Before we get into the context of the quote, let’s give the quote in context within the passage it appears in the quote (below).
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 surrenderWinston Churchill, We Shall Fight On The Beaches, May 13th 1940
Churchill In Context
In the first passage, Churchill is talking about the possibility of an invasion of Britain by enemy forces, which was a real concern at the time.
Churchill is saying that throughout history, no country has ever been completely safe from invasion or attacks. Even in the past, when there were large armies and powerful navies, there was always a chance that an enemy could find a way to get past the defenses and launch an attack.
He gives an example of Napoleon, a famous military leader who tried to invade Britain in the early 1800s. Although he had a large army and a plan to cross the English Channel, he was never able to get past the British navy, which controlled the waters around Britain.
Churchill is warning that the enemy might try new, unexpected tactics to invade Britain, and that the British people need to be prepared for anything. He says that even if an idea seems strange or unlikely, it’s important to consider it carefully, and to be ready to defend against any attack. He reminds people that Britain’s strength lies in its navy and its air force, which can help defend the country if they are used effectively.
In the next passage, he stands by the people of the armed forces and the civilians. Churchill states that he has confidence that if everyone does their duty and makes the best arrangements, they can defend their “island home” (Britain) and survive the storm of war, even if it takes years and even if they have to do it alone. He’s expressing a determination to fight against tyranny and defend their way of life, and he believes that the British government, parliament, and people are all united in this cause.
He also mentions the French Republic, saying that they are linked together with Britain in their cause and their need, and that they will defend their countries to the death and support each other as good comrades.
Churchill closes out the speech by acknowledging that many countries in Europe have already fallen, remember this is in May of 1940, to Nazi rule and are under the control of the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police. But despite this, Churchill says that the British people will not give up and will continue fighting until the end.
He describes how the British forces will fight on land, on sea, and in the air, and will defend their island home at any cost. He emphasizes that the British people will fight on the beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets, and hills, and they will never surrender.
Churchill even goes so far as to say that if Britain were to be subjugated and starving, the British Empire beyond the seas, protected by the British Fleet, would continue to fight until the New World (presumably the United States) comes to their rescue and helps them win the war.
Overall, this passage reflects Churchill’s determination to fight against Nazi tyranny and his belief that the British people will never give up, no matter how difficult the fight becomes.