The Darkest Hour

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The Darkest Hour is a phrase coined by British prime minister Winston Churchill to describe the period of World War II between the fall of France in 1940 and the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, when the British Empire stood alone against Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers in Europe. The length of time between the fall of France in June 1940 and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 measured 363 days, or 11 months and 28 days. It is particularly used for the time when the United Kingdom was under direct threat of invasion; following the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk and prior to victory in the Battle of Britain. The darkest moment is usually considered to have been 10 May 1941, when over 1,500 civilians died in Luftwaffe bombing raids on London alone.

Although the British empire was the only major power fighting the Germans and Italians during the period, it was not the only major power fighting the Axis as a whole. China had been engaging the Japanese since 1937, after the Japanese launched an all-out invasion. Some minor powers were also fighting the Germans and Italians: Greece fought the Axis powers from October 1940 when it defeated the Italian troops until June 1941 when Crete surrendered to the Germans. Winston Churchill[1] and Charles de Gaulle[2] both praised Greece's exceptional heroism at a point where many peoples were subjugated and the Axis seemed undefeated.


  • "This was their finest hour" - Speech by Winston Churchill; June 18, 1940; House of Commons[3]
  • "War of the Unknown Warriors" - Speech by Winston Churchill; July 14, 1940; BBC Broadcast, London[3]