It is enough of a claim to historic greatness for a man to have saved his own country. Winston Churchill may have saved civilization.
        - Thomas Sowell, "The Best of the Century"

Alone among his contemporaries, Churchill did not denounce the Nazi empire merely as a threat, actual or potential, to the British Empire. Nor did he speak of it as a depraved but possibly useful ally. He excoriated it as a wicked and nihilistic thing. That appears facile now, but was exceedingly uncommon then.
         - Chistopher Hitchens

After he had spoken to them in the summer of 1940 as no one has ever before or since, they conceived a new idea of themselves which their own prowess and the admiration of the world has since established as a heroic image in the history of mankind.
        - Isaiah Berlin, "The Atlantic"

He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.
        - Edward R. Murrow

"More like those of a human being than of a public figure."
        - George Orwell praises the writings of Winston Churchill

"By his father he is English, by his mother he is American, to my mind the blend which makes the perfect man."
        - Mark Twain introducing Churchill, New York City, 1900.

"When you first meet him, you see all his faults. It takes a lifetime to appreciate his virtues."
        - Unknown

"Since 1940, his countrymen have come to feel that he is saying what they would like to say for themselves, if they knew how."
        - Lord Moran

Churchill spent a windfall inheritance (the British Empire) to assure a future for those values the civilised world regards as inevitable.
        - Richard Holmes, "In the Footsteps of Churchill"

For Churchill, the appeasement of Germany was wrong because it represented the abdication of Britain's historic duty to ensure a continent free from tyrants and dictators... From the 1930s onwards, he had devoted himself whole-heartedly to what he described as 'the maintenance of the enduring greatness of Britain and her Empire'. But by the time of his death in 1965, these great causes had long since become lost causes, something that his own magnificient state funeral tacitly acknowledged. For as everyone recognized on that cold, bleak January day, but no one dared mention, the ceremonials being staged with such dignified and moving splendour were not only the last rites of the great man himself: they were also a requiem for Britain as a great power.
        - David Cannadine, "In Churchill's Shadow: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain"

The British people recognized in Churchill's death the passing not only of one of the greatest of their fellow countrymen who had ever lived but also of a supremely heroic moment in their own life as a nation.
        - John Keegan, "Churchill"

"This history will endure; not only because Sir Winston has written it, but also because of its own inherent virtues — its narrative power, its fine judgment of war and politics, of soldiers and statesmen, and even more because it reflects a tradition of what Englishmen in the hey-day of their empire thought and felt about their country's past."
        - JH Plumb, reviewing Churchill's "History of the English-speaking Peoples", "The Telegraph"


"Winston is back."
        - Signal sent to the Royal Navy as Churchill takes command, 3 September 1939.

"All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. We have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been derailed, and these terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies, 'Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting'."
        - Lamenting the abandonment of Czechosolovakia by Britain at Munich in 1938

"Our loyal, brave people... should know the truth. They should know that there has been a gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road... and do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of the bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year, unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden time."
        - From his speech in protest against the Munich settlement, 1938 [1]

"Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war."
        - From speech in House of Commons about Munich settlement (1938)

"Let those who wish to reject it ponder well and earnestly what will happen to us, if when all else has been thrown to the wolves, we are left to face our fate alone."
        - From a speech urging Britain to stand by Czechosolovakia (1938) [6]

"The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small state to the wolves is a fatal delusion."

"It is the English-speaking nations who, almost alone, keep alight the torch of Freedom."
        - speaking in May 1938

"I think of Germany with its splendid clear-eyed youth marching forward on all the roads of the Reich, singing their ancient songs, demanding to be conscripted into an army; eagerly seeking the most terrible weapons of war; burning to suffer and die for their fatherland."
        - Speaking in Oxford (1933) after Hitler becomes Chancellor

"I cannot recall any time when the gap between the kind of words which statesmen used and what was actually happening was so great as it is now."
        - speaking in 1932

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, What is our policy? I will say; "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy." You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."
        - First Address as Prime Minister, May 13 1940.

"I will pay my tribute to these young airmen. The great French Army was very largely, for the time being, cast back and disturbed by the onrush of a few thousands of armored vehicles. May it not also be that the cause of civilization itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen? There never has been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into the past-not only distant but prosaic; these young men, going forth every morn to guard their native land and all that we stand for, holding in their hands these instruments of colossal and shattering power."
        - "We shall fight them on the Beaches", 4 June 1940

"We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old."
        - Winston Churchill, 4 June 1940, "We shall fight them on the Beaches"

"I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us; but I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it, like the brave men of Barcelona, and will be able to stand up to it, and carry on in spite of it, at least as well as any other people in the world. Much will depend upon this; every man and every woman will have the chance to show the finest qualities of their race, and render the highest service to their cause. For all of us, at this time, whatever our sphere, our station, our occupation or our duties, it will be a help to remember the famous lines: He nothing common did or mean, Upon that memorable scene."
        - Winston Churchill, "Their Finest Hour", June 18 1940.

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us now. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, "This was their finest hour."
        - "Their Finest Hour", June 18 1940.

"Here in this City is a refuge which enshrines the title deeds of human progress and is of deep consequence to Christian civilization; here, girst about by the seas and oceans where our Navy reigns; shielded from above by the prowess and devotion of our airmen — we await undismayed the impending assault... We shall seek no terms, we shall tolerate no parley, we may show mercy — we shall ask for none."
        - July 1940

"There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage. These are great and distinctive changes from what many of us saw in the struggle of a quarter of a century ago.
There seems to be every reason to believe that this new kind of war is well suited to the genius and the resources of the British nation and the British Empire; and that, once we get properly equipped and properly started, a war of this kind will be more favorable to us than the somber mass slaughters of the Somme and Passchendaele.
If it is a case of the whole nation fighting and suffering together, that ought to suit us, because we are the most united of all the nations, because we entered the war upon the national will and with our eyes open, and because we have been nurtured in freedom and individual responsibility and are the products, not of totalitarian uniformity, but of tolerance and variety. If all these qualities are turned, as they are being turned, to the arts of war, we may be able to show the enemy quite a lot of things that they have not thought of yet."
        - "The Few", 20 August 1940.

"The British nation is stirred and moved as it never has been at any time in its long, eventful, famous history. And it is no hackneyed trope of speech to say that they mean to conquer or to die. What a triumph the life of these battered cities is over the worst that fire and bomb can do! What a vindication of the civilized and decent way of living we have been trying to work for and work toward in our island! What a proof of the virtues of free institutions! What a test of the quality of our local authorities and of customs and societies so steadily built!
This ordeal by fire has, in a certain sense, even exhilarated the manhood and the womanhood of Britain. The sublime but also terrible, sombre experiences and emotions of the battlefield, which for centuries had been reserved for the soldiers and sailors, are now shared for good or ill by the entire population. All are proud of being under the fire of the enemy. Old men, little children, the crippled, veterans of former wars, aged women, the ordinary hard-pressed citizen-or subject of the King as he likes to call himself-the sturdy workmen who swing the hammers or load the ships, the skillful craftsmen, the members of every kind of A. R. P. service, are proud to feel that they stand in the lines together with our fighting men when one of the greatest causes is being fought out. And fought out it will be to the end. This indeed is the grand, heroic period of our history and the light of glory shines on all."
        - "Report on the War", 27 April 1941

"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
        - "The Few", 20 August 1940.

"Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt: We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire... Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job."
        - Radio broadcast, 9 February 1941

"In their mortal peril the Greeks turned to us for succour. Strained as were our resources we could not say them nay. By solemn guarantee, given before the war, Great Britain had promised them her help. They declared they would fight for their native soil even if neither of their neighbours made common cause with them and even if we left them to their fate.
But we could not do that. There are rules against that kind of thing and to break those rules would be fatal to the honour of the British Empire, without which we could neither hope nor deserve to win this hard war. Military defeat or miscalculation can be remedied. The fortunes of war are fickle and changing. But an act of shame would deprive us of the respect which we now enjoy throughout the world and thus would sap the vitals of' our strength. During the last year we have gained by our bearing and conduct a potent hold upon the sentiments of the people of the United States. Never, never in our long history have we been held in such admiration and regard across the Atlantic Ocean."
        - "Report on the War", 27 April 1941

"No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism for the last 25 years. I will unsay no word I have spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding. The past, with its crimes, its follies, its tragedies, flashes away... Any man or state who fights on against Nazidom will have our aid... It follows therefore that we shall give whatever help we can to Russia and the Russian people."
        - Radio broadcast after Germany invades the Soviet Union

"If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."
        - On alliance with the Soviet Union

"The British nation is unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst."
        - Speech in House of Commons, 10 June 1941

"A big butcher’s bill was not necessarily evidence of good tactics."
        - General Wavell, responding to Churchill's criticisms of his withdrawal from Somalia

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
        - November 10 1942, after victory at El Alamein

"What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible that they do not realise that we shall never cease to persevere against them, until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?"
        - Address to joint session of US Congress [1]

"It fell to [him] in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man."
        - from his eulogy to Neville Chamberlain

"It is better that London should lie in ruins and ashes than that we should surrender."

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

"It was a nation and a race dwelling all around the globe that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar." [1]


"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia. ...I have felt bound to portray the shadow which, alike in the west and in the east, falls upon the world." (1946)

"I am convinced that there is nothing [the Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness."

"Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world? It does not so much matter to old people; they are going soon anyway, but I find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing their merry games, and wonder what would lie before them if God wearied of mankind?" (On nuclear weapons) [7]

"As the greatest communicator of our time, Sir Winston Churhcill enlisted the English language itself in the battle against Hitler and his hateful doctrines. When the Nazi might prevailed from Warsaw to the Channel Islands and from Egypt to the Arctic Ocean, at a time when the whole cause of human liberty stood trembling and imperiled, he breathed defiance in phrases that will ring down through centuries to come.
And when the guns at last fell silent in the Spring of 1945, no man on earth had done more to preserve civilization during the hour of its greatest trial.
In the exhausted aftermath of World War II, few were prepared to listen to warnings of fresh danger.  But Churchill was undaunted. Once before his had been a voice crying out in the wilderness against the suicidal dogmas of appeasement. Once before he had sounded an alarm against those deluded souls who thought they could go on feeding the crocodile with bits and pieces of other countries and somehow avoid his jaws themselves. His warnings had been ignored by a world more in love with temporary ease than long-term security. Yet time had proven him tragically correct. His Fulton speech was a firebell in the night, a Paul Revere warning that tyranny was once more on the march."
    -  Ronald Reagan, Speech at Westminster College Cold War memorial, 1990.


"A European war cannot be anything but a cruel, heartrending struggle, which, if we are ever to enjoy the fruits of victory, must demand, perhaps for several years, the whole manhood of the nation, the entire suspension of peaceful industries, and the concentration to one end of every vital energy of the community."
        - Churchill, writing in 1901 to Britain's Secretary of State for War [6]

"Scores of gigantic castles of steel wending their way across the misty, shining sea, like giants bowed in anxious thought."
        - Description of the departure of the Grand Fleet from Portsmouth, July 28, 1914.

"He was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon."
        - Describing the responsibility of Royal Navy Admiral Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutland

"We are often tempted to ask ourselves what we gained by the enormous sacrifices made by those to whom this memorial is dedicated. But that was never the issue with those who marched away. No question of advantage presented itself to their minds. They only saw the light shining on the clear path to duty. They only saw their duty to resist oppression, to protect the weak, to vindicate the profound but unwritten Law of Nations. They never asked the question, 'What shall we gain?' They asked only the question, 'Where lies the right?' It was thus that they marched away for ever, and yet from the uncalculating exaltation and devotion, detached from all consideration of material gain, we may be sure that good will come to their countrymen and to this island they guarded in its reputation and safety, so faithfully and so well."
        - From a speech marking the unveiling of a WW1 memorial in 1925 [6]

"Victory was to be bought so dear as to be almost indistinguishable from defeat."

"Injuries were wrought to the structure of human society which a century will not efface, and which may conceivably prove fatal to the present civilization." [1]

"Nations and empires crowned with princes and potentates, rose majestically on on every side, lapped in the accumulated treasures of the long peace... The old world in its sunset was fair to see." [1]

"If a grandson of the Kasier had been left on the (German) throne after 1918, Hitler would never have seized power." [1]


I hope I shall never see the day when the forces of right are deprived of the right of force.

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Nations which go down fighting rise again, those who surrender tamely are finished.

We cannot guarantee victory, but only deserve it.[2]

In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.

If you are going through hell, keep going.

Success is never final.

Nations which went down fighting rose again, but those who surrendered tamely were finished.

From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness.
Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe. (1946)

They day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow-men, respect for justice and freedom, will enabled tormented generations to march forth, serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair. (1955) [1]


"Never be separated from the Americans."

"We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries, some of which are very powerful. In these States control is enforced upon the common people by various kinds of all-embracing police governments. The power of the State is exercised without restraint, either by dictators or by compact oligarchies operating through a privileged party and a political police. It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war. But we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.
All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind."

"These two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some affairs for mutual and general advantage. I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands, and better days." (1940) [1]

"We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are associated but not absorbed. And should European statesmen address us and say, 'Shall we speak for thee?', we should reply, 'Nay Sir, for we dwell among our own people'."

To Charles de Gaulle: "When I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, you should know that I will always choose Roosevelt. And when I have to choose between Europe and the wide open seas... I will always choose the wide open seas."

"Americans always do the right thing... eventually."

"If we had kept together after the last war, if we had taken common measures for our safety, this renewal of the curse need never have fallen upon us... Five or six years ago it would have been easy, without shedding a drop of blood, for the United States and Great Britain to have insisted on the fulfillment of the disarmament clauses of the treaties which Germany signed after the Great War."
        - from a speech to US Congress after Pearl Harbor

"The vast potentialities of America lay as a portent across the globe, as yet dimly recognised, save by the imagination. But in the contracting world of better communications to remain detached from the pre-occupations of others was rapidly becoming impossible. The status of world-Power is inseparable from its responsibilites... The English-speaking peoples... are now to become allies in terrible but victorious wars. Another phase looms before us, in which alliance will once more be tested and in which its formidable virtues may be to preserve Peace and Freedom. The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope."
        - from the conclusion of "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples" (1901)


Half a province cannot obstruct forever the reconciliation between the British and Irish peoples. (1912)

Then came the Great War: Every institution, almost, in the world was strained. Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed. The position of countries has been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have en countered violent and tremendous changes in the deluge of the world. But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world. (1922)

"I trust General Collins. Ireland will come through this."
(Responding to calls for a British intervention in Ireland during 1922 Civil War)

Successor to a sinister inheritance, reared among fierce conditions and moving through ferocious times, he supplied those qualities of action and personality without which the foundation of Irish nationhood would not have been re-established.
        - Description of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins in "The Aftermath", 1929.

"Tell Winston we could never have done it without him."
(Reported words of Michael Collins before his death in a Civil War ambush in 1922) [6]


"'All men are created equal' says the American Declaration of Independence. 'All men shall be kept equal' say the Socialists."

"Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon."

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery."

"We want to draw a line — below which we will not allow persons to live and labour, yet above which they may compete with all the strength of their manhood. We want to have free competition upwards; we decline to allow free competition downwards. We do not want to pull down the structure of science and civilization but to spread a net on the abyss."
        - from an October 1906 speech to a Liberal Party gathering


"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

"Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman."

When asked to name the chief qualification a politician should have. "It's the ability to foretell what will happen tomorrow, next month, and next year — and to explain afterward why it didn't happen."

"I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire." [1]

"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."

"I see little glory in an Empire which can rule the waves but is unable to flush its own sewers." [6]

"The upkeep of aristocracies has been the hard work of all civilizations." [1]
(in response to Lord Curzon's line that "All civilization has been the work of aristocracies.")

"When our kings are in conflict with our constitution, we change our kings." [1]

"The King walked with death, as if death were a companion, an acquaintance, whom he recognised and did not fear." (on the declining years of King George VI)

"If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice, I would have English Channels round every country. And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire."

"The British are the only people who like to be told how bad things are." [6]

"The recognition of their language is precious to a small people."

"Tell the children how Wolfe took Quebec." (advice to his Education Minister, RA Butler)

"There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies."

"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught."

"I have had to eat my own words many times, and I have found it a very nourishing diet." [1]

"It is better to be making the news than taking it."

"We're all worms, but I do believe I am a glowworm."

"A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him."

"When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite."

"The venom of a man's enemies is a measure of his strength." [5]

"We have not journeyed all this way... because we are made of sugar candy."

"We sleep soundly in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf."[3]

"All the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind."

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

"Envy is the most barren of all vices."

"Without execution, thinking is mere idleness." [5]

"When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber."

"This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read."

"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant."

"Faithful But Unfortunate."
(Churchill Family Motto)

"I make no reflection on their courage, but they are well-versed in the art of retreat."
(on Spanish troops in Cuba)

"We have arrived at a new time, and with this new time, strange methods, huge forces and combinations — a Titanic world — have spread all around us."
(speaking in 1909, three years before the Titanic's maiden voyage) [8]

"The Titanic disaster is the prevailing theme here. The story is a good one. The strict observance of the great traditions of the sea towards women & children, reflects nothing but honour upon our civilization... The whole episode fascinates me. It shows that in spite of all the inequalities and artificialities of our modern life, at the bottom — tested to its foundations, our civilization is humane, Christian & absolutely democratic. How differently Imperial Rome or Ancient Greece would have settled the problem."
(reflecting from the Admiralty on the chivalry of passengers on Titanic) [8]

"Such evidence would not hang a dog."
(Writing about accusations of treason against his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough)

"All the sunshine and storm of life was over."
(Reflecting on his mother's funeral)

"There is not one single social or economic principle or concept in the philosophy of the Russian Bolshevik, which has not been realised, carried into action, and enshrined in immutable laws a million years ago by the White Ant."

"The theories of Lenin and Trotsky... have driven man from the civilization of the 20th century into a condition of barbarism worse than the Stone Age, and left him the most awful and pitiable spectacle in human experience, devoured by vermin, racked by pestilence, and deprived of hope." [1]

Pondering what would happen if England's patron saint, George, were alive today, and required to go out and slay an actual dragon to save an actual damsel in distress:
"St. George would arrive in Cappadocia accompanied, not by a horse, but by a secretariat. He would be armed, not by a lance, but by several flexible formulas... He would propose a conference with the dragon. He would then lend the dragon a lot of money. The maiden’s release would be referred to Geneva or New York, the dragon reserving all rights meanwhile."

"We are prepared to make this settlement in the name of the Liberal Party. That is sufficient authority for us; but there is a higher authority we should earnestly desire to obtain. I make no appeal, but I address myself particularly to the right Hon. Gentlemen who site opposute... the accepted guides of a party which, though in a minority in this house, nevertheless embodies nearly half the nation... I will ask them whether they cannot join with us to invest the grant of a free constitution to the Transvaal with something of a national sanction. With all out majority, we can only make it the gift of a party; they can make it the gift of England." [1]

"These well-meaning gentlemen of the British Broadcasting Corporation have absolutely no qualifications and no claim to represent British public opinion. They have no right to say that they voice the opinions of English or British people whatever. If anyone can do that it is His Majesty's government; and there may be two opinions about that. It would be far better to have sharply contrasted views in succession, in alteration, than to have this copious stream of pontifical, anonymous mugwumpery with which we have been dosed for so long." (from a speech in the House of Commons, February 22, 1933)

"A Statesman in contact with the moving current of events and anxious to keep the ship on an even keel and steer a steady course may lean all his weight now on one side and now on the other. His arguments in each case when contrasted can be shown to be not only very different in character, but contradictory in spirit and opposite in direction: yet his object will throughout have remained the same. His resolve, his wishes, his outlook may have been unchanged; his methods may be verbally irreconcilable. We cannot call this inconsistent. The only way a man can remain consistent amid changing circumstances is to change with them while preserving the same dominating purpose. A Statesman should always try to do what he believes is best in a long view for his country, and he should not be dissuaded from so acting by having to divorce himself from a great body of doctrine to which he formerly sincerely adhered."
        - Churchill, explaining his political shifts over the years


[Correspondence between George Bernard Shaw and Churchill:]
"Dear Winnie, Here are two tickets to my new play. Bring a friend, if you have one."
"Dear GBS, Sorry, but I can't make it to the opening night of your new play. However I would appreciate tickets to the second night performance - if you have one."

[ Insults between Lady Astor & Churchill ]
"Sir, if I were married to you, I would serve you posion in your wine."
"Madam, if I were married to you, I would drink it."

[ Insults between Churchill & Besse Bradock MP ]
"Sir, you are drunk."
"Indeed, Madam, and you are ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober."

[On political opponent Clement Attlee]
"A sheep in sheep's clothing."

[After Air Vice Marshal Bennet stands as a Liberal MP candidate]
"The first time I had ever heard of a rat actually swimming out to join a sinking ship." [7]

[On The Times' newspaper during the Irish Home Rule debate]
"The Times is speechless, and takes three columns to express its speechlessness."

[On the subject of Italy allying with Nazi Germany]
"It's only fair. We had to have them in the last war."

[Describing the Baldwin government of the 1930s]
"So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent."

[Describing Stanley Baldwin]
He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.

[Describing Lord Charles Beresford]
"He is one of these orators of whom it was well said: 'Before they get up, they do not known what they are going to say; when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying; and when they sit down, they do not know what they have said'." [1]

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

[Conversing with a posh socialite at a dinner party]
"Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?"
"My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose I would."
"Would you sleep with me for five pounds?"
"Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!"
"Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price."


As we go to and fro in this peaceful country with its decent, orderly people going about their business under free institutions and with so much tolerance and fair play in their laws and customs, it is startling and fearful to realize that we are no longer safe in our island home.
What shall we do? Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horrors and to imprint them vividly upon the minds of the younger generation. They flaunt the grisly photograph before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage. They dilate upon the ineptitude of generals and admirals. They denounce the crime as insensate folly of human strife. Now, all this teaching ought to be very useful in preventing us from attacking or invading any other country, if anyone outside a madhouse wished to do so, but how would it help us if we were attacked or invaded ourselves that is the question we have to ask.
Would the invaders consent to hear Lord Beaverbrook's exposition, or listen to the impassioned appeals of Mr. Lloyd George? Would they agree to meet that famous South African, General Smuts, and have their inferiority complex removed in friendly, reasonable debate? I doubt it. I have borne responsibility for the safety of this country in grievous times. I gravely doubt it.
After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwell a nation of nearly seventy millions of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man. There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which, with all its strength and virtue, is in the grip of a group of ruthless men, preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride, unrestrained by law, by parliament, or by public opinion. In that country all pacifist speeches, all morbid war books are forbidden or suppressed, and their authors rigorously imprisoned. From their new table of commandments they have omitted "thou shall not kill."
It is but twenty years since these neighbors of ours fought almost the whole world, and almost defeated them. Now they are rearming with the utmost speed, and ready to their hands is the new lamentable weapon of the air, against which our navy is -no defense, and before which women and children, the weak and frail, the pacifist and the jingo, the warrior and the civilian, the front line trenches and the cottage home, all lie in equal and impartial peril.
Nay, worse still, for with the new weapon has come a new method, or rather has come back the most British method of ancient barbarism, namely, the possibility of compelling the submission of nations by terrorizing their civil population; and, worst of all, the more civilized the country is, the larger and more splendid its cities, the more intricate the structure of its civil and economic life, the more is it vulnerable and at the mercy of those who may make it their prey.
Now, these are facts, hard, grim, indisputable facts, and in the face of these facts, I ask again, what are we to do?
There are those who say, "Let us ignore the continent of Europe. Let us leave it with its hatreds and its armaments, to stew in its own juice, to fight out its own quarrels, and decree its own doom. Let us turn our backs to this melancholy and alarmist view. Let us fix our gaze across the ocean and see our own life in our own dominions and empires."
There would be very much to this plan if only we could unfasten the British islands from their rock foundations, and could tow them three thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and anchor them safely upon the smiling coasts of Canada; but I have not yet heard of any way in which this could be done.
There are some who say, indeed it has been the shrill cry of the hour, that we should run the risk of disarming ourselves in order to set an example to others. We have done that already. We have done it for the last five years, but our example has not been followed. On the contrary, it has produced, as I ventured to predict, the opposite results. All the other countries have armed only the more heavily, and the quarrels and intrigues about disarmament have only bred more ill will between the nations.
To remove the causes of war, we must go deeper than armaments. We must remove grievances and injustice. We must raise human thought to a higher plane. We must give a new inspiration to the world. Let moral disarmament come and physical disarmament will soon follow.
That is but one side of this. Is there another? When we look out upon the state of Europe and of the world and of the position of our own country as they are tonight, it seems to me that the next year or two years may contain a faithful turning point in our history. I am afraid that if you look intently at what is moving towards Great Britain, you will see that the only choice open is the old grim choice our forebears had to face, namely, whether we shall submit or whether we shall prepare, whether we shall submit to the will of the stronger nation or whether we shall prepare to defend our rights, our liberties, and indeed, our lives.
I should not speak to you, my friends, fellow countrymen, in this way, if I were not prepared to declare to you some of the measures of preparation by which I believe another great war may be averted and our destruction be prevented should war come. First, we must without another day's delay begin to make ourselves at least the strongest air power in the European world. By this means we shall recover to a very large extent the safety which we formerly enjoyed through our navy, and through our being an island.
        - Churchill warns the people of Britain of the Nazi threat, 1934.


The most overused word this autumn has been ‘crunch’ in the sense of ‘crisis’, as in the phrase ‘credit crunch’. Not many know that it was first used thus by Winston Churchill, so adding to his many other claims to fame that of being a neologist. The OED credits him with inventing the usage but says it was in the Daily Telegraph on 23 February 1939, whereas I think it was a decade earlier in his book on the first world war.
        - Paul Johnson, writing during the 2008 credit crunch, "The Spectator"

There's a marvelous cartoon called "The Two Churchills" drawn by David Low when Churchill was defeated at the general election of 1945. It has Churchill the leader of humanity sitting on top of a podium, enjoying the plaudits and the acclaim of the free world, whose liberty he has arguably done more than anybody else to preserve. And there is Churchill the disgruntled party leader, way way down below the podium, who has behaved so badly at the general election of 1945. And Churchill the leader of humanity looks down serenely on the disgruntled Churchill, the leader of the opposition, and says, "Cheer up, they'll soon forget you, but they'll always remember me."
        - David Cannadine, author of "In Churchill's Shadow"

"Like the whole of English history come alive and blowing trumpets..."
        - Henry Stimson, listening to a Churchill speech in "Churchill and the Generals"

"The French are intercepting our telegrams."
"That's outrageous! How do you know?"
"Because we're intercepting theirs."
        - Churchill, in "A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia"

"For 400 years the British policy has been to oppose the strongest power in Europe by uniting all the lesser powers against it. Sometimes it's Spain, sometimes it's Germany, sometimes France. I should have felt exactly the same about Napoleon that I now feel about Hitler."
        - Churchill, dismissing claims of Franco-philia, in "Churchill: The Wilderness Years"

Sheridan: "The Germans had a secret code they used for all their important messages, it was called Enigma, what they didn't know was that the British had cracked the code. One day Churchill's people intercepted a message, authorising the bombing of a city named Coventry. If they evacuated, the Germans would know their code had been broken, and switch to another system. If that happened, it could cost the Allies the entire war. If they didn't evacuate the city, hundreds of innocent men, women & children would die."
Zack: "So what happened?"
Sheridan: "They kept the secret, there was no evacuation, and on November 14th 1940, Coventry was destoyed. I've seen newsreels of Churchill visiting the dead days later, and you could just see it in his eyes, the knowledge of what he'd done… dark… haunted."
        - Sheridan ponders a historical parallel, "Babylon 5: In The Shadow Of Zhadum" [4]


[1] Quoted in David Cannadine's, "In Churchill's Shadow: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain"
[2] This may actually be a quote from an 18th century work, "Cato" by Joseph Addison
[3] Attributed, perhaps originally by George Orwell in an essay on Rudyard Kipling
[4] Churchill had advance-warning of raid, but far too late to perform an evacuation
[5] Quoted in the TV series, "Churchill: The Wilderness Years"
[6] Quoted in "Churchill" by John Keegan
[7] Quoted in "After the Victorians" by AN Wilson
[8] Quoted in "The Age of Titanic" by JW Foster

>> Read quotes from John Keegan's biography of Churchill.

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