In 1940 the German army chased British forces off the continent of Europe. The retreat was so hurried that a call had to be put out for anyone with a boat capable of crossing the English Channel to sail to Dunkirk to help with the evacuation.
The whole thing was an utter disaster. A lot was made of the plucky little ships saving our brave boys, but that didn't mean that the only sensible thing to do wasn't to make peace with Hitler.
And then, on June 18th 1940, the new British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, got to his feet in parliament and gave a speech.
The disastrous military events which have happened during the past fortnight have not come to me with any sense of surprise. Indeed, I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open; and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight onwas the uncompromising beginning. Winston Churchill went on to speak of the dangers of invasion, and of bombing raids, and the efforts being made to strengthen the armed forces. At no point did he say any of it was going to be easy. He did, however, declare that Britain and its allies would win in the end.
And then came the magnificent peroration.
What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in 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 perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. 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.”**
That speech was given eighty two years old today.
It is, sadly still relevant; and still shiveringly inspiring, too.
Word To Use Today: abyss. This word comes from the Greek abussos, bottomless, from a- not, or without, plus bussos depth.