Vive la France!


By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain

Delivered Over Radio from London, October 19, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, p. 48.

FRENCHMEN! For more than thirty years, in peace and war, I marched with you and I am marching still along the same road. Tonight I speak to you at your firesides wherever you may be, or whatever your fortunes are. I repeat the prayer around the louis d'or—Dieu protege la France, God protect France.

Here at home in England, under the fire of the Boche, we do not forget the ties and links that unite us to France, and we are persevering steadfastly and in good heart in the cause of European freedom and fair dealing for the common people of all countries for which, with you, we draw the sword.

When good people get into trouble because they are attacked and heavily smitten by the vile and wicked, they must be very careful not to get at loggerheads with one another. The common enemy is always trying to bring this about, and, of course, in bad luck a lot of things happen which play into the enemy's hands. We must just make the best of things as they come along.

Here in London, which Herr Hitler says he will reduce to ashes and which his airplanes are now bombarding, our people are bearing up unflinchingly. Our air force has more than held its own. We are waiting for the long-promised invasion—so are the fishes.

Predicts Air Supremacy in 1941

But, of course, this brush is only the beginning. Now in 1940, in spite of occasional losses, we have, as ever, the command of the seas. In 1941 we shall have the command of the air. Remember what that means.

Herr Hitler, with his tanks and other mechanical weapons and also by fifth-column intrigue with traitors, has managed to subjugate for the time being most of the finest races in Europe, and his little Italian accomplice is trotting along hopefully and hungrily, but rather wearily and very timidly, at his side. They both wish to carve up France and her empire as if it were a fowl—to one a leg, to another a wing, or perhaps part of the breast.

Not only the French Empire will be devoured by these two ugly customers, but Alsace-Lorraine will go once again under the German yoke and Nice, Savoy and Corsica, Napoleon's Corsica, will be torn from the fair realm of France.

But Herr Hitler is not thinking only of stealing other people's territories or flinging gobbets of them to his little confederate. I tell you truly what you must believe when I say this evil man, this monstrous abortion of hatred and deceit, is resolved on nothing less than the complete wiping out of the French nation and the disintegration of its whole life and future.

By all kinds of sly and savage means he is plotting and working to quench forever the fountain of characteristic French culture and French inspiration to the world. All Europe, if he has his way, will be reduced to one uniform Bocheland, to be exploited, pillaged and bullied by his Nazi gangsters.

Urges Spiritual Rearmament

You will excuse my speaking frankly, because this is not a time to mince words. It is not defeat that France will now be made to suffer at German hands, but the doom of complete obliteration—army, navy, air force, religion, laws, language, culture, institutions, literature, history, traditional! are to be effaced by the brute strength of a triumphant army and the scientific, low cunning of a ruthless police force.

Frenchmen! Rearm your spirits before it is too late. Remember how Napoleon said before one of his battles—these same Prussians who are so boastful today were three to one at Jena and six to one at Montmirail. "Never will I believe that the soul of France is dead; never will I believe that her place among the greatest nations of the world has been lost forever."

All these schemes and crimes of Herr Hitler are bringing upon him and upon all who belong to his system a retribution which many of us will live to see. The story is not yet finished, but it will not be so long. We are on his track and so are our friends across the Atlantic Ocean and your friends across the Atlantic Ocean. If he cannot destroy us we will surely destroy him and all his gang and all their works. Therefore, have hope and faith, for all will come right. Now, what is it we British ask of you in this present hard and bitter time? What we ask at this moment in our struggle to win the victory which we will share with you is that if you cannot help us, at least you will not hinder us.

Presently you will be able to weight the arm that strikes for you and you ought to do so. But even now we trust that Frenchmen, wherever they may be, will feel their hearts warm and the proud blood tingle in their veins when we have some success in the air or on the sea, or presently, for that will come, upon the land.

Recalls Gambetta's Words

Remember, we shall never stop, never weary and never give in, and that our whole people and empire have bowed themselves to the task of cleansing Europe from the Nazi pestilence and saving the world from the new Dark Ages. Do not imagine, as the German-controlled wireless tells you, that we English seek to take your ships and colonies. We seek to beat the life and soul out of Hitler and Hitlerism—that alone, that all the time, that to the end.

We do not covet anything from any nation, except their respect.

Those Frenchmen who are in the French Empire and those who are in so-called unoccupied France may see their way from time to time to useful action. I will not go into details. Hostile ears are listening.

As for those to whom English hearts go out in full because they see them under sharp discipline, oppression and spying of the Hun—as to those Frenchmen in the occupied regions, to them I say, when they think of the future let them remember the words which (Leon) Gambetta, that great Frenchman, uttered after 1870 about the future of France and what was to come: "Think of it always. Speak of it never."

Good night, then. Sleep to gather strength for the morning, for the morning will come. Brightly will it shine on the brave and true; kindly upon all who suffer for the cause; glorious upon the tombs of heroes—thus will shine the dawn.

Vive la France! Long live, also, the forward march of the common people in all the lands toward their just and true inheritance and toward the broader and fuller age.