Seventy-seven years ago today, Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his most memorable speech during Britain's war against Adolf Hitler. The threat of invasion by German ground forces was high. The British people descended almost nightly into their bomb shelters as waves of Luftwaffe bombers flew overheard dropping their terror on thousands of victims.
Churchill was a master of the English language but even he struggled for the right words to both describe the reality his countrymen faced and rally them to endure what he knew would be their darkest hour:
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 freed 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.
Churchill would go on to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1953 for his many volumes of history, biography and other works. He possessed a vivid, lively writing style well worth reading for information as well as enjoyment. For more on this remarkable leader, here is a link to his Wikipedia entry.
And here is a link to the "finest hour" speech in its entirety of thirty minutes. All of it is worth hearing but as one would expect the conclusion is remarkably powerful beginning at 26:13
Photos and Illustrations:
public domain photo, Imperial War Museums
title quote, from the short poem, "Jerusalem," in the preface of William Blake's Milton a Poem.
Winston Churchill, wikipedia.org