Legendary politician and military strategist Winston S. Churchill was a master not only of the battlefield, but of the page and the podium. Over the course of forty books and countless speeches, broadcasts, news items and more, he addressed a country at war and at peace, thrilling with victory but uneasy with its shifting role on the global stage. In 1953, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” During his lifetime, he enthralled readers and brought crowds roaring to their feet; in the years since his death, his skilled writing has inspired generations of eager history buffs.
The Sinews of Peace was the alternate title of the 1946 “Iron Curtain Speech” delivered at Westminster College—in which Churchill championed the idea of a “fraternal association” between people of the English-speaking world to preserve the spirit of military and political cooperation forged during the war. President Truman was in the audience. Was Churchill proposing a formal alliance between the two world powers?
This inspiring collection contains the first of Churchill’s speeches delivered immediately after World War II. In his signature charismatic, impassioned style, he calls for unity and cooperation between the victims and the limping former Axis powers—including a partnership between Germany and France. These speeches both recounted history and made it, as the leaders of Europe convened to form a new world order.
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SECOND READING OF THE CONSOLIDATED FUND [NO. 1] BILL A SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS 22 OCTOBER 1945
6 August — First Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
8 August — Second Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
8 August — Soviet Union declares war on Japan. 14 August — Unconditional surrender of Japan.
15 August — Opening of Parliament.
8 September — General MacArthur enters Tokyo.
11 September — Foreign Ministers of Britain, United States, France and the Soviet Union meet in London to draft Peace Treaties.
3 October — Foreign Ministers' Meeting adjourned without agreement.
22 October 1945
We have asked for this Debate upon demobilisation, because demobilisation is the foundation upon which, at this moment, everything else stands, and also, because tardy, inadequate demobilisation is the fountain-head of all our domestic difficulties. Whatever view may be taken of Socialism or free enterprise, surely it is common ground between us all, that we should get all the great wheels and the little wheels of life and industry in this country turning as soon as possible. For this we need the men. Without the men, and also the women, now held in the Services, there can be no speedy revival. The woeful shortage of consumer goods will continue. The Government will be afraid to allow people to spend their savings, for fear of undue rise in prices. Scarcity will be used as justification for controls, and controls will become the fatal means of prolonging scarcity. Get all the great wheels turning, and all the little cog wheels too! Let them rotate and revolve, spin and hum, and we shall have taken a long step forward towards our deliverance. In order to get them turning, we must bring the men home, and set the men free.
I am disquieted at the slow rate of demobilisation. I would have been ashamed to be responsible for the earliest declarations of His Majesty's Government on this subject. Even now that these have been markedly improved, I have no hesitation in saying that they fall far below what is both possible and necessary. His Majesty's Ministers have had an enormous windfall in the sudden end of the Japanese war, and of the cessation of fighting and slaughter throughout the world. There are no more enemies to conquer; no more fronts to hold.
[HON. MEMBERS: Oh!]
I mean of course in a military sphere. All our foreign foes have been beaten down into unconditional surrender. Now is the time to bring home the men who have conquered, and bring them back to their families and productive work. There is, at this time, no fear of large-scale unemployment. Every industry is clamouring for men. Everywhere are useful and fruitful tasks to be performed. I am sure that the restrictions and controls which would prevent men from getting work, and which would hobble and fetter the life-energies of the nation, will be swept away once the men are back, and the whole great series of wheels will begin to turn. Do not let us be deterred by the fear of shortage of houses. Use billeting to the full wherever necessary; take the land for the houses, if you need it — I say if you need it — as readily as you would have taken it for a gun site in 1940–41. Do whatever is needful and humanly possible to bring the men home and get things started again.
I would not go so far in urging the Government to these extreme efforts — I know their difficulties — if I were not prepared myself to run the risk of trying to make a positive contribution to our problems. There is some risk in a Member of the Opposition making a positive proposal, or set of proposals. I have no longer the power to "press the button" and obtain the exact information on any point. Still I have a general knowledge of our national life-problem as a whole, particularly on its military side. For what it is worth, I am prepared, in good will and in good faith, to offer some definite suggestions to His Majesty's Government. We are told that the return of the troops and the members of the other Services is delayed or regulated by three conditions — first, our commitments — such is the term that is used — that is the military necessities; second, transportation; and third, the execution of the Bevin Coalition Government demobilisation plan.
I will deal with these three. First of all, commitments. This is a most dangerous ground for anyone not possessed of the latest information to venture upon. Nevertheless, I shall try my best, and, if the estimates which I make are shown to be erroneous, I shall be very ready to be convinced by the responsible statements of Ministers. I am going to submit to the House what I think should be the strength of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, which we should aim to reach with all possible speed. A year later these strengths could be reconsidered in closer relation to our long-term plan. I take the Navy first. On existing plans, allowing for intake, on December 31st of this year, the strength of the Navy would be 665,000, of whom 55,000 are women, so that the Navy would retain 448,000 even at the end of June, 1946. I am astounded that such figures should be accepted by His Majesty's Government. I know no reason why Vote A of the Navy should exceed the figure at which it stood in the Estimates of 1939, namely, 133,000. We had a fine Navy at the outbreak of war. I was sent to the Admiralty, at a few hours' notice on September 3rd, 1939, and that is what I found, relatively, to the Forces of other countries against whom we were at that time matched, or likely to be matched. I have yet to hear any argument which justifies our planning to maintain, at the present time — unless it be in connection with the Fleet Air Arm — a larger naval force in personnel than we had at the beginning of the late war.
I remember that at the height of the Nelson period, in the war against Napoleon, we reached a Vote A of 148,000, and that, oddly enough, was the figure that I was responsible for reaching in August, 1914. Let us take, as a working figure, 150,000. If there is some entirely new case to be unfolded because of new commitments which I have not heard of, the Government should lay that case before the House. On the whole, although I think we should not be too precipitate in judging these matters, it would seem that new conditions might, at any rate in respect of very large vessels, tell the other way. But, failing some entirely new situation, of which only the Government can be aware, definite orders should be given to discharge all men surplus to the 150,000, and to make sure that the enormously swollen shore establishments are reduced equally with those afloat. I hazard the guess that at this time, there are nearly as many men of the Navy ashore as afloat. I should have thought that no great length of time would be needed for this operation, provided orders were given now, and enforced with real authority. At the same time, while this operation is going on, every opportunity should be given to men, entitled to release, to stay on if they volunteer. If there were so many volunteers that the number was exceeded, I think we should face that.
It seems to me that there is a large number of people in the Services who wish to continue voluntarily, and we all think that is a very good thing. After all, though this war has been terrible in many ways, we have not had the awful slaughter of the last war, or the hideous grind of the trenches. There has been movement and drama, and I can quite see that there may be some who would prefer to continue in the profession of arms. I think that if they were offered suitable terms, they would give a further period, voluntarily, of service abroad. But at present I am assured that no plan has been made, and no commanding officer in any of the Services knows how to answer the inquiries which are made of him. So while affirming and enforcing the principle of national service — of which I trust we are to hear from His Majesty's Government — it should surely be our policy to encourage the largest number of men to stay of their own free will. We ought to be very reluctant at this juncture to turn off any trained man who wishes to continue under arms. This digression applies to all three Services; but, returning to the Navy, apart from what I have said about volunteers, I submit that the figure should come down at once, as speedily and as quickly as possible to 150,000 men on Vote A.
I come now to the Royal Air Force. I do not know what the Government's policy is about the Air Force. It may be that what I am going to suggest is more than they have in mind. I consider that the permanent Royal Air Force must be maintained on a very large scale, and in magnificent quality, with the very latest machines, and that they should become the prime factor in our island and Imperial defence. I may say I had thought that 150 to 200 combatant squadrons, with the necessary training establishments, and, of course, with the large auxiliary reserves which can be developed, should be our staple. This would involve about 4,000 machines under constant construction, the auxiliary forces being additional. If you have 100 men on the ground for every machine in the air you are making an allowance which, in my opinion, is grossly extravagant and capable of immense revision by competent administration. However, to be on the safe side, I would take that figure. It would seem to me that the personnel for the R.A.F. should be 400,000, as compared with 150,000 for the Royal Navy, and that it should now be brought down to that figure. The present plan for the Air Force contemplates 819,000 men and women being retained up to December 31st, and as many as 699,000 being held as late as June 30th, 1946.
I yield to none in my desire to see preserved this splendid weapon of the Royal Air Force, upon which our safety and our freedom depend, but, for this great purpose, it is all the more necessary to get the life of the nation working again and not to squander our remaining treasure in keeping a large number of men in the Royal Air Force — who are not really wanted either for immediate needs, or for the permanent organisation — and to keep them lolling about at great cost to the public and vexation to themselves. I submit to the Ministers whom I see opposite, that they should fix the figure of the permanent Air Force organisation and then cut down to that with the utmost speed. This also implies decisions being taken about airfields which are now being held and guarded, on a full war- time scale, by such large numbers of men.
I have touched on the Navy and the Royal Air Force. Now I come to the most difficult subject of all, the Army, and if I were to burden the House with all the reasonings which led to my present computation, I should, Mr. Speaker, far outrun the limits of your patience and, no doubt, of my own voice. For the occupation of Germany and the Low Countries a ration strength of 400,000 men should be the maximum. I say ration strength because all calculations in divisions are misleading. There is no need for general organisation in divisional formations, or for such divisions as are maintained to possess the characteristics and the armaments of divisions entering a line of battle in the heat of the struggle against the former German Army in its prime. It is a different task that they have to do, and different organisations are required to meet it. Mobile brigades, military police, armoured car and light tank units, sedentary forces for particular garrison duties — such are the methods to which military thought should be guided by political authority.
The task of holding Germany down will not be a hard one; it will be much more difficult to hold her up. The weight of administration must be thrown upon the Germans. They must be made to bear the burden. We cannot have all our best officers, scientists and engineers organising them, when we, ourselves, have need of those men's services. But I will not expatiate on this point. I say 400,000 ration strength — one half teeth, the other half tail, — would be sufficient. It may well be, also, that apart from this force, training establishments from Great Britain should be set up in Germany, where the young troops would learn their profession on soil which their fathers and elder brothers have at once conquered and liberated. I understand that the United States are keeping about 350,000 troops in Germany, of which, again broadly speaking, one-half are fighting men and one-half administrative services.
In view of all the dangers that there are in North-Eastern Italy, in view of our obligations in Greece and all the difficulties developing in Palestine and the Middle East, I would hazard the figure of another 400,000 ration strength which would be required, at any rate, I think, until the end of 1946, and probably longer, in the Mediterranean theatre. In Palestine, above all, gendarmerie and brigade groups should supersede divisional formations with all their cumbrous apparatus. I would add to these figures, as a margin for War Office establishments in this island and India, as well as fortress garrisons outside the Mediterranean, another 200,000 men, making a total for the Army, in the period which lies immediately before us, of 1,000,000 men. I must emphasise that this 1,000,000 strength is a ration strength of United Kingdom soldiers, and does not take auxiliary or native soldiers into account, I may say that I came to this conclusion before I saw the figures of the late Government's plan which the Minister of Labour put forward, I think, on the 2nd of this month. I find that by June 30th, 1946, His Majesty's Government propose to reduce the Army to 1,156,000 men. There is certainly not much between us on that figure. I would not quarrel about it.
The question however remains, when is this total to be reached? Why should time be wasted in reaching that total? This is the vital point. Any unnecessary men kept by compulsion with the Colours hamper our revival here, and waste the money we shall need to maintain our Armed Forces in the years that are to come. Under the present plan by December 31st there will still be 2,343,000 men and women in the Army, of whom 130,000 will be women. Considering that that will be nearly eight months after the German war ended, I say that the number is far too many. I am told that January and February are months when releases from the Army flag notably. In what way should we be harmed if the Government total of 1,156,900 men aimed at for June 30th, 1946, were, by good and energetic administration, reached by the end of March? Should we not be very much better off? I urge that this new target should be at once declared, namely, to reach the June figure three months earlier. If we add 1,000,000 United Kingdom ration strength for the Army to 400,000 for the Royal Air Force and 150,000 for the Royal Navy, we have a total ration strength of 1,550,000 men, which, I submit to the House, if organised with due economy and contrivance, should suffice for our needs in the immediate future, and should give time for the long term policy to be shaped in closer detail.
Now if we take this figure as a working basis, let us subtract it from the total numbers which will be retained under arms at December 31st by the latest scheme of the Government. I understand that if the whole of this present programme is carried out, they will have 3,842,000 men and women in the Forces at that date. There are, therefore, potentially more than 2,225,000 men who are redundant and surplus, in my view, and who should not be retained in the Services more than one moment longer than is necessary to bring them home, or set them free, if they are here already. These 2,225,000 men who are redundant are unemployed. We publish the unemployment figures each week and rejoice that they are small, but they are an inaccurate return while there is this great pocket, this 2,225,000, unemployed. To have 2,225,000 unemployed, and unemployed under the most wasteful and expensive conditions to the State, and in many cases irritating to the men themselves, is intolerable.
The majority of these men are outside the United Kingdom. Nothing is more costly than holding the dumb-bell at arm's length. Every day counts. Even in June, 1946, eight months from now, and 13 months after the end of the war with Germany, the Government propose, with intake, to hold 2,408,000 persons in uniform in the three Services. I contend that the target to be aimed at should be 1,550,000 and that this smaller figure should be reached earlier. The maintenance of immense numbers of redundant forces overseas, and held here in this island, not only brings ruin to the Exchequer but also makes inroads upon our shipping for the feeding of the Forces overseas. These inroads are of a grievous character, and the most solid justification is needed to defend them. I regard the speedy repatriation and release of these 2,225,000 men as a supreme task which lies before His Majesty's Government at the present time.(Continues…)
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Table of Contents
Demobilisation. A Speech to the House of Commons, 22 October 1945,
The Alamein Dinner. A Speech in the Albert Hall, 23 October 1945,
Foreign Policy. (Motion for the Adjournment). A Speech to the House of Commons, 7 November 1945,
Brussels University. A Speech on Receiving a Degree, 15 November 1945,
Louvain University. A Speech on Receiving an Honorary Degree, 15 November 1945,
A Speech to the Joint Meeting of the Senate and Chamber. Brussels, 16 November 1945,
Conservative Party: Central Council Meeting. A Speech at Friends House, 28 November 1945,
Government Policy (Motion of Censure). A Speech to the House of Commons, 6 December 1945,
Anglo-American Loan Agreement (Motion for Approval). A Speech to the House of Commons, 13 December 1945,
University of Miami. A Speech on Receiving a Degree, 26 February 1946,
"The Sinews of Peace". A Speech to Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, 5 March 1946,
A Speech to the General Assembly of Virginia, 8 March 1946,
A Speech to American and British Service Members, The Pentagon, Washington, 9 March 1946,
A Speech at the Reception by the Mayor and Civic Authorities of New York, held at the Waldorf,
Astoria, New York, 15 March 1946,
A Speech on Receiving the Freedom of Westminster, 7 May 1946,
A Speech to the States-General of the Netherlands, The Hague, 9 May 1946,
India Cabinet Mission (Statement on the Adjournment). A Speech to the House of Commons, 16 May 1946,
Egypt (Treaty negotiations): Motion on the Civil Estimates. A Speech to the House of Commons, 24 May 1946,
Foreign Affairs. A Speech to the House of Commons, 5 June 1946,
A Speech at Metz, 14 July 1946,
India (Cabinet Mission). A Speech to the House of Commons, 18 July 1946,
Palestine. A Speech to the House of Commons, 1 August 1946,
A Speech at Zurich University, 19 September 1946,
Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool. A Speech on 5 October 1946,
Roosevelt Memorial Bill. A Speech to the House of Commons, 11 October 1946,
Foreign Affairs. A Speech to the House of Commons, 23 October 1946,
Debate on the Address. A Speech to the House of Commons, 12 November 1946,
Roosevelt Memorial Fund. Broadcast, 18 November 1946,
India. A Speech to the House of Commons, 12 December 1946,