Winston Churchill Quotations

It was no coincidence that Winston Churchill's quotations rallied the World War II Allied Forces and encouraged a weary British people to persevere and seek victory.

"In War: Resolution

In Defeat: Defiance

In Victory: Magnanimity

In Peace: Good Will"

It is impossible to think of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill without considering his words. To Churchill, words were man's greatest contribution to life because as he said, "Words were the only things that last forever." Speech was the very fiber of Churchill's being, for it was in his speeches that Churchill became most fully and completely alive; and it was through his words and phrases that he made his greatest and most enduring impact on the world.

Churchill believed that his very life was part of the grand scheme of all history and that he was born to be a part of all his countrymen did in the face of battle. Lord Ismay, one of Churchill's wartime aids, recalled that "He gave you a kind of exaltation. He made you feel that you were taking part in something great and memorable." General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during the last years of World War II and later President of the United States, recalls one striking example of Churchill's sense of history, saying, "When the Axis overran Greece in 1940, Churchill sent troops to aid the Greeks although he feared it was a foredoomed cause. He explained that at all costs, Britain had to uphold her reputation for fidelity to the Allies. 'In honor, we can do no less,' he said to me, and I believe the future will demonstrate its correctness."

It is from this sense of history and his belief that his acts and words were performed upon the stage of all time that mankind received such immortal words as: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" and "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.'"

Churchill often spoke of leaving his mark on history, not just for the time in which he lived but for those that would follow. It is undeniable that he achieved that purpose. There was more to Winston Churchill than grand eloquence, though. His life was mixed with political defeat as well as victory. It was said that he was both exalted and disdained by his countrymen and his fellow ministers in Parliament. In fact, he was cast out of office only a few short months after he single-handedly waged the war of words that mobilized his people against Nazi and Fascist take-over.

So, disappointments were as real to Churchill as the victories. Throughout his life, Churchill suffered a feeling of inadequacy and insecurity that some historians believe were partly due to a speech impediment as a child. Churchill also deemed his intellect inferior because he lacked an Oxbridge education. Until the end of his career, he agonized before making any major speech and was on edge until he was satisfied that his words had not misfired in regard to his intent.

One may wonder what, other than his sense of history, drove Churchill on, despite his insecurity and many personal disappointments. But perhaps the real force in Winston Churchill's life was his love of his country and his compassion for its people. It is reported by Lord Ismay that once when Churchill visited a bombed-out air raid shelter where forty people had died, one of the survivors was heard to comment, "You see, he really cares. He is crying."

Still, the world best remembers Churchill for his words and the impact of those words upon the Allied victory in World War II. Just as Abraham Lincoln gave the world its interpretation of the American Constitution in his Gettysburg address, Churchill, with force and eloquence, imposed his vision of victory upon all the men and events with which he had contact. He believed victory was obtainable and he made others believe it too.

While no one doubts that Churchill's greatest speeches were made during World War II, it is clear that Churchill had begun his oratorical influence many years before the menace of Nazism actually became reality. With his sense of eternal destiny, Churchill tried to warn of the growing power in Germany; but although he was not altogether ignored, the British government did not want to believe what he tried to tell them. Then in October of 1911, Churchill assumed the responsibilities as First Lord of the Admiralty and until May, the modernization and strengthening of the Royal Navy were his main concerns. During that time, he established a naval staff, improved the conditions of the lower deck, converted the fleet from coal to oil power, supported new ideas in gunnery and improvements in ship design, and greatly increased the size of the Navy.

Churchill spoke of these improvements and anticipated accomplishments at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in the Guildhall in November of 1911. In an address that he entitled "We Have Got to Keep it Strong," Churchill warned of the sudden and rapid growth of the German Navy and insisted that Britain spare no expense to maintain its position of naval supremacy. Churchill observed that "the Navy is strong -- we have got to keep it strong -- strong enough, that is, to use for all that it may have to do. And not only strong but ready, instantly ready, to put forth its greatest strength to the best possible advantage."

This time, Churchill's warning was heeded and the British government began a course that would later insure Britain's naval supremacy at the onset of war. Over the years that followed, Churchill found himeself in and out of public office. Then through a series of political events, Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain in 1940 - Prime Minister of a wartime England. Reflecting upon Churchill during the war years, Eisenhower observed, "When he (Churchill) became Prime Minister in 1940, Britain reeled on the brink of defeat. But Churchill never flinched. 'You ask what is our aim?' he cried. 'I can answer in one word: Victory -- Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.' With unequaled eloquence and indomitable will, he rallied his people. In their desperate plight, he gave them morale -- and in warfare, morale is everything."

The date of May 13, 1940 will always be remember in history as the day Churchill made his most significant speech. It was a simple speech with little ceremony and is recorded as one of Churchill's shortest addresses to the House of Commons. But it was powerful. Churchill offered his countrymen nothing but "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." He declared, "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." To wage this war, Churchill called upon all Britain: "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."

In these brief words are the embodiment of Churchill's oratory. He characterized the British task as unprecedented in all human history. Then he offered to lead them with incomparable humility and moral simplicity. This was Churchill at his best, calling his countrymen to fight a war that he knew they could not lose, instilling in each of them the belief that the "strength of Britain and God Almighty was greater than any enemy."

Less than one month later, Churchill again made one of his most successful and well-received wartime declarations. At the end of this speech, Harold Nicholson reported, "This afternoon, Winston made the finest speech I have ever heard." Josiah Wedgewood said it was "worth a thousand guns and the speeches of a thousand years. "

The war raged on. Churchill told Britain's people, "I have, myself, full confidence that if we all do our 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 home island, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, we are going to try. That is the resolve of His Majesty's Government -- every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and French Republic, linked together in their cause, and in their need, will defend to the death their native lands "¦ 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 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."

Years later at Churchill's funeral, a Scotsman reminisced, "The Nazis bombed my unit to death. We left everything behind when we got out; some of my men didn't even have boots. They dumped us along the roads near Dover and all of us were scared and dazed, and the memories set us screaming at night. Then he (Churchill) got on the wireless and said we'd fight on the beaches and in the towns and that we'd never surrender. And I cried when I heard him. I'm not ashamed to say it. And I thought "¦ "We're going to win!"

When France fell to the Germans, Churchill believed the Nazis would turn full force toward Britain. What he himself named "The Battle of Britain" was about to begin, and he knew that this would be the greatest test of British military strength and resolve. Churchill had complete confidence in the combined military forces and appealed to their resolve for victory in a speech given on June 18, 1940. It was not remembered as one of his best delivered speeches, but of all his speeches, it is the best remembered in history for its words. Churchill reminded his countrymen that he had made it clear that whatever happened in France would make no difference in the resolve of Britain to "fight on, if necessary, for years, if necessary alone." Churchill declared, "I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us; but I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it, like the brave men of Barcelona, and will be able to stand up to it, and carry on in spite of it, at least as well as any other people in the world. Much of this will depend upon this: every man and woman will have the chance to "¦ render the highest service to their cause."

But it is for these words that Churchill may best be remembered and it is with these words that he may have forever left his mark on the world: "I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin"¦ The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us on this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. 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 more protracted by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

With these words, Churchill rallied the devotion he needed from his countrymen to win the war. He also appealed to the United States to aid Britain in their struggle to stop the tyranny of Hitler, but it was another six months before the United States joined them in the war - six months that Britain fought alone.

Day after day and night after night, the German bombers flew across the English Channel to inflict destruction upon Great Britain. With each wave of German bombers, the young British pilots took to the air and engaged the Nazi planes to repulse them and stop the bombing. With each day of battle, "Winnie," as his countrymen had come to call him, encouraged the British forces to fight on and his people to keep the faith. Royal Air Force Captain Douglas Sader recalled, "Above all, it was an exhilarating period. We had purpose and pride. And Churchill gave them to us. We all waited for his voice on the radio. Everybody, in the air as well as on the ground, relied on this man."

To the Royal Air Force, in which he place such great confidence, Churchill paid tribute with these words spoken on August 20, 1940: "Two or three years are not a long time, even in our short, precarious lives. They are nothing in the history of a nation, and when we are doing the finest thing in the world, and have the honor to be the sole champion of the liberties of all Europe, we must not grudge these years or weary as we toil and struggle through them."

By August 1941, there were rumors that Roosevelt and Churchill were to meet somewhere in the Atlantic. On August 15, 1941, the rumors were confirmed when the two leaders did indeed announce eight aims for achieving peace. In December of that same year, Japan invaded the United States and the U.S. decisively became a part of the struggle. Churchill saw this as the turning point of the war because now the resources of the United States would certainly assure an Allied victory. Churchill was heard to comment, "After seventeen months of lonely fighting, we will win the war. England will live."

As the war dragged on, England's people grew tired. A run of defeats in the Far East led to criticism of Churchill. Some British said that he was only successful in fight with words. What these critics did not realize was that Churchill had inspired the men who fought so bravely with his words. Churchill's words were indeed weapons - many times they were almost England's only weapons.

The impact of Sir Winston Churchill's words may be debated for years to come, but for now, the most stirring commentary on Churchill's oratory contributions may have been words that were said at his funeral: "The rights for Sir Winston Churchill carried no burden of tragedy. If there was sadness, it was for the passing of an age where one man, in himself, could fire the free world to do battle for its own greatness, and if there were tears, they were shed in watching the mists of death cover the mirror of a personality where men have seen themselves ennobled."

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