Winston Churchill’s List of Tips for Surviving a German Invasion: See the Never-Distributed Document (1940)

More than half a cen­tu­ry after his death, Win­ston Churchill con­tin­ues to draw both great admi­ra­tion and great fas­ci­na­tion. Inter­est in the wartime Prime Min­is­ter of the Unit­ed King­dom has even increased in recent years, as evi­denced last year by Joe Wright’s high­ly praised film Dark­est Hour. Star­ring Gary Old­man as Churchill, it tells the sto­ry of his assump­tion of the office in May 1940 and nav­i­ga­tion of the dire glob­al geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion (includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to the Bat­tle of Dunkirk, also cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly recre­at­ed last year by Christo­pher Nolan) into which it imme­di­ate­ly plunged him.

“We get the great­est hits, out loud,” writes the New York­er’s Antho­ny Lane on Old­man’s per­for­mance in a piece on why actors love to play Churchill. “We get the blood and the sweat, barked to the House of Com­mons, and, need­less to say, we get the most cel­e­brat­ed speech of all, unleashed on June 4th, when the Prime Min­is­ter informed the world that Britain would fight the Ger­mans on the beach­es, in the streets, and wher­ev­er else they chose to intrude.”

Churchill could issue a com­pelling com­mu­niqué on the sub­ject not just in speech but in writ­ing, and he even pre­pared one for dis­tri­b­u­tion in the event of a Ger­man inva­sion. Its char­ac­ter­is­tic title: “Beat­ing the Invad­er.”

“If inva­sion comes, every­one – young or old, men and women – will be eager to play their part worthi­ly,” Churchill pro­claims in the leaflet, which you can read in full at Abe­Books. “If you are advised by the author­i­ties to leave the place where you live, it is your duty to go else­where when you are told to leave. When the attack begins, it will be too late to go; and, unless you receive def­i­nite instruc­tions to move, your duty then will be to stay where are. You will have to get into the safest place you can find, and stay there until the bat­tle is over. For all of you then the order and the duty will be: ‘STAND FIRM’.”

Churchill pro­vides more specifics of his expec­ta­tions in a Q&A sec­tion, address­ing such con­cerns as “What do I do if fight­ing breaks out in my neigh­bour­hood?”, “Is there any means by which I can tell that an order is a true order and not faked?” (“With a bit of com­mon sense you can tell if a sol­dier is real­ly British or only pre­tend­ing to be so”), and “Should I defend myself against the ene­my?” To that last he assures his read­er that “you have the right of every man and woman to do what you can to pro­tect your­self, your fam­i­ly and your home.” Thanks to those who gave their all to win the war, it nev­er came to that. And even now, though Britain faces no appar­ent dan­ger of immi­nent inva­sion, many still gov­ern their con­duct in the spir­it of Churchill’s “sec­ond great order and duty, name­ly, ‘CARRY ON’.”

If you want to pur­chase an orig­i­nal copy of the doc­u­ment, find some here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Oh My God! Win­ston Churchill Received the First Ever Let­ter Con­tain­ing “O.M.G.” (1917)

Ani­mat­ed: Win­ston Churchill’s Top 10 Say­ings About Fail­ure, Courage, Set­backs, Haters & Suc­cess

Win­ston Churchill Gets a Doctor’s Note to Drink “Unlim­it­ed” Alco­hol in Pro­hi­bi­tion Amer­i­ca (1932)

‘Keep Calm and Car­ry On’: The Sto­ry of the Icon­ic World War II Poster

The Moon Dis­as­ter That Wasn’t: Nixon’s Speech In Case Apol­lo 11 Failed to Return

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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