“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.”— Winston Churchill, “Speech to the House of Commons,” June 4, 1940
Five years ago on this blog, I put up a post on the evacuation of British and French soldiers at Dunkirk. But that escape from wholesale decimation by Hitler’s forces ended up being all the more remarkable for the speech that Winston Churchill gave on the occasion, 75 years ago today.
In itself, the major intent of the address—to transform what was in fact, an overwhelming defeat of British arms into a celebration of that same fighting force—accomplished what the Prime Minister wanted. But the extraordinary ending that you’ve just read also cemented the legend of the British lion.
Most assuredly, Churchill had his faults as man and politician. But as long as human beings battle against overwhelming odds, this address will weigh decisively in his favor for steeling the will of his country when it was all alone against Fascism.