Winston Churchill “ THEIR FINEST HOUR ” June 18 ， 1940
“THEIR FINEST HOUR”
I spoke the other day of the colossal military disas- ter which occurred when the French High Com- mand failed to withdraw the northern armies fromBelgium at a moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and onthe Meuse.
This delay entailed the loss of fifteen or six- teen French divisions and threw out of action thewhole of the British Expeditionary Force.
Our army were indeed rescued by the BritishNavy from Dunkirk，but only with the loss of alltheir cannon，vehicles and modern equipment.
This loss inevitably took some weeks to repair，and in the first two of these weeks the Battle ofFrance had been lost.
Now I put all this aside.I put it on the shelffrom which the historians may select their docu- ments in order to tell their story.We have to thinkof the future and not of the past.
There are many who wish to hold an inquest upon the conduct of the government and of Parlia- ment during the years which led up to this catas-trophe.They wish to indict those who were re- sponsible for the guidance of our affairs.
This also would be a foolish and perniciousprocess.There are too many in it.Let each mansearch his conscience and search his speeches，as Ifrequently search mine.Of this I am quite sure，that if we open a quarrel between the past and thepresent we shall find that we have lost the future.
The military events which have happened inFrance during the last fortnight have not come tome with any sense of surprise； indeed，I indicateda fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House，that the worst possibilities were open and I made itperfectly clear that whatever happened in France，it would make no difference to the resolve ofBritain and the British Empire to fight on，if neces-sary for years，and if necessary alone.
We have under arms at the present time in thisisland over 1，250，000 men.Behind these we havethe local defense volunteers，numbering 500，000，only a portion of whom，however，are armed withrifles or other firearms.
We have incorporated into our defense force amass of weapons and we expect very large addi-tions to these weapons in the near future.Inpreparation，we intend to call up，drill and train，further large numbers at once.
We also have the Dominion armies here.TheCanadians had actually landed in France，but havenow been safely withdrawn much disappointed andare here with all their artillery and equipment.These very high-class forces from the dominionswill now take part in the defense of their mothercountry.
Thus，the invasion of Great Britain at thistime would require the transport across the seas ofhostile armies on a very large scale and after theyhad been so transported，they would have to becontinually maintained with all the immense massof munitions and supplies which are required forcontinuous battle，as continuous battle it wouldbe.
Now here is where we come to the navy.Af- ter all，we have a navy； some people seem to for- get it.We must remind them.For more than thir-ty years I have been concerned in discussions aboutthe possibility of an overseas invasion and I tookthe responsibility on behalf of the Admiralty at thebeginning of the last war of allowing all the regulartroops to be sent out of the country although ourTerritorials had only just been called up and werequite untried.
It seems to me that as far as sea-borne inva-sion on a great scale is concerned，we are far morecapable of meeting it than we were at many periodsin the last war and during the early months of thiswar before our troops were trained and while theBritish Expeditionary Force was abroad.
We have also a great system of mine fields，recently reinforced，through which we alone knowthe channel.If the enemy tries to sweep a channelthrough these mine fields，it will be the task of thenavy to destroy these mine-sweepers and any otherforce employed to protect them.There ought to beno difficulty about this，owing to our superiority atsea.
Some people will ask why it was that theBritish Navy was not able to prevent the movementof a large army from Germany into Norway acrossthe Skagerrak.But conditions in the Channel andin the North Sea are in no way like those whichprevail in the Skagerrak.In the Skagerrak，be- cause of the distance，we could give no air supportto our surface ships and consequently，lying as wedid close to the enemy's main air power in Norwe-gian waters，we were compelled to use only oursubmarines.
This brings me naturally to the great questionof invasion from the air and the impending strugglebetween the British and German Air Forces.
It seems quite clear that no invasion on a scalebeyond the capacity of our ground forces to crushspeedily is likely to take place from the air untilour air force has been definitely overpowered.Inthe meantime，there may be raids by parachutetroops and attempted descents by air-borne soldiers.We ought to be able to give those gentrya warm reception，both in the air and if they reachthe ground in any condition to continue their dis- pute.（The great question is，can we break Hitler'sair weapon？）
Now，of course，it is a very great pity that wehave not got an air force at least equal to that of the most powerful enemy within reach of our shores，but we have a very powerful air force，which has proved itself far superior in quality bothin men and in many types of machines to what wehave met so far in the numerous fierce air battleswhich have been fought.
There remains the danger of the bombing at- tacks，which will certainly be made very soon uponus by the bomber forces of the enemy.It is quitetrue that these forces are superior in number toours，but we have a very large bombing force alsowhich we shall use to strike at the military targetsin Germany without intermission.
I do not at all underrate the severity of the or-deal which lies before us，but I believe that ourcountrymen will show themselves capable of stand-ing up to it and carrying on in spite of it at least aswell as any other people in the world.
It will depend upon themselves，and everyman and woman will have the chance of showingthe finest qualities of their race and of renderingthe highest service to their cause.
For all of us，whatever our sphere or station，it will be a help to remember the famous lines：He nothing common did，or mean Upon that memorable scene.
I have thought it right on this occasion to givethe House and the country some indication of thesolid，practical grounds upon which we are basingour invincible resolve to continue the war，and I can assure them that our professional advisers ofthe three services unitedly advise that we should doit，and that there are good and reasonable hopes offinal victory.
We have fully informed all the self-governingdominions and we have received from all PrimeMinisters messages couched in the most movingterms，in which they endorse our decision and de- clare themselves ready to share our fortunes andpersevere to the end.
We may now ask ourselves in what way hasour position worsened since the beginning of thewar.It is worsened by the fact that the Germanshave conquered a large part of the coast of the Al- lies in Western Europe，and many small and countrieshave beed overrun by them.This aggravates thepossibility of air attack and adds to our naval pre-occupation，but it in no way diminishes，but on thecontrary definitely increases，the power of ourlong-distance blockade.
Should military resistance come to an end inFrance—which is not yet，though it will in anycase be greatly diminished—the Germans can con-centrate their forces both military and industrial upon us.But for the reason given to the House thiswill not be easy to apply.
If invasion becomes more imminent，we havebeen relieved from the task of maintaining a largearmy in France and we have a far larger and moreefficient force here to meet it.
If Hitler can bring under despotic control theindustries of the countries he has conquered，thiswill add grestly to his already vast armament out-put.On the other hand，this will not happen im-mediately and we are now assured of immense con-tinued and increasing support in munitions of allkinds from the United States，and especially of air-planes and pilots from across the ocean.They willcome from regions beyond the reach of enemybombers.I do not see how any of these factors can oper-ate to our detriment，on balance，before the Win-ter comes，and the Winter will impose a strain up-on the Nazi regime，with half Europe writhing andstarving under its heel，which，for all their ruth-lessness，will run them very hard.
Therefore in casting up this dread balancesheet and contemplating our dangers with a disillu-sioned eye，I see great reasons for intense exertionand vigilance，but none whatever for panic or de- spair.During the first four months of the last warthe Allies experienced nothing but disaster and dis- appointment，and yet at the end their morale washigher than that of the Germans，who had movedfrom one aggressive triumph to another.
During that war we repeatedly asked ourselvesthe question，“How are we going to win？”and noone was ever able to answer it with much preci-sion，until at the end，quite suddenly and unex- pectedly，our terrible foe collapsed before us andwe were so glutted with victory that in our folly wecast it away.
We do not yet know what will happen inFrance or whether the French resistance will beprolonged both in France and in the French Empireoverseas.The French Government will be throw- ing away great opportunities and casting away theirfuture if they do not continue the war in accordancewith their treaty obligations，from which we havenot felt able to release them.
The House will have read the historic declara-tion in which.at the desire of many Frenchmenand of our own hearts，we have proclaimed ourwillingness to conclude at the darkest hour inFrench history a union of common citizenship intheir struggle.
However matters may go in France or with theFrench Government，or another French Govern-ment，we in this island and in the British Empirewill never lose our sense of comradeship with theFrench people.
If we are now called upon to endure what theyhave suffered，we shall emulate their courage，andif final victory rewards our toils they shall sharethe gain—aye，freedom shall be restored to all.We abate nothing of our just demands.Czechs，Poles，Norwegians，Dutch and Belgians，who havejoined their causes with our own，all shall be re- stored.
What General Weygand called the Battle ofFrance is over.The Battle of Britain is about tobegin.On this battle depends the survival ofChristian civilization.
Upon it depends our own British life and thelong continuity of our institutions and our empire.The whole fury and might of the enemy must verysoon be turned upon us.Hitler knows he will haveto break us in this island or lose the war.
If we can stand up to him all Europe may befreed and the life of the world may move forwardinto broad sunlit uplands； but if we fail，the wholeworld，including the United States and all that wehave known and cared for，will sink into the abyssof a new dark age made more sinister and perhapsmore prolonged by the lights of a perverted sci- ence.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our dutyand so bear ourselves that if the British Common- wealth and Empire last for a thousand years，menwill still say“This was their finest hour.”