Attempting To Calm A Nation’s Jitters – King George Address – September 23, 1940 – Past Daily Reference Room
As Europe continued to feel the onslaught of German advances, and France, which fell in June was being rapidly occupied and taken over by German troops, the nightly air raids over London and other cities continued as Germany sought to weaken British resolve and pave the way for what many felt was an impending invasion.
But despite the near-constant bombings and destruction, Britons were resilient and were determined not to succumb to these attacks. The war effort was stepped up, and seemingly every person with a pulse and who could walk was involved in some aspect of war work.
And so to continue boosting morale, the cities, with some districts still smoldering in ruins, were visited by The King who talked to the people, visited the wounded and spoke before the microphones, addressing and reassuring the people who were fighting and resisting, that it would eventually work out.
Tall order indeed, for a country some 20 nautical miles away from the French coast; where invasion preparations were taking place, where much-needed supplies and materials coming by way of Lend-Lease through the U.S. were being routinely sunk and destroyed by German bombers in waters between America and Britain. But the resolve was strong and the RAF were staging nightly retaliation attacks against German cities. The defenses set up around British cities was fine-tuned and accurate, with the German Luftwaffe suffering mounting losses each night a raid took place. In September alone, it was estimated some 1,000 German planes had been shot down and destroyed, the number of prisoners was mounting.
But whether the actions taken would be enough, should an all-out invasion of Britain by Germany take place, was anybody’s guess. There was no way of knowing how long this resolve would hold out, how long the average British citizen withstand nightly bombings and destruction.
And so, to offer reassuring words, King George VI addressed the people of the Commonwealth on September 23, 1940. The broadcast was relayed to the U.S. by the BBC Shortwave service.