The End of the First World War

Winston Churchill records his thoughts on moment the First World War ended. 

‘It was a few minutes before the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I stood at the window of my room looking up Northumberland Avenue towards Trafalgar Square, waiting for Big Ben to tell that the War was over. My mind strayed back across the scarring years to the scene and emotions of the night at the Admiralty when I listened for these same chimes in order to give the signal of war against Germany to our Fleets and squadrons across the world. And now all was over! The unarmed and untrained island nation, who with no defence but its Navy had faced unquestioningly the strongest manifestation of military power in human record, had completed its task. Our country had emerged from the ordeal alive and safe, its vast possessions intact, its war effort still waxing, its institutions unshaken, its people and Empire united as never before. Victory had come after all the hazards and heartbreaks in an absolute and unlimited form. All the Kings and Emperors with whom we had warred were in flight or exile. All their Armies and Fleets were destroyed or subdued. In this Britain had borne a notable part, and done her best from first to last.

The minutes passed. I was conscious of reaction rather than elation. The material purposes on which one’s work had been centred, every process of thought on which one had lived, crumbled into nothing. The whole vast business of supply, the growing outputs, the careful hoards, the secret future plans—but yesterday the whole duty of life—all at a stroke vanished like a nightmare dream, leaving a void behind. My mind mechanically persisted in exploring the problems of demobilization. What was to happen to our three million Munition workers? What would they make now? How would the roaring factories be converted? How in fact are swords beaten into ploughshares? How long would it take to bring the Armies home? What would they do when they got home?…

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Unconditional Surrender of Japan

Japanese Surrender 14 August 1945

truman-churchill-stalin-potsdamWinston Churchill, Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference the month before the Japanese surrender.

According to Sir Martin Gilbert in his epic Churchill biography here’s how the final days played out.

“On August 8, two days after Hiroshima, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and Soviet troops, already massed on the Manchurian frontier, drove southward in a series of fierce and bloody battles. On August 9 a second atom bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki. Two Japanese cities had been all but obliterated. ‘It may well be that events will bring the Japanese War to an early close,’ Churchill wrote to Attlee on August 10. ‘Indeed I hope this may be so, for it means an immense lightening of the load we expected to carry.’ That day, Radio Tokyo broadcast an appeal to the Allies to accept the Japanese surrender. ‘We have as yet nothing more than the Tokyo broadcast,’ Attlee wrote to Churchill later that day, ‘but are seeking confirmation. I will let you know as soon as I have news.’ The probability was, Attlee believed, that Japan would formally surrender ‘in the next 48 hours’, and he went on: ‘I feel that the probability of the surrender of our last enemy is so great that I must, at once, offer to you, our leader from the darkest hours through so many anxious days, my congratulations on this crowning result of your work.’ On August 14 the Japanese Government accepted the Allied terms. The Second World War was over.”
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Winston Churchill Quotes


It is arguable whether the human race have been gainers by the march of science beyond the steam engine. Electricity opens a field of infinite conveniences to ever greater numbers, but they may well have to pay dearly for them. But anyhow in my thought I stop short of the internal combustion engine which has made the world so much smaller. Still more must we fear the consequences of entrusting to a human race so little different from their predecessors of the so-called barbarous ages such awful agencies as the atomic bomb. Give me the horse.

Scientific Progress
~ Winston Churchill, 10 July 1951, Royal College of Physicians, London

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