The Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-65

Manchester, William and Paul Reid

Little, Brown, 2012


Early in the war, Churchill understood that if only England could withstand Hitler’s nightly terror bombing of London (he hoped to get England to surrender and accept Germany’s surrender terms) Hitler could not in the end prevail. Sooner or later the USA would come to England’s side with its enormous potential for turning out war supplies. He knew England had a good chance of holding on and eventually winning with the U.S. For one thing Germany liked to fight on land, but invading England with its chalk cliffs of Dover in the East would be almost impossible. And England had that 20 mile wide moat around it—the English Channel. Moreover, England could hold its own in the air. Her Spitfires and Hurricanes were more than a match for Goering’s Messerschmitts. So Churchill’s job was to inspire the English people to hang in there. Now p. 114: So, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” He said to the British people in late June of 1940 ”Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island, or lose the war. If we can stand up to him all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” He had “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

p. 123

Given the protections of the Dover cliffs and the English Channel Hitler would have to land troops who parachuted into England. Churchill wanted everybody who was able-bodied, including women, elderly clergy, teens, everybody. Members of the home guard drilled with pikes, pick handles, and broomsticks. Wives were told to make homemade Molotov cocktails with kitchen kerosene; elderly men were taught to disable panzers by pouring sugar into their fuel tanks or thrusting crowbars into their track wheels.” In a speech to the Home Guard, Churchill said, ”’you will make it clear to them that they have not alighted in the poultry-run, or in the rabbit farm, or even in the sheep fold, but in the lion’s den at the Zoo!’”