18
Jun
09

Churchill rallies the country in “their finest hour”

I originally planned to post something light and fun today, but after finding this event in my research, I just couldn’t. This moment of history deserves to stand alone.

On this day in 1940, Winston Churchill stood before the House of Commons and delivered one of his most famous calls for determination, perseverance, and a focus on the future.

Let’s set the stage: On May 10 (just five weeks before this day), Germany attacked Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Just 20 days later, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg all surrendered. France lasted until the middle of June. The desperate “Miracle at Dunkirk” saved some 338,000 British and French soldiers from capture, thanks to the Herculean efforts of more than 1,000 vessels ranging from Navy ships to fishing boats.

Against that backdrop, Churchill spoke. You really should read the whole speech — it’s well worth your time — but these closing lines struck me with the most power:

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 on 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 into 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 still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

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