CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 32
All of Churchill’s war memoir volumes are gripping but only one is an impossible-to-put-down “page-turner,” Volume II: “THEIR FINEST HOUR.” We turn to it next in our perusal of Winston Churchill’s book-length works.
Desperation makes for great reading – the drama of “no way out.” In his second volume of war memoirs, Winston Churchill revisited the nail-biting tightrope walk of his first seven months as wartime Prime Minister, May through December 1940, when Britain stood alone against Hitler.
Churchill, of course, had already narrated the events of this treacherous period himself, in the speeches he’d delivered on radio and in Parliament as each new drama unfolded. Now, in his war memoirs, he recaptured these darkest hours in his own words… The summoning of the Ministers of his new War Cabinet on May 13, when he spoke a simple truth that he would then echo in a speech to the House of Commons just hours later : “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” His first BBC broadcast six days hence that gave the British people a chance to absorb in their own homes the full impact of their new Prime Minister’s speechmaking power: “The long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall.” His June 4 speech in the House of Commons celebrating salvation at Dunkirk with words that were anything but celebratory, projecting strength by acknowledging what had so narrowly been escaped and what was yet to come: “We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Finally, with the armies of France in retreat, Churchill’s return to the Commons on June 18 yielded his most transcendent sermon of hope, one that would supply his war memoirs with its Volume II title: “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. …if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”
It has almost become a cliche to point out that Churchill’s words and actions during this period constitute a master class in crisis management and leadership. In “Their Finest Hour,” Churchill fleshes out this master class to full book length, and defies cliche with facts. Here is how you do it, he explains; here is how I did it.
We wish you continued health and safety in what must be our finest hour.