Welcome to this week’s History Thread!
Today’s picture: June 18, 1940 saw two of the most famous speeches of the Second World War. With France virtually overrun by Nazi Germany and the British military in humiliating retreat, Winston Churchill gave a defiant speech vowing that Britain would fight on despite the overwhelming odds against it. In the most famous line, he vowed that “if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” In a career noted for firing, bombastic oratory it still manages to standout, both alerting and inspiring Britons for the long, existential struggle ahead.
On the same day, an obscure French Brigadier General named Charles De Gaulle gave a short, equally stirring address vowing that the French people must continue resisting, whatever the decision of the Vichy government. Like Churchill, he emphasized the strength and resilience of France’s allies: “France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.” He also promised that “the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.” While initially heard by only a handful of Frenchmen, De Gaulle’s speech formed the nucleus for the Free French forces that would continue fighting alongside France, America and the USSR for the next five years.