From Churchill’s Parrot blog.

In the history of warfare, the victory of will over might is not at all uncommon.  Thrilling tales of battles in which vastly outnumbered and out-gunned troops fought heroically against all odds to emerge victorious enchant history books of every culture; at one time even our own. 

An ever-diminishing few of us celebrate one such battle today, 15, September: The Battle of Britain.  Taking place over the summer of 1940, 2,936 pilots defended England against a far superior German Luftwaffe. 544 of those pilots gave their lives in the effort which ultimately forced Hitler to abandon his planned invasion of England, the “sole champion of the liberties of all Europe.” 

As Sir Winston Churchill so eloquently declared of these brave men,

“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Sir Winston did not overstate the significance of this turning of the tide.  He did, however, understate his own role in bringing it about.  For in truth, it was the tone set by Sir Winston’s magnificent oratory and bold decision making preceding and throughout this ordeal that ignited the passions of British soldiers – and the British people – to fight as ferociously as they did for their survival and their way of life.

In his biography, Winston Churchill, author John Keegan writes,

“The answer to the question of what sustained Churchill and the British in the darkest days is that it was his own words.  From them the people took hope and Churchill drew inspiration.”

“Churchill’s words did not only touch his people’s hearts and move the emotions of their future American allies, they also set the moral climate of the war.”

“Churchill’s message triumphed.”

It is our belief at Churchill’s Parrot, and – I am happy to say – numerous other sites throughout the blogosphere, that Sir Winston’s message remains as relevant, applicable, triumphant, and essential today as in 1940. Why?

Clearly, in our present struggle – the War on Terror or The Long War as it is perhaps more appropriately monikered – vast military superiority is entirely our own. Our great disadvantage, the Achilles Heel of Western Civilization, exists not in our arsenals of weapons and treasure, but in our arsenal of will.  In government of the people, by the people, for the people, this is no small concern. 

Thus, we endeavor to facilitate the steady application of Churchillian light upon current events with the hope of  reawakening and emboldening the flagging will of Western Civilization; free people raised in unprecedented peace and prosperity and unaccustomed  to the degree of sobriety and clarity required to sufficiently appreciate our current station in history.  For as Osama bin Laden himself has declared:

“The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries; the Islamic Nation, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies on the other.  It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”

On this September 15,  Battle of Britain Day, allow us then to draw your attention to key excerpts from speeches Sir Winston made over the summer of 1940 which empowered his people to prevail – virtually through will alone – in what may well have become Western Civilization’s last stand. We feel these ought prove instructive to those today who see little hope or point to this Long War, its many complexities and fronts (yes including Iraq), and wish really the whole bloody mess would just go away. 

We begin with Sir Winston’s response to Chamberlain and Halifax’s recommendation of “seeking terms” with Hitler upon Germany’s defeat of French and Belgian forces in May of 1940, leaving Britain alone to face the Nazi threat. 

“Nations which went down fighting, rose again.  But those who surrendered tamely, were finished.  If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” 

Shortly thereafter, from his June 18, 1940 speech at the outset of the Battle of Britain:

“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.’”
“During the first four years of the last war the Allies experienced nothing but disaster and disappointment. That was our constant fear: one blow after another, terrible losses, frightful dangers. Everything miscarried. And yet at the end of those four years the morale of the Allies was higher than that of the Germans, who had moved from one aggressive triumph to another, and who stood everywhere triumphant invaders of the lands into which they had broken. During that war we repeatedly asked ourselves the question: How are we going to win? and no one was able ever to answer it with much precision, until at the end, quite suddenly, quite unexpectedly, our terrible foe collapsed before us.”

“Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future. Therefore, I cannot accept the drawing of any distinctions between Members of the present Government.”

From his speech before the House of Commons, August 20, 1940, the “crisis point” in the Battle of Britain:

“One of the ways to bring this war to a speedy end is to convince the enemy, not by words, but by deeds, that we have both the will and the means, not only to go on indefinitely but to strike heavy and unexpected blows. The road to victory may not be so long as we expect. But we have no right to count upon this. Be it long or short, rough or smooth, we mean to reach our journey’s end.”

“If it is a case of the whole nation fighting and suffering together, that ought to suit us, because we are the most united of all the nations, because we entered the war upon the national will and with our eyes open, and because we have been nurtured in freedom and individual responsibility and are the products, not of totalitarian uniformity but of tolerance and variety.”

“Our people are united and resolved, as they have never been before. Death and ruin have become small things compared with the shame of defeat or failure in duty. We cannot tell what lies ahead. It may be that even greater ordeals lie before us. We shall face whatever is coming to us. We are sure of ourselves and of our cause and that is the supreme fact which has emerged in these months of trial.”

By this post we seek to honor those who gave their all in the Battle of Britain, conjuring their memory and the words of their leader, in acknowledgment of their profound sacrifice and example. What they lacked in arms, they made up for a hundred fold in will.  We today in this Long War stand better armed than any people in history.  But have we the will to endure it?  



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