London: Ministry of Information, 1940. First edition, only printing. Pamphlet. This scarce wartime pamphlet is the first and only stand-alone publication of then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill's speech in the House of Commons of 27 February 1940 . "I come before the house, on behalf of the Navy, to ask for a few men, some ships, and a little money, to enable them to carry on their work, which has become important to us all at the present time." Thus Churchill began this speech in the perilous, early months of the Second World War.
This pamphlet publication of Churchill's speech in self-wraps is printed on quite thin, cheap wartime paper, staple-bound with a drop-head title and no title page. It measures 9.75 x 6.375 inches and is 8 pages in length. Though 15,250 copies were printed, the extreme fragility of the wartime paper means that copies seldom appear. This copy is in near fine condition. The pamphlet remains crisp, clean, and complete with no previous ownership marks and no spotting, soiling, or appreciable age-toning of the paper. Both binding staples are intact and uncorroded. The only flaws to note are two tiny rust spots in the left blank margin of the front cover, presumably from another pamphlet with which this one was long stored. The pamphlet is protected within a removable, archival mylar sleeve.
Churchill had served as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911-1915 until he was scapegoated and forced from the Cabinet over the Dardanelles. After the failure in the Dardanelles, he was scapegoated and forced to resign. He spent his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches. Before the end of the First World War, Churchill was exonerated and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience nearly two decades later leading up to the Second World War. Churchill spent his "Wilderness Years" of the 1930s out of power and out of favor, his warning about the dangers of a rising Nazi Germany often at odds with both his party leadership and prevailing public sentiment.
But in September 1939, following Nazi invasion of Poland and the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was called back to the Admiralty. There – nearly a quarter century after he had been forced to resign - he began work again "in the same room, and at the same desk, where he had worked as first Lord" during the First World War. (Gilbert, Volume VI, p.4) By May 1940 Churchill would be Prime Minister. On February 27, 1940, Churchill presented his Estimates for Naval expenditure to the House of Commons. No precise figures were revealed about expenditures and planned strength of the Navy – after all, “there is no need to tell the enemy more than is good for him about what we are doing." In his speech of more than an hour and a half, Churchill covered numerous topics – losses of merchant ships, German outrages upon fishing fleets and small unarmed merchant vessels, and British successes in capturing cargo ships destined for Germany. Churchill concluded his speech by saying “I will not make any prophecies about the future which is doubly veiled by the obscurities and uncertainties of war. But personally I shall not be content, nor do I think the House should be content, if we do not reach and maintain a control of the seas equal to the highest standards of the last war and enable the Navy once again to play a decisive part in the general victory of the Allies."
Reference: Cohen A117, Woods A51. Item #005481