Churchill’s WW2 Speech to the Nation October 1939

Reproduced below are the principal passages from Winston Churchill’s eagerly awaited broadcast speech of October 1st – this is a direct word for word copy as appeared in the War Illustrated.

The British Empire and the French Republic have been at war with Nazi Germany for a month tonight.  We have not yet come at all to the severity of fighting which is to be expected, but three important things have happened.

First Poland has been again overrun by two of the great Powers which held it in bondage for the last 150 years, but were unable to conquer the spirit of the Polish nation. The heroic defence of Warsaw shows that soul of Poland is indestructible and that she will rise again like a rock, which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock.
What is the second event of this first month? It is, of course, the assertion of the power of Russia. Russia has pursued a cold policy of self-interest. We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present lines as the friends of the allies in Poland, instead of as invaders.
But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace.
When Herr von Ribbentropp was summoned to Moscow last week it was to learn the fact, and to accept the fact, that the Nazi designs upon the Baltic States and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop.

Triple Community of Interests
I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.
It cannot be in accordance with the interest or safety of Russia that Nazi Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that is should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south-eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia. But in this quarter of the world, the South East of Europe, these interests of Russia fall into the same channel as the interests of Britain and France. None of these three Powers can afford to see Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and above all, Turkey, put under the German heel.
Through the fog of confusion and uncertainty we may discern quite plainly the community of interests which exist between England, France and Russia to prevent Germany carrying the flames of war into the Balkans or Turkey.
Thus, at some risk of being proved wrong by events, I will proclaim tonight my conviction that the second great fact of the first month of the war is that Hitler and all that Hitler stands for, have been and are being warned off the east and the south-east of Europe.

What is the third event? Here I speak as First Lord of the Admiralty with special caution. It would seem that the U-boat attack upon the life of the British Isles has not so far proved successful.
It is true that when they sprang out upon us and we were going about our ordinary business, with 2,000 ships in constant movement every day upon the seas, they managed to do some serious damage. But the Royal Navy has immediately attacked the U-boats and is hunting them night and day.
And it looks tonight very much as if it is the U-boats who are feeling the weather, and not the Royal Navy or the world-wide commerce of Britain. During the first month of war we have captured by our efficient contraband control 150,000 tons more German merchandise – food, oil, minerals, and other commodities – for our own benefit that we have lost by all the U-boat sinkings put together.
We are told that all the U-boats have gone home to tell their master about their exploits and their experiences. But that is not true, because every day, even on Sundays, we are attacking them upon the approaches to the British Isles. Some undoubtedly have preferred to go off and sink the unprotected neutral ships of Norway and Sweden.
I hope the day will come when the Admiralty will be able to invite the ships of all nations to join the British convoy and insure them on their voyages at a reasonable rate.
We must, of course, expect that the U-boat attack upon the sea-borne commerce of the world will be renewed presently on a greater scale. We hope, however, that by the end of October we shall have three times as many hunting-craft at work as we had at the beginning of the war, and I can assure you by the measures we have taken we hope that our means of putting down the pest will grow continually. We are taking great care about that.
Therefore, to sum up the results of the first month, let us say that Poland has been overrun, but will rise again; that Russia has warned Hitler off his Eastern dreams; and that the U-boats may be safely left to the care and constant attention of the British Navy.
I now wish to speak about what is happening in our own island. When a peaceful democracy is suddenly made to fight for its life, there must be a lot of trouble and hardship in turning over from peace to war.
His Majesty’s Government is unitedly resolved to make the maximum effort of which the british nation is capable and to persevere whatever may happen, until decisive victory is gained.

Meanwhile patriotic men and women, and those who understand the high causes in human fortunes which are at stake, must not only rise above fear, they must also rise above inconvenience and boredom.
Parliament will be kept in session and all grievance or muddles or scandles, if such there are, can be freely ventilated there. In past times the House of Commons has proved itself an instrument of national will-power capable of waging stern wars.
In other fields a large army has already gone to France. British armies upon the scale of the effort of the Great War are in preparation. The British people are determined to stand in line with the splendid army of the French Republic, and share with them as last and as early as we can, whatever may be coming towards us both.
It may be that great or ordeals may be coming to us in this island from the air. We shall do our best to give a good account of ourselves, and we must always remember that the command of the seas will enable us to bring the immense resources of Canada and the New World into play as a decisive, ultimate air factor beyond the reach of what we have to give and take over here.

Hitler Began It – We End It
Directions have been given by the Government to prepare for a war of at least years. That does not mean that victory may not be gained in a short time. How soon it will gained depends upon how long Herr Hitler and his group of wicked men, whose hands are stained with blood and soiled with corruption, can keep their grip upon the docile unhappy German people.

It was for Hitler to say when the war would begin, but it is not for him or his successor to say when it will end. It began when he wanted it, and it will end only when we are convinced that he has had enough.

The Prime Minister has stated our war aim in terms which cannot be bettered and which cannot be too often repeated: “to redeem Europe from the perpetual and recurring fear of German aggression and enable the peoples their liberties”. That is what the British and French nations are fighting for.
Now we have begun: now we are going on; now, with the help of God and all that is meant thereby, and with the conviction that we are the defenders of civilisation and freedom, we are going on, and we are going to go on to the end.

Here I am in the same post as I was twenty-five years ago. Rough times lie ahead, but how different is the scene from that of October 1914. Then the French front, with its British assistance, seemed to be about to break. Then Russia had been laid low at Tannenberg. Then the whole might of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was in battle against us. Then the brave, warlike Turks were about to join our enemies. Then we had to be ready night and day to fight decisive sea battle with a formidable German Fleet almost in many respects the equal of our own.
We faced those adverse conditions then. We have nothing worse to face tonight. In those days of 1914, also, Italy was neutral, but we did not know the reason for her neutrality then. It was only later that we learned that, by a secret clause in the original Treaty of Triple Alliance, Italy had expressly reserved to herself the right to stand aside from any war which brought her into conflict with Great Britain.
Much has happened since then misunderstandings and disputes have arisen, but all the more do we appreciate in England the reasons why this great and friendly nation of Italy, with whom we have never been at war, has not seen fit to enter the struggle.
I do not understand what lies before us, but I must say this: I cannot doubt we have the strength to carry a good cause forward, and to break down the barriers which stand between the wage earning masses of every land and a free and more abundant daily life……..

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