A SURVEY OF OUR POSITION-AUGUST1940
August 14, 1940.
Freedom and Order, Selected Speeches 1939-1946, 83-88.
In less than a month's time we shall have been at war for a year, and those who thought of this as a short war may be beginning to revise their opinions.
Of course this is no new story. In August 1914 the Germans were assured by their rulers that they would be home by Christmas. This time German propaganda has promised friend and foe alike that the summer of 1940 will see the end of the war.
We think otherwise. We disagree both as to the time and the manner in which the war will end. For us the real war, in which the British Empire will put forward the whole of its strength, has hardly begun. For us the real war will begin when we take the offensive and strike home at the enemy. That is the way wars are won, and that is what we mean to do.
But first let us look back for a moment. Much has happened since last I spoke to you some six weeks ago. I spoke then at a dark and menacing moment in our history. The great evacuation operation at Dunkirk early in June had saved nearly the whole of the British Expeditionary Force. The spirit of that force was unbroken, but it was a force which had been compelled, through no fault of its own, to leave in enemy hands most of its equipment and transport. Therefore, a tremendous task had to be tackled, and tackled immediately.
First of all, over two hundred thousand men had to be sorted out into their original units, infantry, gunners, sappers, tank units, just as they had come up out of the sea.
For several days trains left our south-eastern ports every few minutes, packed with troops and carrying them to their sorting stations all over the country. We owe our railways a debt of gratitude for what they accomplished during those hazardous days.
Then each unit had to be brought up to strength. Some of them had lost heavily, especially in officers and non-commissioned officers. Fresh drafts, however, were immediately forthcoming.
When these had been absorbed, each regiment or unit had to be moved to its appointed position in the combined defence scheme organized for the immediate protection of our island against invasion. All these moves were speedily completed.
But even that is not the whole account that has to be given. These units had to be re-equipped. For two months and more the re-issue of arms and equipment of every kind has been going on at top speed.
Thanks to the sustained and devoted effort of our armament and munitions workers, output has been accelerated and continuously increased from day to day.
To these divisions of the B.E.F. we had of course to add many divisions of the Army which have not yet had experience abroad.
Some of these have had a monotonous duty to perform. They were handicapped during the winter months by hard weather conditions and shortage of equipment; but their spirit remained steadfast, and their material difficulties are now being overcome.
But—and this is what I want to emphasize—we had not only to provide for the present; we had to build for the future. If the Army was to play its full part in the struggle that lay ahead, we had clearly to do more than re-equip the B.E.F. and reinforce them with the existing divisions at home.
For that reason we have greatly accelerated the rate of intake into the Army in the last three months. The previous pace has been multiplied many times.
Since May we have called up for actual training half a million men.
The other day I visited a large contingent of the more recently joined of these recruits, to see the progress of their training. I must say I was astonished. After only four or five weeks they are drilling and moving like veterans.
Their one thought seems to be to fit themselves for active service in the shortest possible period of time. Never have I seen a more striking example of the spirit of the true soldier.
But our native Home Forces do not stand alone. We have Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops with us, and everybody knows what that means in vigorous fighting strength.
We have a contingent of French troops of the Army of all Free Frenchmen. We have Polish troops, Czechs, Norwegians, Belgians, and Dutch, all eager for our first great counter-attack; because that is what a successful defence of our island must prove to be.
Both in men and in material our reserves, too, are mounting day by day.
And here I should like in particular to say a word about the Home Guard, now over a million and a half strong. When I made my first appeal I knew you well enough to realize that the response would be immediate. I knew, too, that, with our national talent for local organization in our towns and villages, a formidable army would spring into life. But my expectations have been far exceeded.
Difficulties, and these were bound to be many, have been overcome, by cheerful willing service and we have to-day a force which in our estimation is admirably adapted for its particular task.
These results have impressed me greatly, but what has impressed me infinitely more than any of them is the wonderful spirit of this magnificent body of volunteers which has sprung into existence,a spirit which cannot fail to act as an inspiration to the whole Army.
To-day the Royal Navy commands the seas, and the Royal Air Force have shown themselves more than a match for their opponents, whether in attack or defence. The exploits of both these services have been most gallant; a splendid epic in our history.
Meanwhile, the Field Army at home has watched with admiration their deeds and those of all three services in the lands of the Middle East. Now, maybe one day soon it will be the turn of the Army at home. If so, every soldier will welcome the challenge. The second phase of the Battle of Britain appears to be opening. We make no boast, but we feel a quiet confidence.
This is a world war and not a European war in the sense that the result of this war will decide the future course of the world, whether it is to relapse into savagery or whether it is to go forward on the path of free and ordered progress. I would like, therefore, to make this suggestion:
When you open your atlas, as you doubtless often do, to study the progress of the war, do not open it at the map of Europe but at the map of the world. The map of Europe is misleading, because it does not tell the whole truth. It merely tells a flattering tale to Germany. It consists very largely of Germany itself and various "German occupied" or "German controlled" countries. All that can be seen of British power and British effort is comprised within two islands, looking rather small and inconspicuous, somewhere up in the left-hand top corner of the map.
The general effect from the German point of view is most impressive—awe-inspiring. In fact, for us to hold out a moment longer seems to Dr. Goebbels and his satellites nothing more or less than a piece of foolish British obstinacy.
Well, we have our own opinion as to our capability to hold out; and not merely hold out, but strike out. Let us turn back a page or two of the atlas and look at the map of the world. Straight away a very different face of things is seen, and Europe assumes its proper proportions.
Europe then becomes a very much smaller place and the oceans are seen to be very large. The Seven Seas come into the picture, covering twice as much of the earth's surface as all the continents put together; and that is where Britannia has a word to say, the last word. Over these oceans come the immense resources which help to forge our engines of war, and beyond these oceans are the other members of the British Commonwealth, who are body andsoul with us in this struggle, and many others too who ardently desire our victory and are giving us material help to secure it.
Given this picture as correct, there are two questions often asked here and elsewhere by our sympathizers.
How are the British going to win the war and what are their plans when the war is won?
An answer can be given without revealing any military secrets to the enemy. Modern wars require the command of world resources, and in order to have these resources at your command sea-power is the first essential.
It has been proved before and it will be proved again that sea-power is a stronger weapon than land-power, which is limited in scope. The Germans know this well, but they hoped in this war to overcome the difficulty by mastery of the air.
There are those in Germany who contend that overwhelming air-power without sea-power is a possible means of achieving victory, but vastly superior sea-power with rapidly growing air-power is a much more likely means. That is our position, and that is one of the reasons why the chances of victory are more in our favour than in Germany's.
Superior power at sea which we possess, and in the air, which we are determined to reach, combined with an ever-increasing army, will secure our victory. The proper use of this power for striking the enemy in each of these spheres is the way that we shall win the war.
And when the time comes for us to strike, where will Hitler's Fifth Column be found? Where will he find friends in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Austria?
Like ghosts arising from the dead with arms in their hands the nations that he has ravished for a season will turn upon him. Then we shall not be alone. Then the Foreign Legions, now forming in our midst, small in numbers but great in heart, will be swollen into a multitude of men demanding their freedom and going out sword in hand to recover it. For a short season we fight alone and we are proud to fight alone until the forces of freedom are marshalled in their tens of thousands.
And now, what of the future? Hitler's plans in so far as he has revealed them are fairly clear. A Europe under his control is described as his new order for Europe. It is certainly not new. There is nothing new about tyranny.
It was practised in every country in the world till men becamecivilized enough to prefer individual liberty. Nor can it properly be called order. For a minority to attempt to hold down in permanent subjection the vast majority is a direct invitation to disorder: and Hitler in the foreign lands he rules to-day can establish no order save the rule of force.
We too, want a new order, but an order of a very different kind, a really new order throughout the world in partnership with other nations, nations free to direct their lives, free to make their choice. We know that all the nations now forced to yield to German pressure desire our victory, so that they may freely make that choice.
We are determined that the world shall not be the same after this war as it was before. There must be no war-weariness or peace-weariness this time. There must be no wishful thinking about the future. There must be no third war in our time or in our children's time.
We have to fashion a new world where our ideals will prevail and where we shall have and keep the force to see that they do prevail. No half-measures, no buying-off of implacable enemies, but a full measure of peace, peace between free nations based upon principles in which we have confidence because we know that they are right.
We are standing alone against the greatest tyranny in history to win the kind of peace we believe in for ourselves and for others, and we mean to have it. The world is going to go forward, not back. That is our firm determination, and by God's help we shall achieve