LONDON, AUGUST 20TH— Seven decades to the day after Winston Churchill’s inspiring salute to the Royal Air Force as the Battle of Britain was reaching its height, Timothy Robert Hardy, the greatest actor ever to portray Churchill, delivered portions of the Prime Minister’s House of Commons speech containing the famous tribute: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The original speech was a long overview of the war situation covering many events beside “the great air battle” raging in the skies over Britain. In deference to the occasion, Robert Hardy deftly provided Churchill’s tribute to the airmen, and other excerpts from the full speech delivered in the House of Commons on 20 August 1940. (Available from me via email.)
Battle: The Greatest Actor
When this was posted Mr. Hardy was approaching his 85th birthday—though it is impossible to visualize him as much more than twenty years younger. His Churchill roles began with the marvelous television series “The Wilderness Years” and extended through one-man performances and even a stage play. Many times over the past thirty years, he said that Churchill was the one man last century who could lead us through the worst of times by the force of his mesmerizing speeches, monumental courage and personal charisma. We say in reply that Robert Hardy’s work expresses all the Churchillian qualities, and through his skill the true Churchill emerged for new generations.
At the end of his August 1940 speech Churchill expressed his optimism, despite a desperate battle, which we can only approximate by reading his words today. Free peoples everywhere will understand those words, and hope that if, or indeed when, we are faced by such a peril again, we will have such leaders:
“For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished; no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days.”