The summer of 1940 was, as Churchill called it, Britain’s ‘finest hour’. It was also his. When the German armies conquered France, Britain found itself in the line of attack. With German U-boats patrolling the seas and soon to have bases on the Atlantic, and German bombers marshalling on the coast of France, Britain faced its first serious threat of invasion since 1805.
The months of June, July, August and September were to prove Churchill’s moment of ‘Destiny’. For more background information, see the Imperial War Museum’s material on 1940.
I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.
Churchill, The Second World War
Many found it difficult to see how Britain could avoid being defeated. Victory seemed impossible. But Churchill was passionately opposed to negotiating with Hitler. The War Cabinet did consider a compromise peace – or at least the offer of mediation, by Italy, between Germany and the allies – but Churchill argued strongly against this. He was convinced that Hitler would renege on any promises or agreement, just as he had done back in 1938.
Churchill used words to persuade his country to fight on. He was a great political communicator – he had refined his speechmaking over many years – and his speeches made at this time (most of them in parliament, with some broadcast later on the radio) ‘mobilized the English language and sent it into battle’.