We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches :Defying Napoleon and Hitler, 1805 and 1940
'...we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender' Churchill made this defiant statement in his speech to the Commons on 4 June 1940 shortly after the BEF's rapid evacuation from Dunkirk. All that now stood between Hitler and Britain was a short stretch of water. The French on this particular occasion were Britain's allies, but just over a hundred years previously it had been their leader who had eyed Britain from across the Channel.
Britain's proximity to the continent had always made it beguiling to prospective invaders. As well as the kudos of taking out a formidable opponent, Britain's fall would be accompanied by the gain of her overseas colonies and wealth, and, in Churchill's words again: 'it is that chance which has excited and befooled the imaginations of many Continental tyrants.' Brian Lavery, an established authority on the Napoleonic Wars and Second World War, articulates the parallels and defining features of these tumultuous periods in our history. He looks at the style and competence of politicians and military commanders, the leadership and example of great men such as Nelson and Churchill, examines unexplored official papers and looks at the war situation as seen by great literary figures such as Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, as well as the thoughts and concerns of volunteers and servicemen and women.
It provides a unique insight into two distinct periods during which the British national identity was forged and strengthened.