From “The Gathering Storm” by Winston Churchill

“If you can get through the armour, it is worth while doing something inside with the explosion.” (p. 160)

“Virtuous motives, trammeled by inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness. A sincere love for peace is no excuse for middling hundreds and millions of humble folk into total war. The cheers of weak, well-meaning assemblies soon cease to echo, and their votes soon cease to count. Doom marches on.” (p. 190)

“Mr. Baldwin certainly had good reason to use the last flickers of his power against one who had exposed his mistakes so severely and so often. Moreover, as a profoundly astute party manager, thinks in majorities and aiming at a quiet life between elections, he did not wish to have my disturbing aid. He thought, no doubt, that he had dealt me a politically fatal stroke, and I felt that he might well be right. How little can we foresee the consequences either of wise or unwise action, of virtue or malice! Without this measurable and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed. Mr. Baldwin knew no more than I how great was the service he was doing me in preventing me from becoming involved in all the Cabinet compromises and shortcomings of the next three years, and from having, if I had remained a Minister, to enter upon a war bearing direct responsibility for conditions of national defense bound to prove fearfully inadequate.

This was not the first time—or indeed the last—that I have received a blessing in what was at the time a very effective disguise.” (p. 201)

“Those who are possessed of a definite body of doctrine and of deeply rooted convictions upon it will be in a much better position to deal with the shifts and surprises of daily affairs than those who are merely taking short views, and indulging their natural impulses as they are evoked by what they read from day to day. The first thing is to decide where you want to go.” (p. 210)

“The advantage is gained in war and also in foreign policy and other things by selecting from many attractive or unpleasant alternatives the dominating point. American military thought had coined the expression “Over-all Strategic Objective.” When our officers first heard this, they laughed; but later on its wisdom became apparent and accepted. Evidently this should be the rule, and other great business be set in subordinate relationship to it. Failure to adhere to this simple principle produces confusion and futility of action, and nearly always makes things much worse later on.” (p. 225).

“Still, 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 precarious 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 live as slaves.” (p. 348)

“Everyone should do a good day’s work and be accountable for some definite task, and then they do not make trouble for trouble’s sake or to cut a figure.” (p. 419)

“I continued to submit my ideas to the Prime Minister, and pressed them upon other colleagues as might be acceptable.” (p. 485)

“Very many factors go into the building-up of sound morale in an army, but one of the greatest is that the men be fully employed at useful and interesting work. Idleness is a dangerous breeding-ground. Throughout the winter there were many tasks that needed doing; training demanded continuous attention; defenses were far from satisfactory or complete, even the Maginot Line lacked many supplementary field works; physical fitness demanded exercise. Yet visitors on the French Front were often struck by the prevailing atmosphere of calm aloofness, by the seemingly poor quality of the work in hand, by the lack of visible activity of any kind. The emptiness of the roads behind the line was in great contrast to the continual coming and going which extended for miles behind the British sector.

There can be no doubt that the quality of the French Army was allowed to deteriorate during the winter, and that they would have fought better in the autumn than in the spring. Soon they were to be stunned by the swiftness and violence of the German assault. It was not until the last phases of that brief campaign that the true fighting qualities of the French soldier rose uppermost in defense of his country against the age-long enemy. But then it was too late.” (p. 559)

“This idea of not irritating the enemy did not commend itself to me. Hitler had done his best to strangle our commerce by the indiscriminate mining of our harbours. We had beaten him by defensive means alone. Good, decent, civilized people, it appeared, must never strike themselves till after they have been struck dead. In these days the fearful German volcano and all its subterranean fires drew near to their explosion point. There were still months of pretended war. On the one side endless discussions about trivial points, no decisions taken, or if taken rescinded, and the rule ‘Don’t be unkind to the enemy, you will only make him angry.’ On the other, doom preparing—a vast machine grinding forward ready to break upon us!” (p. 574, 575)

“He who will not when he may,

When he will, he shall have Nay.” (p. 580)

“It was only after France had been flattened out that Britain, thanks to her island advantage, developed out of the pangs of defeat and the menace of annihilation a national resolve equal to that of Germany.” (p. 581)

“On Thursday the eleventh, I had to face a disturbed and indignant House of Commons. I followed the method I have always found most effective in such occasions, of giving a calm, unhurried factual narrative of events in their sequence, laying full emphasis upon ugly truths.” (p. 601)

“I accordingly submitted to the abandonment of “Hammer”. I reported the facts to the Prime Minister on the afternoon of the eighteenth, and though bitterly disappointed he, like me, had no choice but to accept the new position. In war, as in life, it is often necessary, when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might. I therefore turned my guns round too.” (p. 628)

“When we got back from the Conference, I was so much concerned at the complete failure, not only of our efforts against our enemy, but of our method of conducting the war, that I wrote as follows to the Prime Minister:

Being anxious to sustain you to the best of my ability, I must warn you that you are approaching a head-on smash in Norway.

I am very grateful to you for having at my request taken over the day-to-day management of the Military Co-ordination Committee, etc. I think I ought, however, to let you know that I shall not be willing to receive that task back from you without the necessary powers. At present no one has the power.” (p. 641, 642)

“Concerning the prominent part I had to play in these events and the impossibility of explaining the difficulties by which we had been overcome, or the defects of our staff and governmental organization and our methods of conducting war, it was a marvel that I survived and maintained my position in public esteem and parliamentary confidence. This was due to the fact that for six or seven years I had predicted with truth the course of events, and had given ceaseless warnings, then unheeded but now remembered.” (p. 650)

“The nation is prepared for every sacrifice so long as it has leadership, so long as the Government show clearly what they are aiming at, and so long as the nation is confident that those who are leading it are doing their best.” (p. 660)

“Earlier in the year I had, in a published interview, warned these neutral countries of the fate which was impending upon them and which was evident from the troop dispositions and road and rail development, as well as from the captured German plans. My words had been resented.” (p. 665)

“During these last crowded days of the political crisis, my pulse had not quickened at any moment. I took it all as it came. But I cannot conceal from the reader of this truthful account that as I went to bed at about 3 a.m., I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to fire directions over the whole scene. 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. Eleven years in the political wilderness had freed me from ordinary party antagonisms. My warnings over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and were now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me. I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I know a good deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail. Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.” (p.667)

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