Winston Churchill's Blood, Toll, Tears and Sweat

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With World War Two being one of, if not the most, geopolitically influential events of the past 150 years, we would do well to analyze and breakdown arguably the most important speech of World War Two. Winton Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” speech has been quoted and drawn upon countless times since it was first delivered on May 13th, 1940. Since then we, the public, have been able to delve back into the importance, meaning and structure of this speech so that we may better learn from it and analyze how it influenced the current world around us. My central thesis is that Winston Churchill in his “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” speech was delivering two separate speeches to two separate audiences at the same time when it was performed. Using a cleaver form of arrangements, propped up by a healthy dose of both Ethos, Pathos and style, that varies throughout the speech, he is able to effectively win over his political counterparts, along with the populace by approaching each with different forms of persuasion.

With the style of his speech differentiating greatly between the former and latter half of his speech we are able to see that he is in fact trying to not only win over the political parties within the House of Commons, but to also convince the nation outside of parliament’s doors that he is the right man to lead Great Britain to victory against the Axis powers. The first time this speech was heard by anyone other than Winston himself was on May 13th, but the speech was only partly covered by the BBC, and a much shorter summery of it was published the next day in the national newspapers. It wasn’t until Churchill gained the support of more MPs that the rest of the nation was able to hear it. A recording of the speech was played on national radio on the 19th of May. Here it received a far more positive reception than it did in the House of Commons a few weeks earlier. By asserting himself as the King’s chosen leader of the nation. This gives himself great credibility to the royalists within the room, but also is able to align himself and close the gap between himself and those who believe that Winston wants what is best for him and not the nation as a whole.

As Winston’s tact fluctuates from a far more formal, structured tone, to a noticeable more stylized version as the formality of parliamentary proceedings is filtered out through a more humanistic, true British tone as he focuses his attention away from the MPs and onto the general public who will be looking to their new leader for hope and confidence in the preceding days when the speech will be delivered to them through a radio address and the national newspapers. Churchill was an expert at giving morale-boosting speeches. Having been in multiple wars and in multiple branches of the armed forces, he had been exposed to a great number of extremely tense and life threating forces. He had both served and led men, so he was well precited in implementing the rhetorical tools for which it would take to inspire the parliament and the nation as a whole to stand behind him and support him in a united fashion. Although “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” was his first address to the nation as Prime Minister, it was certainly not his last, as he understood the importance of great, inspirational leadership and the mountains that it could move, if implemented and delivered correctly.

For those of us today living in peacetime, it is almost impossible to comprehend and to appreciate the sense of hopelessness that had befallen Great Britain. They had seen each and every one of their neighboring allies swept aside by the blitzkrieg, and with little hope of respite, they did not know which way to turn. In desperate need of fresh leadership, it was Winston Churchill who stepped up. It was clear to all upon the delivery of “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” that Winston would lead by example and would do everything within his power to secure victory at any and all cost.

To highlight the overall feeling of the speech, one does not need to go further than the line which states “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terrors — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.” (Churchill) The passion and belief that radiated from Churchill seeped into the Houses of Parliament, and then from there into the nation (Moss). The British public could do little but to let the thought of optimism and victory creep into their minds. Churchill knew that the odds were stacked against his country, and without belief in itself, Britain would surely succumb to the might of the Axis powers. Winston recorded in thoughts in The Gathering Storm before he went to bed on May 12th, 1940 “I felt as if I were walking with destiny and that all my past life had been but preparation for this hour and this trial”. (Churchill)

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The speech is broken down into two main segments, that I will dissect further into my critical analysis. The first of these being the classic parliamentary proceedings and states of affairs, with regard to forming a new government that could table motions and allow parliamentary proceedings to formally take place. The split is quite clear upon reading the full speech. The section of the speech that is often highly quoted follows this section.

From paragraph one to three, Churchill is found to be discussing the classic parliamentary proceedings which inevitably come along with forming a new government. This includes addressing the house, speaker, country and setting out specific changes that have made from the previous administrations and the positives of this. Churchill addresses the fact that many of his appointments have had to been made in a such short time frame due to the severity of the situation bearing down on them. He apologies for any who have been affected by the disruption and confusion, but also mentions the necessity of such changes. There are many different subsections that are hidden within these three paragraphs as such an immense about of ground was covered. From paragraphs four to six the real meat and substance of the speech are found. This is the section which is mainly quoted and touted as one of the pivotal moments of the WW2.


“Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” is far from a beautiful speech. The majority is set in tune with parliamentary proceedings in mind, so that a plan can begin to formulate as to how the House will go forward to combat the Nazis and defend the country. Much of it is short and to the point, especially in paragraphs two and three when Churchill mentions his appointments to the War Cabinet and also those in high executive office. However, the speech really does come into its own in paragraphs four and five. With highly quoted lines such as 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.' And also “What is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”. Repetition is commonly used time and time again with “Victory”, “War” and “Survival” all have multiple repetitions in the second to last paragraphs. Clearly these are the main sticking points that Churchill is trying to hammer home to those listening. He is making his point crystal clear by separating his policy away from Chamberlin’s and declaring war has arrived, as opposed to appeasement.

Ethos Breakdown

With Ethos being implemented heavily throughout the first half of “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” and sparsely in the second, we must look more closely as to why this is the case. I believe that Churchill is predominantly speaking to his audience of MPs and the House of Lords in the rafters when he delivers the formalities of the parliamentary proceedings fort eh first three-quarters of the speech.

The issue of Churchill being Prime Minister at such a precarious and delicate moment in time was questioned by many. Churchill was seen as a divisive figure due to his lack of party loyalty when in 1904 he left the Conservative Party to join the Liberal Party, and then again in 1925 when he switched back to the Conservative Party. He had garnered some enemies along the way, and this was to make his ascension to Prime Minister even harder than it otherwise would have been. Churchill set out to attempt to rally the entire Parliament behind him so that he could focus on the external troubles of winning a war, rather than internal strives of winning over a Parliament. To do this Churchill would have to set out many logical and sound arguments to draw closer the divide in political thought between him and those who otherwise would have opposed his leadership. This was evident when he tries to bolster his legitimacy as Prime Minister by stating the fact that he had “received His Majesty’s commission to form a new Administration.”. By aligning himself with the will of George VI he was proving that if the house did not support him, that they were also nit supporting the King. This was clearly a clever tactic used by Churchill as his legitimacy to be Prime Minister was precarious at best. Churchill again shows Parliament that he is in command of the situation by reinforcing the fact that he has the ear of the King when he later states that he is “submitting a further list to His Majesty tonight”. Disagreeing with the will of the King is not illegal, but it would be greatly frowned upon. Without the support of the monarchy the Prime Minister can have no real legitimate claim to the position under British law.

Churchills position as Prime Minister was always initially going to be pushed back against. This is because he was never elected as Prime Minster by the general public. Since there had to be an immediate replacement for Sir Neville Chamberland, Churchill was next in line and as a result of this he was forced to continue to prove that he was the right man for the job by doubling down on is legitimacy as the rightful Prime Minister. When he states in the first paragraph of his speech “I have completed the most important part of the task. A war Cabinet has been formed.”. This ethos is making clear that Churchill is not willing or even able to take a back seat in the series of events that is about to unfold. He has taken it upon himself and has burdened the weight of the nation on his shoulders by immediately taking care of one of the most important tasks a nation at war can do. Alongside quickly setting up a War Cabinet, Winston was able to show unity and bipartisanship by reaching across the aisle by uniting each of the three-party leaders under his banner by having them serve in either the War Cabinet or in high executive office. It is therefore hard for any Members of Parliament to argue against the man who has the support of their own personal party leader. This move was clearly precalculated and launched to repel any possible dissention for usurpers within the three main political parties of the time. Going off of the large amount of Ethos evident in the first three main paragraphs of the speech, we are then able to compare and contrast this with the pivot of writing style Churchill hence forth implements for the rest of the speech. Before this point there was little to no examples of Pathos, but the next section which I will analyze is littered with it.

Pathos Breakdown

In the final of the four main paragraphs we see the change in Churchills tone and manner reflected in his writing. The pleasantries have been taken care of, the egos of his fellow MPs have been stroked, now is the moment when he is acting as the Prime Minister of the nation, not just a single chamber of men. The next paragraph is strewn with examples of repetition and pathos. An example being the famous line and title of the speech “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”. This is a prime and clear example of pathos, as he is showing the nation the extreme lengths that he is willing to go to, to serve the nation, even putting his own body on the line to defend it. The examples of pathos continue as he highlights the atrocities being causes by Germany as he addresses their actions as a “lamentable catalogue of human crime.”. He is trying to put as wide a gap between the actions of Germany and the actions of Great Britain. Also, we see repetition being used to hammer home his most important phrases and chosen words. when he states, “It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”. Victory is clearly the main message he is trying to convey here. Great Britain is seen as a great world power, and its people would expect nothing less than absolute victory. Churchill is promising them that victory is they decide to support and follow him.


To conclude, Churchill is and has always been seen as a master orator and writer, and his first speech as Prime Minister of Great Britain highlights just that. Using a noticeable split in his use of ethos and pathos from the first to second half of the speech, he shows that he is trying to win the support of his fellow MPs, and also the general public. Repetition also features heavily during the final paragraph to hammer home the threats that face the nation. Ultimately this speech should be viewed from the perspectives of MPs and also the general public. Without the support of both the war could not be won, so both need to be addressed with equal importance.

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