Questions about the Winston Churchill speech "..the bea

Sam   Fri Aug 05, 2005 6:29 pm GMT
Can you please help me ?

1)" I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been given to our people."

What's the meaning of this sentence ?

Does the boasting came from the long centuries that England has gone through


"I think that no idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered and viewed with a searching, but at the same time, I hope, with a steady eye."

what's a steady eye ? a firm one?

"We must never forget the solid assurances of sea power and those which belong to air power if it can be locally exercised."

"sometimes more than a hundred strong in one formation, to cast their
bombs upon the single pier that remained, and upon the sand dunes upon which the troops had their eyes for shelter."

What's "to have an eye for shelter" ?

Thanks, that's sure alot of question :), I'm grateful to all those who already helped me. I'm slowly progressing and I owe you a great part of that progress!
Uriel   Sat Aug 06, 2005 3:12 am GMT
1. Yes, boast refers to centuries. Boast can mean "brag" but it can also mean something like "to have as an attribute". I'd bet Churchill, being Churchill, meant it both ways.

2. Yes. Firm, resolved, practical.

3. Is there a question that goes with this?

4. Meaning the troops intended to use the dunes as shelter. Similar to "having a mind to ...(do something)"
Sam   Sat Aug 06, 2005 11:57 am GMT
Thanks Uriel!
Concerning the third sentence, I didn't understand the general meaning, especially the part " those which belong to air power if it can be locally exercised."".
Guest   Sun Feb 19, 2006 11:01 pm GMT

Regarding the third sentence. Churchill is stressing the importance of the Royal navy to work together with the Royal air force in combined operations, when so was possible. (Thus using both there abilities to the British advantage). (Combining sea, air and ground forces were a “new” approach; it became highly effective first during world war two. Germans were excellent in using that to their advantage and they also implemented the importance of speed, thus the term (blitz krieg)
Eric   Sun Feb 19, 2006 11:02 pm GMT
Above post is mine.
Guest   Tue Feb 21, 2006 12:11 pm GMT
Germany would have gone straight through British forces if they had decided to invade little England.
Damian in Edinburgh   Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:01 pm GMT
1. The British Isles had never been invaded by a foreign force in
the 874 years between 1066 (the Norman Conquest) and 1940 when Churchill made that speech. That was the boast bit.
However, in all that time there was no way that a guarantee
could be issued to the effect that no invasion could be attempted
against these islands, nor could there be any defence against aerial attacks, which very soon afterwards became hard reality thanks to the threat at that time from the Nazis.

Attempts at invasion were made during that period, notably by our close neighbours, the French.

In fact, during the Napoleanic wars of the 18th century, a small party of Frenchmen actually landed on the coast of Pembrokeshire, in SW Wales, more by accident than design. Amazingly, they were apprehended by a
posse of very angry Welshwomen wielding pitchforks, as they were
busy gathering in the hay when the French guys waded ashore.
They were loathe to take pot shots at these formidable ladies
dressed in their scary looking Welsh national costume, and they
were captured. It's not known for sure what happened to the
French sailors, but to this day there is a pub located close to the
site of this landing, and it's called The Frenchman, appropriately
enough. When I have time I will see if there is anything on
the net about this incident.

2 We should keep a look out for any possible danger and threat to our security, however outlandish or seemingly impossible. A steady eye - unflinching, unblinking and constantly aware and vigilant.

3 We must always be assured of the strength and defence mechanisms offered by the navy and the air force, covering all areas, in all localities in these islands in the face of place will be left undefended.

4 This speech by Churchill was made at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation in May/June 1940, seen as a retreat at the time during which the British army had to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in the face of the advancing German panzer divisions after they had overrun France and the Low Countries. Dunkirk was the very last place of refuge left to the British, and there was no way they could escape being captured by the rapidly advancing Nazis other than being taken off the beaches by boats of the British navy or craft from a whole flotilla of ships, boats, anything that could float on water. Literally thousands of such craft were commandeered all over the South of England, and manned by thousads of volunteers, who set sail from ports and harbours all along the coast of England, crossing the English channel as they went to the rescue. All the while they were under aerial attack from the German Luftwaffe. The majority of these boats and ships reached the port and beaches of Dunkirk, where the stranded British army stood waiting evacuation. The piers mentioned where jetties reaching into the sea on which the men waited to be taken off by the boats mooring alongside, while all the while the German planes continuously attacked in low level attacks. All the piers except one were destroyed in the Nazi attacks. The thousands of British trooops still on the beaches had to continually keep an eye open for the attacks by the strafing Nazi planes as they swooped down and dropp[ing their bombs. The men looked out for shelter from these attacks among the sand dunes.

In the end 339,000 of the remaining British troops (the majority) were successfully taken off the beaches of Dunkirk by the huge flotilla of boats and ships, large as well as tiny, manned by the volunteers, and they turned round and headed back to the safety of England, 25 miles away back across the Channel. Fate had a hand in all this, because during the Dunkirk evacuation a sudden thick mist descended over the Channel and this worked in favour of the British because it made them invisible to the raiding German planes. If you were religiously minded, you would probably be convinced about which side God was on, because if the Nazis had captured all those British troops, the whole course of WW2 would have been very different, and that funny little guy with a funny moustache would have ended up having tea with the King and Queen in Buckingham Palace a wee while if!
Damian in Edinburgh   Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:22 pm GMT
This is an extract from a website giving correct details of the last actual invasion of mainland Britain. Apparently, the French (1400 of them) surrendered when they mistook the women in their distinctive traditional costume with red tunics, for British army redcoats!

Just as at Dunkirk in 1940 ad the Spanish Armada in 1588, the good old British weather came to the aid of the Brits.

"Finally Helen travelled to the North Pemrokeshire port of Fishguard. There she met teacher and historian Bill Fowler. They stood on a hill overlooking the harbour where, on Wednesday 22 February 1797, 1400 French troops landed in the last invasion of mainland Britain. It was all part of a grander French plan to invade Ireland. The French main force was to land in Ireland and with the help of the locals begin a revolt that would see the British forced out. As part of the plan two smaller forces were sent to mainland Britain: they were to attack and ransack the strategic ports of Liverpool and Bristol to stop any re-inforcements leaving for Ireland. ***But the weather, as usual, came to the aid of the British and the main French force was blown off course as was one of the two smaller French forces - leaving the invasion of Fishguard as the only part of the plan to survive.

Fishguard wasn't heavily defended, but the French mistook the women standing on the hillside dressed in traditional Welsh costume - red tunics and tall black hats - as British redcoats and, thinking they were hopelessly outnumbered, they surrendered. To late they realised that they in fact out-numbered the British soldiers by three to one".

***Just as at Dunkirk in 1940 ad the Spanish Armada in 1588, in 1797 the good old British weather came to the aid of the Brits! We must never complain about it...we just never know when we will need it for bacon saving purposes.
Eric   Tue Feb 21, 2006 4:35 pm GMT
Damian (in Edinburgh)

I lost the historical translation in my translation…damn. And given what you wrote I assume that one could argue that women can” participate” in a combat situation without even participating, thus effective as hell ;)
Guest   Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:17 pm GMT
"But the weather, as usual, came to the aid of the British and the main French force was blown off course as was one of the two smaller French forces"
The English.....lucky bastards.
Guest   Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:23 pm GMT
You have forgot to mention about some of the French, Dutch and Belgium solders were also evacuated from Dunkirk as well. Many of them upset they lost their countries to the Germans became some of the best fighters in the war.
Geoff_One   Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:06 am GMT
Incidently, Winston Churchill was not able to speak a word until he was about 4 years old. I came across this information but I have not verified it.