It was over. The cause was hopeless. To continue on would only delay the inevitable and needlessly kill hundreds of thousands. Every sensible person knew it.
Thankfully, in that dark hour, there was a man who was not sensible. He refused to give up, to give in, or to surrender even an inch. Every person in the free world today owes that man a debt.
His name was Winston Churchill.
Seventy five years ago today, Churchill succeeded the incompetent Neville Chamberlain to become Prime Minister of England. Hitler stood triumphant as the master of Europe. Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland had been swallowed whole by the German Wehrmacht. France and Belgium were being overwhelmed by Hitler’s panzer divisions. For the first time in over a century, England’s very existence was threatened by a continental power, a powerful army that needed to only vault the Channel to achieve total victory. It was the gravest threat to Britain in nearly a a thousand years.
But more than England was at stake. Civilization itself was in peril. Only a fool could pretend that the Nazis were not barbarians; the concentration camps, the Gestapo, the SS and the Holocaust are an eternal testament to the Nazi barbarity. To paraphrase William Manchester, were England to fall, within a generation even the United States would be in grave danger: Nazi sympathizers were already present in Latin America. With an unopposed Nazi empire in Europe bankrolling their activities, the swastika would eventually fly over Capitol Hill in Washington.
When France fell in June, England and her empire stood alone against the barbarians. U-boats swarmed around Britain, sinking ships bringing essential food and supplies to their island. The German Luftwaffe, having seized French and Belgium airfields, prepared to incinerate British cities from above.
At that point, British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax, the man who nearly beat out Churchill for the Prime Ministership (indeed, both Neville Chamberlain and King George wanted him) approached Churchill and recommended that Britain negotiate with Hitler rather than fight what seemed to be a hopeless cause. Halifax had been an architect of Munich; he excelled at giving Hitler what he wanted without a fight. Even in this dark hour, many Establishment figures in Britain felt that negotiation was preferable to war.
Churchill refused. “We should become a slave state.” He told the British Cabinet, “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”
One of the greatest countries in history would have been reduced to a rump state, a mere satellite of Nazi Germany. Western Civilization would have ended.
Churchill’s faith in his countrymen and the rightness of his cause were absolute. Other men were prepared to give in to tyranny. He would not. Led by his example, England fought alone for 18 months against the Nazis. His relationship with Franklin Roosevelt helped ensure a strong alliance against Hitler; an alliance that continues today.
If any one person can be said to have saved Western Civilization, it is Winston Churchill.
Churchill wasn’t always right. In some instances he was catastrophically wrong. But he deserves credit for recognizing what Hitler was almost from the moment the Nazis thrust themselves onto the world stage.
So, if I may be so bold, during your Sunday dinner prayers today, consider giving thanks to God for Winston Churchill and others like him during those dark years. We are all in his debt, and in the debt of the many millions who died ensuring that their descendants would see Churchill’s “broad, sunlit uplands” of freedom and prosperity.
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight… in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. 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!”
On the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Queen Elizabeth ordered a memorial stone placed in Westminster Abbey; where Kings and Queens are Coronated married and buried; more than a thousand years of English history packed into one building. The stone says:
REMEMBER WINSTON CHURCHILL
This photo shows the Queen of England attending Churchill’s funeral in 1965. It broke every Royal precedent: the Sovereign did not attend the funerals of mere commoners. Churchill, however, was not a common man.