Their finest hour

英国, 1940年, ウィンストン·チャーチル

Some people think it is the greatest speech ever given in English.

It was June 18th 1940. Hitler had won the Battle of France. Britain was alone against the Nazi army.

Winston Churchill, the new British prime minster, made the speech in the House of Commons (one of the Houses of Parliament). He wanted the country to brace itself for the Battle of Britain. (brace yourself = prepare for difficulty)

The speech lasted 36 minutes in total. The most famous part is the powerful peroration. (peroration = concluding part of a speech)

The original copy of the speech is laid out in blank verse form, like a poem. This helped Churchill to get the right rhythm.

(Photo: Churchill Archive Centre; Septimius Florens)

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What General Weygand has called
the Battle of France is over.

The Battle of Britain
is about to begin.

Upon this battle depends the
survival of Christian civilization.

Upon it depends our own British life
and the long continuity of our
institutions, and our Empire.

The whole fury and might of the enemy
must very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break
us in this island, or lose the war.

If we can stand up to him,
all Europe may be free,
and the life of the world
may move forward into
broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail,
then the whole world,
including the United States,
including all that we have known and cared for,
will sink into the abyss of a
new Dark Age
made more sinister
and perhaps more protracted by
the lights of perverted

Let us therefore brace ourselves to
our duty, and so bear ourselves that
if the British Empire and its
Commonwealth last for a
thousand years, men will still say,

‘This was their finest hour’.

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There is no recording of the original speech, because in 1940 there were no microphones in the House of Commons. Churchill had to read the speech again over the radio later in the day.

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