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Michigan Meets on the 70th Anniversary of Churchill’s First Speech to Occupied France in 1940


By Bob Pettengill


The Winston Churchill Society of Michigan met on October 21, 2010 – the 70th anniversary of Churchill’s first speech to occupied France in 1940, delivered over the BBC in French as bombs fell on London. In commemoration Dick Marsh, Society president, read the speech (in English) – God Protect France (Dieu Protégé La France). Celebrating the day was an excellent context for revisiting and remembering this historic event. We were reminded that as is the case with all of Churchill’s speeches there is soaring rhetoric and memorable passages. “We are waiting for the long promised invasion. So are the fishes.” And, “Remember that we will never stop, never weary, and never give in…” The speech ends – (“Allons, bonne nuit; dormez bien”) “Good night then: Sleep to gather strength for the morning. For the morning will come. Brightly it will shine on the brave and true, kindly upon all who suffer for the cause, glorious upon the tombs of heroes. Thus will shine the dawn.”


Reading of this speech concluded the meeting. The featured speaker for the evening was Dr. Will Morrissey, Associate Professor of Political Science at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale Michigan. Professor Morrisey teaches courses in political philosophy, American politics and international relations. He has published in several newspapers and journals and has written seven books including “Reflections on de Gaulle: Political Founding in Modernity.” He is currently working on a book on the geopolitical strategies of Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. His topic was on this aspect of Churchill and de Gaulle. De Gaulle was marginalized during the war in terms of prosecution of the war. The substantive relationship of Churchill and de Gaulle involved post war matters particularly organizing against Communist influence in French politics. Dick Marsh observed that de Gaulle wrote to Clementine Churchill every year on the anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death.


Michael Malley, former president of the Michigan Society, told of us of his trip to South Africa for the World Cup but also to seek out the site of Winston Churchill’s memorable capture on November 15, 1899 during the Boer War. At the site near Colonso in Kwazula Natal is a modest iron fenced-in plaque commemorating the train wreck and Churchill’s capture. Michael also visited Spion Kop site of the famous battle between 20,000 British troops and 8,000 Boers. Oh, and he enjoyed the safari parks and the soccer matches except for the now infamous vuvuzela horns.

Finally, Bob Pettengill gave a report on this year’s educational outreach program. Letters have been sent to 149 high school principals offering to conduct Churchill teaching units to history classes. Teachers are encouraged to contact us and we will work with them to develop content and a presentation to fit within their history curriculums. The Michigan Society is also spreading the word about the student essay contest sponsored by the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in Fulton Missouri. Through school district contacts most teachers in the four surrounding counties have been notified of the contest. We have offered to assist participating students in their research.


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