On The French Opinion Of The British
‘When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone, whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” Some chicken! Some Neck!’
This quote formed part of Churchill’s speech to the Canadian House of Commons in December 1941. The speech talks about the vital part that Canada and the USA will play in the struggle against Germany and Japan and Britain’s role in theatres of war around the world. He used the speech as an opportunity to show the price of failure, the impact on a nation of surrender to the Nazi forces.
While his admiration for the French people (and the Free French under De Gaulle in particular) shines through together with his respect for nations such as the Dutch and Polish who continued to fight the war through governments and armies in exile he was scathing in his talk of the Vichy French and the failure of the French generals to continue to fight – a decision that led to the French government decision to surrender their country to occupation and puppet government. Churchill’s pride in the achievement of Britain, her armed forces and her people shine through in this quote, a reminder always to stand up for what is right no matter how hard.
On The Cold War
‘A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory…From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic and Iron Curtain has descended across the continent.’
Although the phrase had been used by other people prior to Churchill’s famous speech in Fulton Missouri (March 4 1946) it was this speech that popularized its use as regards the partition of Europe into Western and Eastern spheres of influence.
After the end of the War the former combatants were busy trying to move their economies back onto a peace time footing and manage the massive demobilization process. It was this speech, given in a tiny town in a (to him) foreign country, by a man who had been voted out of office the previous year, that is widely believed to mark the start of the Cold War. It was a warning to all that it was not possible to rest on the laurels of victory but that it was necessary to work hard to secure peace.
Churchill, with all the insightful brilliance of his unique mind, encourages the US and Great Britain to greater participation in the embryonic United Nations and even discusses the concept of United Nations Peace Keeping Forces.
So many western politicians of that generation had hoped that the cooperation that had existed between the Russian and other allies during the war would continue into the peace. It took Churchill, always a visionary, to articulate the danger. Luckily for the world he was not, in 1946, ignored in the same way that he was in the 1930s when he spoke volubly and regularly about the rising danger of Nazism.
It is a particular shame that this list is limited to only 10 quotes as he is known for his pithy wit and quick fire responses. Who could forget his excellent statements on truth such as ‘You must look at facts, because they look at you’ or ‘the true guide of life is to do what is right’ advice as relevant now as when he first spoke it. He also had much to say on courage recognizing that it is the foundation on which all honorable actions (whether by a nation, a group of people or an individual) are formed. They include ‘Courage is that it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen’ (many politicians today would do well to abide by that maxim).
Churchill stands out, even today, in our 24/7 news cycle with politicians who are required, more than ever, to be performers as one of the greatest political orators and rhetoricians of all time. Churchill lived much of his life in the political wilderness – the failure of the Gallipoli campaign blighting his post WWI career for many years. During the 1930s he watched as Britain and her allies stood by and allowed Hitler to arm Germany. Nevertheless he took his own advice, he never gave up, he persevered and, in his 60s his turn came again. His life can perhaps be best summed up in his own words. ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.’