Second World War
By the time Churchill was facing another World War, in 1939, he understood more readily that while risks had to be taken, a balance needed to be struck between caution and ‘over-daring’. As Prime Minister, he walked the narrow road between the ‘precipices’ on either side; he needed nerves of steel to keep Britain and the Allies on the path to victory.
Above all, in his management of the Second World War, Churchill made things happen. He scribbled memoranda and despatched these with amazing frequency to his commanders in the field and stamped his red ‘Action this Day’ labels on documents, urging speedy resolution. He demanded commitment and action alike from his colleagues and staff – just as he did from himself – and his constant prodding resulted in hundreds of different ideas and initiatives being pursued at any one time. Churchill famously employed the ‘Action This Day’ red stickers in response to a missive from four of his overworked code-breakers (including Alan Turing) in October 1941. When the under-resourced code-breakers at Bletchley Park asked for more help, Churchill wrote ‘Action this day! Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done’. Throughout his life, Churchill made things happen. He was relentlessly driven and focussed; a workaholic, determined to fulfil his own destiny and to protect his country – and he did all he could to ensure all those round him followed him and made things happen too.
Churchill’s reputation as an orator is based principally on his speeches and broadcasts as Prime Minister during the summer of 1940 during a particularly vital point in the Second World War, when Britain was under the threat of invasion. You'll probably know lots of famous phrases or quotes from these speeches: ‘We shall fight on the beaches’, ‘This was their finest hour' and 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’. His most well-known and most quoted speeches are those known usually as ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat’ (13 May), ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’ (4 June) and ‘This was their Finest Hour’ (18 June), all of which were delivered in the House of Commons, though Churchill also broadcast the ‘Finest Hour’ speech over the BBC. He only made a total of five broadcasts to the nation during this vital stage of the Second World War (19 May, 17 June, 18 June, 14 July, 11 September), but these speeches conveyed Churchill’s determination and commitment, and they gave his country confidence. Did Winston's Words Win the War?
Get the Churchill Bulletin, delivered to your inbox, once a month.