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Was Churchill a great orator?

Source 6

Two newspaper reports on an impromptu speech made by Churchill to the workers of Clydeside, Glasgow


CHAR 9/150A-B images 20, 32-4

We've highlighted the parts of the document which appear in the transcription below.

Simplified Transcript

Transcript A

News Chronicle
Saturday January 18 1941
Churchill in Surprise Clydeside Speeches:
'Certain We Shall Win, Completely Decisively'
German Invasion Harder Now

Mr Winston Churchill gave a surprise speech in Glasgow last night after visiting the city and touring its defences.

He said that Britain stands firmly in the way of the European dictators and will not move. He hoped that Britain would have plenty of equipment to fight Germany effectively by the end of the year. His visit was supposed to be a secret but the news soon spread and he was cheered by crowds as he spoke to them. He said: ‘It will be a long and hard road but I have no doubt that we will win over the forces of evil and make our country a worthy place to live once peace comes’.

Transcript B


'This Great Crusade'


Mr Winston Churchill, the Premier yesterday paid a visit to Clydeside where he met by cheering crowds. He inspected the air raid defences and walked through crowds of cheering men and women. He then made a short speech.

‘I thank you for your welcome but I thank you more for the part you are taking in this great crusade to keep our freedoms against one of the most dangerous attacks that has even been made on them.’

Original Transcript

Transcript A

News Chronicle
Saturday, January 18, 1941
Churchill in Surprise Clydeside Speeches:
'Certain we shall Win, Completely, Decisively'
Invasion Harder Now: We Stand Four-Square


'We stand four-square in the path of European dictators... I hope that by the end of this year or the beginning of next year we may in the air and on the land be at no disadvantage so far as equipment is concerned with the German foe.'

His visit was supposed to be a secret, but the news soon spread and wherever he went there were thousands to cheer him. Acknowledging the greetings of Clydeside crowds, he said: 'Do not suppose that we are at the end of the road. Yet, though long and hard it may be, I have absolutely no doubt that we shall win a complete and decisive victory over the forces of evil, and that victory itself will be only a stimulus to further efforts to conquer ourselves and make our country as worthy in the days of peace as it is proving itself in the hours of war.'

Transcript B

Durrant's Press Cuttings
St. Andrew's House, 32 to 34 Holborn Viaduct, and 3 St. Andrew Street, Holborn Circus, E.C.1.
Telephone: CENTRAL 3149 (TWO LINES).

Manchester Guardian
3 Cross Street, Manchester.
18 Jan 1941
Cutting from issue dated.........

'This Great Crusade'


Mr Winston Churchill, the Premier yesterday paid a visit to Clydeside, where he was met by cheering crowds. He said:

The Prime Minister received a hearty welcome. He inspected civil defence service personnel and stations, and at Glasgow walked through a deep avenue of cheering men and women from the station to his car. After reviewing a parade of A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions] workers, Mr. Churchill delivered a short speech in the open air.

'I thank you very much for the kind welcome,' he said 'but far more for the part you are taking in this great crusade to keep the liberties of mankind free from one of the most dangerous assaults that have ever been launched against them'.

Mrs. Churchill accompanied the Premier, and in the party was Mr. Harry Hopkins, personal representative of Mr. [President] Roosevelt.

What is this source?

There are two parts to this source. They both come from newspapers and talk about the same incident. The first is from the News Chronicle and the second from the Manchester Guardian.

Background to this source

The sources are about a visit Churchill made to Clydeside in January 1941. The visit was meant to be secret but Churchill was met by a crowd of hundreds of people when he arrived at the station. He made a formal prepared speech in the evening but these reports discuss an impromptu speech he made while visiting the shipyards and inspecting the work of the Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens, who took charge if there was an air raid and made sure that there were no lights visible in the area at night to attract German bombers.

Additional information

Churchill’s visit took place after British success in the Battle of Britain and before the entry of the Russians and Americans into the war. Churchill was very keen that the United States should enter the war and took Harry Hopkins, a representative from President Roosevelt with him to Clydeside. Hopkins was Special Advisor and Assistant to President Roosevelt, effectively Roosevelt’s ‘right-hand man’ – his ‘Mr Fixit’ – and had come to spend several weeks gathering information about Great Britain. The visit to Scotland was planned to allow Churchill to inspect the Fleet’s naval bases. 

It was also a morale boosting trip. The Battle of Britain had been won and the immediate danger of a German invasion had reduced. But there was still a massive need for British people to work for the war effort and produce weaponry and especially shipping. The impact of a personal visit from the Prime Minister would have been significant and helped to show that he was in touch with people in the country.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember we are hoping this source can be useful to us in whether Churchill was a good orator. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. Where was Churchill speaking?
  2. What did he say to the workers about the state of the war effort?
  3. What did he say about the contribution of the workers to the war effort?
  4. How did the workers respond to Churchill?

Deeper level

Which of the following areas of Churchill’s key features of public speaking can be investigated by using this source?


Tick if this is present

If you have put a tick, what makes you think this?

On a scale of 0-5 (0 being absent and 5 being strongly represented), indicate how important this attribute is to the speech.

Correctness of Diction

Is it clear what Churchill means even if some words are unfamiliar?



Does his speech seem like blank verse poetry?


Accumulation of Argument

Does he build his argument?



Does he use examples from the past or from people’s knowledge to illustrate his point?


Emotions of the speaker and the audience aroused

Do the audience know Churchill’s final point before he gets there?


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Need help interpreting the source?

The differences between the sources may not be an obstacle to using the sources to answer our question, however the differences do highlight the challenges posed by using press reports as evidence:

  • The authors selected different parts of Churchill’s speech to cover in their reports.
  • The editors of the newspapers wanted to give different impressions.
  • There was insufficient space to write the whole speech and so an interpretation was given with a selection of points made.
  • The audience for each newspaper may have been different and therefore the article was written in a style to please the audience (and sell more papers).

Source 7

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