Winston Churchill Speech - Never Give In
October 29, 1941
Almost a year has passed since I came down
here at your Head Master's kind invitation in order to cheer myself
and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our
own songs. The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible
catastrophic events in the world - ups and downs, misfortunes - but
can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not
feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has
passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our
country and of our home? Why, when I was here last time we were
quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six
months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but
then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the
enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves
had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to
feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing
particular turning up!
But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and
what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are
often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to
crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some
noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds
that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished,
then, even if it takes months - if it takes years - they do it.
Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to
our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are
often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must "…meet with
Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same."
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes
imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without
imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative
see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than
will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra
courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone,
surely, what we have gone through in this period - I am addressing
myself to the School - surely from this period of ten months this is
the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, 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. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it
seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this
tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the
history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought,
had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood
in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and
by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands,
though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a
position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to
persevere to conquer.
You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse
written in my honour, which I was very greatly complimented by and
which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to
alter - I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is
the line: "Not less we praise in darker days."
I have obtained the Head Master's permission to alter darker to
sterner. "Not less we praise in sterner days."
Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner
days. These are not dark days; these are great days - the greatest
days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we
have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a
part in making these days memorable in the history of our race..