Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 2

By Joel H. Wiener | Go to book overview

WINNING THE WAR

Speech by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons
on the Escape of British Troops from Dunkirk,
4 June 1940*

From the moment that the French defenses at Sedan and on the Meuse were broken at the end of the second week of May, only a rapid retreat to Amiens and the south could have saved the British and French Armies who had entered Belgium at the appeal of the Belgian King; but this strategic fact was not immediately realized. The French High Command hoped they would be able to close the gap, and the Armies of the north were under their orders. Moreover, a retirement of this kind would have involved almost certainly the destruction of the fine Belgian Army of over 20 divisions and the abandonment of the whole of Belgium. Therefore, when the force and scope of the German penetration were realized and when a new French Generalissimo, General Weygand, assumed command in place of General Gamelin, an effort was made by the French and British Armies in Belgium to keep on holding the right hand of the Belgians and to give their own right hand to a newly created French Army which was to have advanced across the Somme in great strength to grasp it.

However, the German eruption swept like a sharp scythe around the right and rear of the Armies of the north. Eight or nine armored divisions, each of about four hundred armored vehicles of different kinds, but carefully assorted to be complementary and divisible into small self-contained units, cut off all communications between us and the main French Armies. It severed our own communications for food and ammunition, which ran first to Amiens and afterwards through Abbeville, and it shore its way up the coast to Boulogne and Calais, and almost to Dunkirk. Behind this armored and mechanized onslaught came a number of German divisions in lorries, and behind them again there plodded comparatively slowly the dull brute mass of the ordinary German Army and German people, always so ready to be led to the trampling down in other lands of liberties and comforts which they have never known in their own.

I have said this armored scythe-stroke almost reached Dunkirk—almost but not quite. Boulogne and Calais were the scenes of desperate fighting. The Guards defended Boulogne for a while and were then withdrawn by orders from this country. The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles, and the Queen Victoria’s Rifles, with a battalion of British tanks and 1,000 Frenchmen, in all about four thousand strong, defended Calais to the last. The British Brigadier was given an

* Churchill, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, 289–97.

-1113-

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Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Rearmament Question 875
  • Policy of Appeasement 946
  • Failure of Appeasement and the Outbreak of War 1044
  • World War II and Postwar Problems - 1940-Present 1081
  • Churchill Becomes Prime Minister 1086
  • Winning the War 1113
  • The Postwar Settlement 1192
  • The Cold War 1217
  • Policy toward Asia 1287
  • Nuclear and Defense Policies 1326
  • Britain and the Common Market 1390
  • Ireland 1467
  • The Conquest of Ireland 1473
  • Removal of Economic Restrictions 1490
  • Union with Great Britain 1515
  • Movement for Repeal of the Union 1527
  • Domestic Reforms 1554
  • Irish Peasantry and the Land Problem 1629
  • Young Ireland Movement 1744
  • Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland 1749
  • Home Rule Movement 1784
  • Partition of Ireland 1843
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