Quotable quotes from Winston Churchill (1864-1965, edited)

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Quotable quotes from Winston Churchill (1864-1965, edited)

He is one of those orators of whom it was well said, ‘Before they get up, they do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying; and when they have sat down, they do not know what they have said’. To the House of Commons, February, 1906.

I remember that as a child I was taken to the circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monsters. The one I most desired to see was called ‘The Boneless Wonder’ My parents judged that the spectacle would be too revolting for my youthful eyes; I have waited fifty years to see the boneless wonder sitting on the Treasury bench. To the House of Commons, January 1931, referring to Mr Ramsay Macdonald.

Dictators ride about on tigers, from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry. In a letter.

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In a radio broadcast, October 1939.

On one of his weekly visits to talk with the King and Queen in the bombed Buckingham Palace, Churchill wore his customary wartime tank suit, with a Webley .45 revolver in a holster on his hip. Queen Elizabeth remarked, ‘I see you come armed, Mr Churchill . . .’ He replied, ‘Yes, ma’am, I always have it; including under my pillow at night.’ The Queen said, ‘Can you get me one, and another for him?’ It was in 1940.

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. To the House of Commons, May 1940.

We shall not flag or fail. 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 the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. To the House of Commons, June 1940.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. House of Commons, 20 August 1940, on the subject of the skill and courage of British airmen.

Here is the answer which I shall give to President Roosevelt . . .Give us the tools and we will finish the job. In a radio broadcast, February 1941.

When I warned the French Government that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister, ‘in three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck! To the Canadian Parliament, December 1941.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Speech in London, November 1942.

(We will have) national compulsory insurance for all classes for all purposes from the cradle to the grave. Radio broadcast March 1943.

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war. Speech at the White House, June 1954.

After a long and liquid lunch break in the House of Parliament, Churchill returned unsoberly to his seat, watched icily by Mrs Bessie Braddock, a Labour MP who might have been taking ugly pills all her life. She asked permission of the Speaker, then turned to Churchill and said, disdainfully, ‘Mr Churchill, you are DRUNK!’ Churchill got to his feet, not without difficulty, and said, ‘Correct Mrs Braddock. But there is a difference: I am drunk, and you are very ugly, but tomorrow morning when we both arise from the bed, I shall be sober, whereas you will still be ugly. (There are many versions of this true tale. Reference can be made to Hansard).

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Speech in America, March 1946. Note that the expression ‘iron curtain’ had already been used by Dr. Goebbels in 1945, and by Churchill himself in a cable to President Truman in June, 1945.

(Admiral) Jellicoe was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon. Written in 1927.

The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year; and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen. Describing the qualifications desirable in a prospective politician.

This is the kind English up with which I will not put. Quoted in Ernest Gower’s book Plain Words.

Don’t talk to me about Naval tradition; it’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash. Quoted in Sir Peter Gretton’s Former Naval Person. In some versions it is ‘rum, bum and the lash’

A sheep in sheep’s clothing. Speaking on the subject of Mr Clement Attlee (q.v.)

In defeat unbeatable; in victory unbearable. Speaking about Viscount Bernard Montgomery, victor at El Alamein.

I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me. Quoted in a book by Quentin Reynolds.


About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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