Modern History Sourcebook:
"Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat", May 13, 1940
The leadership of Neville Chamberlain proved insufficient during
the war, and in May 1940, Winston S. Churchill was appointed Prime
Minister of an all-party government. Churchill proved to be an
inspiring leader in the fight with Germany. On May 13, 1940he
gave his first speech to the House of Commons, a speech which
displays the oratorical skills which were so effective in keeping
up public morale.
On Friday evening last I received from His Majesty the mission
to form a new administration. It was the evident will of' Parliament
and the nation that this should be conceived on the broadest possible
basis and that it should include all parties.
I have already completed the most important part of this task.
A war cabinet has been formed of five members, representing, with
the Labour, Opposition, and Liberals, the unity of the nation.
It was necessary that this should be done in one single day on
account of the extreme urgency and rigor of events. Other key
positions were filled yesterday. I am submitting a further list
to the king tonight. I hope to complete the appointment of principal
ministers during tomorrow.
The appointment of other ministers usually takes a little longer.
I trust when Parliament meets again this part of my task will
be completed and that the administration will be complete in all
respects. I considered it in the public interest to suggest to
the Speaker that the House should be summoned today. At the end
of today's proceedings, the adjournment of the House will be proposed
until May 21 with provision for earlier meeting if need be. Business
for that will be notified to MPs at the earliest opportunity.
I now invite the House by a resolution to record its approval
of the steps taken and declare its confidence in the new government.
"That this House welcomes the formation of a government representing
the united and inflexible resolve of the nation to prosecute the
war with Germany to a victorious conclusion."
To form an administration of this scale and complexity is a serious
undertaking in itself. But we are in the preliminary phase of
one of the greatest battles in history. We are in action at many
other points-in Norway and in Holland-and we have to be prepared
in the Mediterranean. The air battle is continuing, and many preparations
have to be made here at home.
In this crisis I think I may be pardoned if I do not address the
House at any length today, and I hope that any of my friends and
colleagues or former colleagues who are affected by the political
reconstruction will make all allowances for any lack of ceremony
with which it has been necessary to act.
I say to the House as I said to ministers 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 months of struggle and suffering.
You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land,
sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength
God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny
never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human
crime. That is our policy.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory.
Victory at all costs - Victory in spite of all terrors - Victory,
however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there
is no survival.
Let that be realized. No survival for the British Empire, no survival
for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for
the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward
toward his goal.
I take up my task in buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause
will not be suffered to fail among men. I feel entitled at this
juncture, at this time, to claim the aid of all and to say, "Come
then, let us go forward together with our united strength."
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook.
The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted
texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the
document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying,
distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal
use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source.
No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.
(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997