We shall fight on the beaches - Wikipedia
Winston Churchill's rousing speeches inspired a nation and played a key role in Britain's morale during the dark early days of the Second World War. Winston Churchill Art Print 4 "WE WILL FIGHT THEM ON THE BEACHES" Photo Poster Unique Gift Quote - Size: 12 x 8 Inches. by The Pop Culture King. Ask anyone to name Winston Churchill's best-known speech and nine times out of ten they will answer: We shall fight them on the beaches.
On 13 May, the Wehrmacht's attack through the Ardennes had reached the Meuse River at Sedan and then crossed it, breaking through the defences of the French Army. After the capitulation of Belgium on 28 May, a gap had also appeared on the eastern flank of the Allied forces, which had been forced to retreat into a small pocket around the seaport of Dunkirk. From this pocket the bulk of the BEF and a considerable number of French troops had been evacuated in Operation Dynamobut these troops had left behind virtually all of their heavy equipment transport, tanks, artillery and ammunition.
We Shall Fight on the Beaches - Winston Churchill
The French First Army had most of its units pocketed around Lille. Those of its units evacuated from Dunkirk were relanded in France but saw no further action; they were still being reorganised in Brittany at the fall of France. Meanwhile, the House should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings.
I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.
He had promised a further statement of the military situation on 4 June, and indeed the major part of the speech is an account of military events — so far as they affected the BEF — since the German breakthrough at Sedan. The German breakthrough had not been exploited southwards, and the French had improvised a relatively thinly held defensive line along the Aisne and the Somme.
The British military evaluation was that this was unlikely to withstand any major attack by the Wehrmacht. In the air, the French were short of fighter planes and the shortage was worsening due to their many losses in combat. The French military commanders had hence asked for additional British fighter squadrons to be sent into the fight in France.
Politically, there were considerable doubts over the French willingness to continue the war, even in the absence of any further military catastrophes. Churchill had argued in favour of sending the fighter squadrons to France because he considered that that move would be vital to sustain French public morale, and also to give no excuse for the collapse of the French Army.
That would possibly lead to a French government that would not only drop out of the war, but also become hostile to the United Kingdom. The British War Cabinet discussed this issue at meetings on 3 June and on the morning of 4 June, but it decided to take the advice of the Royal Air Force and the Secretary of State for AirSir Archibald Sinclairthat the British priority must be to prepare its own defences. The three squadrons present in France would be kept up to fighting strength, but no further squadrons could be spared for the Battle of France.
Only half the population expected Britain to fight on and the feelings of thousands were summed up as: This is not our war — this is a war of the high-up people who use long words and have different feelings.
He needed to prepare his domestic audience for France's departure from the war without in any way releasing France to do so; in his subsequent speech of 18 June immediately after the French had sued for peace Churchill said: The military events which have happened during the past fortnight have not come to me with any sense of surprise. Indeed, I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open, and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.
Finally, he needed to reiterate a policy and an aim unchanged — despite the intervening events — from his speech of 13 May, in which he had said: 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? 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.
We shall fight on the beaches
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be. Suddenly the scene has cleared, the crash and thunder has for the moment-but only for the moment-died away.
A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valor, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all.
The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not hurry their departure seriously.
The Royal Air Force engaged the main strength of the German Air Force, and inflicted upon them losses of at least four to one; and the Navy, using nearly 1, ships of all kinds, carried overmen, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead.
We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained by the Air Force. Many of our soldiers coming back have not seen the Air Force at work; they saw only the bombers which escaped its protective attack.
They underrate its achievements. I have heard much talk of this; that is why I go out of my way to say this. I will tell you about it. This was a great trial of strength between the British and German Air Forces. Can you conceive a greater objective for the Germans in the air than to make evacuation from these beaches impossible, and to sink all these ships which were displayed, almost to the extent of thousands?
Could there have been an objective of greater military importance and significance for the whole purpose of the war than this? They tried hard, and they were beaten back; they were frustrated in their task.
We got the Army away; and they have paid fourfold for any losses which they have inflicted. Very large formations of German aero planes, and we know that they are a very brave race, have turned on several occasions from the attack of one-quarter of their number of the Royal Air Force, and have dispersed in different directions. Twelve aero planes have been hunted by two. One aero plane was driven into the water and cast away by the mere charge of a British aero plane, which had no more ammunition.
All of our types-the Hurricane, the Spitfire and the new Defiant-and all our pilots have been vindicated as superior to what they have at present to face. When we consider how much greater would be our advantage in defending the air above this Island against an overseas attack, I must say that I find in these facts a sure basis upon which practical and reassuring thoughts may rest.
I will pay my tribute to these young airmen. The great French Army was very largely, for the time being, cast back and disturbed by the onrush of a few thousands of armored vehicles.
May it not also be that the cause of civilization itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen? There never has been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into the past, not only distant but prosaic.
It was Winston Churchill's most powerful war speech but few people have heard all of it
These young men, going forth every morn to guard their native land and all that we stand for, holding in their hands these instruments of colossal and shattering power, of whom it may be said that Every morn brought forth a noble chance And every chance brought forth a noble knight, deserve our gratitude, as do all the brave men who, in so many ways and on so many occasions, are ready, and continue ready to give life and all for their native land.
I return to the Army. In the long series of very fierce battles, now on this front, now on that, fighting on three fronts at once, battles fought by two or three divisions against an equal or somewhat larger number of the enemy, and fought fiercely on some of the old grounds that so many of us knew so well-in these battles our losses in men have exceeded 30, killed, wounded and missing.
I take occasion to express the sympathy of the House to all who have suffered bereavement or who are still anxious. His son has been killed, and many in the House have felt the pangs of affliction in the sharpest form. But I will say this about the missing: We have had a large number of wounded come home safely to this country, but I would say about the missing that there may be very many reported missing who will come back home, some day, in one way or another.
In the confusion of this fight it is inevitable that many have been left in positions where honor required no further resistance from them. Against this loss of over 30, men, we can set a far heavier loss certainly inflicted upon the enemy.
But our losses in material are enormous. We have perhaps lost one-third of the men we lost in the opening days of the battle of 21st March,but we have lost nearly as many guns -- nearly one thousand-and all our transport, all the armored vehicles that were with the Army in the north. This loss will impose a further delay on the expansion of our military strength. That expansion had not been proceeding as far as we had hoped. The best of all we had to give had gone to the British Expeditionary Force, and although they had not the numbers of tanks and some articles of equipment which were desirable, they were a very well and finely equipped Army.
They had the first-fruits of all that our industry had to give, and that is gone. And now here is this further delay. How long it will be, how long it will last, depends upon the exertions which we make in this Island. An effort the like of which has never been seen in our records is now being made. Work is proceeding everywhere, night and day, Sundays and week days.
Capital and Labor have cast aside their interests, rights, and customs and put them into the common stock. Already the flow of munitions has leaped forward.
There is no reason why we should not in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us, without retarding the development of our general program. Nevertheless, our thankfulness at the escape of our Army and so many men, whose loved ones have passed through an agonizing week, must not blind us to the fact that what has happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster. The French Army has been weakened, the Belgian Army has been lost, a large part of those fortified lines upon which so much faith had been reposed is gone, many valuable mining districts and factories have passed into the enemy's possession, the whole of the Channel ports are in his hands, with all the tragic consequences that follow from that, and we must expect another blow to be struck almost immediately at us or at France.
We are told that Herr Hitler has a plan for invading the British Isles. This has often been thought of before. When Napoleon lay at Boulogne for a year with his flat-bottomed boats and his Grand Army, he was told by someone. The whole question of home defense against invasion is, of course, powerfully affected by the fact that we have for the time being in this Island incomparably more powerful military forces than we have ever had at any moment in this war or the last.
But this will not continue. We shall not be content with a defensive war. We have our duty to our Ally. All this is in train; but in the interval we must put our defenses in this Island into such a high state of organization that the fewest possible numbers will be required to give effective security and that the largest possible potential of offensive effort may be realized.
On this we are now engaged. It will be very convenient, if it be the desire of the House, to enter upon this subject in a secret Session. Not that the government would necessarily be able to reveal in very great detail military secrets, but we like to have our discussions free, without the restraint imposed by the fact that they will be read the next day by the enemy; and the Government would benefit by views freely expressed in all parts of the House by Members with their knowledge of so many different parts of the country.
I understand that some request is to be made upon this subject, which will be readily acceded to by His Majesty's Government. We have found it necessary to take measures of increasing stringency, not only against enemy aliens and suspicious characters of other nationalities, but also against British subjects who may become a danger or a nuisance should the war be transported to the United Kingdom.
I know there are a great many people affected by the orders which we have made who are the passionate enemies of Nazi Germany. I am very sorry for them, but we cannot, at the present time and under the present stress, draw all the distinctions which we should like to do. If parachute landings were attempted and fierce fighting attendant upon them followed, these unfortunate people would be far better out of the way, for their own sakes as well as for ours.
There is, however, another class, for which I feel not the slightest sympathy. Parliament has given us the powers to put down Fifth Column activities with a strong hand, and we shall use those powers subject to the supervision and correction of the House, without the slightest hesitation until we are satisfied, and more than satisfied, that this malignancy in our midst has been effectively stamped out.
Turning once again, and this time more generally, to the question of invasion, I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been given to our people.