London, November 10, 1942
New York Times, November 11, 1942.
I notice, my Lord Mayor, by your speech you have reached the conclusion that news from the various fronts has been somewhat better lately.
In our wars, episodes are largely adverse but the final result has hitherto been satisfactory. Eddies swirl around us, but the tide bears us forward on its broad, restless flood.
In the last war we were uphill almost to the end. We met with continual disappointments and with disasters far more bloody than anything we have experienced so far in this. But in the end all oppositions fell together and our foes submitted themselves to our will.
We have not so far in this war taken as many German prisoners as they have taken British, but these German prisoners will, no doubt, come in in droves at the end, just as they did last time.
I have never promised anything but blood, tears, toil and sweat. Now, however, we have a new experience. We have victory-a remarkable and definite victory. The bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers and warmed and cheered all our hearts.
The late M. Venizelos observed that in all her wars England-he should have said Britain, of course-always won one battle, the last. It would seem to have begun rather earlier this time.
General Alexander, with his brilliant comrade and lieutenant, General Montgomery, has made a glorious and decisive victory in what I think should be called the Battle of Egypt. Rommel's army has been defeated. It has been routed. It has been very largely destroyed as a fighting force.
This battle was not fought for the sake of gaining positions or so many square miles of desert territory. General Alexander and General Montgomery fought it with one single idea-to destroy the armed forces of the enemy and to destroy them at a place where the disaster would be most punishable and irrevocable.
All the various elements in our lines of battle played their part. Indian troops, Fighting French, Greeks, representatives of Czechoslovakia and others. Americans rendered powerful and invaluable service in the air. But as it happened, as the course of battle turned, it has been fought throughout almost entirely by men of British blood and from the dominions on the one side and by Germans on the other. The Italians were left to perish in the waterless desert. But the fighting between the British and Germans was intense and fierce in the extreme.
It was a deadly battle. The Germans have been outmatched and outfought with every kind of weapon with which they had beaten down so many small peoples and, also, larger, unprepared peoples. They have been beaten by many of the technical apparatus on which they counted to gain domination of the world. Especially is this true in the air, as of tanks and of artillery, which has come back into its own. The Germans have received that measure of fire and steel which they have so often meted out to others.
Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning to the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Hitler's Nazis will be equally well armed and, perhaps, better armed. But henceforward they will have to face in many theatres that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against others and of which they boasted all around the world that they were to be masters and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless.
When I read of the coastal road crammed with fleeing German vehicles under the blasting attacks of the R. A. F., I could not but remember those roads of France and Flanders crowded not with fighting men, but with helpless refugees, women and children, fleeing with their pitiful barrows and household goods upon whom such merciless havoc was wreaked. I have, I trust, a humane disposition, but I must say I could not help feeling that whatever was happening, however grievous, was only justice grimly repaid.
It will be my duty in the near future to give a particular and full account of these operations. All I say about them at present is that the victory which has already been gained gives good prospects of becoming decisive and final, so far as the defense of Egypt is concerned.
But this Battle of Egypt, in itself so important, was designed and timed as a prelude and a counterpart of the momentous enterprise undertaken by the United States at the western end of the Mediterranean, an enterprise under United States command and in which our army, air force and, above all, our navy are bearing an honorable and important share. A very full account has bee published of all that has been happening in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
The President of the United States, who is Commander in Chief of the armed forces of America, is the author of this might undertaking and in all of it I have been his active and ardent lieutenant.
You have, no doubt, read the declaration of President Roosevelt, solemnly endorsed by His Majesty's Government, of the strict respect which will be paid to the rights and interests of Spain and Portugal, both by America and Great Britain.
To those countries, our only policy is that they shall be independent and free, prosperous and at peace. Britain and the United States will do all that we can to enrich the economic life of the Iberian Peninsula. The Spaniards, especially, with all their troubles, require and deserve peace and recuperation.
Our thoughts turn toward France, groaning in bondage under the German heel. Many ask themselves the question: Is France finished? Is that long and famous history, marked by so many manifestations of genius, bearing with it so much that is precious to culture, to civilization and, above all, to the liberties of mankind-is all that now to sink forever into the ocean of the past or will France rise again and resume her rightful place in the structure of what may one day be again the family of Europe?
I gladly say here, on this considerable occasion, even now when misguided or suborned Frenchmen are firing upon their rescuers, that I am prepared to stake my faith that France will rise again.
While there are men like General De Gaulle and all those who follow him-and they are legion throughout France-and men like General Giraud, that gallant warrior whom no prison can hold, while there are men like that to stand forward in the name and in the cause of France my confidence in the future of France is sure.
For ourselves we have no wish but to see France free and strong, with her empire gathered round her and with Alsace-Lorraine restored. We covet no French possession. We have no acquisitive designs or ambitions in North Africa or any other part of the world. We have not entered this war for profit or expansion but only for honor and to do our duty in defending the right.
Let me, however, make this clear, in case there should be any mistake about it in any quarter: we mean to hold our own. I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. For that task, if ever it were prescribed, some one else would have to be found, and under a democracy I suppose the nation would have to be consulted.
I am proud to be a member of that vast commonwealth and society of nations and communities gathered in and around the ancient British monarchy, without which the good cause might well have perished from the face of the earth.
Here we are and here we stand, a veritable rock of salvation in this drifting world. There was a time not long ago when for a whole year we stood all alone. Those days, thank God, have gone.
We now move forward in a great and gallant company. For our record we have nothing to fear. We have no need to make excuses or apologies. Our record pleads for us and we shall get gratitude in the breasts of every man and woman in every part of the world.
As I have said, in this war we have no territorial aims. We desire no commercial favors, we wish to alter no sovereignty or frontier for our own benefit.
We have come into North Africa shoulder to shoulder with our American friends and allies for one purpose and one purpose only. Namely, to gain a vantage ground from which to open a n ew front against Hitler and Hitlerism, to cleanse the shores of Africa from the stain of Nazi and Fascist tyranny, to open the Mediterranean to Allied sea power and air power, and thus effect the liberation of the peoples of Europe from the pit of misery into which they have been passed by their own improvidence and by the brutal violence of the enemy.
These two African undertakings, in the east and in the west, were part of a single strategic and political conception which we had labored long to bring to fruition and about which we are now justified in entertaining good and reasonable confidence. Taken together they were a grand design, vast in its scope, honorable in its motive and noble in its aim.
British and American forces continue to prosper in the Mediterranean. The whole event will be a new bond between the English-speaking people and a new hope for the whole world.
I recall to you some lines of Byron which seem to me to fit event and theme:
"Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
Their children's lips shall echo them and say,
Here where sword the united nations drew
Our countrymen were warring on that day.
And this is much and all which will not pass away."