"Give us the tools, and we'll finish the job."
Five months have passed since I spoke to the British
nation and Empire on the broadcast. In war-time there is a lot to be
said for the motto "Deeds, not Words." All the same, it is
a good thing to look around from time to time and take stock. And certainly
our affairs have prospered in several directions during these last four
or five months far better than most of us would have ventured to hope.
We stood our ground and faced the two dictators in the hour of what
seemed their overwhelming triumph and we have shown ourselves capable,
so far, of standing up against them alone.
After the heavy defeat of the German Air Force by
our fighters in August and September, Herr Hitler did not dare attempt
the invasion of this island, although he had every need to do so and
although he had made vast preparations. Baffled in this grandiose project,
he sought to break the spirit of the British nation by the bombing,
first of London and afterward of our great cities. It has now been proved
to the admiration of the world and of our friends in the United States
that this form of blackmail and murder and terrorism, so far from weakening
the spirit of the British nation, has only roused it to a more intense
and universal flame than was ever seen before in any modern community.
The whole British Empire has been proud of the mother
country and they long to be with us over here in even larger numbers.
We have been deeply conscious of the love for us which has flowed from
the Dominions of the Crown across the broad ocean spaces. There is the
first of our war aims-to be worthy of that love and to preserve it.
All through these dark Winter months the enemy have
had the power to drop three or four tons of bombs upon us for ton we
could send to Germany in return. We are arranging so that presently
this will be rather the other way around, but meanwhile London and our
big cities have had to stand their pounding. They remind me of the British
squares at Waterloo. They are not squares of soldiers, they do not wear
scarlet coats; they are just ordinary English, Scottish and Welsh folk,
men, women and children, standing steadfastly together. But their spirit
is the same, their glory is the same and, in the end, their victory
will be greater than far-famed Waterloo.
All honour to the civil defence services of all kinds,
emergency and regular, volunteer and professional, who have helped our
people through this formidable ordeal, the like of which no civilized
community has ever been called upon to undergo. If I mention only one
of these services tonight, namely the police, it is because many tributes
have been paid already to the others. But the police have been in it
everywhere, all the time, and, as a working woman wrote to me in a letter,
what gentlemen they are!
More than two-thirds of the Winter has now gone and
so far we have had no serious epidemic. Indeed, there is no increase
of illness in spite of the improvised condition of the shelters. That
is most creditable to our local medical and sanitary authorities, to
our devoted nursing staffs and to the Ministry of Health, whose head,
as you may have seen, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, is now going to Canada
in the important office of High Commissioner.
There is another thing which surprised me when I asked
about it. In spite of all these new wartime offences and prosecutions
of all kinds, in spite of all the opportunities for looting and disorder,
there has been less crime this Winter and there are now fewer prisoners
in our jails than in the years of peace.
We have broken the back of the Winter. The daylight
grows. The Royal Air Force grows and is already certainly master of
the daylight air. The attacks may be sharper, but they will be shorter.
There will be more opportunities for work and service of all kinds,
more opportunities for life.
So, if our first victory was the repulse of the invader,
our second was the frustration of these acts of terror and of torture
against our people at home.
Meanwhile, abroad in October a wonderful thing happened.
One of the two dictators, the crafty, cold-blooded, black-hearted Italian
who had thought to gain an empire on the cheap by stabbing fallen France
in the back-he got into trouble. Without the slightest provocation,
stirred on by lust of power and brutish greed, Mussolini attacked and
invaded Greece only to be hurled back ignominiously by the heroic Greek
Army, who I will say, with your assent, have revived before our eyes
the glories which from the Classic Age gild their native land.
Mussolini was writhing and smarting under the Greek lash in Albania,
Generals Wavell and Wilson, who were charged with the defence of Egypt
and of the Suez Canal in accordance with our treaty obligations, whose
task seemed at one time so difficult, had received very powerful reinforcements,
reinforcements of men, cannon, equipment and, above all, tanks, which
we had sent from our island in spite of the invasion threat; and large
numbers of troops from India, Australia and New Zealand had also reached
them. Forthwith began that series of victories in Libya which have broken
irretrievably the Italian military power on the African Continent. We
have all been entertained, and I trust edified, by the exposure and
humiliation of another of what Byron called "those Pagod things
of saber sway with fronts of brass and feet of clay."
Here, then, in Libya is the third considerable event
upon which we may dwell with some satisfaction. It is just exactly two
months ago to a day that I was waiting anxiously, but oh so eagerly,
for the news of the great counter-stroke which had been planned against
the Italian invaders of Egypt. The secret had been well kept. The preparations
had been well made, but to leap across those seventy miles of desert
and attack an army of ten or eleven divisions, equipped with all the
appliances of modern war, and who had been fortifying themselves for
three months: that was a most hazardous adventure.
When the brilliant, decisive victory at Sidi Barrani,
with its tens of thousands of prisoners, proved that we had quality,
manoeuvring power and weapons superior to the enemy, who had boasted
so much of his virility and his military virtue, it was evident that
all the other Italian forces in Eastern Libya were in great danger.
They could not easily beat a retreat along the coastal road without
running the risk of being caught in the open by our armoured divisions
and brigades ranging far out into the desert in tremendous swoops and
scoops. They had to expose themselves to being attacked piecemeal.
General Wavell-nay, all our leaders and all their
live, active, ardent men, British, Australian, Indian, in the Imperial
Army-saw their opportunity. At that time I ventured to draw General
Wavell's attention to the seventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew,
at the seventh verse, where, as you all know or ought to know, it is
written: "Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
The Army of the Nile has asked, and it was given;
they sought, and they have found; they knocked, and it has been opened
unto them. In barely eight weeks, by a campaign which will long be studied
as a model of the military art, an advance of over 400 miles has been
made; the whole Italian Army in the east of Libya, which was reputed
to exceed 150,000 men, has been captured or destroyed; the entire province
of Cyrenaica, nearly as big as England and Wales, has been conquered;
the unhappy Arab tribes who have for thirty years suffered from the
cruelty of Italian rule, carried in some cases to the point of methodical
extermination, these Bedouin survivors have at last seen their oppressors
in disorderly flight or led off in endless droves as prisoners of war.
Egypt and the Suez Canal are safe. And the port, the base and the air
fields of Bengazi constitute a strategic point of high consequence to
the whole of the war in the Eastern Mediterranean.
This is the time, I think, to speak of the leaders
who, at the head of their brave troops, have rendered this distinguished
service to the King. The first and foremost-General Wavell, Commander
in Chief of all the armies of the Middle East-has proved himself a master
of war, sage, painstaking, daring and tireless. But General Wavell has
repeatedly asked that others should share his fame. General Wilson,
who actually commands the Army of the Nile, was reputed to be one of
our finest tacticians, and few will now deny that quality. General O'Connor,
commanding the Thirteenth Corps, with General Mackay, commanding the
splendid Australians, and General Creagh, who trained and commanded
the various armoured divisions which were employed-these three men executed
the complicated and astounding erratic movements which were made, and
fought the actions which occurred. I have just seen a telegram from
General Wavell. He wishes to add that the success at Bengazi was due
to the outstanding leadership and resolution of O'Connor and Creagh,
ably backed by Wilson.
I must not forget here to point out the amazing mechanical
feats of the British tanks, whose design and workmanship have beaten
all records and stood up to all trials, and shown us how closely and
directly the work in the factories at home is linked with the victories
abroad. Of course, none of our plans would have succeeded had not our
pilots, under Air Chief Marshal Longmore, wrested the control of the
air from a far more numerous enemy.
Nor would the campaign itself have been possible if
the British Mediterranean Fleet, under Admiral Cunningham, had not chased
the Italian Navy into its harbours and sustained every forward surge
of the army with all the flexible resources of sea-power.
How far-reaching these resources are we can see from
what happened at dawn this morning when our Western Mediterranean Fleet,
under Admiral Somerville, entered the Gulf of Genoa and bombarded in
a shattering manner the naval base from which perhaps a Nazi German
expedition might soon have sailed to attack General Weygand in Algeria
It is right that the Italian people should be made
to feel the sorry plight into which they have been dragged by Dictator
Mussolini, and if the cannonade of Genoa, rolling along the coast, reverberating
in the mountains, has reached the ears of our French comrades in their
grief and misery, it may cheer them with the feeling that friends, active
friends, are near and that Britannia rules the waves.
The events in Libya are only part of the story. They are only a part of the story of the
decline and fall of the Italian Empire. That will not take a future
Gibbon so long to write as the original work. Fifteen hundred miles
away to the southward, a strong British and Indian army, having driven
the invaders out of the Sudan, is marching steadily forward through
the Italian colony of Eritrea, thus seeking to complete the isolation
of all the Italian troops in Abyssinia. Other British forces are entering
Abyssinia from the west, while the army gathered in Kenya, in the van
of which we may discern the powerful forces of the Union of South Africa
organized by General Smuts, are striking northward along the whole enormous
front. Lastly, the Ethiopian patriots whose independence was stolen
five years ago have risen in arms and their Emperor, so recently an
exile in England, is in their midst to fight for their freedom and his
Here, then, we see the beginnings of a process of
reparation and of the chastisement of wrong-doing which reminds us that
though the mills of the gods grind slowly they grind exceedingly small.
While these auspicious events have been carrying us
stride by stride from what many people thought a forlorn position and
once certainly a very grave position, in May and June, to one which
permits us to speak with sober confidence of our power to discharge
our duty, heavy though it be, in the future-while this has been happening
a mighty tide of sympathy, of good-will and of effective aid has begun
to flow across the Atlantic in support of the world cause which is at
Distinguished Americans have come over to see things
here at the front and to find out how the United States can help us
best and soonest. In Mr. Hopkins, who has been my frequent companion
during the last three weeks, we have the envoy of the President, who
has been newly re-elected to his august office. In Mr. Wendell Wilkie
we have welcomed the champion of the great Republican party. We may
be sure that they will both tell the truth about what they have seen
over here, and more than that we do not ask. The rest we leave with
good confidence to the judgment of the President, the Congress and the
people of the United States.
I have been so very careful since I have been Prime
Minister not to encourage false hopes or prophesy smooth and easy things,
and yet the tale that I had to tell today is one which must justly and
rightly give us cause for deep thankfulness and also, I think for sound
comfort and even rejoicing. But now I must dwell upon the more serious,
darker and more dangerous aspects of the vast scene of the war. We must
all of us have been asking ourselves what is that wicked man, whose
crime-stained regime and system are at bay and in the toils, what has
he been preparing during these Winter months? What new deviltry is he
planning? What new small country will he overrun or strike down? What
fresh form of assault will he make upon our island homes and fortress?
Which, let there be no mistake about it, is all that stands between
him and the domination of the world.
We may be sure that the war is soon going to enter
upon a phase of greater violence. Hitler's confederate, Mussolini, has
reeled back in Albania. But the Nazis, having absorbed Hungary and driven
Rumania into a frightful internal convulsion, are now already upon the
Black Sea. A considerable German army and air force is being built up
in Rumania and its forward tentacles have already penetrated Bulgaria
with, we must suppose, the acquiescence of the Bulgarian Government.
Airfields are being occupied by German ground personnel numbering thousands,
so as to enable the German air force to come into action from Bulgaria.
Many preparations have been made for the movement of German troops into
or through Bulgaria. And perhaps this southward movement has already
We saw what happened last May in the Low Countries-how
they hoped for the best, how they clung to their neutrality, how awfully
they were deceived, overwhelmed, plundered, enslaved and, since, starved.
We know how we and the French suffered when at the last moment, at the
urgent, belated appeal of the King of the Belgians, we went to his aid.
Of course, if all the Balkan people stood together and acted together,
aided by Britain and by Turkey, it would be many months before a German
army and air force of sufficient strength to overcome them could be
assembled in the Southeast of Europe. And in those months much might
Much will certainly happen as American aid becomes
effective, as our air power grows, as we become a well-armed nation,
and as our armies in the East increase in strength. But nothing is more
certain that that, if the countries of Southeastern Europe allow themselves
to be pulled to pieces one by one, they will share the fate of Denmark,
Holland and Belgium, and none can tell how long it will be before the
hour of their deliverance strikes.
One of our difficulties is to convince some of these
neutral countries in Europe that we are going to win. We think it is
astonishing that they should be so dense as not to see it as clearly
as we do ourselves.
I remember in the last war, in July, 1915, we began
to think that Bulgaria was going wrong, so Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Bonar
Law, Sir F. E. Smith and I asked the Bulgarian Minister to dinner to
explain to him what a fool King Ferdinand would make of himself if he
were to go in on the losing side. It was no use. The poor man simply
could not believe it, or couldn't make his government believe it. So
Bulgaria, against the wishes of her peasant population, against all
her interests, fell in at the Kaiser's tail and got sadly carved up
and punished when the victory was won.
I trust that Bulgaria is not going to make the same
mistake again. If they do the Bulgarian peasantry and people, for whom
there has been much regard both in Great Britain and the United States,
will for the third time in thirty years have been made to embark upon
a needless and disastrous war.
In the Central Mediterranean, the Italian Quisling,
who is called Mussolini, and the French Quisling, commonly called Laval,
are both in their different ways trying to make their countries into
doormats for Hitler and his new order, in the hope of being able to
keep or get the Nazi Gestapo and Prussian bayonets to enforce their
rule upon their fellow countrymen. I cannot tell how the matter will
go, but at any rate we shall do our best to fight for the Central Mediterranean.
I dare say you will have noticed a very significant
air action which was fought over Malta a fortnight ago. The Germans
sent an entire Geschwader (squadron) of dive-bombers to Sicily. They
seriously injured our new aircraft carrier Illustrious, and then, as
this wounded ship was sheltered in Malta harbour, they concentrated
upon her all their force so as to beat her to pieces.
But they were met by the batteries of Malta, which
is one of the strongest defended fortresses in the world against air
attack. They were met by the Fleet Air Arm and by the Royal Air Force
and in two or three days they had lost, out of 150 dive-bombers, upward
of ninety-fifty of which were destroyed in the air and forty on the
ground. Although the Illustrious in her damaged condition was one of
the great prizes of the air and naval war, the German Geschwader accepted
the defeat. They would not come any more.
All the necessary repairs were made to the Illustrious
in Malta harbour, and she steamed safely off to Alexandria under her
own power at twenty-three knots. I dwell upon this incident not at all
because I think it disposes of the danger in the Central Mediterranean
but in order to show you that there, as elsewhere, we intend to give
a good account of ourselves. But, after all, the fate of this war is
going to be settled by what happens on the oceans, in the air and, above
all, in this island.
It seems now to be certain that the government and
people of the United States intend to supply us with all that is necessary
for victory. In the last war the United States sent two million men
across the Atlantic, but this is not a war of vast armies, hurling immense
masses of shells at one another. We do not need the gallant armies which
are forming throughout the American Union. We do not need them this
year, nor the next year, nor any year that I can foresee. But we do
need most urgently an immense and continuous supply of war materials,
and technical apparatus of all kinds. We need them here and we need
to bring them here. We shall need a great mass of shipping in 1942,
far more than we can build ourselves if we are to maintain and augment
our war effort in the West and in the East.
These facts are, of course, all well known to the
enemy, and we must therefore expect that Herr Hitler will do his utmost
to prey upon our shipping and reduce the volume of American supplies
entering these islands. Having conquered France and Norway, his clutching
fingers reach out on both sides of us into the ocean. I have never underrated
this danger and you know I have never concealed it from you. Therefore,
I hope you will believe me when I say that I have complete confidence
in the Royal Navy, aided by the air force of the Coastal Command, and
that, in one way or another, I am sure they will be able to meet every
changing phase of this truly mortal struggle, and that, sustained by
the courage of our merchant seamen and of the dockers and workmen of
all ports, we shall outwit, out-manoeuvre, outfight and outlast the
worst that the enemy's malice and ingenuity can contrive.
I left the greatest issue to the end. You will have
seen that Sir John Dill, our principal military adviser, the Chief of
the Imperial General Staff, has warned us all yesterday that Hitler
may be forced by the strategic economic and political stresses in Europe
to try to invade these islands in the near future.
That is a warning which no one should disregard. Naturally,
we are working night and day to have everything ready. Of course, we
are far stronger than we ever were before-incomparably stronger than
we were in July, August, and September. Our Navy is more powerful, our
flotillas are more numerous. We are far stronger, actually and relatively,
in the air above these islands than we were when our Fighter Command
beat off and beat down the Nazi attack last Autumn. Our Army is more
numerous, more mobile and far better equipped and trained than in September,
and still more than in July. And I have the greatest confidence in our
Commander in Chief, General Brooke, and in the generals of proved ability
who under him guard the different quarters of our land. But most of
all I have put my faith in the simple, unaffected resolve to conquer
or die which will animate and inspire nearly four million Britons with
serviceable weapons in their hands.
It is not an easy military operation to invade an
island like Great Britain without the command of the sea and without
the command of the air, and then to face what will be waiting for the
But I must drop one word of caution, for next to cowardice
and to treachery, overconfidence leading to neglect or slothfulness
is the worst of martial crimes. Therefore, I drop one word of caution:
A Nazi invasion of Great Britain last Autumn would have been a more
or less improvised affair. Hitler took it for granted that when France
gave in we should give in. But we did not give in. And he had to think
again. An invasion now will be supported by a much more carefully prepared
tackle and equipment for landing craft and other apparatus, all of which
will have been planned and manufactured during the Winter months. We
must all be prepared to meet gas attacks, parachute attacks and glider
attacks, with constancy, forethought and practiced skill.
I must again emphasize what General Dill has said
and what I pointed out myself last year: In order to win the war, Hitler
must destroy Great Britain. He may carry havoc into the Balkan States;
he may tear great provinces out of Russia; he may march to the Caspian;
he may march to the gates of India. All this will avail him nothing.
He may spread his curse more widely throughout Europe and Asia, but
it will not avert his doom.
With every month that passes the many proud and once
happy countries he is now holding down by brute force and vile intrigue
are learning to hate the Prussian yoke and the Nazi name, as nothing
has ever been hated so fiercely and so widely among men before. And
all the time, masters of the sea and air, the British Empire-nay, in
a certain sense, the whole English-speaking world-will be on-his track
bearing with them the swords of Justice.
The other day President Roosevelt gave his opponent
in the late Presidential election a letter of introduction to me, and
in it he wrote out a verse in his own handwriting from Longfellow, which,
he said, "applies to you people as it does to us." Here is
. . . Sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears
With all the hopes of future years
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
What is the answer that I shall give in your name
to this great man, the thrice-chosen head of a nation of 130,000,000?
Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt.
Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your
blessing, and under Providence all will be well. We shall not fail or
falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle
nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.
Give us the tools and we will finish the job.
 British Library of Information.