The quote is from a speech he gave in August 1941, in which he announced an intensive bombing campaign against Germany and warned the British people to expect retaliation. He directly challenged Hitler:
“You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We remember Warsaw … We remember Rotterdam … We have been newly reminded of your habits by the hideous massacre of Belgrade. We know too well the bestial assault yon are making upon the Russian people … We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will.”
I love the alliteration in the last line, which also signals that the passage is drawing to a close—the grisly gang who work your wicked will—just as Shakespeare often used a rhyming couplet to end a speech.
Then Churchill threw down the gauntlet with the phrase for which this speech is most remembered:
“You do your worst and we will do our best.”
He ended the speech by promising the British people that their efforts would be rewarded:
“We do not expect to hit without being hit back, and we intend with every week that passes to hit harder. Prepare yourselves, then, my friends and comrades … We shall never turn from our purpose, however somber the road, however grievous the cost, because we know that out of this time of trial and tribulation will be born a new freedom and glory for all mankind.”
Trial and Tribulation is the fourth book in this series, each owing a debt to Churchill:
Breaking Point: “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war.” (From the ‘finest hour’ speech.)
Infinite Stakes: “The odds were great; our margins small; the stakes infinite.” (From his History of the Second World War.)
Slender Thread: “What a slender thread the greatest of things can hang by.” (From a note he wrote himself.)
Trial and Tribulation: “… out of this time of trial and tribulation will be born a new freedom and glory …”
Trial and Tribulation will be published on D-Day, June 6th. I hope you enjoy it.
I must admit that I thought I knew a thing or two about Churchill, having researched him and even dreamed up imaginary dialog for him in my books. But there is always more to learn. Recently I was researching D-Day and wondered how he announced the invasion of Normandy. I was amazed to discover that he did not announce the most consequential battle in the Second World War at the beginning of his speech to the House of Commons. He began by noting that Rome had fallen to the Allies and congratulating the generals involved:
“The House should, I think, take formal cognizance of the liberation of Rome by the Allied Armies under the Command of General Alexander, with General Clark of the United States Service and General Oliver Leese in command of the fifth and Eighth Armies respectively. This is a memorable and glorious event, which rewards the intense fighting of the last five months in Italy …. “
Churchill continued in this vein for no less than 740 words until coming, at last, to D-Day:
“I have also to announce to the House that during the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France. An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel…”
Only a supreme orator, it seems to me, could deliberately bury his own lede on so dramatic an occasion. Later in this speech he mentions the many dangers and difficulties facing the invasion force: hmmm …. sounds like a title to me!