50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York: British Library of Information, 1940. First edition, only printing. This is the first edition, only printing of Churchill's "Speech on the Surrender of the Belgian Army" delivered in the House of Commons on 28 May 1940, just 18 days after Churchill became Britain’s wartime Prime Minister.
This four-page folded paper leaflet measures 9 inches tall x 6 inches wide (22.9 x 15.2 cm). Condition is near fine, particularly impressive given the perishable format. The pamphlet is crisp, clean, 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 in the blank upper left portion of the front cover panel reads “RECEIVED EXAMINER | REFERENCE LIBRARY | JUN 21 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. The pamphlet is protected in a clear, removable, archival mylar sleeve.
On 28 May 1940, the day he delivered this speech in the House of Commons “Churchill had been Prime Minister for less than three weeks. No hour had been free from bad news, worry, and the need for immediate decisions.” (Gilbert, Vol. VI, p.421) That day, facing the fall of France, in the midst of the Dunkirk evacuation, Britain was confronted with the pre-dawn capitulation of Belgium’s 38-year-old King Leopold III to Hitler’s Germany, removing Belgium from the fight and beginning what would prove nearly five years of Nazi occupation.
Churchill short speech on the Surrender of the Belgian Army to the House of Commons, was threaded with characteristic but, given the dire circumstances, subdued resolve. “Whatever our feelings from facts so far known to us, we must remember that the sense of brotherhood between the many people who have fallen into the power of the aggressor and those who still confront him will play its part in better days than those through which we are now passing… Surrender of the Belgian Army in this manner adds appreciably to the grievous peril, but our troops are in good heart and fighting with the utmost skill and tenacity… the house must prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings… nothing which can happen in the battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have bound ourselves, nor can it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way – as on former occasions in our history – through disaster and grief to ultimate defeat of our enemy.”
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 A123, Woods A58. Item #007282