Published date: 24 August 2017

The National Archives education team’s film of the month highlights a Pathé film relating to current events, anniversaries or key topics that you may be covering in the classroom.

This month’s clip is a radio broadcast made by King George VI on September 3rd 1939. This speech – which is sound only – was given by the King at the outbreak of the Second World War and discusses how peace efforts had failed leaving Britain to face its second Great War in the lifetime of many of its citizens.

The famous speech, also depicted as a triumphant moment for King George against his speech impediment in the film ‘The King’s Speech’, explained the situation to the nation and asked the British people to stand together united against those who had forced them into conflict.

The speech can be used by teachers within topics on the Second World War, speech writing, or perhaps as an interesting discussion on current affairs exploring public sentiment and political leadership.

Students could answer the following questions:

How do you think the British People reacted to this speech? Why would they react in that way?

Was World War Two expected to be similar to other wars, or did Britain understand its new style of warfare from the very beginning? How was it different from previous wars?

What rhetorical devices are used by the King? How effective was the speech?

How would a speech like this be seen in today’s political climate?

Are any of the points made in King George’s speech still relevant today?

Author: The National Archives

Duration: 00:06:27

Release date: 1939

Producer: British Pathé

Source: British Pathé

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…perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my people, both at home and overseas, this message spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself. For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war. Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it has been in vain. We have been forced into a conflict for we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which if it were to prevail would be fatal to any civilised order in the world. It is the principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges which sanction the use of force or threat of force against the sovereignty and independence of other states. Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right and if this principle were established throughout the world the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth of nations would be in danger but far more than this the peoples of the world would be kept in the bondage of fear and all hopes of settled peace and of the security of justice and liberty among nations would be ended. This is the ultimate issue which confronts us for the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear and of the world order and peace it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge. It is into this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my peoples across the seas who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm and firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead and war I can no longer be confined to the battlefield but we can only do the light as we see the light and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand and then with God’s help we shall prevail. May he bless and keep us all.

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