High Time for Another Triple Conference


By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain

Delivered at the Lord Mayor of London's Luncheon, London, England, November 9, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 105-106.

WHEN I look back over these wartime years I cannot help feeling that time is an inaccurate, even capricious, measure of the duration of it. At one time it seemed so long, and at another so short. Sometimes events are galloping forward at a breathless speed, sometimes there are long, hard pauses which we have to bear. Anniversaries like this seem to recur with extreme rapidity when you get to one and look back to the other. It seems such a very brief span, and yet the intervening months are so packed with incidents and so burdened with toil; as you retrace your steps mentally over them, you cannot believe they have been.

It is hard to remember how long ago this war began. One can never be quite sure whether it has lasted a flash or an age. I had a very shrewd suspicion, my Lord Mayor, when I received your gracious invitation, that you would probably propose the health of His Majesty's Ministers, and I must say I held myself in readiness for the task of making some reply. I thought I would see whether I should not get some hint out of what I said last year when this agreeable event and festival was also celebrated.

I saw then that I was congratulating you on the year of victory of 1943. I was congratulating the City of London on the memorable, exhilarating year of almost unbroken success, and I was recounting the long succession of places and countries which have been cleared of the enemy. All of Africa, Sardinia, Corsica and one-third of Italy were in the hands of the British and United States armies.

The mighty war which the United States were waging and are waging in the Pacific had prospered, and in Russia Marshal Stalin's armies were already rolling triumphantly forward to cleanse their native lands of the German invader. But the events of 1943 have been far surpassed by those of 1944.

Rome and Athens, Paris and Brussels have been rescued or by their own exertions have freed themselves of German oppression. All of Hitler's satellites have turned against him. Not only have they been struck down, but they have actually turned their arms against this baleful coercion.

They who have been driven so far against their interests, against their honor, and, in many cases, their inclinations, have had a chance to turn upon their slave driver and may now wreak the vengeance which is due them, as from so many of the free countries which fought from the beginning!

Both in the east and in the west, Allied vanguards stand on German soil. The U-boat menace has for the time being been practically effaced. There was one month in which up to the last day they had not sunk a single ship. On the last day they got one, and therefore the matter was hardly of the character to be specially mentioned.

That great peril which hung over us so long and at times concentrated the whole attention of the defense organization of this country and of the United States has been effaced, and from the air there rains down upon the guilty German land a hail of fire and explosion of ever-increasing fury.

We have had our own experience, and we know how severe the ordeal may be, but I can assure you that we have not suffered one-tenth and we shall not suffer one-tenth of what is being meted out to those who first started and developed this cruel and merciless form of attack.

Such are some of the fruits of 1944, and no one can be blamed, provided he does not slacken his or her efforts for a moment, for hoping that victory may come to the Allies and peace may come to Europe in 1945.

When I was here last year I could not tell you that I was about to start for a meeting of three great Allies—the heads of three great governments—Teheran. There it was that the plans were made and agreements and decisions taken which were executed with so much precision and with a degree of combination to which Marshal Stalin referred in his wise and weighty speech of a few days ago.

Now I don't mind saying that it is high time we had another triple conference and that such a meeting might easily abridge the sufferings of mankind and the fearful process of destruction which is now ravaging the earth. Prospects of such a meeting have been vastly improved by the results of the Presidential election in the United States, and for which we waited so breathlessly on Tuesday last.

I thought, looking back on my past records, that when I was here last year I appealed to the British and American public to be very careful that election year did not in any way ruffle the good-will that exists throughout the English-speaking world and which was of so great aid to our armies. It is certainly gratifying that it should have been carried through without any disturbing of the ancient, moth-eaten controversies which are to be found in history books between Great Britain and her American kinsmen, now brothers-inarms.

We must be very careful ourselves to avoid mixing ourselves up in American political affairs. I offer my thanks to Parliament, the press and to public men of all parties—perhaps especially to them—for the care and restraint which have made all potential indiscretions die upon their lips.

Now that that event is over and the results have been declared, there are a few things I should like to say about the American Presidential election. Let us first of all express our gratitude to both great parties for the manner in which the interests of alliance and prosecution of the war have been held high above the dust of partisanship. America has given an example to the world of how democratic institutions can be worked with the utmost vigor and freedom without injury to the permanent interest of State. We know that we in Britain have in the Republican party of the United States a vast number of friends and well-wishers and the upholding of Anglo-American friendship is cherished by tens of millions in both great parties over there.

I am sure that everybody will be moved by the sportsmanlike manner in which Governor Dewey in the moment of his defeat offered his congratulations to his opponent and pledged his party to work wholeheartedly for the world cause. What a model this would be to those States where political differences are not solvable by word and vote and where the question of who is to be in and who is to be out may be one of life and death, to be settled by violence, and where there may be but a short gap between being a ruler and being a victim.

Here in this country—foremost in all democratic and parliamentary conceptions of modern times—we in this country who are very old in the game of party politics have learned how to carry through and debate great, fiercely contested political issues without the severance of national lifeor even, in most cases, without severance of personal and private friendship.

However we may regret it, it seems almost certain that this old island will have its first general election in 1945, and I am sure that it will be conducted by all concerned with all liveliness and robust vigor which will gratify the political emotions of our public without destroying that marvelous underlying unity and sense of brotherhood which has long existed in this country and which has reached its highest degree among the perils from which we have been delivered.

I said a few moments ago that we have strictly avoided any question of opinion about party issues in the United States, but at this moment, now, I feel free to express, on personal grounds, the very great joy it gives me to know that my wartime and intimate cooperation with President Roosevelt will be continued in the months that lie immediately before us. These are months profoundly interwoven with the future of both our countries, and also, we trust, the future association of our two countries will be interwoven with the peace and progress of the whole world.

We have here in General Koenig and in Burgomaster Dr. van de Meulebroeck living representatives to bring home the splendid events which have so recently taken place.

The interest of the world has been dominated by the decisive battle in Normandy in which the Anglo-American armies destroyed and pulverized the structure of German military resistance in France. A brilliant exploitation of victory enabled the Americans to sweep the enemy from France, aided by the audacious and gallant Maquis, and enabled the British to clear the Channel coast and to drive the enemy out of Belgium and out of a large portion of Holland.

How many times, when a great battle has been won, have its results been thrown away? Here we have seen the highest result, surely and firmly seized and held at every stage. There comes a time when the pursuers outstrip to the utmost limits their supplies. An enemy falling back on his own territory is enabled to once again form a front, and this shows itself very plainly by the furious and continuous fighting which has broken out on the Moselle and in that neighborhood when the Americans advanced forward with so much impetus and then came up against the hard core of recovered enemy resistance.

A pause in the Allied advance was inevitable, and during the last few months the bringing up of supplies and reinforcements and the improvement of harbors have been the main preoccupation of the Supreme Allied Command, apart from the heavy fighting I have spoken of on the Moselle. But during these last eight or ten weeks two considerable operations have been fought by armies under British command in both of which Polish and Canadian forces were represented and in both of which a large proportion of United States troops fought with their customary skill.

The largest of these two great operations was in Italy under General Alexander. They have surmounted the terrible barrier of the Apennines and the Gothic Line, and this has carried us into the Valley of the Po. The progress of the year—of the season—has brought us bad weather, quite unaccustomed weather for this time of year, and we are facing a strongly fortified line held by an army which is practically as large as our own. It was a great fall feat of arms.

The second interim victory has been in the Netherlands under Field Marshal Montgomery, and it has opened the Schelde and will very shortly place the great port of Antwerp at the disposal of the northern flank of the Allied Army which presently moves into Germany for the final struggle.

In these two operations, in Italy and in Holland and Belgium very great losses have been sustained, in the greatest proportion by the British and Canadian forces. In both we have been aided by our valiant Allies. In both opportunities have been offered for superb feats of heroism, and deeds have been done which, when they are known and can be studied with the attention they deserve, will long figure in song and story and will long light the martial annals of our race.

I think it is right to point out in a precise and definite manner that these two important battles, one in the Apennines and the other in the west, are only a prelude to further great operations which must be conducted in the months to come. Now we stand on the threshold of Germany, and it will take the full exertions of the three great powers and every scrap of strength they can give to crush down the desperate resistance which we must expect from this military antagonist, at last beaten back to his own lair.

Any more than on former occasions I cannot offer you an easy future on the Continent of Europe. It is always in the last lap of the race that great efforts must be forthcoming. It is no moment now to slacken. Hard as it may seem after five long years of war, every man and woman in this island must show what they are capable of doing, and I am sure our soldiers at the front will not be found incapable of that extra effort which is necessary to crown all that has been attained, and, above all, bring this frightful slaughter and devastation in Europe to an end within the shortest possible period of time.

I can assure you that that, at any rate, is the dominant thought in His Majesty's Government. Although it is our duty to work hard—and we have worked hard—to produce large schemes of social improvement and advancement, although it is our duty to make preparations for the changeover from war to peace or from war in Europe to war in Japan in far distant Asia, although we are bound to work as hard as we can, nothing shall stand in the way of prosecution of the war to an ultimate conclusion. If we are to fail in that we should not be worthy either of your confidence or of the kindness which has led you to drink our health this afternoon.