The Axis powers were winning.
Europe had fallen, and England was the last nation of note that hadn’t succumbed to partisan warfare.
This image was technically taken 10 days after the speech, but the Nazis had taken France well before.
On the Ropes
England had been driven into the Atlantic, trapped at Dunkirk. America hadn’t entered the fray yet, and all seemed lost.
If England didn’t somehow manage to evacuate those few troops from England, Belgium, and France out of Dunkirk, not only was the war over but so was their country.
By what can only be called a miracle, Dunkirk was evacuated.
It took the sacrifice of virtually every single Allied soldier in the nearby towns of Calais and Boulogne, but they bought their friends and brothers precious time at the cost of their own lives.
And then, all those troops were simply dumped off at Dover.
They were stunned. While thankful, of course, for having been rescued by a motley assortment of fishermen, merchants, and just about every other Brit with a boat, the larger issue was still there…they had been driven off the continent by the Nazis.
They were militarily outmatched. And if they could be driven off the mainland in record time, what was to say they couldn’t be driven into the waters north of Scotland as well?
To add further pain and misery to the English people, King Leopold of Belgium had randomly decided to surrender his entire army to Hitler without any resistance, exposing England’s flank precariously to German attack.
A Voice Emerges
It was at this moment that one man stepped up to the microphone.
There is something powerful about words that can speak directly to a nation’s heart. And that was exactly what Winston Churchill was about to use as his weapon of choice.
While fully recognizing all that had happened at Dunkirk and celebrating the miracle that it was, Churchill also didn’t let his exuberance blind him to the dark reality that his nation was still facing.
At a time when his nation was faltering, one man took to the microphone to tell his countrymen that surrender was never an option.
On June 4, 1940, before the House of Commons, Churchill gave what is considered to be one of the most masterful speeches ever given to a nation at war.
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What a tremendous speech to a nation in time of need. Nazi’s had overrun Europe, America not in the war, Stalin had a non-aggression pact with Germany, and Churchill stood alone against the juggernaut and galvanized the nation. We will never surrender. Amazing!
Churchill was undoubtedly an imposing political figure during one of the - if not the - greatest fights for the life of Democracy in Modern History. But it's also worth noting that Churchill spoke heavily against the notion that the common citizen should carry for self-defense. Despite Churchill's military service (and the size of personal armory) he spoke down such notions when they arose in the postbellum England.
Churchill was an Edwardian aristocrat. He was part of the most secure segments of his society - his opinions on firearms are comparable to corporate America promoting increased gun restrictions on our society. But it's worth noting that for how great a figure he is, he would probably not be on our side in the face of those restrictions.
An excellent point.
Love these articles, so keep'em coming.