Sir Winston Churchill’s Great Speeches

On the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death, he is most well-remembered for the great speeches he made during World War Two. He instilled pride in the British people and told them he would never give up the fight against the Nazi regime.

Churchill’s speeches generated some of the most famous quotes of the 20th Century. His choice of words, tone of voice and delivery have been studied over the years, and researchers and historians continue to study his approach and language today.

Churchill did not think good speeches came naturally to him, and he had to work to form and perfect his manner of speaking over the years.  Here are ten examples of speeches that Churchill gave throughout his term in office.

  1. Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Bill – April 1904 at the House of Commons

Churchill’s one and only speech failure at the very beginning of his career encouraged him to dedicate a life time toward improving his elocution. In the middle of a speech he was giving in parliament about trade unions he lost track and could not finish his speech. From then on, Churchill made a habit of making lots of notes and creating several revised versions of his speeches to ensure he would get it right.

  1. The Liberties of Britain – January 1910 at the Friends’ Institute, Birmingham

Early on in Churchill’s political career he aimed to get on the side of Britain’s northerners and promised to end the House of Lords veto privilege on financial and legislative decisions. A year later it was done.

  1. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat – May 1940 at the House of Commons

Upon taking the role of Prime Minister during the onset of World War Two, Churchill gave his first speech to parliament, where he told them that he wanted to work across political party lines in order to win the war. He said that victory against the Nazis was his only focus.

  1. Finest Hour – June 1940 at the House of Commons

France had just fallen to the Nazis and Churchill had to maintain morale in a desperate situation. Churchill knew that now that Hitler had conquered France, he would aim to cross the Channel and attempt to take Britain too. Churchill wisely made it clear that if Britain stood up to Hitler and fought him off, then the rest of Europe would eventually be free of Nazism. He braced the British people to stand up for their “finest hour”.

  1. We Shall Fight on the Beaches – June 1940 at the House of Commons

Another infamous quote from Churchill came just after the battle of Dunkirk, when Churchill told parliament that the British people would never surrender to Hitler. He reinforced the virtues of Britain as an island separate from the European mainland when he said, “We shall defend our Island… we shall fight on the beaches…”.

  1. The Few – August 1940 at the House of Commons

The battle of Britain was at a critical juncture and in one of Churchill’s most famous quotes he told parliament that “Never… was so much owed by so many to so few”, in a dedication to the RAF pilots fighting the Luftwaffe.

  1. Speech addressing a joint session of the US Congress – December 1941 to the US Congress

Churchill’s war time effort to garner the support and involvement of the United States was evident in his speech to Congress in 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbour had just occurred; it was now that he wanted to focus the US war effort on the priority of stemming the Nazi’s advance in Europe. He said that the British and American people will “…walk together”.

  1. Sinews of Peace – March 1946 at Westminster College, Missouri

After World War Two, Churchill had to deal with the onset of the Cold War. It was Churchill who called Soviet Cold War policy an iron curtain, and Churchill who set the limits of détente with the Soviet Union. This speech in Missouri cemented Britain and the United State’s joint disapproval and disagreement with Communism, the Mail Online reports.

  1. The United States of Europe – September 1946 at the University of Zurich

After World War Two ended, Churchill worked with the Allies and the Soviet Union to rebuild Europe. In Zurich he told his European audience that the only way forward was a kind of ‘United States of Europe’ to include all those countries that can and want to be involved.

  1. Never Despair – March 1955 at the House of Commons

Toward the end of his final term in office, Churchill was grappling with the nuclear age and the Cold War. He was despondent about the thought that the world had to live with the continual fear of nuclear threat. However, as he ended his speech he saw hope in that one day people around the world would have “…respect for justice and freedom”.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE