CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 29
Battered and exhausted, but unbowed, we have reached VICTORY, the sixth volume of Winston Churchill’s war speeches.
Victory is never simple. Its aftermath is often complex and rarely fully satisfying. That is the message of the speeches delivered by Winston Churchill from January 18 through August 16, 1945 encompassed by the book that he chose to call: “Victory.”
The final eight months of the war are addressed, including Yalta, the death of Roosevelt, the German surrender and VE-Day. Victory then descends into a 1945 General Election that shockingly ends with Churchill being thrown out of office. Was there ever another first-person chronicle of victory that ends in such personal defeat?
Churchill, of course handles both poles of fate with eloquence and equanimity, despite lapsing painfully in his infamous stump speech of June 5, 1945; using the word “Gestapo” to describe a potential Socialist Labour Government. The lapse no doubt helped cost him the election.
Still, Churchill, in victory and defeat, retains penetrating vision. In victory, he yet foresees the fearful fate of a Communist future across Europe. “The hon. Member continues to presume,” he chastises a House of Commons “Gentleman opposite,” who resists Churchill’s reporting of atrocities committed by the Communists in Greece following Germany’s retreat. “I am reading the facts, and he does not like the facts. I am telling the truth, and he fears the truth. These facts reflect on those whom he has so thoughtlessly championed, and I will give him further warning. There is a great deal more to come.”
In defeat, Churchill still concludes Victory with words of hope and renewal. “I do not underrate the difficult and intricate complications of the task which lies before us,” he insists in his “Final Review of the War” and his first major speech as opposition leader in the Commons on August 16, 1945. “I know too much about it to cherish vain illusions… It is a time not only of rejoicing but even more of resolve. When we look back on all the perils through which we have passed and at the mighty foes we have laid low and all the dark and deadly designs we have frustrated, why should we fear for our future? We have come safely through the worst.”
We wish you, as ever, health, safety and the sustenance of Churchillian perspective.