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.

Winston Churchill raises his hat in salute during an inspection of the 1st American Squadron of the Home Guard at Horse Guards Parade in London, 9 January 1941. Behind, Mrs Churchill chats to a Guards officer. Lieutenant General Sir Bertram N Sergison-Brooke (GOC London Area) is standing on the right.

The President of the United States, Franklin D Roosevelt, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill are seated on the Quarterdeck of HMS PRINCE OF WALES. They are chatting following a Sunday service, during the Atlantic Conference, 10 August 1941. Immediately behind them are Admiral E J King, USN and General Marshall, US Army. The President's sons, Ensign Franklin Roosevelt Jr USNR and Captain Elliot Roosevelt USAAF, along with General Arnold, USAAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfred Freeman RAF are conversing to the left of the image.

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.

The Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, making a speech (in warehouse setting) to merchant ships' crews and dockers at Liverpool, in which he thanked his listeners for their part in helping win the Battle of the Atlantic. One of the Prime Minister's public engagements during his visit to Manchester and Merseyside between 25 and 26 April 1941.

Winston Churchill inspecting East Coast defences at St Andrews manned by troops of the 1st Polish Rifle Brigade (1st Polish Corps) from the top of a sand dune. Mrs Clementine Churchill is behind him. 23 October 1941