Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was a member of the Liberal Party.
The Importance of Churchill’s speeches
Churchill walks through the ruins of Coventry Cathedral with Alfred Robert Grindlay, 1941
Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of 338,226 Allied servicemen from Dunkirk, ended on Tuesday, 4 June when the French rearguard surrendered. The total was far in excess of expectations and it gave rise to a popular view that Dunkirk had been a miracle, and even a victory. Churchill himself referred to “a miracle of deliverance” in his “We shall fight on the beaches” speech to the Commons that afternoon, though he shortly reminded everyone that: “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations”. Germany initiated Fall Rot the following day and Italy joining them on the 10th. The Wehrmacht occupied Paris on the 14th and completed their conquest of France on 25 June. It was now inevitable that Hitler would attack and probably try to invade Great Britain. Churchill said in his “finest hour” speech to the Commons on 18 June: “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin”.
Churchill’s speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled British. His first as prime minister was the famous “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech. One historian has called its effect on Parliament “electrifying”. The House of Commons that had ignored him during the 1930s “was now listening, and cheering”. Churchill followed that closely with two other equally famous speeches, given just before the Battle of Britain. One included the words:
… 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.
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 still say, ‘This was their finest hour’.
Churchill is greeted by a crowd in Québec City, Canada, 1943
At the height of the Battle of Britain, his bracing survey of the situation included the memorable line “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”, which engendered the enduring nickname The Few for the RAF fighter pilots who won it. He first spoke these famous words upon his exit from No. 11 Group’s underground bunker at RAF Uxbridge, now known as the Battle of Britain Bunker on 16 August 1940. Without having much in the way of sustenance or good news to offer the British people, he took a risk in deliberately choosing to emphasise the dangers instead. “Rhetorical power”, wrote Churchill, “is neither wholly bestowed, nor wholly acquired, but cultivated.” Not all were impressed by his oratory. Robert Menzies, Australian Prime Minister, said of Churchill during the Second World War: “His real tyrant is the glittering phrase so attractive to his mind that awkward facts have to give way.” Another associate wrote: “He is … the slave of the words which his mind forms about ideas … And he can convince himself of almost every truth if it is once allowed thus to start on its wild career through his rhetorical machinery.
There is two fun fact about Churchill
- The first known use of the term “OMG” was in a letter to Churchill over 100 years ago.
- Churchill was so well-known for his smoking, he has a cuban cigar named after him. The Churchill is about 7 inches long and 19mm wide and was first produced by the label Romeo y Julieta.
Best of Winston Churchill Quotes