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Impact of Winston Churchill's WWII Era Speeches

From Londonhua WIKI

Milestone 1: Impact of Selected Winston Churchill WWII Era Speeches

by Christopher Tillotson

Milestone 1: Impact of Selected Winston Churchill WWII Era Speeches
Wc0196.jpg
Winston Churchill delivering a speech

Abstract

My Milestone focused on the following question: How did Winston Churchill's famous World War Two speeches impact the course of the war? I have always had an interest in World War II period history, and this has been a great opportunity for me to explore Winston Churchill's World War II impacts. The largest takeaway I have from this project was the realization that Churchill set a precedent in his speeches to have the British people defend themselves against the German forces. That decision by Churchill changed the course of world history forever, and that is why these historic speeches are so long remembered.

Introduction

The following project focused on the impact of Winston Churchill's World War II speeches delivered to the House of Commons during 1940. This was an important time in world history, and this project offers the opportunity to gain a better appreciation for the state of the world we live in today. Over the last 80 years Churchill's speeches have been analyzed many times. I created an original video that provides background information necessary so that anyone can gain a better appreciation of these important historical events. I started with only a small knowledge base of this time period from a previous course at WPI "History of U.S. Foreign Relations". I began my research with first understanding Churchill and World War II. With this knowledge I selected speeches given at a time that I considered to be the most critical. I narrowed my focus to four main speeches, and dug deep into the background, content, and interpretation of each. With this information I created my video analysis of the Churchill's World War II speeches.

Section 1: Background



Brief Introduction of Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was born during 1874 in Oxfordshire, England. [1] He attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst where he had an undistinguished academic career. [2] He spent time stationed, sometimes reporting as a war correspondent, in places such as India, Sudan, South Africa, and Cuba.[3] In 1900, by the time he was 25, he had gained a national presence as a skilled writer, journalist, and orator. This allowed him to transition smoothly into the world of British politics. He later went on to serve as the First Lord of the Admiralty, the political head of the Royal Navy, during World War I. [4] However, his time serving as the First Lord of the Admiralty was best remembered for the disaster of Gillipoli, Turkey where many soldiers died as a result of poor battle planning.[5] This forced Churchill to leave his post, and he served for a time on the Western Front.[6] After World War I he made his return to politics until 1929 when the conservative party lost the general election and Churchill would remain of a hiatus from government positions. However, this did not simply mean that Churchill was away from politics as he continued to be an outspoken political writer and lecturer in this time. Churchill was well known politically for his strong opposition to socialistic ideologies. [7] When Churchill began to take notice of Adolf Hitler, during a time in Churchill's life known as the Wilderness years, he began to spread warnings that Hitler was a great threat to freedom in Britain. When Germany declared war on Britain on September 3rd, 1939 Churchill was reinstated once again as the First Lord of the Admiralty until the time he appointed as Prime Minister in 1940. [8]

Conditions and Churchill's Role in World War II

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill was tasked with leading the Country through some of the darkest times leading up to and during the Battle of Britain. It is well known that Churchill was a skillful orator and his speeches had the ability to rally his Country around the common goal of defending Britain against Germany.[9] However, it is important to note that it was not just defense that Churchill was interested in. Churchill understood the threat that democracy as well as the "Western World" faced.[10] Churchill feared that the rise of "National Socialism" in Germany would mean that this system would spread to every country that came under Hitler's control.[11] His replacement of Neville Chamberlain, on May 10th,1940, [12] came at an important time in the UK's history. That very day, May 10th, Hitler began his Blizkreig in mainland Europe attempting to entirely conquer all countries in his path. [13] Before Churchill it had been the policy of Chamberlain to appease Hitler and the German's in order to promote peace. [14] Once Churchill took office he intermediately made it clear in his words that he had no intentions for appeasement, but rather to stand and fight for freedom against the Germans. [15] Churchill's job of keeping England optimistic and ready to fight became harder as the Germans continued to gain ground as France fell in June 17th, 1940. [16] However, Churchill made it his role as Prime Minister in World War II to motivate the British people to remain optimistic and ready to fight despite the successor the Nazi forces.

The Speeches

The following are speeches given by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons in 1940. Churchill unlike his predecessor Chamberlain used the following speeches to introduce his policies of retaliation and defense against Hitler and the oncoming Nazi forces. The diction used in these speeches indicate that Churchill wished to rally the people of Britain to defense as well as instill a sense of bravery in a time of great fear and uncertainty.

Blood, toil, tears, and sweat

This speech was delivered on May 13th[17] and was Churchill's first address to parliament as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Due to the developing situation in France Churchill had to compose this speech on very short notice. For this reason the speech was brief and of an urgent tone. Churchill informed parliament that he had assembled his war cabinets and expected to make all other government appointments as quickly as possible. He also informed parliament that he intended to appoint many others from the three major political factions to encourage unity in a time of great danger and importance. The reason for the title of the speech is that Churchill ensured parliament as well as the British people that he would work as hard as possible in his position to ensure the safety of the United Kingdom and her allies. This was the time when Churchill publicly set his policy that it was his full intention to fight Germany and no longer hold a policy of appeasement. Upon the conclusion of this speech Churchill was seated and he was met with a standing ovation.[18]

Important Quotes

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." --Winston Churchill


"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 and lamentable catalogue of human crime." --Winston Churchill

Modern Historical Criticism

According to David Cannadine, a history professor at Princeton author of "Blood, toil, tears and sweat: The speeches of Winston Churchill.", identified that this speech used a lot of "rhetorical recycling".[19] The reason Cannadine says this is because Churchill himself had used a similar phrase about blood, sweat, and tears in a previous work titled "The World Crisis". Regardless, Cannadine acknowledges that Churchill does well to get across his point, and begin to unite the divided British political factions, and inspire them to military defense.

We shall fight on the beaches

Sometimes known as "Wars are not won by evacuations", this speech was delivered on June 4th[20] and was in direct response to both Nazi forces gaining ground in Europe towards the UK and France as well as "The Battle of Dunkirk". The Belgian front had been broken and forced the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force known as "Operation Dynamo". It was feared that the British would suffer heavy casualties, however, this was not the case. The Expeditionary Force had a successful retreat causing excitement and relief in England.[21] Churchill wishes in this speech to quell this feeling of victory, warning that it is very likely that the situation of defending Britain alone will certainly be a worse situation. In this speech Churchill attempts to rally his people to the cause that the United Kingdom will fight Hitler's forces regardless of the outcomes in mainland Europe.

Important Quotes

"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." -- Winston Churchill

"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." -- Winston Churchill

Modern Historical Praise

Many sources from my research, including Cannadine, say this speech is remembered as one of Churchill's most important speeches, and also one of his best.[22] It was labeled even in that time by news outlets to be eloquent and deeply moving towards the house of commons and the British people.

Their finest hour

This speech was delivered on June 18th[23] and Churchill addressed parliament acknowledging the fall of France, and once again affirming his resolve to continue the defense of the United Kingdom. He assumes that the Nazi's will soon attempt to invade the United Kingdom calling it the "Battle of Britain". The reason for the title of the speech is that Churchill says that he believes this time in history will be remembered as the UK's forces finest hour. His central message is to calm the nervous British people that the Country will not fall to the German forces as the mainland countries had. [24]

Important Quotes

"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.”" --Winston Churchill

More Modern Historical Praise

Like Churchill's last speech this one also received widespread praise in 1940, and continues to be praised today.[25] In my research I have found that historians agree that despite it's greatness this speech is inferior to his "Wars are not won by evacuations" speech. In this speech Churchill gives the British people inspiration that they can withstand the likely German attacks that would soon begin.

The few

The battle of Britain began on July 10th, and this speech was delivered on August 20th [26] and was in direct response to Nazi forces gaining ground in Europe during the height of the Battle of Britain. He goes on to reassure his people once again and to praise the Royal Air Force for it's bravery in defending the United Kingdom. He makes it very clear that the fate of freedom in Britain rests on this current conflict.[27]

Important Quotes

"Never was so much owed by so many to so few" -- Winston Churchill

Historical Praise

At the time the speech was delivered Harold Nicholson, a member of parliament, said the speech was "moderate and well balanced".[28] A daughter of former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith wrote to Churchill after the speech was delivered raving saying that "Nothing so simple, so majestic and so true has been said in so great a moment of human history.".[29] Their responses to Churchill's speech served as yet more proof that he was inspiring the Nation in a time where it was needed to carry on defending against Germany.

Section 2: Deliverable



Impact of Churchill's Speeches on the War

Introduction

The following video is an analysis of how Churchill's speeches to Parliament corresponded to and influenced World War II events.

I chose video for my deliverable method because of the great wealth of media available in the public domain that I had to work with. I put together pictures, captions, and audio in an attempt to engage my audience with the story of how Churchill's speeches changed the course of history during World War II. I also chose to use video because of my past experience in production/editing while working at my town's local public access television studio.

Video

The media player is loading...

Note: If the media player is slow a YouTube link to this video can be found here https://youtu.be/dfrBsq1n6k8

Modern Impacts

Currently in 2017 Winston Churchill and the events of World War II continue to shape our world. Within the coming months three feature films will be released centered in this time period. The first, titled "Churchill", will be released May, 25th 2017. This film will detail a later period in the war, specifically 1944, when Churchill is struggling with D-Day decisions. The second film, titled "Dunkirk" will be hitting theaters July 21st, 2017. Centered around operation Dynamo this film will no doubt be tightly centered around Churchill's speeches as operation Dynamo took place in my selected time period. The last film, "The Darkest Hour" will be released on November 22nd, 2017 is the most relevant to my project. The focus of the film will be the beginning of Churchill's administration when he was exploring his options for compromise or war with Hitler.

With so many films being released this year it is hard to make a case that Churchill isn't still a driving force in the world today. The fascination of the public with Churchill is an unintended impact of his speeches that has stood the test of time.

Conclusion

When I began this milestone I had expected to find that Winston Churchill's impact on World War II would be but a drop in the bucket of a bustling history. Having had a prior knowledge of Chamberlains polices regarding Hitler I realized that Churchill was the catalyst that put Britain on a path to fight Hitler and the Nazis rather than surrender or come to an agreement. I came to understand that Churchill used his speeches in 1940 as a vehicle to not only introduce his policies regarding the Nazi threat but to encourage the people of Britain towards resistance, and later in the war victory. This call for bravery and willingness to fight by Churchill was the main theme that runs through all of the speeches I analyzed during this project. It is not certain what would have happened to Britain had Churchill not led Britain in this direction, but it can be assumed that the world might look very different than it does now. Through this milestone I came to a greater understanding of why Churchill's leadership during World War II is so long remembered. This project does not cover Churchill's later WWII speeches which could be another historical avenue of great merit to others wishing to learn more.

References

  1. The Life of Churchill Archives - The International Churchill Society. (2017). The International Churchill Society. Retrieved 11 May 2017, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/the-life-of-churchill/life
  2. Kimball, W. F. (20031997). Forged in war: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. 1st Ivan R. Dee pbk. [ed.]. New York: Ivan R. Dee. pp. 90
  3. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp iii
  4. Kimball, W. F. (20031997). Forged in war: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. 1st Ivan R. Dee pbk. [ed.]. New York: Ivan R. Dee. pp. 90
  5. Kimball, W. F. (20031997). Forged in war: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. 1st Ivan R. Dee pbk. [ed.]. New York: Ivan R. Dee. pp. 98
  6. Herbert, N. Sir Winston Churchill | prime minister of United Kingdom. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 May 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Winston-Churchill
  7. Kimball, W. F. (20031997). Forged in war: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. 1st Ivan R. Dee pbk. [ed.]. New York: Ivan R. Dee. pp. 98
  8. Herbert, N. Sir Winston Churchill | prime minister of United Kingdom. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 May 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Winston-Churchill
  9. Kimball, W. F. (20031997). Forged in war: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. 1st Ivan R. Dee pbk. [ed.]. New York: Ivan R. Dee.
  10. Lukacs, J. R. (2008). Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat. New York: Basic Books. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.wpi.edu/lib/wpi/detail.action?docID=3028240
  11. Lukacs, J. R. (2008). Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat. New York: Basic Books. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.wpi.edu/lib/wpi/detail.action?docID=3028240
  12. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. iii
  13. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. iii
  14. Kimball, W. F. (20031997). Forged in war: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. 1st Ivan R. Dee pbk. [ed.]. New York: Ivan R. Dee. pp. 149
  15. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. iv
  16. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. iv
  17. Blood, toil, tears, and sweat - The International Churchill Society. (2017). The International Churchill Society. Retrieved 11 May 2017, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/blood-toil-tears-sweat
  18. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. 168
  19. Churchill, W., & Cannadine, D. (1989). Blood, toil, tears and sweat: The speeches of Winston Churchill. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. PP. 147
  20. We Shall Fight on the Beaches - The International Churchill Society. (2017). The International Churchill Society. Retrieved 11 May 2017, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches
  21. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. 175
  22. Churchill, W., & Cannadine, D. (1989). Blood, toil, tears and sweat: The speeches of Winston Churchill. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. PP. 155
  23. Their finest hour - The International Churchill Society. (2017). The International Churchill Society. Retrieved 11 May 2017, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/be-ye-men-of-valour-audio
  24. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. 182
  25. Churchill, W., & Cannadine, D. (1989). Blood, toil, tears and sweat: The speeches of Winston Churchill. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. PP. 166
  26. The Few - The International Churchill Society. (2017). The International Churchill Society. Retrieved 11 May 2017, from https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/the-first-year-of-the-war
  27. Churchill, W., & Churchill, W. S. (2003). Never give in!: The best of Winston Churchill's speeches. London: Pimlico. pp. 195
  28. Churchill, W., & Cannadine, D. (1989). Blood, toil, tears and sweat: The speeches of Winston Churchill. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. PP. 179
  29. Churchill, W., & Cannadine, D. (1989). Blood, toil, tears and sweat: The speeches of Winston Churchill. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. PP. 179