(One of a series of weekday posts about Winston S. Churchill.)
Readers Note: During the holidays I'm posting some "Classic Oldies." The following post was first published on Nov. 10, 2005 and appears here in slightly modified form.
The "general injunction" of Churchill's quoted here helps explain why he was such a great war leader. He knew the importance of In War: Resolution. Many today don't understand that.
I'll post New Year's Eve but there'll be no post New Year's Day.
I hope this last weekend of the year is an especially good one for you all.
On May 28, 1940, facing an overwhelming German forces, Belgium surrendered and the French army in northwestern Europe retreated toward Paris. As a result, the Germans were able to surround and force back upon the sea almost a third of a million British troops.
The British organized a defensive line around a small seaport called Dunkirk. It seemed certain that within a matter of days they would be annihilated or taken prisoner.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, extraordinary courage, ingenuity and sacrifice made possible what we’ve come to call “the miracle of Dunkirk”: The great bulk of the British force was safely evacuated back to England to fight on other days.
But on May 28 no one, including Churchill, foresaw “the miracle.” People rightly feared that France would soon seek terms with Germany leaving Britain and the Commonwealth to make with Hitler what terms they could or to fight on alone.
And so it was in those circumstances that Churchill issued this “general injunction” to his government colleagues:
(Strictly confidential.) In these dark days the Prime Minister would be grateful if all his colleagues in the Government, as well as important officials, would maintain a high morale in their circles; not minimizing the gravity of events, but showing confidence in our ability and inflexible resolve to continue the war till we have broken the will of the enemy to bring all Europe under his domination.______________________________________________________________ Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: Their Finest Hour. (p. 91)
No tolerance should be given to the idea that France will make a separate peace; but whatever may happen on the Continent, we cannot doubt our duty, and we shall certainly use all our power to defend the Island, the Empire, and the Cause.