The “This was their finest hour” speech was delivered by Sir Winston Churchill to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 18 June 1940. It was given shortly after he took over as Prime Minister on 10 May, in the first year of World War II.

It was the third speech he gave during the “Battle of France”. These speeches (the other two being the “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech of 13 May, and the “We shall fight on the beaches” speech of 4 June) were a great inspiration as Britain entered what was probably the most dangerous phase of the entire war.

It was given as France continued to reel from the stunning and massive German breakthrough at Sedan. In it he tried to give a confident overview of the military situation and rally his people for what he knew was going to be a tremendous struggle. The final sentence of the extract below, referring to the idea that the British Empire might last a thousand years, illustrates Churchill’s extreme attachment and faith in the Empire — its gradual dissolution in the subsequent decades was a source of great distress for him.

Their Finest Hour

“ What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. 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 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, 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.”

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3 Responses to “18th June 1940: This Was Their Finest Hour”

  1. James Green says:

    Being as you live in the Isle of Man I’m tempted to ask if you are referring to the Isle of Man Chief Minister Tony Brown or the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

    The problem is that we no longer have political leaders. People like Churchill had a vision for the country that transcended the lust for power. Even Harold Wilson had a vision or two: he believed in the “Meritocracy” – where people prospered on merit – instead of the “Aristocracy” – where you got because of who you know or what school you went to. He also beloved in opening up higher education to anyone and everyone – and so he set up the Open University.

    James Callaghan was a waste of space – and like Gordon Brown he was another Labour PM who was never elected by the public to that post. Like him no doubt Gordon Brown will be out on his ear at the next election. (Despite the best efforts of the BBC and the newspapers to manufacture a leadership challenge to Brown I believe he will lead the Labour party into the next election. After all who in their right mind would want to become leader of a party doomed to be defeated!)

    Edward Heath was a pompous ass who was determined – come hell or high water – to take the UK into the European Economic Community. You could argue he was a leader but then when you see how he schemed and lied to get his way, well perhaps not. For me he should have been prosecuted for treason and the lies he told – and later admitted to – would have had him impeached as worse than Nixon were he to have been the US President.

    Like her or loath her the last true leader the UK had was Margaret Thatcher. She had a vision for Britain which she pressed through. She didn’t bend to the vagaries of public opinion. If she believed something was right she pressed on regardless. Of course this led to her downfall when she was ambushed, not by the electorate or the opposition, but by her own party leaders who lost their bottle. They thought that sticking with Maggie would loose them the next election and so they dumped her and replaced her with John Major. (By the way, unlike Gordon Brown who became PM without a vote even of his own party, the Conservative Party elected Major. Indeed after he won the 1992 General Election Major actually resigned as leader and PM and offered himself for re-election: he won by a landslide. Come on Gordon – who ever elected you as leader or as PM?)

    I was involved in the Conservative Party, peripherally, at that time and everyone expected that Major would loose the next election. He was in fact elected to fail. The theory was that there would be one term of a Labour government and the Tories – under a new leader – would return to power within 4 or 5 years.

    That all went wrong when Major won the next election. Indeed under Major the Conservatives received the highest number of votes ever for any political party in any UK general election.

    Despite that, and because of the inbuilt bias in UK constituamcy boundaries which mean that seats in the Labour heartlands of Scotland, Wales and the North of England can be won with half the number of votes that a Tory seat in the Midlands or South of England need, Major ended up leading a minority government. He was dependent on the Ulster Unionists and the Scots and Welsh Nationalists to help him get his policies through.

    This was not a recipe for success. No-one can lead a positive government when you don’t control a majority of votes and so it was that at the next General Election, in 1997, that the Labour Party under Tony Blair, swept to power with a massive majority – but with far fewer votes than Major and the Tories achieved.

    So when the media talk about democracy and the unpopularity of the Tories they are talking total twaddle. Since 1997 Labour have won two general elections without ever getting the votes of more than 25% of the electorate. Democracy? Tosh!

    Was Blair a leader? No. Blair gained power by changing the unelectable Labour Party into “New Labour” – his own beast, which many say, is just the Tory Party by another name. That’s not true. All Blair did was to manipulate his party, the media and the electorate to vote him into power. And what did he do when he got power? Well he partly reformed the House of Lords – but as a PM relied on more unelected ministers in the Lords (old friends and employers mainly) than any other PM in centuries.

    And then he abolished hunting. Though there seems to be more hunting now than there ever was.

    Then he tool Britain into a war with Iraq on a series of outrageous lies.

    And he let Gordon Brown run the economy.

    And then he got out and let Gordon become Prime Minister just as it was all turning to ashes.

    But Mr Blair is now earning millions whilst poor old Gordon is being pelted with shit.

    Blair was not a leader – he was a chancer.

    Brown may be a “conviction politician” but he is an abject failure.

    Please can someone find us a leader?

  2. Leo says:

    It is pity Churchill is not leading the country now instead of Mr Brown.


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