow upon the Italian people, into a sullen discontent against us and all our works. The rescuers might soon, indeed, be regarded as tyrants; they might even be hated by the Italian people as much or almost as much as their German allies. I certainly do not wish, in the case of Italy, to tread a path which might lead to execution squads and concentrating camps, and above all to have to carry on our shoulders a lot of people who ought to be made to carry themselves.
♥ The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affair, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.
♥ If we are together, nothing is impossible If we are divided, all will fail. I therefore preach continually the doctrine of the fraternal association of our two peoples, not for any purpose of gaining invidious material advantages for either of them, not for territorial aggrandisement or the vain pomp of earthly domination, but for the sake of service to mankind and for the honour that comes to those who faithfully serve great causes.
Here let me say how proud we ought to be, young and old alike, to live in this tremendous, thrilling, formative epoch in the human story, and how fortunate it was for the world that when these great trials came upon it there was a generation that terror could not conquer and brutal violence could not enslave. Let all who are here remember, as the words of the hymn we have just sung suggest, let all of us who are here remember that we are on the stage if history, and that whatever our station may be, and whatever part we have to play, great or small, our conduct is liable to be scrutinized not only by history but by our own descendants.
let us rise to the full level of our duty and of our opportunity, and let us thank God for the spiritual rewards he has granted for all forms of valiant and faithful service.
♥ ‘Not in vain’ may be the pride of those who have survived and the epitaph of those who fell.
♥ I decline absolutely to embark here on a discussion about Russian good faith. It is quite evident that these matters touch the whole future of the world. Sombre indeed would be the fortunes of mankind if some awful schism arose between the western democracies and the Russian Soviet Union, if the future world organization were rent asunder, and if new cataclysms of inconceivable violence destroyed all that is left of the treasures and liberties of mankind.
♥ In 1940 and 1941, when we in this island were all alone, and invasion was so near, the actual steps one ought to take ad our attitude towards them seemed plain and simple. If a man is coming across the sea to kill you, you do everything in your power rto make sure he dies before finishing his journey. That may be difficult, it may be painful, but at least it is simple. Now we are entering a world of imponderables, and at every stage occasions for self-questioning arise. It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.
♥ If we adhere faithfully to the Charter of the United Nations and walk forward in sedate and sober strength seeking no one’s land or treasure, seeking to lay no arbitrary control upon the thoughts of men; if all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association, the high-roads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come.