Today marks the 75th Anniversary of Winton Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech delivered in the House of Commons on June 18, 1940. In this speech, Churchill expresses the need for the British people and the world to stand up to Hitler to not only save themselves but also to preserve freedom, democracy, and human civilization.
Beginning in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, Hitler’s war machine launched blitzkrieg warfare and steadily made gains across mainland Europe. By 1940, Germany had occupied the majority of France and only through bold action were the remaining British and French divisions evacuated from Dunkirk in June 1940, leaving equipment and ammunition to fall into German hands. After the end of the “Battle of France,” Winston Churchill knew Hitler would soon attack the British people as they were the last obstacle standing in the way of him conquering Europe. Churchill called upon the British people to embrace their duty and stand up bravely to the Germans, citing dire consequences if they were to fail to stop Hitler’s ambitions:
“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.”