Churchill: "Never Give In"
29th October 1941: A year has transformed Britain's position in the war
It had been a busy year for Churchill. A year earlier Britain had stood alone and her cities were devastated by Luftwaffe bombing, just after the British Army had been driven out of France. Hitler, in a non-aggression pact with Stalin, seemed intent on finishing off the last resistance to him. But that had all now changed.
On the 29th October 1941 Churchill visited his old school, Harrow, where he contrasted the position of Britain that day with the position the country had been in when he had visited the school a year earlier:
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.
‘this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.’
But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period - I am addressing myself to the School - surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.
There can have been few school speech days that have ever matched this event. Churchill was on fine form in 1941 when much of his rhetoric was in used to galvanise worldwide opposition to Hitler.
But Britain was never alone during WW2 they a entire empire on their side and of course countries like New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Australia.