Troops Will Cross Channel


By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain

Broadcast from Quebec, Can., August 31, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 707-710.

AT the beginning of July I began to feel the need for a new meeting with the President of the United States and also for another conference of our joint staffs. We were all delighted when, by a happy inspiration, President Roosevelt suggested that Quebec should be the scene, and when the Governor General and the Government of Canada offered us their princely hospitality.

Certainly, no more fitting and splendid setting could have been chosen for a meeting of those who guide the war policy of the two great Western democracies at this cardinal moment in the Second World War than we have here in the Plains of Abraham, in the Chateau Frontenac and the ramparts of the citadel of Quebec from the midst of which I speak to you now.

Here at the gateway of Canada, in mighty lands which have never known the totalitarian tyrannies of Hitler and Mussolini, the spirit of freedom has found a safe and abiding home. Here that spirit is no wandering phantom. It is enshrined in parliamentary institutions based on universalsuffrage and evolved through the centuries by the English-speaking peoples. It is inspired by the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. It is guarded by resolute and vigilant millions, never so strong or so well armed as today.

Quebec was the very place for the two great powers of the sea and in the air to resolve and shape plans to bring their large and grand armies into closer contact and fiercer grips with the common foe.

Voices Sympathy With France

Here above all, in the classical heart of French Canada, it is right to think of the French people in their agony, to set on foot new measures for their deliverance and to send them a message across the ocean that we have not forgotten them nor all the services which France has rendered to culture and civilization, to the march of the human intellect and to the rights of man.

And for forty years or more I have believed in the greatnessand virtue of France. Often in dark and baffling days I have not wavered, and since the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904 I have always served and worked actively with them in defense of good causes.

It was therefore to me a deep satisfaction that words of hope, of comfort and recognition should be spoken not only to those Frenchmen who, outside Hitler's clutches, march in arms with us, but also to the broad masses of the French nation, who await the day when they can free and cleanse their land from the torment and shame of German subjugation.

We may be sure that all will come right. We may be sure that France will rise again, free, united and independent, to stand on guard with others over the generous tolerances and brightening opportunities of the human society we mean to rescue and rebuild.

I have also had the advantage of conferring with the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mackenzie King, the experienced statesman who led the Dominion instantly and unitedly into the war.

Eulogizes Canada's War Effort

I was sitting on several occasions with his Cabinet, and the British and Canadian staffs have been over the whole ground of the war together. The contributions which Canada has made to the combined effort of the British Commonwealth and Empire in these tremendous times has deeply touched the heart of the Mother Country and of all the other members of our widespread family of states and races. From the darkest days the Canadian Army, growing stronger year by year, has played an indispensable part in guarding our British homeland from invasion. And now it is fighting with distinction in wider and in widening fields.

The Empire air training organization, which has been a wonderful success, has found its seat in Canada and has welcomed the flower of the manhood of Great Britain, of Australia, of New Zealand to her spacious flying fields and to comradeship with her own gallant sons.

Canada has become in the course of this war an important seafaring nation, building many scores of warships and merchantships, some of them built thousands of miles from salt water, and sending them forth manned by hardy Canadian seamen to guard the Atlantic convoys and our vital lifeline across the ocean.

The munition industries of Canada have played a most important part in our war economy. Last but not least Canada has relieved Great Britain of what would otherwise have been a debt for these munitions of no less than two thousand million dollars. All this, of course, was dictated by no law; it came from no treaty or formal obligation. It sprang in perfect freedom from sentiment and tradition and in a generous resolve to serve the future of mankind. I am glad to pay my tribute on behalf of Britain to the great Dominion and to pay it from Canadian soil.

I only wish indeed that my other duties, which are exacting, allowed me to travel still farther afield and tell Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans to their face how we feel towards them for all they have done and are resolved to do.

I mentioned just now the agreement Britain made with France almost forty years ago, and how we have stood by it and will stand by it with unswerving faithfulness.

Explain Russia's Absence

But there is another great nation with whom we have made a solemn treaty. We have made a twenty-year treaty of goodwill and mutual aid with Soviet Russia. You maybe sure that we British are resolved to do our utmost to make that good, with all our strength and national steadiness.

It would not have been suitable for Russia to be represented at this Anglo-American conference, which apart from dealing with the immediate operations of our intermingled and interwoven armed forces in the Mediterranean and elsewhere was largely, if not mainly, concerned with heating and inflaming the war against Japan, with whom the Soviet Government has a five-years treaty of non-aggression, it would have been an embarrassing invitation for us to send.

But nothing is nearer to the wishes of President Roosevelt and myself than to have a threefold meeting with Marshal Stalin. If that has not yet taken place, it is certainly not because we have not tried our best, or have not been willing to lay aside every impediment and undertake further immense journeys for that purpose.

We believe it is because Marshal Stalin, in direct command of the victorious Russian armies, cannot at the present time leave the battlefront upon which he is conducting operations of vital consequence not only to Russia, which was the object of ferocious German attack, but also to the common cause of all the United Nations.

To judge by the latest news from the Russian battlefront, Marshal Stalin is certainly not wasting his time.

The entire British Empire sends him our salute on his brilliant summer campaign and on the victories of Orel, Kharkov and Tagenrog, by which so much Russian soil has been redeemed and so many hundreds of thousands of its invaders wiped out.

Will Seek Meeting With Stalin

The President and I will persevere in our efforts to meet Marshal Stalin, and in the meantime it seems most necessary and urgent that a conference of the British, United States and Russian Foreign Ministers or their responsible representatives should be held at some convenient place in order not merely to explore the various important questions connected with the future arrangements for world security, but to carry their discussions to a point where the heads of states and governments may be able to intervene.

We shall also be very glad to associate Russian representatives with us in the political decisions which arise out of the victories the Anglo-American forces have gained in the Mediterranean.

In fact, there is no step which we may take or which may be forced upon us by the unforeseeable course of this war about which we should not wish to consult with our Russian friends and allies in the fullest confidence and candor. It would be a very great advantage to everyone and indeed to the whole free world if our unity of thought and decisions upon practical measures to the longer future as well as upon strategic problems could be reached between the three great opponents of the Hitlerite tyranny.

We have heard a lot of talk in the last two years about establishing what is called a second front in Northern France against Germany. Anyone can see how desirable that immense operation of war would be. It is quite natural that the Russians bearing the main weight of the German armies on their front should urge us ceaselessly to undertake this task and should in no way conceal their complaints and even reproaches that we have not done it before.

I do not blame them at all for what they say. They fight so well and they have inflicted such enormous injury upon the military strength of Germany that nothing they could say in honest criticism of our strategy or the part we have so far been able to take in the war should be takenamiss by us or weaken our admiration for their own martial courage and achievements.

We once had a fine front in France, but it was torn to pieces by the concentrated might of Hitler, and it is easier to have a front pulled down than it is to build it up again.

Sees Troops Cross Channel

I look forward to the day when British and American liberating armies will cross the Channel in full force and come to close quarters with the German invaders of France. You would certainly not wish me to tell you when that is likely to happen or whether it be near or far, but whenever the great blow is struck, you may be sure that it will be because we are satisfied that there is a good prospect of continuing success and that our soldiers' lives are expended in accordance with sound military plans and not squandered for political consideration of any kind.

I submit to the judgment of the United Nations and of history that British and American strategy as directed by our combined chiefs of staff and as approved and to some extent inspired by the President and myself has been the best that was open to us in a practical sense.

It has been bold and daring and has brought into play against the enemy the maximum effective forces that could have been deployed up to the present by Great Britain and the United States, having regard to the limitations of ocean transport, to the peculiar conditions of amphibious warfare and to the character and training of the armies we possess, which have largely been called into being since the beginning of the war.

Personally I always think of the third front as well as the second front. I have always thought that the Western democracies should be like a boxer who fights with two hands and not one. I believe that the great flanking movement into North Africa made under the authority of President Roosevelt and of His Majesty's Government, for whom I am a principal agent, will be regarded in the after-time as quite a good thing to do in all the circumstances. Certainly it has reaped rich and substantial results. Africa is cleared. All German and Italian armies in Africa have been annihilated and at least a half million prisoners are in our hands.

Sicilian Results Summarized

In a brilliant campaign of thirty-eight days, Sicily, which as defended by over 400,000 Axis troops, has been conquered, Mussolini has been overthrown, the war impulse of Italy has been destroyed and that unhappy country is paying a terrible penalty for allowing itself to be misled by false and criminal guidance.

How much easier it is to join bad companions than to shake them off. A large number of German troops have lately been drawn away from France in order to hold down the Italian people, in order to make Italy a battleground and to keep the war as distant and as long as possible away from German soil.

By far the greater part of the German air force has been drawn off from the Russian front and is being engaged and worn down with ever-growing intensity, night and day, by British and American and Canadian airmen. More than all this, we have established a strategic initiative and potential, both from the Atlantic and from the Mediterranean, of which the enemy can neither measure the weight, nor foresee the hour of the application.

Both in the Mediterranean and in our air assaults on Germany the war has prospered. An immense diminution of Hitler's war-making capacity has been achieved by the air bombardment and, of course, that bombardment willsteadily increase in volume and in accuracy as each successive month passes by.

I readily admit that much of all this would have been impossible in this form, or at this time, but for the valiant and magnificent exertions and triumphs of the Russian armies, who have defended their native soil against a vile and unprovoked attack with incomparable vigor, skill and devotion and at a terrible price in Russian blood. No Government ever formed among men has been capable of surviving injury so grave and cruel as those inflicted by Hitler upon Russia.

But, under the leadership of Marshal Stalin and thanks also to the stand made by the British people when they were all alone and to abundant British and American supplies and munitions of all kinds, Russia has not only survived and recovered from these frightful injuries but has inflicted, as no other force in the world could have inflicted, mortal damage on the German Army machine.

Most important and significant events are taking place in the Balkans as a result of the Russian victories and also, I believe, of the Anglo-American campaign against Italy.

Twice in the last thirty years the Bulgarian people who owed their liberation and existence to Russia have been betrayed against their interest and to a large extent against their wishes and driven by evil rulers into disaster.

The fate of Boris may serve other miscreants with the reminder that the wages of sin is death.

And this is also the time to remember the glorious resistance to the invaders of their native land made by the people of Yugoslavia and of Greece and of those whom Mr. Gladstone once called "the heroic Highlanders of Montenegro."

So all of the Balkans is aflame and the impending collapse of Italy as a war factor will not only remove from the scene the most numerous of their assailants but will also bring help nearer to those unconquerable races. I look forward with confidence to the day when Yugoslavia and Greece will once again be free—free to live their own lives and decide their own destiny.

Cheek for Balkan Peoples

I take this opportunity to send a message of encouragement to these peoples and to their Governments and to the Kings of Greece and Yugoslavia, who have never faltered for one moment in their duty and whom we hope to see restored to their thrones by the free choice of their liberated peoples.

Let us then all go forward together making the best of ourselves and the best of each other with vows to apply the maximum forces at our command without regard to any other single thought but the attack and destruction of those monstrous and evil dominations which have so nearly cost each and all of us our national lives and mankind its future.

Of course, as I told you, a large part of the Quebec discussions was devoted to the vehement prosecution of the war against Japan. The main forces of the United States and the manhood of Australia and New Zealand are engaged in successful grapple with the Japanese in the Pacific.

The principal responsibility of Great Britain against Japan at present lies on the Indian front and in the Indian Ocean. The creation of a combined Anglo-American command over all the forces, land, sea and air, of both countries in that theatre, similar to what has proved so successful in northwest Africa, has now been brought into effect. A supreme commander of the southeast Asia front has been chosen.

And his name has been acclaimed by British, American and Chinese opinion. He will act in constant association with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

Now, it is true that Lord Louis Mountbatten is only 43. It is not often under modern conditions and in established military progression that a man gets so great a chance so early, but if an officer, having devoted his life to the military art, does not know about war at 43 he is not likely to learn much more about it later on.

As chief of combined operations Lord Louis has shown rare powers of organization and resourcefulness. He is what, pedants notwithstanding, I will venture to call a complete triphibian; that is to say, a creature equal at home in three elements, earth, air and water, and also well accustomed to fire. We will wish the new command and its commander full success in their novel, varied and certainly most difficult task.

I have been asked several times since I crossed the Atlantic whether I think the Germans will give in this year or whether they will hold out through another, which will certainly be worse for them.

There are those who take an over-sanguine view. Certainly we see all Europe rising under Hitler's tyranny, and what is now happening in Denmark is only another example. Certainly we see the Germans hated as no race has ever been hated in human history, or with such good reason.

We see them sprawled over a dozen once free and happy countries with their talons making festering wounds, the scars of which will never be effaced. Nazi tyranny and Prussian militarism, those two loathsome dominations, may well foresee and dread their approaching doom.

Havoc's Effect Unforeseeable

We cannot measure the full force of the blows which the Russian armies are striking and are going to strike. We cannot measure, though we know it is enormous, the havoc wrought in Germany by our bombing, nor the effects upon the population who have lived so long by making war in the lands of others and now for the first time for more than a century are having blasting and desolating war brought to their hearths and homes.

We cannot yet measure what further results may attend the Anglo-American campaign in the Mediterranean, nor what depression the marked failure, for the time being of the U-boat warfare on which German hopes were set, orthe consequences of the shattering blows which are being struck may engender in the German mind.

We pass here into the sphere of mass psychology, never more potent than in this modern age. Yet I consider that there are dangers in allowing our minds to dwell unduly upon the favorable circumstances which surround us and which are so vividly and punctually brought to our notice every day by press and broadcast.

For myself, I regard all such speculations as to when the war will end at this moment as vain and unprofitable. We did not undertake this task because we had carefully counted the cost, or measured exactly the duration. We took it on because duty and honor called us to it and we are content to drive on at it until we have finished the job.

If Almighty God in His mercy should lighten or shorten our labors and the torment of mankind all His servants will be thankful, but the United Nations feel conscious, both as states and as hundreds of millions of individuals, of being called to a high duty which they will unflinchingly and tirelessly discharge with whatever strength is granted to them, however long the ordeal may last.

See how those who stray from the true path are deceived and punished. Look at this wretched Mussolini and his son-in-law and accomplice, Ciano, on whom the curse of Garibaldi has veritably fallen.

I have heard that Ciano, explaining one day why Mussolini had plunged the dagger into the back of falling France, and dreamed himself already among the Caesars, said: "But such a chance would not occur again in five thousand years." Certainly, in June, 1940, the odds and the omens seemed very favorable to Fascist ambition and greed. It is not given to the cleverest and the most calculating immortal to know with certainty what is their interest. Yet it is given to quite a lot of simple folk to know every day what is their duty.

That is the path along which the British Commonwealth and Empire, the Great Republic of the United States, the vast Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the indomitable and innumerable people of China, all the United Nations—that is the path along which we shall march till our work is done and we may rest from our labors, and the whole world may turn with hope, with science, with good sense and dearly bought experience, from war to lasting peace.