Winston Churchill. A name with which we are all familiar. A name with which we all associate the art of speech-making. The man and his speeches are said to have inspired a generation, rallied a nation during World War II and continue to fascinate to this day. But what are Winston Churchill’s greatest speeches?
With that question, I’m sure there are many famous lines that come to mind; “we will fight on the beaches”, “never was so much owed by so many to so few”, “blood, toil, tears and sweat”. For me, and I’m sure for many of you, the speeches that come to mind are those from 1940 – Winston Churchill’s first year as British Prime Minister and a year in which, with World War II raging and the Battle of Britain all but inevitable, Winston’s words would have their greatest impact.
Below are my choices for his five greatest speeches, all of which are from that historic year – 1940. But which of his speeches would make your top five? Tweet your answers to us @RoyalMintUK using #Churchill2015 and we’ll share your choices.
Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat – 1940
This, his first speech as Britain’s Prime Minister on 13 May 1940, is remembered for lines such as: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” and “You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.”
Be Ye Men of Valour – 1940
Be Ye Men of Valour was a speech made in a BBC broadcast on 19 May 1940. It is significant as it was Winston Churchill’s first broadcast as Prime Minister to the British people. It was a call-to-arms that included the famous line: “Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour”.
We shall never surrender – 1940
Commonly known as the ‘we shall never surrender’ and ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ speech, this speech on 4 June 1940 was immediately recognised as historic. It was Winston Churchill at his most defiant and galvanising.
Interesting to note, “We shall fight them on the beaches” is a common mistake when reciting this speech. If you listen below Winston Churchill never says ‘them’, he actually says “we shall fight on the beaches”.
This was their finest hour – 1940
On 18 June 1940, France had all but fallen and the Battle of Britain was imminent. The nation turned to Winston Churchill, Prime Minister for little more than a month. In a speech to the House of Commons he responded with what many historians regard as his greatest speech.
Never was so much owed by so many to so few – 1940
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. In this speech on 20 August 1940, Winston Churchill referred to the ongoing efforts of the RAF pilots fighting in the Battle of Britain as it continued in the skies above.
With a name so closely associated to the art of oratory and speech-making, it came as a shock, when researching his speeches, to learn that this great speechmaker, did in fact suffer from a speech impediment. See our top ten Winston Churchill facts.