“Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour…”
Continued from Part 2…
On 19 May 1940, Churchill made his first broadcast as Prime Minister, a speech which lifted the hearts even of his former and current critics. “A tremendous battle is raging in France and Flanders,” he said, adding forthrightly that the Germans, “by a remarkable combination of air bombing and heavily armoured tanks, have broken through the French defences.”
In assuring his listeners that Britain would fight on, Churchill chose a majestic coda, an obscure Biblical allusion, for the first and only time in all his writings and speeches. It proved to be exactly right for the occasion:
Today is Trinity Sunday. Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: “Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the Outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.
Even some Biblical scholars were uncertain about the origins of this phrase, and with good reason. It is from I Maccabees 3:58-60, a text not found in every Bible. Further, Churchill altered the quotation. Evidently the writer in him could not resist an editorial improvement. The original words were:
58. And Judas said, Arm yourselves, and be valiant men, and see that ye be in readiness against the morning, that ye may fight with these nations, that are assembled together against us to destroy us and our sanctuary: 59. For it is better for us to die in battle, than to behold the calamities of our people and our sanctuary. 60. Nevertheless, as the will of God is in heaven, so let him do.
There are two Books of the Maccabees, also spelled “Machabbes,” none of which is in the Hebrew Bible but all of which appear in some manuscripts of the Septuagint and in the Vulgate, since they are canonical to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. They are also included in the Protestant Apocrypha, which is probably where Churchill read them.
Churchill’s first broadcast as Prime Minister caught the imagination of millions. Sir Martin Gilbert has collected some of those reactions that very evening, Trinity Sunday, 19 May, in Volume VI of the official biography.
Anthony Eden wrote: “You have never done anything as good or as great. Thank you, and thank God for you.” Lord Halifax, who nine days later would urge approaching the Germans for armistice terms, was momentarily bowled over: “It was worth a lot,” he wrote from the Foreign Office, “and we owe you much for that, as for a great deal else, in these dark days.” The Evening Standard declared the broadcast a speech of “imperishable resolve.”
Perhaps the most unexpected, a note that must have encouraged Churchill, came from his old chief Stanley Baldwin, who had done more than any other British leader to put the country in so perilous a state of readiness, but who on 19 June was moved more perhaps than at any other time:
My dear PM, I listened to your well known voice last night and I should have liked to have shaken your hand for a brief moment and to tell you that from the bottom of my heart I wish you all that is good—health and strength of mind and body—for the intolerable burden that now lies on you. Yours always sincerely, SB
 Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. VI Finest Hour 1939-1941, 365.