The British high command decided that it was inevitable that the Germans would defeat the armies of Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands; and France fought a rearguard action to slow the German army as it flooded into their territory.
The British were ordered to evacuate from the port at Dunkirk. Every form of floating watercraft headed across the English Channel on May 28th, 1940 to rescue the trapped soldiers. As the Germans bombed, shelled and strafed the fleeing men, many boats went down.
The Brits pulled their comrades from the chilling waters to continue the retreat, and they planned to fight again on another day. It was nothing short of a miracle that by May 31, 1940 those 338,000 troops crossed the English Channel to the relative safety beyond the White Cliffs of Dover.
After the ignominious defeat, Winston Churchill stepped into the breach to bring the right words to rally the forces of the Western World. He faced reality on May 13th as he offered only blood, toil, tears and sweat to his countrymen.
On June 4th he spoke to England, to the USA, to Germany, and to the rest of the world. His voice had a guttural tone and he was almost growling as the English bulldog delivered his message from his lair.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing ground, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…in the hills. We shall never surrender.” As the Western World rallied to his words, he stated on June 18, 1940 that “This was our finest hour.”
This ten-year old boy heard Winston and he understood. And the stage was set.
Mrs. Kellett, my Latin teacher, long a fixture of Waynesville Township High School, sometimes tended to stray from the teaching of Latin into something akin to hero worship of the Romans. And so it came to pass that Mrs. Kellett stated that the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was the greatest man who ever lived.
Unknowingly, she had thrown down the gauntlet and challenged one of her students.
I could not let this stand. I said something like this: “No, No, Mrs. Kellett, Julius is not the greatest—Winston Churchill is the greatest.” Then I began to lay out my case that Winston and his well-chosen words had saved our Western World.
When Mrs. Kellett’s face turned red and a few of my classmates began to snicker, I knew that I had stepped into something that would not bode well.
My feelings were confirmed when the report cards came out. I got an “F.” My Dad, a long time teacher and school principal, viewed my report card and inquired about the “F.” I had never before received an “F.”
I told him my story as he tried to hold his stern demeanor. Knowing Mrs. Kellett and her tendencies, he finally broke out laughing.
And now, the rest of the story. I later enrolled in Mars Hill College and they required completion of two years of foreign language. So to make up for the deficiency, I enrolled in a Spanish class.
Well, for those of you who feel that life is not fair, it came to pass that I got the best looking redheaded Spanish teacher North of the Rio Grande. Hey, I even enrolled in her Spanish Club.
Even though this little story has an undeserved happy ending, I still contend that it was all Winston’s fault. That’s my story and I’m going to stick to it!