50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York: The British Library of Information, 1940. First edition, only printing. Pamphlet. This is the first edition, only printing of Churchill's "The War of the Unknown Warriors" broadcast speech of July 14, 1940, just days after the beginning of the Battle of Britain: "This is no war of chieftains or of princes... It is a war of peoples and of causes.... There are vast numbers... who will render faithful service in this war but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded."
This four-page folded paper leaflet measures 9.375 inches tall x 6.25 inches (23.8 x 15.9 cm) wide. Condition is, improbably, fine, particularly given the perishable format. The pamphlet is crisp, immaculate, and complete, with no wear or creasing, no soiling or toning. The sole previous ownership mark is itself quite interesting contemporary provenance; a three-line, blue ink stamp on the upper left blank margin of the final panel reads “RECEIVED EXAMINER | REFERENCE LIBRARY | JUL 23 1940”. The excellent state of preservation hence owes to the fact that within days of issuance, this leaflet became part of a newspaper’s reference library, where it evidently resided, unmolested, for many years. We have not offered a superior example. The pamphlet is protected in a clear, removable, archival mylar sleeve.
Churchill had become prime minister on 10 May 1940, and his first months in office saw, among other near-calamities, the Battle of the Atlantic, the fall of France, evacuation at Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain. The war’s outcome is now long-settled history, making it perhaps difficult to viscerally understand how imperiled Britain was in early July 1940 after the fall of France. France had capitulated to Nazi Germany in late June and by the second week of July Hitler’s Luftwaffe had begun a massive, sustained aerial assault across the English Channel, the preparatory effort to gain air superiority before a planned invasion of England.
On the evening of 14 July, “Churchill delivered a broadcast that was heard by nearly two-thirds of the adult population of the United Kingdom.” (Roberts, WWD, p.578) Churchill told his countrymen “We are fighting by ourselves alone; but we are not fighting for ourselves alone… here, girt about by the seas and oceans where the navy reigns, shielded from above by the prowess and devotion of our airmen, we await undismayed the impending assault.” Churchill struck a sternly resolute and unequivocally defiant note for his countrymen: “We must show ourselves equally capable of meeting a sudden violent shock, or what is perhaps a harder test – a prolonged vigil. But be the ordeal sharp or long – or both – we shall seek no terms, we shall tolerate no parley. We may show mercy; we shall ask none.”
Home intelligence reported “universal approval across all regions of the country for the speech… A typical comment, from Bristol, was ‘That’s the sort of thing we want and he’s the fellow we can follow.” (Roberts, WWD, p578)
This pamphlet is one in a series of Churchill's speeches printed by the British Library of Information in New York. The British Library of Information published thirty-four editions of statements, speeches, and broadcast addresses by Prime Minister Winston Churchill (that number including some variant publications of the same speeches), beginning with his first speech as Prime Minister of 13 May 1940 and ending with the broadcast address of 29 November 1942. These editions were often issued within two or three days of delivery and "reveal the political determination of the British government to bring the inspiration and steadfastness of the Prime Minister and the British nation to an American nation not yet engaged in the war. Indeed, twenty-two of the BLOI speech pamphlets were published before Pearl Harbor." (Cohen, Volume I, p.513, A120)
Reference: Cohen A128, Woods A58. Item #007280