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AT 0241 LOCAL TIME, MAY 7, 1945


article-1209266-027C76120000044D-55_468x322And so it ended, in Europe. This weekend we celebrate the 70th anniversary of that great day, the day that Nazi Germany died. Eisenhower himself referred to it as The Great Crusade, and so it was. For us all but especially for the British it had been a long road since Poland, and Norway, and France had fallen, and they stood alone, supported only by the Empire in those bleak days of 1940.

In those days, if you were not in one of the few English speaking countries, you were subject to a to a totalitarian government. It had been a very long five years since Churchill had said this:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

[A side note on language, nearly every word in the above extract os of Anglo-Saxon origin, except one. That one is surrender, and it’s a French word.]

And that is pretty much what happened. At the end of May 1944, there were something like 1.4 million American soldiers in Great Britain. As we got to really know each other it became clear that our countries would never be the same again. Bismarck had said that the salient fact of the nineteenth century was that England and America spoke the same language. The salient fact of the twentieth century became that the English speaking people would defend freedom at all times from any enemy.

For VE day was not the end, American, British and Commonwealth troops all knew they would be travelling halfway around the world to finish the job in Japan. We were very lucky that British and American boffins made that invasion unnecessary, and, in fact, so were the Japanese.

And then the long watch began as it became clear that the Soviet Union was the same kind of evil empire as we had just defeated. And so until 1990 we again stood shoulder to shoulder this time against armageddon itself, and again we won through. it was long, it was boring, it was expensive, and it was frightening, but our people never flinched, as indeed they never had against Germany and japan.

And so, as you look around today, give thanks to those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from our countries, who are so thin on the ground now but who saved us all from what could so easily have been.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say,This was their finest hour.

And so it was! For as Proverbs tells us:

He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.