We Shall Fight To the Beaches
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”, exclaimed Winston Churchill in a speech during World War II in June 4, 1940. That is just an excerpt of the passion filled speech given in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Churchill was your typical British speaker: a stiff upper lip which is the ability to suppress ones’ emotions and refrain from your upper lip from trembling, as that is a sign of a person not capable of handling their emotions. This particular speech came in a time of a grave crisis and the British Isles was left to fight the Nazi war machine by herself as a large majority of Europe had been conquered by Nazi Germany. Churchill’s speech was to raise the morale of the British people during the war, to continue the fight no matter the cost, and to ultimately defeat the Nazis.
The date was June 4, 1940 and the speech remains as one of the most important and memorable speeches during World War II. It was delivered after the events of the Dunkirk Evacuation which around 338,000 Allied troops hastily evacuated from Dunkirk to Britain. Churchill had to make this speech that would be able to fire up the British people and to give a sense of urgency that bleak times were coming and an unavoidable crisis was headed to the British people. Churchill’s speech expressed an imperative urgency to defend Britain no matter what the cost. It was the exigency of unity that was required to win the war and to fend off the Nazi pressures and attacks. Churchill wanted the British audience to accept the fact that while Nazi Germany seemed unstoppable at the time, he wanted to convince his audience that a united nation in a time of need could fend off such a strong foe.
Churchill makes good use of pathos. He uses dismal facts like, “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.” This is intended to conjure negative emotions
with his audience so they can understand how dire the situation truly is. Yet, immediately after this, he reaffirms to his audience that there is hope at the end by stating what the British people will have to do. He uses the phrase “We shall fight” 7 times and describe no matter the setting, the British will rise and fight against their powerful Nazi foe. He comes to reinforcing British resolve and resilience, not to portray how desperate the situation has become. These fact and emotions become effective in boosting the overall tone of his speech from starting with a negative emotion with an instant sign of relief and a feeling of hope followed by confidence. He ends the “we shall fight” phrases with “we shall never surrender”, to enforce assurance that defeat is not an option.
Churchill was also successful in delivering this speech because of his ethos. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Although he wasn’t the most popular amongst the British people, this speech and his previous speeches as Prime Minister gave him the credibility that was able to instill confidence into the audience he was speaking to and added persuasion power to his speeches. Since he was the top authority in one of the greatest empire in history, being Prime Minister was given automatic respect and high regard.
The timing of the speech was also crucial. As stated before it was given after the hugely successful Evacuation of Dunkirk, also known as Dunkirk Miracle. Prior to the Evacuation of Dunkirk, Churchill was one of the first to realize the threat of Nazi Germany but most of his warning went largely unheeded. Now that the threat of Nazi aggression was an imminent possibility, so it gave him the reliability that he was worth listening to. He also refused to sign an armistice even during when times looked bleak and unwinnable, as opposed to his predecessor who appeased Hitler and did not show a lot of backbone.
There could not have been a more perfect leader than Churchill to lead the United Kingdom in this dark hour. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union seemed unstoppable at the time and the United State who was powerful as well was still neutral. It was lone Britain to defend herself against the mighty foe
and the nation was demoralized as the situation began to worsen with no hope. Churchill played his greatest strength which was his oratory skills and his exceptional speech writing ability. Despite having their ‘back on the wall’, Churchill using effective rhetoric devices into his speeches was able to successful in rallying the nation to stand up and fight. He had a realistic, albeit grim understanding of the dire situation with seemingly impossible odds stacked upon him. His confident, uplifting, and accurate style of speeches gave him the trust of his people.
His logos’ comes into play when he states facts and predicts the outcome if they do not follow it. For example if they do not fight to the last bullet, to the last man, the British will be overcome and they cannot allow this to happen. Despite France surrendering in a matter of 1 month, Churchill was still able to link the fact that the British Empire and the French Republic were still allies and will aid each other no matter the costs or danger, and to the best of their ability. Although the French army was nonexistent since their surrender he was able to portray that the British Empire was not alone in their struggle to fight Nazi Germany.
As iterated before, this speech was able to significantly restore and raise morale. It prepared Britain for its ‘Darkest Hour’ and how long of a road it would be. This is considered one of Churchill’s finest speeches to this day and how it was so effective amongst the British people. It proved that a valiant defense and an effective leadership can overcome a significantly larger army. Churchill’s speech was not in vain. The blitz on Britain was a strategic German failure and the consistent bombing of London was able to in some cases improve morale with the British people and was able to show how resilient the island nation can be. For once, Nazi Germany suffered its first major defeat since steam rolling through Europe.