Sunday 22 November 2015

King George VI's Declaration of War Speech

The film The King's Speech made it famous.  It was short and sweet and yet it took its deliverer a lot of inner fortitude to deliver it.  Firstly, he was about to declare war on Germany, probably the biggest decision of his reign.  Secondly, the King had a stutter.  The King's speech therapist had jotted notations in the margin, reminding the King of tips to prevent him from making a mispronunciation. The weight of the world was on his shoulders.  Yet, he delivered the speech with precision and with purpose.  Here is the speech that launched the Second World War:

"In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.  

For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war.

Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies; but it has been in vain.  

We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.

It is a principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges, which sanctions the use of force against the sovereignty and independence of other states.

Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive document might is right, and if this principle were established through the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth of nations would be in danger.

But far more than this, the peoples of the world would be kept in bondage of fear, and all hopes of settled peace and of security, of justice and liberty, among nations, would be ended.

That is the ultimate issue that confronts us.  For the sake of all we ourselves hold dear, of the world order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.

It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home, and my peoples across the seas, who will make our cause their own.  I ask them to stand calm and firm and united in this time of trial.  

The task will be hard.  There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right and reverently commit ourselves to God.  If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God's help, we shall prevail."

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