On May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons – and essentially all of the United Kingdom through the media – for the first time as the Prime Minister. The room was hazy with smoke as many of the British leaders smoked. Everyone was anxious to hear what he would say in his first official address, even more so because they were at war.
Only a year earlier he was considering retirement from public service as he was not very popular. In 1936, he defended King Edward VIII, which was not a popular stance because the King wanted to marry an American woman who already had a husband. Also during the 1930’s Churchill advocated for the United Kingdom to prepare for war because he saw that Germany was preparing for war. After “The Great War,” no one wanted war, and applauded efforts to bring peace. King Edward VIII gave up the throne to his brother King George VI and Winston was left to himself as a man without a party or support. At 65 years old, Churchill thought his ship had sailed and he was better off writing, painting and taking care of his estate.
The world couldn’t afford to turn a blind eye any longer as Germany gobbled up Poland advanced on Scandinavia. France had a powerful standing army and believed they were prepared to stop the Nazis in the Netherlands as they had a formidable defense network built along their border with Germany. England sent some aid in 1939 and early 1940, but Germany did the unthinkable in crossing through the Ardennes Forest. The bulk of the Allied forces were trapped in the Netherlands.
It was at this time that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned. The people and the House of Commons no longer had confidence in his leadership, so he abdicated the position. He offered a surprising suggestion to the King. He thought that Winston Churchill would make a good Prime Minister because he didn’t have a strong party position and they could position him as the leader of a unified government with all parties working together.
Churchill took the floor and looked around at many of the men that he had known for decades and some he had not known long. He saw the reporters, whom he was familiar with and had aided his fall from prosperity. None of that mattered though as he needed to stand and deliver a message to unify his country.
“I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” he said in a slow, measured voice. “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. ….
“You ask, what is our policy?” he continued, his vigor and energy rising. “I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”
This would be the beginning of many speeches he would give over five years as Prime Minister during World War II. He did unit the government and gave the people resolve to face what would be the worst bombing of London and the United Kingdom they would ever see. Just as Churchill’s belief in himself helped him to rise again when his country needed him most, he helped the United Kingdom believe in itself in their darkest hour and lead them through to victory.
It’s amazing to see how many hero’s must face a virtual knock out before they rise to do something they great. Churchill is seen today as the most important and influential British citizen ever. But if you look at him in 1936-1939 you would never have guessed he would be the catalyst and lynchpin for the United Kingdom and possibly Europe defeating Nazi Germany. He was no doubt the right man at the right time.
There were times during the war that Churchill would get weighed down with critics, politics and the war, but when there was a problem, he jumped up and attacked the issue head on. He believed he was the right person to fix the situation.
Are you facing doubts and fears about achieving your goals? Are you unsure if you can do what you believe deep down you should do? You aren’t alone. Many have faced similar dragons. The battles waged within our souls is as real as any battlefield. Take your set-backs and learn from them. Face your problems and choose to act to solve them. Then with Churchill say, “Victory, however long and hard the road may be” I will achieve my goal.