On this day, 4 June in 1940, Winston Churchill made possibly his most famous of many great speeches – “We shall fight [them] on the beaches.”
Churchill delivered this speech as newly minted Conservative (Tory) Prime Minister on the floor of the UK Parliament’s House of Commons. His speech followed the massive evacuation of British and French armies from the beachhead at Dunkirk, as German forces swept through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
It was the second of three key speeches he gave on, and around, the six week “Battle of France” (and the Benelux countries) which began on 10 May 1940 – the very day King George VI made Churchill PM.
Churchill headed a rare war-time unity coalition government with Labour and the Liberals. Churchill’s appointment had followed the resignation of three-year Conservative PM Neville “Peace in our Time” Chamberlain, after the country had lost confidence in his judgement and prosecution of the UK’s war effort.
Churchill’s speech achieved greatness by masterfully navigating through several delicate and daunting topics:
- admitting to a great military disaster (the evacuation)
- warning of possible Nazi invasion without casting doubt on a British victory
- being realistic on France without the French then “flying the white flag”, and
- reinforcing the goal of “victory, however long and hard the road may be” from his 13 May speech.
Commemorate this famous 4 June 1940 Winston Churchill speech of WWII by:
- listening to, or reading, it in full
- looking up Churchill’s other two Battle of France speeches:
- Blood, toil, tears, and sweat
- This was their finest hour
- researching the critical, even parlous, context in which these speeches were made
- finding out more about the man, his framework, views and quotes on other topics and issues
- having a cigar and whiskey (with soda) in the great man’s honour
- hiring films such as *The Darkest Hour*, *Churchill* or *Dunkirk* to get a sense of the dramatic circumstances, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post with family, friends, patriots and those still willing to resist PC socialism and stand up for freedom, liberty and democracy.
A key excerpt from the speech is the following:
“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, 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, and 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.”