Talk:We shall fight on the beaches

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This article is a shameless rip-off of Blood, toil, tears, and sweat speech, suitably modified for this speech. Noel (talk) 01:46, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

  • Although one might argue that the so-called rip-off is nothing more than an 'application of a template to related subjects'. Eddie.willers 18:37, 20 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Does anyone wonder if this speech would be interpreted differently if it were given by Hirohito 5 years later? Brutannica 19:31, 25 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Undoubtedly. Interpretation IS the essence of history. -- 22:29, 28 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Frankly, I'm not sure how any logical and relevant "interpretations" is possible when only bits and pieces of the speech is quoted in the article. The section quoted under "Peroration" is incomplete and thereby Churchill's infamous wit goes by unmentioned. (talk) 19:56, 8 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The section regarding the authenticity of Winston Churchills voice requires greater clarification. From what I can gather from reputable sources the details are as follows

1. The speech was originally made in Parliament for which no recording exists. Parliament had no recording system at that time. 2. For the benefit of the public many of Churchill's speeches were recorded by Churchill for the BBC and broadcast. I think (but am not sure based on conflicting reports) that it has been confirmed that some of these were recorded by an actor under Churchill's approval. This includes the "fight them on the beaches" speech. 3. The speeches that were recorded initially by actors were re-recorded after the war by Churchill for archival purposes. 4. Official Churchill sources and BBC state that the recordings that are circulating now and that have been released by them are the ones that are actually of Churchill's voice. 5. New Scientist reported in 1991 that A Maryland company Sensimatics did a voice analysis on the authentic public recordings of Churchill and compared them to other recorded speeches and found that three of the circulating speeches were NOT of Churchill (presumably Norman Shelley who claimed he was the original stand in)

Thats what I can gather. I'm not guarenteeing any accuracy at all so if anyone cares to add the real story, or at least mention the myths in gretaer detail, feel free. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Supersnazz (talkcontribs) 12:01, 14 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I find it ironic that he gave this speech right after the Dunkirk debacle. Shouldn't some mention be made of that? LikeHolyWater (talk) 02:18, 6 May 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Huh? It's right there in the lead, and has been for years. I also don't see what's ironic about it – the post-Dunkirk context is what defines the speech. Vilĉjo (talk) 10:13, 8 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Perhaps more of the speech should be included, to clarify the context of the Dunkirk evacuation. I recall hearing a cautionary note from Churchill that evacuations-even great ones- should not be confused with victories. This speech would be the logical place for him to have said that. [User:Xperrymint]Xperrymint (talk) 03:22, 24 September 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You are probably thinking of the following, which comes from the same speech: "Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance …" (The quotation goes on, "It was gained by the Air Force", presciently alluding to the role of airpower in the imminent Battle of Britain.) Vilĉjo (talk) 01:29, 26 September 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Is it an urban legend, or was this speech made all in Old English words (or the modern-day equivalents thereof)? Joe Clutch (talk) 06:08, 22 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well it isn't true; it isn't even an urban legend in these parts Rjccumbria (talk) 23:29, 18 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I once read (perhaps in one of Bill Bryson's books) that all but one of the words in the famous passage were Anglo-Saxon in origin. The one exception being the last word "surrender", derived from Norman French, being the one thing that Winston said we wouldn't do, the only word preceded by a negative. I suspect this only works if you start at "we shall fight on the beaches" rather than the earlier "we shall go on to the end" otherwise the word "confidence" ruins the observation. Nevertheless, I think we can be sure Churchill knew the powerful effect of short brutal Anglo-Saxon phrases. Redgrittybrick (talk) 18:50, 25 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The speech runs for about 4,200 words, and the discussion now appears to be of a passage of about 30 words. To widen the sample further, the peroration climaxes (romance-root words in italics, germanic (including Norse) in bold, indeterminate in both):
this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
so I think I would prefer the above thought to have been that Churchill knew how to use short words effectively, regardless of origin, with the possible rider that some say he had a bit of a way with the long ones too. I am afraid I have a prejudice against judging words on the basis of the tongue of origin; particularily so since I once chased up a 1937 scientific reference and found what I wanted next to a quarter-page reminder to intending authors that there was no need to use unpatriotic words of foreign origin when discussing chemistry: there were perfectly good German words which any right-thinking German would of course prefer to use. An awful lot of people died before we got to the end of that line of thought Rjccumbria (talk) 23:35, 26 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I originally assumed that the version of the story I heard (that in the passage from "we shall fight on the beaches" to "we shall never surrender", all the words are from Old English roots, except 'surrender' which is from French) was a joke (someone having a poke at the French) - but it's absolutely correct!
I checked this all out in the Online Etymological Dictionary, and every word in that clip is from Old English - with the exception of 'surrender' which is indeed from Old French! (And apologies to anyone with French ancestry/links - I have not forgotten Verdun).
Since this is an interesting factoid (well, the Old English part, not the part about 'surrender'), and since it is something that seems to come up often (particularly as that section of this speech is so universally known), I think it's worth mentioning in the article, something along the lines of:
In the very-well known passage from the peroration, from "we shall fight on the beaches" to "we shall never surrender", every single word is from Old English roots, except the very last.
I know Wikipedia is not Snopes, but it's i) true, and ii) something people might come here to look for an answer about, so I would think it belongs. Comments? Noel (talk) 02:46, 10 February 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I removed the following from the article
According to Melvyn Bragg in The Adventure of English, Churchill had studied the speeches of Elizabeth I, particularly the famous Tilbury speech in preparation for repelling the expected invasion by the Spanish Armada which appealed to a sense of English history. In the entire speech he used only seven words which did not have their origins in Old English, in particular repeatedly using the Old English word fight instead of the French word battle.
because on the two points I can readily check (only 7 words of non-OE origin, Tilbury speech appealing to English history) it fails (not sure if Lord Bragg got it wrong, or has been misinterpreted). Instead (gritting my teeth) I have inserted the correct version of the popular factoid, but felt duty bound to point out it doesn't hold true for the speech as a whole, or for other Churchill perorations. The phrase 'terminological inexactitude' has however not been used. Rjccumbria (talk) 03:20, 19 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Any evidence euphoria, as opposed to relief? If so, please supply.

The speech if read in full is clearly an attempt to put a good face on a bad situation, rather than the other way around, and Churchill had quite a gift for that; in his hands 'many of those currently listed as missing were probably taken prisoner' becomes:

I would say about the missing that there may be very many reported missing who will come back home, some day, in one way or another. In the confusion of this fight it is inevitable that many have been left in positions where honour required no further resistance from them.

Churchill minuted 4 June 1940 the same day as the speech 'An effort must be made to shake off the mental and moral prostration to the will and initiative from which we suffer' so he clearly didn't spot a lot of euphoria in his immediate circle. What were Mass Observation saying about the mood in the country ? Or are we going off the newsreels ?? Rjccumbria (talk) 23:29, 18 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't have time right at the moment to do a full search for primary documents, but I just ran across this, from Roy Jenkins' Churchill: A Biography (pg. 597):
There was a seductive tendency to treat Dunkirk as a victory and not just as a deliverance. Churchill was good at not succumbing to that temptation.
I've seen this sentiment (that many were euphoric after Dunkirk) in other places, too. It makes a certain amount of sense; at the start of the evacuation, the expectation was that not many could or would be retrieved (Churchill thought perhaps 50,000). To get over 300,000 seemed a great miracle - and for so many families, to see again a loved one they had given up as lost - one can imagine the emotion. Noel (talk) 03:57, 11 February 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well I asked because I too have seen this sentiment in other places, but only recently (certainly not in the days when most people could remember 1940), and I have never seen any supporting evidence (I don't take retrospective empathy studies to be evidence, nor indeed history). It turns out that 30 years ago I read a 'book to read on a train' paperback which actually reported the Mass Observation findings; unconscious recollection of that may have played some part in my query. I have put the paperback's account of MO reports into the article, because it should knock 'euphoria' on the head. Rjccumbria (talk) 14:14, 19 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
A good place to look is John Lukacs, Five Days in London: May 1940, which is fascinating it its own right (I was stunned to find out that there was a sizeble faction in the UK government who wanted to give up the fight against Hitler, before Churchill routed them), but also has a lot about the public mood at the time of Dunkirk. Noel (talk) 02:31, 9 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dead wikisource?[edit]

No full text wikisource?--Test35965 (talk) 06:30, 22 October 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can somebody help with the 'Rhetoric' section please ?[edit]

I have multiple difficulties with the rhetoric section as it stands, since it doesn’t altogether match the content of the speech or my layman’s understanding of rhetorical terms but I am not enough of an expert on the subject to attempt a better one. I have however added a contemporary response that the important thing about the words was that they conveyed implacable resolve.

a) “The corpus is constructed from a slow buildup of plainly reported facts”

hardly does justice to (and some might think gravely misrepresents) Churchill’s tone and touch throughout eg his characterisation of the German units following up the initial breakthrough

Behind this armoured and mechanised onslaught came a number of German divisions in lorries, and behind them again there plodded comparatively slowly the dull brute mass of the ordinary German Army and German people, always so ready to be led to the trampling down in other lands of liberties and comforts which they have never known in their own.

or his far from unornamented account of the defence of Calais

The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles, and the Queen Victoria's Rifles, with a battalion of British tanks and 1,000 Frenchmen, in all about 4,000 strong, defended Calais to the last. The British Brigadier was given an hour to surrender. He spurned the offer, and four days of intense street fighting passed before silence reigned over Calais, which marked the end of a memorable resistance. Only 30 unwounded survivors were brought off by the Navy and we do not know the fate of their comrades. Their sacrifice, however, was not in vain. At least two armoured divisions, which otherwise would have been turned against the British Expeditionary Force, had to be sent for to overcome them. They have added another page to the glories of the Light Division, and the time gained enabled the Graveline waterlines to be flooded and to be held by the French troops.

b) Though his delivery of the losses is frank, pathos is injected through scattered commendations of valor to British, French, and Belgian troops:

  • The only bit of the speech approaching pathos as I understand the term (and still falling well short of it, surely) is this businesslike acknowledgement of bereavement

I take occasion to express the sympathy of the House to all who have suffered bereavement or who are still anxious. The President of the Board of Trade is not here to-day. His son has been killed, and many in the House have felt the pangs of affliction in the sharpest form.

  • 'scattered commendations of valor' for the troops ? Rightly or wrongly, at no point in the speech is the valour of Belgian troops commended; the British ground forces (and arguably the French) get a favourable mention for the defence of Calais (quoted above) but there are no other comments on valour (although of the defence of the Dunkirk perimeter, Churchill says "The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not harry their departure seriously."). Churchill gives warm praise of the Royal Navy, 'with the willing help of countless merchant seamen' " The numbers they have brought back are the measure of their devotion and their courage " and of the RAF (at length).
  • The quote which follows in the article is in fact a prediction of how the RAF will perform in the defence of Britain given how they performed over Dunkirk; the text immediately preceding that given being

May it not also be that the cause of civilisation itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen? There never had been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into a prosaic past: not only distant but prosaic; but these young men…

c) Summoning the archaic rhetoric of Tennyson,

Churchill is quoting a phrase from Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur (describing the heyday of the Round Table, so not in that context ‘archaic’), but not its rhetoric. The argument T puts in Sir Bedevere’s mouth there is that such days are gone: Churchill says they are come again

d) Linking the struggle of war to a storm, while simultaneously personifying Nazi Germany as 'the menace of tyranny', Churchill draws on the emotion of the audience.

  • John Bull, Marianne and Uncle Sam are personifications, but how is ‘the menace of tyranny’ a personification ?
  • ‘once again’ shows Churchill is not talking about just Nazi Germany but also previous adversaries. Churchill takes heart earlier in the speech from the past history of intended invasions (most notably Napoleon’s).

    We are told that Herr Hitler has a plan for invading the British Isles. This has often been thought of before. When Napoleon lay at Boulogne for a year with his flat-bottomed boats and his Grand Army, he was told by someone, "There are bitter weeds in England."

    The British PM when the Grand Armee was camped at Boulogne ready to invade was William Pitt the Younger, famously (perhaps not today, but most MPs in 1940 would have known) hailed by his contemporaries as ‘The Pilot That Weathered The Storm’. So one would suspect that ‘riding out the storm’ is engaging his audience’s emotions not by reusing a timeworn figure of speech (‘the storm of war’) but by again invoking past chapters in Our Island Story and ‘the menace of tyranny’ is not a personalisation of the current enemy, but rather a generalisation covering all those - Napoleon et al (now including Hitler; Philip of Spain is carefully not mentioned)- who were kidding themselves when they thought old England was done.Rjccumbria (talk) 21:41, 9 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Reviewing the matter further:
  • the originator of the 'Rhetoric' section is a red-linker with no other Wikipedia contributions
  • the references given are reputable works by reputable authors but are of print works inaccessible on-line and not easily checkable otherwise
  • other Wiki-worthy speeches (up to & including the Gettysburg address and the speech to the troops at Tilbury) have not been favoured with an analysis (of whatever quality) of their rhetoric.
Given the above concerns (and others: (eg) if the speech is not in WSC's usual style, it is not because of HoC expectations of speeches in debate, but because it is - as promised - a statement to the House about the course of the war) about the accuracy/quality of the 'rhetoric' section, no obvious way of resolving them, and no obvious requirement/precedent for such a section, I have therefore unilaterally/arbitrarily deleted it (which I appreciate I wouldn't like for one moment being done to a contribution of mine)Rjccumbria (talk) 18:51, 10 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If 'editing for style' please check the sense is preserved (and try to be civil about other people's style)[edit]

I note, more in sorrow than in anger (but not by much)that

in 2010 this article said that the German advance to the sea once they had broken through the French defences at Sedan cut off the BEF and the French First Army from their lines of communication and the main French forces,

on 14 October 2011 user made 4 edits for style on it, only 2 of which had edit summaries. One edit had the edit summary "The word "said" followed by a blockquote needs to have a colon added "said:" ". The other edit summary provided was "Someone needs to study the writings of Churchill, Jefferson, etc. "on the 10 May" does not make sense, and single-digiit numbers are written out as words." which was consistent with the tone/content of the other summary, but did not entirely accurately reflect the nature of the edit which was not just MOS stuff but 'my English is better than yours' stuff as well with extensive paraphrasing and recasting. Unfortunately the recasting was done without due care & attention and resulted in the BEF now being cut off from the French First Army as a result of the Germans having broken through the French defenses ( I note the spelling correction). had gone on to give his POV as to where the French troops evacuated from Dunkirk should have been sent. Somebody spotted and removed that, but the net result was that the revised text looked passable and the residual bit of good-faith (if snitty) vandalism has persisted until today, when I finally realised that the article no longer said what I expected it to say and had therefore been reading it as saying. A warning to us all, but I'm not quite sure about what - all sorts of things, probably Rjccumbria (talk) 20:55, 10 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

accurate transcript?[edit]

If I listen to online recordings of this speech, the sentence "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." is not spoken. Not sure if there is a separately written speech or that the transcript is just inaccurate. SiggyF (talk) 15:55, 4 February 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It might help to note the sentence in the article beginning "No audio record was made at the time of the original speech" - the Hansard record of the debate is the only record of the speech as given in the House of Commons (with the important proviso that Hansard lets speakers correct the speech before it is printed). (As a passing thought; Churchill might well have wanted to omit the sentence when recording the speech for posterity in 1949, given that some of the ancient nations had escaped the grip of the Gestapo, only to find themselves in the clutches of the NKVD). Rjccumbria (talk) 17:44, 4 February 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

File nominated for deletion on commons[edit]

The file c:File:Sir Winston Churchill - 19086236948.jpg has been nominated for deletion on Commons 
Reason: I don't understand the decision above. The final comment, "The Karsh photo of Churchill is PD in Canada and the US since it was published in a 1945 issue of Life magazine. URAA affects images published or taken after 1945 in Canada. --Leoboudv ([[User talk:Leoboudv|[Template:M used with invalid code 'int:Talkpagelinktext'. See documentation.]]]) 09:44, 21 August 2017 " is wrong. It was, indeed, the cover of Life in 1945. That issue of Life had its copyright renewed, so the image will be under copyright in the USA until 2040. 
Deletion request: link 

Message automatically deposited by a robot - -Harideepan (talk) 07:18, 3 March 2018 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Removed Tag[edit]

Before my edit, the "Reception" subsection started with "It has been said {{by whom?|date=December 2017}} that ..." The answer to "by whom" is given in the reference at the end of the sentence. It was said by Dominique Enright, in her cited book.

Please read the entire sentence and look at the reference before tagging something. I too hate wesel words and remove them where ever I find them, but never if they are supported by an actual reference. In this case the reference was to a book, and contained a note that this is not certain, which the visible phrase "it is said" indicates. Nick Beeson (talk) 22:39, 16 April 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"…the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old." Capitalization?[edit]

I've seen this speech in print (such as where it is included on the International Churchill Society website, and the capitalization of the first letter of the last word in the peroration has always bothered me given the text of the entire sentence. Churchill for much of this period was trying persuade the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States (such as in the "This was their finest hour" speech) to intervene on behalf of Britain, which at that point was in the process of becoming the only democratic major power left standing in Europe opposed to Nazi Germany, and to rescue the Old World from the Nazi regime. Given that Churchill won Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, it occurs to me that Churchill was gifted enough as a writer and knowledgeable enough of history to use such language. Could someone please provide an explanation? -- CommonKnowledgeCreator (talk) 23:09, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The version you linked to is in USian English ("defenses", "armored"). The Hansard version has British spelling, but still has "old" and not "Old". DuncanHill (talk) 12:42, 24 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm not surprised that the Hansard version of the text of the speech likewise does not capitalize the last word since most versions of the text seem not to. My question isn't about American and British English spelling differences. My question is why the last word is uncapitalized because Churchill wasn't pleading for the New World to rescue old people but to liberate the Old World from the totalitarian Axis powers. Just seems weird. :) -- CommonKnowledgeCreator (talk) 14:48, 24 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]