When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain in 1940, the country was almost on its knees. The all conquering German army was sweeping all before it as one by one, countries fell to their Nazis. When France surrendered, Britain stood all alone against the might of Hitler’s military which was poised across the Channel.
Despite the ‘miracle of Dunkirk’ the country was weak, without significant allies, and in real danger of invasion and defeat. Churchill’s first priority as Prime Minister was to galvanise the country. He had to give the people hope in order to avoid the pernicious malaise of defeatism which had so quickly contributed to the fall of France.
Churchill used the media for the task, speaking directly to the people via the medium of radio. He was honest in his assessment of Britain’s position, and despite the seeming hopelessness of the country’s position in late August 1940, he was utterly defiant. For Churchill, there would be no negotiations with Germany; Britain would fight and ultimate victory would be won through ‘blood, sweat, toil and tears’.
Did Churchill succeed in building hope and optimism in the British people?
21st century historical revisionists are now casting doubt on the effectiveness of Churchill’s wartime rhetoric.
In his new book, ‘The Roar of the Lion’, university academic Richard Toye of Exeter University has questioned the accepted view that Churchill’s speeches inspired the nation, claiming that they were more controversial at the time than previously thought by historians.
Professor Toye studied Government and unofficial surveys plus the diaries of ordinary people as evidence for his book in which he argues:
“Churchill’s first speeches as Prime Minister in the dark days of 1940 were by no means universally acclaimed.............many people thought he was drunk during his famous ‘finest hour’ broadcast.............and there is little evidence that they made a decisive difference to the British people’s will to fight on.”
In response to Professor Toye’s book, Sheila Mitchell, spokesperson of ‘The Churchill Society’, speaking to the ‘Daily Express’ said:
“That Winston’s oratory was received enthusiastically by Britons during the Second World War was not just ‘the accepted view’ it was a fact, as anyone living through those times would bear witness to................His positive and robust manner encouraged and inspired the people of Britain and ‘stiffened the sinews’ of those who doubted or faltered when facing the tremendous odds................he was a great leader and such men, outspoken and uncompromising, will always attract critics.”
I’m sorry to disagree with Professor Toye. Sadly I feel that he has been pretty selective with his evidence.
When I talk to my own parents and their contemporaries, it is clear that all revered Churchill, not as a politician, but as a leader who gave them the quality for survival and future prosperity.................................................... hope!
As a Christian and a ‘Churchill fan’ what inspires me also is the ultimate in hope..........the hope that I have in Jesus Christ.
Here’s some Bible verses that would have inspired Churchill and most certainly inspire me!
- Security: “You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety” (Job 11:18)
- Confidence: “No one who hopes in you (God) will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3).
- Strength: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).
- Goodness: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).
- Joy: “Be joyful in hope” (Romans 12:12)
- Love: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
- Faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Where is your hope today...............................?