CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 24
On this day after Thanksgiving, we give thanks for Winston Churchill and the miracle of his becoming leader of his nation when his nation needed him most. Churchill stepped up and tackled the almost insurmountable mess left by his predecessor. He united his country and ultimately the Free World in a battle to the death with a toxic foe. His singular leadership constituted an extraordinary blend of will and compassion melded by the wisdom he’d accumulated from years of experience in government.
He was the ideal person for his perilous historical moment.
Churchill’s weapon of choice as a leader was speechmaking eloquence. In our journey around his book-length works we next explore INTO BATTLE, the first and indisputably the greatest, of his published war speech collections.
With so little massed war-power at his disposal, Winston Churchill, upon becoming Prime Minister in May 1940, marshaled his words as ammunition. Summoning the Ministers of his new War Cabinet on May 13, he spoke a simple truth: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” The phrase deeply impressed them. A few hours later he repeated it in the House of Commons, speaking there for the first time as Prime Minister. His first BBC broadcast six days later gave the British people a chance to absorb in their own homes the full impact of their new Prime Minister’s speechmaking power. “I am sure I speak for all,” he insisted, and from that moment on, he most certainly did. “We are ready to face it, to endure it; and to retaliate against it . . . Is not this the appointed time for all to make the utmost exertions in their power?”
Churchill celebrated the desperate, successful evacuation of Dunkirk with a speech on June 4 in the House of Commons that was anything but celebratory, projecting strength by honestly acknowledging what had so narrowly been escaped and what was yet to come. It was as if Churchill was sharing with his listeners both his innermost fears and his innermost refusal to succumb to those fears. “We shall fight in the fields and in the streets,” he maintained, “we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
The idea of collecting Churchill’s war speeches and publishing them as a book came from Desmond Flower, Literary Director of Churchill’s new publisher, Cassell. Churchill devised the title himself. Into Battle picked up where Arms and the Covenant left off, commencing with speeches delivered in pre-war May 1938 and concluding in November 1940. The book went on to sell more copies than any previous Churchill book, racing though twelve impressions in Great Britain and nearly 60,000 sales in the U.S., where it was marketed under the title: Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Nearly all of Churchill’s greatest oratorical flourishes of the war appear in
Into Battle. It stands today as a virtual greatest hits compilation. Reading it gives one strength and hope. Still.
We wish you strength and hope. Still.