On May 14, 1940, Winston Churchill spoke to the British House of Commons “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? 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, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. 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.”
It was the first speech he gave to the House after taking control of the government. He set a clear statement of policy and of purpose. He created a compelling long term vision that was cast in a single, clear, simple paragraph: We will fight, wage war, with God by our side, until we achieve victory, no matter how hard or how long it takes.
Churchill was blunt and brutally honest with what it would take - he did not candy any of his statements.
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
No punches pulled. Expect nothing but pain.
In the face of fear, when almost 80% of the population of Britain supported settlement with Nazi Germany, Churchill turned the tide of public sentiment. With two clear paragraphs he set the audacious and defiant goal that proved to be true in the end.
“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, and we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.”
Clearly spoken, while others have fallen, the British people would not.
“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.”
It was a fight to the finish, and Churchill painted the image that it would be the “odious apparatus of Nazi rule” that would fall first – not the British people.
"These are not dark days; these are great days. The greatest days our country has ever lived." He said in 1941, as the British fought back the Nazi Blitz and the RAF lived “their finest hour”.