The outbreak of war
8 September 1939
AS MR CHAMBERLAIN claimed in the momentous broadcast statement on Sunday morning, in which he announced that Great Britain and the German Reich are at war, this country has no need to fear the verdict of history. Mr Chamberlain has done everything possible to avoid war. Indeed, he and Lord Halifax have shown a patience which has been mistaken for pusillanimity. Unable to understand the bases of Christian and democratic statesmanship, Herr Hitler persuaded himself that Great Britain would never tire of turning the other cheek. He did not realize that there is a limit to patience, and that compromise may mean the surrender of national duty as well as national security. So war has been forced on Great Britain and many other nations by the insensate and wicked ambition of one man.
This country is not fighting for Danzig. It is not fighting for Poland. It is fighting for the independence of nations, the liberties of mankind, vital ideals of the Christian religion, a good life. The world is menaced by what the Times called on Monday “the hoariest and most illusory aspirations of pagan nationalism”. If Hitlerism is not destroyed, Europe first, and the whole world afterwards, will be forced back into an era darker than the dark ages.
The purpose of the war
15 September 1939
WE ARE reproached by certain of our correspondents, for whose opinions we have a profound respect, for agreeing that war had become unavoidable, and for accepting the claim that the one purpose of the war is to destroy Hitlerism. For months we expressed in these columns the belief that war could be avoided, giving the reasons for the faith that was in us. That belief remained until the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact. We are convinced that the British Government did all that could be done to prevent war. It is now abundantly clear that Herr Hitler was determined to bring all Central Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, under the iron Nazi rule. Europe is to be enslaved, or Europe is to be free. That is the alternative. And Hitlerism, relying on the ruthless use of force, can only be destroyed by force. That is our position, which we have endeavoured before to make quite clear. It is, we believe, in accord with Catholic tradition and Catholic teaching. It is, we believe, justified by St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. For Great Britain this is a war for a great and a righteous cause. We agree with our correspondents that there is ample reason in history for fearing that, before the end, the cause may be forgotten, and that death and destruction may engender a foul brood of hatred and revenge. That, as we said last week, is the task of the Church to prevent — we quote the Bishop of Chichester — “by being a fountain of prayer, and by offering what the Church is divinely commissioned to offer to human beings — reconciliation with God, the worship of the family of God, the teaching of the Gospel about God’s purpose for human life now and the life of the world to come, and the proclaiming of the love of God for all men and all nations, as their common Father.”
PAThe Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, leaves No. 10 Downing Street as war is declared against Germany on 3 September 1939
The Russian invasion of Poland
22 September 1939
THE Russian invasion of Poland was another act of wanton and cynical aggression, which proved that a new partition of Poland was determined when Herr von Ribbentrop was with M. Stalin. Poland has been subdued by the German armies at considerable cost. At the eleventh hour, Russia has snatched her share of the spoils. So far the Kremlin has had the best of the bargain. Holding the eastern provinces of Poland, she may be able to compel the Baltic republics into the Soviet Union. With her troops on the Polish-Rumanian frontier, she may make it difficult for Germany economically and politically to swallow Rumania, which may be Herr Hitler’s next objective. And it seems doubtful whether any really effective support is likely to be given by Russia to Germany in the struggle in the West. It may be, as Trotsky alleges, that Stalin has betrayed the cause of international Communism, and that he is now only concerned with Imperialistic schemes and the preservation of his own personal power. Rut even if this be so, the German domination of Central and South-Eastern Europe is the last thing that M. Stalin can desire.
The sinking of HMS Courageous
22 September 1939
THE sinking of H.M.S. Courageous was another chapter to the splendid story of the British Navy. There is the traditional calm heroism inherited from generations of British seamen, in the last moments of Captain Makeig-Jones, left alone on his quarterdeck, saluting the White Ensign, and then plunging into the sea. The entire crew showed the same cool courage, laughing and joking while they were swimming for their lives. The sinking of the Courageous was a fair act of war and a fine and daring achievement. “If anyone deserves the Iron Cross, it’s those U-boat men,” said one of the British survivors. “They must have known they were going to certain death when they attacked us. I take off my hat to men like that.” The fraternity of the brave does something to mitigate the beastliness of war, and it is the bounden duty of the Christian to recognize the virtues of the enemy and not to exaggerate his vices. Nothing is more despicable than the habit of those in comparative safely who find any satisfaction in “killing Kruger with their mouths”. There is a proper Christian hatred of the ruthless cruelty of the Hitler regime; but hatred of sin does not mean spluttering abuse of the sinner, and some of the references to Herr Hitler in one popular newspaper are deplorable. Again we urge, “let us look to ourselves.” We must be careful not to claim Almighty God as our partisan,” says the always helpful Ilico. “We hope and believe that. He approves our cause. But does He approve of us?”
The war budget
29 September 1939
SIR JOHN SIMON’s War Budget is, in effect, the mobilization of the whole of the nation’s financial resources against the forces of aggression and destruction. The large increase in Income Tax will seriously affect the men with comparatively small professional incomes, among whom is the great majority of the clergy. The demands that are to be made by the Government must mean less spending and a general avoidance of unnecessary luxury which may possibly have an admirable effect on the nation’s moral fibre. But the difficulty is that it is almost impossible suddenly to reduce expenditure and to escape from obligations, while in many cases the increased taxation will have to be paid out of a considerably decreased income. It is to be feared that many societies that depend on voluntary subscriptions will suffer severely, and it should be impressed on the consciences of all Churchpeople that, however else they may be forced to retrench, it is as much their duty to make it possible for the work of the Church to continue as it is their duly to support the nation in this time of stress. With such heavy demands being made on the taxpavers, it is the bounden duty of the Government without delay drastically to deal with the waste of public money by addle-pated bureaucrats, which has become a gross scandal. We regret, too, that in his Budget speech, Sir John Simon said nothing about measures to be taken to defeat the tax-dodger, while the proposals for dealing with the war profiteer are far too gentle. So there it is. Hitlerism has to be defeated, and we must pay and look as pleasant as we can.
Sinking of the Royal Oak
IN HIS statement in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Winston Churchill paid tribute to the skill and daring of the captain and crew of the U-boat that sunk the Royal Oak. With grief for the loss of eight hundred British seamen, there is considerable misgiving caused by this proof that ships anchored in Scapa Flow are no longer protected from submarine attack, as they were twenty years ago, and it is to be hoped that Mr Churchill will publish the conclusions of the naval experts now inquiring into all the circumstances. Ships at anchor have been shown this week to be in even greater danger from attack from the air than from attack by submarines. The raids at Rosyth and Scapa were unsuccessful, and the enemy suffered considerable losses, but it is clear that the naval bases need adequate equipment to beat off a much larger number of bombers than were concerned in this week’s raids. The increasing success of the Navy in the destruction of submarines suggests the hope that the U-boat menace may soon cease to exist. But the danger from the air will certainly remain. It should, we think, be noted that, in the raid at Rosyth, naval objectives alone were attacked, and that no bombs were dropped on the civil population.
Russian invasion of Finland
8 December 1939
THE Russian invasion of Finland, with the bombing of Helsinki and the consequent killing and wounding of the civil population, has shocked an already sufficiently horrified world. Justified by a blatant lie, indicative of a complete abandonment of the policy of international Communism, begun with a disregard for decency and humanity, the invasion is an example of cynical wickedness that might fill Frederick the Great with envy. It is useless to repeat the expression of indignant anger aroused week after week by the wanton cruelty from which a great part of Europe is suffering, and the continued threats that are keeping the rulers of all the small liberty-loving nations awake at night. The Christian may well ask with Job: “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?”
15 December 1939
THE Finns are putting up a stubborn and not unsuccessful resistance, and the failure of the Russians hitherto to break that resistance seems to suggest considerable justification for belief that the quantity of the Red Army is far greater than its quality, that it is ill-equipped, comparatively badly armed, and not too well led. Indeed, that could hardly be expected after the military purges of the past few years. However, there would only seem one possible end to a war in which a nation of three millions is confronted with a nation of a hundred and eighty millions; and without a miracle the area of despotism, cruelty and godlessness appears sadly likely to be extended.
12 January 1940
RATIONING has begun. As the war goes on, it will be more comprehensive and thorough, though the Minister of Food has given the comfortable assurance that there is not, neither is there likely to be, any real food shortage. But the avoidance of waste is now an imperative duty. It is an old and familiar story that the English are the most wasteful people in Europe. England’s dustbin is the secret of England’s weakness. The dustbins are still being filled and their contents thrown away, while, as Sir Percy Harris has pointed out, on thousands of farms poultry and pigs are being sacrificed for want of food. The first essential is that the English woman should imitate her French sister and by good cooking make palatable and nourishing a great deal that is now thrown away. The second is that she should be convinced that her business is to avoid waste and win the war. But if she is to perform this national duty, she must have official assistance. To quote Sir Percy: “First, the good will of the local authorities must be secured; secondly, a leaflet should be printed stating what part of kitchen waste is suitable for the purpose; thirdly, every householder must be supplied with two containers, one for dust and a second for ‘swill tub’; fourthly, the good will and interest of the housewife must be obtained.” The position is put plainly — and again we are indebted to Sir Percy Harris — in the ancient jingle:
Dearly beloved brethren, is it not a sin
To peel raw potatoes, and throw away the skin?
The skins feed the pigs; the pigs feed you,
Dearly beloved brethren, is not this true?
The Altmark incident
23 February 1940
NO ONE in this country is likely to fail in appreciation of the difficulties of the small neutral Powers, some of which are literally between the devil and the deep sea. But Mr Chamberlain was fully justified in the criticism, in his speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday, of the Norwegian Government’s attitude to the Altmark. There was no pretence that the ship was an unarmed merchantman until the British seamen were released from brutal imprisonment after an adventure the story of which will live with a hundred other records of brave and expert British achievement on the seas.
The Altmark is a lightly armed auxiliary to the German cruisers, her business being to refuel them and to take off the prisoners from sunken Allied ships. All the world knew that. The Norwegian Prime Minister has practically admitted that he knew it. When the Graf Spee found shelter in Montevideo, the first action of her commander, a gallant and unlucky gentleman, was to land his prisoners. The Altmark entered Norwegian territorial waters, and neither offered, nor was ordered, to land her prisoners. On the contrary, she was given full permission to continue her voyage in Norwegian waters, and with a Norwegian escort. The Norwegian captain refused the British request that the Altmark should be taken into Bergen under a joint British and Norwegian crew, and the only alternative for H.M.S. Cossack was forcibly to release the three hundred British subjects who had been for weeks the victims of typical Nazi brutality.
The Russo-Finnish peace treaty
15 March 1940
ON TUESDAY afternoon M. Daladier announced in the French Chamber of Deputies that the Allied Governments were ready to send a force of 50,000 men to the help of Finland, if the Finnish Government appealed to them. The force was ready to sail, and the shipping was arranged. The expedition, however, could not reach Finland without “the complete support of the populations of Sweden and Norway”. That complete support has never been forthcoming, and the formal appeal, to which M. Daladier referred, has not been made. And on Tuesday evening the representatives of Finland signed a peace treaty in Moscow, which cedes many, if not all, Russia’s original demands.
It is too soon to know what the result will be, but Finnish valour appears to have saved the independence of the nation. It was obvious weeks ago that, without considerable aid, Finland could not for long hold back the attacks of the Red hordes. It is probable that she would have made concessions at the beginning had she not believed that Sweden and Norway would realize the jeopardy in which the independence of Scandinavia would stand with Finland conquered, and that their armies would be sent against the Russians. But fear has had another triumph. Sweden and Norway were intimidated into neutrality.
The peace is acclaimed in Berlin. With the end of the Finnish fighting it is hoped that Russia will be able to increase her supplies to Germany, but whether the strengthening of the Soviet position in the Baltic will ultimately be advantageous to the Reich remains to be seen. For the rest of the world, the one satisfactory side of another tragic story is the proof that the Red army is badly equipped and badly led.
M. Reynaud replaces M. Daladier
29 March 1940
THE French system of a dozen different Parliamentary groups always makes stable government difficult, but the substitution of M. Reynaud for M. Daladier as Prime Minister does not mean any modification of the resolve of the French people to carry the war to a successful end. On the contrary, it will probably prove that M. Reynaud is more likely to have inherited the mantle of M. Clemenceau than his predecessor. As Finance Minister, he has shown himself a strong and far-sighted statesman, and he will doubtless have the necessary push to carry out the policy laid down by the Chamber, “to take immediately and in all spheres the measures essential to develop to the utmost the might of France and in accord with our Allies to carry on the war imposed upon us until victory has been achieved.” That is the will of the great majority of the French people, but it would be foolish not to recognize that the Communists ready to obey orders from the Kremlin are far more numerous in France than they are in this country, while German propaganda has been by no means unsuccessful in encouraging a certain measure of defeatism. There is, indeed, a dangerous tendency here to find in Lord Haw-Haw and his colleagues nothing but figures of fun. Dr Goebbels is no fool. His propaganda is having its effect, not only in France, but in the United States, in Italy, in Spain, and in the smaller neutral countries which are by no means convinced that the British Short is the friend and not the German Codlin. And it is doubtful whether this insistent propaganda is being intelligently countered. There is much talk of a possible reconstruction of the British Cabinet, but the Labour Party is still determined not to enter a Coalition Cabinet. Meanwhile, Canada has expressed her wholehearted determination to carry on the war, and its approval of Mr Mackenzie King’s refusal to consider conscription.
UK Cabinet reshuffle
5 April 1940
THE most important ministerial change in the Cabinet reshuffling, announced on Wednesday evening, is the arrangement by which Mr Winston Churchill, while retaining the office of First Lord of the Admiralty, becomes the chairman of the Committee of Service Ministers. He will now be able to use his drive and personality in the general conduct of the war. The one new appointment is that of Lord Woolton as Minister of Food. In the last war, the late Lord Rhondda was an outstanding success at the Food Ministry, and Mr Chamberlain has quite properly come to the conclusion that the position needs a man who is not a mere politician, but who has had long experience of business. Sir Kingsley Wood exchanges offices with Sir Samuel Hoare, one of the Ministers of genuine ability who has already had seven years’ experience as Air Minister. For the rest, the reshuffle does not appear greatly to strengthen the administration. Mr Chamberlain has been hampered by the refusal of the Opposition parties to accept office, but we regret that he has not seen his way to the appointment of a small War Cabinet of Ministers without departmental duties, as has been urged in the Times and elsewhere.
German invasion of Denmark and Norway
12 April 1940
THE long expected, more intensive phase of the war began on Monday with the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. Denmark was swallowed in a night, and the Germans not only occupied Oslo, but they also contrived to seize Norway’s Western ports. This surprising achievement proved that the hostile move against the Scandinavian countries had heen carefully planned, and it was certainly carried out with skill and daring. It is unnecessary to stress Herr Hitler’s entire disregard for the independence of small nations, and his equal disregard for treaties to which he has himself subscribed. He has again acted according to the principles of brute force, which have from the beginning determined his policy. His objective was, of course, to break the British blockade, and to secure bases on the Atlantic for submarine and aerial attacks on Great Britain and British shipping. On Wednesday the Allied fleets and air forces vigorously attacked, and there was bitter and prolonged fighting all along the Norwegian coast. We are writing before Mr Winston Churchill’s statement to the House of Commons, and therefore without any official knowledge of the details of the battle. But the brief Admiralty statement, the German admissions, and reports from neutral countries justify the belief that the enemy has suffered very heavy losses, with the probability of being compelled to surrender the ports that have been captured. If this be so, the battle may have a vital effect on the course of the war. That after months of comparative inaction Herr Hitler should have taken what was obviously a great risk suggests that the blockade is more effective than has been admitted, and that the Führer felt compelled to take some spectacular action to satisfy popular demand. In any case, this week is almost certainly the beginning of heavy and continued fighting on land, on the sea and in the air.
German invasion of the Low Countries
17 May 1940
SINCE the publication of our last number, one more nation has lost its freedom. The Dutch, with their long history of independence, commercial prosperity and distinctive culture, have followed the Czechs, the Poles, the Danes and the Norwegians into Nazi helotry. In five days Herr Hitler destroyed the fine national edifice, the foundations of which were laid by William the Silent. It would be merely idle to attempt to minimize the serious consequences of Herr Hitler’s latest success. It is, however, possible to exaggerate its value to the enemy. In the last war, Holland was definitely pro-German, and she waxed fat through the supplies that reached Germany from her ports. Now those ports will be closed by the Allied blockade. The crumbling of the Dutch defences came as no great surprise to informed observers of international affairs. Not only is there a large and influential German colony in Holland, but there is a stronger Nazi party there than in any other country outside the Reich. The Germans were opposed by a divided nation, otherwise the landing of troops from parachutes could not have had its considerable success. They fell among friends. As is usual, the aggression was carefully planned and carried out. But before it was launched, Herr Hitler knew that there was a dragon’s crop of Quislings ready to render him their aid.
Mr Churchill replaces Mr Chamberlain
17 May 1940
THE debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, with the heavy fall in the Government’s majority, demonstrated a want of confidence shared by men of all parties, and, as we wrote last week, it made fundamental changes in the administration unavoidable. The latest Nazi aggressions made a Government of national unity and security absolutely essential, and Mr Chamberlain, realizing that no such Government was possible under his leadership, resigned his office, announcing the fact to the world in a broadcast message admirable in its simplicity and its dignity. Mr Churchill was his inevitable successor, and it may well be that he is destined to be the British Clemenceau of the second world war. Nothing could have been better than his speech in the House of Commons on Monday, with his quotation from Garibaldi and his reproduction of Clemenceau’s clarion call to the French in 1917, when, it is well to remember, things were far blacker for the Allies than they are to-day. Most of Mr Churchill’s appointments will confirm the country’s faith in his judgment as well as in his courage, determination and vision. He has reduced the War Cabinet to five, four of whom have no departmental preoccupations. Here party has dictated selection and the personnel is not too strong. But Mr Churchill will be the War Cabinet, as, to a considerable extent, Mr Lloyd George was twenty-four years ago.
‘Gravest moment in our history’
24 May 1940
IT IS the mission of the Christian religion to enable men to have peace in their hearts however untoward the circumstances of their lives may be. With that peace peril may be faced with resolution, suffering can be endured with patience, and even disaster cannot destroy faith. We are living in the gravest moment in the history of our nation, in one of the most momentous crises in the history of the world. God, and He only, can be our stay and our refuge. The successful German push into France, with the complete failure of the French to offer any sort of effective resistance, has been a shocked surprise to all but a few expert observers, including the military correspondent of the Times. It was supposed that the Ardennes were an impregnable barrier to a German push through on the left of the Maginot Line, but the French command, whose intelligence service is obviously inefficient, knew nothing of the capacity of the German giant tanks, and was apparently unprepared for the enemy’s plan of campaign, though it was almost exactly the same as in the conquest of Poland. The Germans have vast material, daring and skill. Their success has been enormously assisted by what M. Reynaud described as “incredible blunders”. In this black week the nation may well lift up its eyes unto the hills from whence cometh help.
Miracle of Dunkirk
7 June 1940
TO-DAY it is more than ever true that no man can tell what a day may bring forth, and the commentator may be hopelessly out-of-date before his comments are circulated. In the middle of last week it seemed that the Allied troops had no alternative to capitulation or annihilation. But the most successful retreat in military history had already begun, to be followed by the embarkation from the Dunkirk beaches, under heavy artillery and aeroplane attacks, made possible by a combination of skill and daring (the chaplains playing their full part) that has aroused the admiration of the whole world and has filled the country with pride. The steadiness of the troops, the co-operation of the Navy and the R.A.F., the almost unbelievable pluck of the men who brought their small craft across the Channel, together make a soul-stirring story which fathers will tell their sons so long as men value fine deeds and rate above all their fellows him who is willing to give his life for his friends. Thanks to a fatal inferiority in aeroplanes, and thanks to the treachery of the King of the Belgians, the Allied army was defeated. But the defeat was saved from being a disaster. The armies are in being. Much has been lost. Much of greater value has been saved. The morale of the British and the French is unbroken. Their determination to win is greater than ever. The battle of Flanders was a glorious defeat.
Italy declares war on the Allies
14 June 1940
MUSSOLINI has waited long enough before declaring war to assure himself a place in history with the contemptible and the mean. If he had joined Hitler in September, he might have found not dishonourable excuse. But he has waited until France is fighting for her life to declare war, and has accompanied his decision with mouthing rhodomontade and lying hypocrisy. Since the beginning of the war, and for what seemed good reason, Allied statesmen and Allied newspapers have been studiedly pacific in their references to Italy, and everything possible has been done to satisfy reasonable Italian aspirations. It has been fully recognized that, while the bulk of the German nation has been hynotized into joyful support of Hitler’s savagery, the majority of Italians have dreaded the idea of war, and, as has been said more than once in these columns, there was some hope that the influence of the Pope, the King and popular opinion would prevent the gangster of Rome joining the gangster of Berlin. But the truth is that gangsters, like better men, are compelled to act after their kind. Roman Catholic apologists in this country have endeavoured to discover essential differences between Naziism and Fascism. There is no such essential difference. Both Hitler and Mussolini have sneered at scruples and mercy and justice. Mussolini was as pitiless in Abyssinia as Hitler was in Poland, though not perhaps so thorough. Mussolini is, indeed, Villain No. 2, and he has done exactly what the lesser villain always does. He is the jackal. He has waited his time for the opportunity to share some of the spoils with the least possible risk. The decision may have been taken with some misgiving, for Mussolini is no fool. But he has been dazzled by the success achieved by the ruthless use of force, and he has obviously feared that, if he tarries any longer, none of the swag will be his.
Battle of France lost
21 June 1940
THE battle of France is lost. The battle of Britain will soon begin. That is the Prime Minister’s message to the nation. His speech on Tuesday was straightforward, candid and heartening, the speech of a leader, sure of himself and confident of his followers. He bluntly refused the inquest into the blundering of the past, demanded in certain quarters, while incidentally remarking, after lamenting that we have not an air force equal to the German, “we were promised it five years ago.” He repeated the warning that air raids on a large scale are certain, and an attempt at invasion probable. He protested that all the aid the French had been led to expect had been sent, and he suggested, without unduly pressing the point, that the miscalculation of the French High Command that prevented any effective resistance to the first German attack was responsible for all that has happened since. The battle of France was lost in the first days. France staked her existence on the Maginot Line. Hitler marched round it as if it did not exist, a proceeding which the French Command, bound by tradition, never supposed that he would do. Hitler is as bold, original and resourceful as he is ruthless. He knows how to wage war.
28 June 1940
MR CHURCHILL was obviously well advised in avoiding anything like recrimination in his review of the conditions that have followed Marshal Pétain’s surrender. The suggestion that Great Britain failed to carry out her obligations to her Ally is without foundation, and, though there is in this country the painful consciousness of blunders, hesitancies and miscalculations, there can be no question that the overthrow of the French armies was due to the incompetence of French Generals and the intrigues of French politicians. The Italian terms are less humiliating than was expected, but this is obviously due to Hitler’s decision not to let Mussolini have too large a share of the swag, which Italy has done little or nothing to secure. As for the German terms, in effect they reduce France to the position of helpless and hopeless vassalage to the Nazis. And it is pathetic that, after having acquiesced in his country’s surrender, the octogenarian Marshal should prate about honour on the wireless which the German authorities kindly allowed him to use!
Britain the ‘bastion of Christendom’
28 June 1940
AT THIS grimmest moment in the modern history of the world it has been ordained by divine Providence that the British people should be chosen with their brethren from across the seas to stand alone against the embattled forces of evil. For that privilege and vocation they should humbly thank God, trustfully take courage, and steadfastly endure the conflict until Armageddon is won. . .
It was the immense achievement of Queen Elizabeth, that redoubtable lady with no great regard herself for religion, to save her country both from Genevan tyranny and from Roman Imperialism. It is in this country, too, that from the days of St Thomas of Canterbury, who, when he returned from exile was welcomed by Kentish fishermen wading deep into the sea, and Laud, for whom the common people of London wept when he was taken from Lambeth to the Tower, to Scott Holland and Gore, the Church has, again with many falterings, proclaimed that its first business is with the lives, both here and in the world to come, of the common people.
This England is instinctively and to the depths of its soul religious. Its deep-seated sense of providence and duty, of right and wrong, of decency and toleration, finds fit expression in the good humour and good sense of everyday people, in their incapacity to hate, in the readiness to forgive, in the contempt of pride and shame and bestiality. If England were to die, all those practical things which our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount told us to cherish, would undergo eclipse. Britain to-day is the bastion of Christendom. If it were conquered, the world would pass into another dark age, only to emerge after generations of suffering and bewilderment. But Britain will not die, and British courage, energy, and imagination will once more save Christian civilization.
Russian occupation of Bessarabia
5 July 1940
EACH week brings with it dramatic developments in the international situation. The Russian acquisition of those parts of Rumania which were in the Tsarist Empire before the war of 1914 may have more than one explanation. It is suggested in certain quarters that Stalin’s latest move was made with the full knowledge and consent of Hitler and Mussolini. But seeing that the Russian occupation of Bessarabia may cut Germany off from a considerable supply of winter food, this agreement seems to us at least doubtful. It seems more likely that the Russian action was determined by the Soviet Government’s conviction that its territorial integrity would be threatened by a German-Italian control of the Balkans. There is considerable significance, too, in the report that numbers of Jews, who have been almost as cruelly persecuted in Rumania as in Germany, promptly made tracks into Bessarabia after the arrival of the Red troops. At the same time, the not inconsiderable German population of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina made tracks into Rumania proper. This constant and more or less forcible migration of populations is not the least of the many tragedies of the times. Rumania has had her day of mourning. King Carol is reported to have appealed in vain to Hitler and Mussolini. The country is weakened by internal dissensions. The throne is none too secure. The action of Russia may bring the whole of the Balkan peninsula again into the melting-pot. As we go to press, it seems likely that Hungary and Bulgaria will, with the support of Hitler, forcibly claim their parts of what is now Rumanian territory.
Propaganda and truth
2 August 1940
WHILE Dr Goebbels, through the press and the radio, continues to lie, with a wholeheartedness that Satan himself may well envy, the nation has every confidence that in its official news the British Government tells the truth, and nothing but the truth, though it does not always tell the whole truth. Reticence may sometimes be necessary. But we cannot imagine what good end was attained by the suppression of the news of the bombing of the Lancastria off Brest on June 17, until it was revealed in an American newspaper. This certainly was not a case of holding back information likely to be useful to the enemy. They knew all about it, and gleefully announced it on the wireless. Mr Churchill, whose candour is beyond all praise, should, we suggest, for the sake of the national morale, make it clear that this suppression shall not be allowed to become a precedent. We are not at all inclined to be over-critical of the Ministry of Information; but Mr Duff Cooper and Mr Harold Nicolson are becoming over-ingenious busy bees. It is surely a silly waste of time and money to send “Mr and Mrs Sensible” snooping round public-house bars, asking the people, “Are you downhearted?” Knowing something of the sometimes dangerous humour of our fellow-countrymen, we can well imagine the sort of answers they will get, which, having been carefully docketed and analysed, are likely to be extremely misleading. Nothing is more alien to the British temperament than a comic opera Gestapo.
Italians invade Egypt and Somalia
9 August 1940
THIS week the Italians have launched offensives from Abyssinia into British Somaliland, and from Libya against the Egyptian frontier. British Somaliland is mainly a desert country, of so little value that a few years ago the British Government proposed to make a present of it to Abyssinia. The Italian occupation of the coast might, however, prejudice the position of Aden on the opposite shore of the Red Sea. The French capitulation has made it possible for the Italians to withdraw their forces from western Libya for a full concentration on the east. Between Libya and Egypt there is a vast desert region, and it would seem that an attack is only possible along the coast. Apparently, the chances of enemy success depend almost entirely on how far the Italians are being reinforced by German mechanized units. One queer aspect of the situation is that though Egypt is threatened with invasion, the enemy objective, of course, being to reach the west bank of the Suez Canal, she still remains a neutral Power.
16 August 1940
IN THE past few days a continuous battle, ever increasing in intensity, has been raging in the English Channel and on the coast. We are at the beginning of the long threatened Blitzkrieg. This week’s attacks may be the preliminary to an attempt at invasion, or the first stage of an effort to wear down the country’s nerves and to destroy its resources by continued attacks from the air. So far the enemy has been driven off with comparatively heavy losses, owing to the skill, the courage and the enterprise of the R.A.F. And perhaps the most encouraging feature of the situation is the fantastic German claims. As the Times has pointed out, and as is recognized in the American press, it would be impossible in a country, where there is still a free press and where Parliament is functioning, to conceal or understate our losses, and the care that is taken to estimate the enemy’s losses makes it safe to assume that in both respects the British official statements are entirely reliable. At the same time, there is method in the Goebbels propaganda. Tell a lie often enough, Hitler insists in Mein Kampf, and someone will believe it. This is true of the most exaggerated lies. Goebbels realizes, too, that even in England there is a half-belief in the existence of some limit to the ingenuity even of an Ananias, and that even Goebbels may sometimes tell the truth. Hitler, so it was reported, had fixed the Feast of the Assumption as the date for the final overthrow of Great Britain. For once he is behind his schedule, but we may be quite certain that the next few days will see a tremendous effort to obtain, at whatever cost, some spectacular successes, since the months are approaching when both sea and air aggression will become more perilous and more difficult.
Day of prayer
23 August 1940
SEPTEMBER 8 is appointed as a day of prayer. It is, as Cardinal Hinsley has promptly noted, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lady, and English Catholics as well as their Roman brethren may well invoke her prayers. A correspondent makes the admirable suggestion that it should be a whole day of prayer, not merely the occasion on which people, who habitually forget their religious obligations, make a point of going to church. The Archbishops would, indeed, be showing a full appreciation of both the nation’s mind and the nation’s mood if they issued a request for continuous intercession for twenty-four hours in every parish church in the kingdom. Such an instruction would touch the nation’s imagination, and we have no doubt whatever that it would have a wide response.
23 August 1940
THE repeated success of the R.A.F., acting in complete co-ordination with the ground defences, in repelling the mass German attacks with heavy losses to the enemy, justified the heartening tone of the Prime Minister’s speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Mr Churchill was confident but not complacent, and the speech was made the more effective by the happy felicity of phrase only possible to a statesman who is also a man of letters. On Thursday and again on Sunday Hitler threw into the attack far larger forces than had ever approached these shores before, but it is not to be supposed that he has yet reached the maximum of his aggressive strength, and probably after a short lull very much larger numbers of bombers and fighters will have to be repelled. There is every reason to believe that they will be repelled, but not before they have achieved a measure of death and destruction. The nation knows exactly what it is up against, and as the days pass its calm courage increases, the civilian population being keyed to endurance by the devotion and skill of the men on whom falls the chief burden of defence. The R.A.F. is inevitably first in the nation’s mind. “Never”, said Mr Churchill, “in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” But the airmen are not alone in earning their fellows’ gratitude. With them are the men of the ground batteries, who have waited for months patiently preparing and ever increasing in efficiency. And there are the men of the sea, in warships of all sizes, and in the merchant ships that, despite Hitler, are still filling the quaysides of British ports with food and other supplies. The nation is indeed well served.
23 August 1940
THE withdrawal from Somaliland was expected, and, in the circumstances, inevitable. The situation was fully and candidly explained in the communication from the War Office, and again by the Prime Minister. The defection of France made it impossible to hold a province of no economic and little strategical importance. The Italians gain nothing from the use of Berbera as a base, either to interfere with the traffic of the Red Sea or to attempt an attack on Aden, that they had not already acquired by the occupation of Jibuti. But it would be idle to pretend that the withdrawal is not another blow to British prestige, and, loudly acclaimed as a great Italian victory, it may affect opinion in the Near East. Now that the weather is growing cooler, Mussolini may be expected to launch the attack on the Egyptian western frontier. His forces have been badly knocked about from the air and from the sea, and the difficulties of transport remain considerable. But Egypt is the main Italian objective, and the attack is certain to be made.
PARAF pilots relax between sorties, 1 September 1940
Rumania compelled to cede Transylvania
6 September 1940
AS WE anticipated last week, Rumania has been compelled by Hitler to cede a great part of Transylvania to Hungary, and hundreds of thousands of Rumanian peasants are to be handed back to the Magyar overlords, losing all that they have gained through the agrarian reforms since the last war. The Government in Bucarest has submitted to the Nazi threats, and is as subservient as the soi-disant Government in Vichy. But there is turmoil in Transylvania and deep resentment in the Rumanian capital. Recalcitrant generals have been removed or have resigned. But their protests will avail nothing, and if dangerous revolt were to occur, German troops would cross the frontiers into what is left of Rumanian territory. Hitler has gained another diplomatic victory. Rumania is as completely his footstool as Denmark, and another nation with a culture of its own, which is neither Teuton nor Slav, is reduced to vassalage. It is suggested that the orders given to the Rumanians at Vienna must have been made with the knowledge and consent of Russia. We do not pretend to understand M. Stalin’s foreign policy. He has had his own slice of Rumanian territory. Bulgaria, traditionally pro-Russian, has had hers. Stalin may well have agreed to this third despoilment. At the same time, a German-Italian control of the Balkans can hardly suit Stalin’s book. And there remains Yugo-Slavia, fearful of the Germans, loathing the Italians, looking to Russia as Slav to Slav; and Greece, threatened by Italy and looking to Turkey.
6 September 1940
THE Prime Minister is to make another survey of the war situation after we have gone to press, but it is safe to predict that he will have much to say concerning the agreement with the United States, by which Great Britain obtains fifty destroyers, and America the lease of naval and air bases in Newfoundland, the West Indies and British Guiana. Two of these bases are leased without conditions, as a gesture of friendship and sympathy. This agreement is perhaps the most important event since the beginning of the war. It is the logical consequence of the pact for mutual protection between the United States and Canada, the significance of which was not fully appreciated in this country. America now recognizes that her security depends on the existence of an all-powerful British navy. The British Empire realizes that American naval strength in the Atlantic is of vast concern to the Empire as well as to the Republic. With a powerful American naval force in the Caribbean Sea there is no possibility of the German seizure of the French and Dutch possessions, nor of any attack on the South American Republics.
French Equatorial Africa joins de Gaulle
6 September 1940
THE decision of the French central African colonies to repudiate the Vichy soi-disant Government and to join General de Gaulle may have considerable influence on the war in the East, and has significance from more than one point of view. The French military and civil officials in Equatorial Africa are removed from the defeatist influences that engineered the pitiful capitulation of the Republic, and they have doubtless been affected by native opinion, which has always been more influential in the French than in the British African possessions. It is extremely significant that M. Evoné, the Governor of the Lake Chad territory, is a highly intelligent Negro. The African remembers Abyssinia, and he knows what Hitler wrote of him in Mein Kampf. Let it be admitted the black men have no great reason to love the white men who have seized the material possession of their countries, and have reduced them to the position of helots in their own lands. But they can distinguish, and they know by experience the difference between British and French rule (in many respects the French rule has been the more intelligent) and the rule of the hectoring German and of the Italian with his inferiority complex. M. Evoné gave the lead for Free France in Equatorial Africa. It has been followed in the islands of the Pacific. It may be followed in the North African colonies. France, in this the heir of the Roman Empire, has given her coloured subjects all the rights of citizenship. M. Evoné has dramatically demonstrated their intention to remain free citizens of a free State.
Growing intensity of the Blitz
13 September 1940
WAR conditions have compelled us to go to press hours earlier than usual, and significant events may have occurred before this number reaches our readers. As we write, the Battle of London grows in intensity. The losses in material and in human life are heavy, though, as was suggested by the Prime Minister in his speech on Thursday of last week, it is not very heavy when the huge area of London and its immense population are remembered. The worst may not, indeed probably has not yet happened. But up to now it can be safely said that there has been no such destruction of food, factories or public services as can affect, in the smallest degree, the public confidence in the ultimate triumph of decency over the legions of the devil. In our last week’s issue, we urged that English people, now being more hardly tried than they have ever been tried before, should thank God for being English. Our insistence has been again justified by the courage and the unconquerable good humour with which the people of London have endured the battering of the Nazi bombers this week. They have grinned with half-amused patience when they have heard “the banshee howlings” of the sirens. They have taken refuge in the shelters with admirable discipline. They have seen their homes destroyed, with the full confidence that new and perhaps better homes will be theirs. They have faced the possibility of violent death unafraid.
Heroes of the London Blitz
20 September 1940
IT IS with pride that we report this week some of the examples of the courage of the London clergy, led and inspired by the Bishops and their Suffragans, and of their devotion to their people. The London priest is worthy of the London poor, and what better thing could be said of him? And in these nights, when men, women and children are in the first line of battle, London has been learning, perhaps a little to its surprise, what sort of men its priests are. In more than one instance, they have tackled problems which should have been considered by the authorities, and in many instances, too, they have cut the knots of red tape and compelled dilatory authorities to move. . . .
Hardly a day passes without some outstanding deed of daring and devotion to duty which fills the nation’s heart with pride and confirms its faith in ultimate triumph. This week the names of the heroes of St Paul’s have been added to the Golden Book of the People. For three days, half a dozen young men dug round a huge enemy bomb that had buried itself in the forecourt of the Cathedral. They were experts. They knew all about the danger that they were facing. They knew that the bomb might explode at any minute, and that the consequences would be certain death for them. But they dug and they dug and they dug, with extraordinary care and extraordinary patience, dealing with electric cables and all sorts of other contraptions, and finally dragging the bomb out and saving St Paul’s. It is an epic story, and not least in its final incident, when the officer in charge of the party assumed the final risk and by himself drove the lorry on which the bomb had been placed to Hackney Marshes. We like to think that Christopher Wren may perhaps know how his masterpiece was saved, and we trust that, when Canon Cockin expressed the thanks of the Dean and Chapter in the appropriate British manner, the bomb squadron realized that he was the spokesman of the people of London, and of the whole English-speaking world.
The Dakar incident
11 October 1940
IN HIS speech in the House of Commons, Mr Churchill frankly admitted that, in the deplorable Dakar incident, someone blundered, and blundered very badly. It is, indeed, amazing to be told that neither the First Sea Lord nor the War Cabinet knew that the French ships were approaching Gibraltar until it was too late to stop them from passing through the Straits. The Intelligence Service, so admirable in the last war, seems sadly inadequate. The Nation certainly cannot afford such ‘’mischances”, to use Mr Churchill’s euphemistic term, as the Dakar affair, and we are glad to note the outspoken criticisms in both the Lords and the Commons. In his general survey, the Prime Minister again warned the country against wishful optimism — “long, dark months of trials and tribulations lie before us” — while he was able to emphasize the success with which German attacks have been met, and to hint at the probability of even more effective defence. The R.A.F. attacks in Germany have been intensified, and have resulted in frantic denunciation of Mr Churchill in the press and on the air, and threats of vengeance which include “the complete annihilation of London”.
Mr Chamberlain resigns from Government
11 October 1940
MR CHAMBERLAIN’s resignation finishes a chapter of British history. With the majority of the people of this country we applauded what has since become clear was his tragic journey to Munich. We believed that the longer war was postponed, the less likely it was to occur, and since at the time it seemed to us that the Munich policy was justified, we are certainly not inclined to join the now popular denunciation of “the men of Munich”. Mr Chamberlain was unquestionably fooled by Hitler, and he was misled by the men whom he had unfortunately chosen as his chief advisers. History will have to record that he brought nothing back from the Bavarian capital except his umbrella. Mr Chamberlain has always been a sincere, bourgeois pacifist, the heir of the Bright middle-class tradition that peace should be bought at almost any price. Neither temperament nor experience enabled him to understand Hitler or to realize the immensity of his plans or the thoroughness of his preparations. Mr Chamberlain has remained what he was when he first entered the House of Commons, the entirely efficient Lord Mayor of Birmingham, and Birmingham does not breed Hitlers or Mussolinis. It is the unique distinction of Mr Churchill that, almost alone among the politicians of all parties, he understood the Hitler menace from the beginning, and appreciated its power for conquest and destruction.
Italy invades Greece
1 November 1940
MUSSOLINI is in one respect showing a small improvement in decency. He invaded Albania on Good Friday. His troops crossed the Greek frontiers on the Feast of St Simon and St Jude, a day of far less sacred significance. The invasion was preceded by the familiar lying excuses. The Greeks, like the Czechs and the Poles, are accused of hostile action against Italy, which no one in the world believes. It is part of the Axis plan that Italy should control the Greek ports as bases for the attempt to drive the British fleet out of the Mediterranean and to secure control of the Middle East. The Greek Government refused to surrender the ports, so Greece is to be bombed and battered into submission and slavery. The invasion has been carefully planned. We think it is probable that the Italian forces in Albania have been reinforced by hundreds of the German dive bombers which broke the Poles, contrived the defeats in Flanders, and have recently been withdrawn from the attacks on Great Britain. The Greeks are weak in aeroplanes and tanks, and, without substantial aid, it is hardly to be believed that they can effectively resist a far better equipped army.
UK lands forces in Crete
8 November 1940
BRITISH forces have landed in Crete, and we should suppose that other of the Greek islands, with valuable harbours and air bases, will also be occupied. We have no desire to join the multitude of amateur strategists, but it would seem impossible, in view of the threat to Egypt, to send any considerable British forces to the Greek mainland. As we have suggested, the continual pounding of the enemy’s supply bases is the most effective help that can be given to the Athens Government. For years the relations between the English Church and the Orthodox Church in Greece have been close and cordial, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was speaking for the whole Church, its priests and its laity, in the brotherly message that he has sent to the Archbishop of Athens.
Fighter-pilots like medieval knights
8 November 1940
A SECOND dangerous suggestion is made by Dr Gilbert Murray in the course of an article in the Quarterly. He considers that the infinite moral danger of war is illustrated by the fact that a young airman, after a fierce combat in the clouds, describes it as “the happiest moment in my life”. In contrast to Dr Murray, we think this is a natural and unsentimental expression of the spirit of self-sacrifice. Whatever may be its inevitable blunders and misunderstandings, this war is a righteous war, and there is every reason to rejoice in the gay courage of the men fighting for a great cause. The aeroplane has brought back the single combats of the mediaeval knights. Individual skill and individual courage have become of infinite value, and we certainly find nothing un-Christian in the fact that young men go into battle, as the late Walter Raleigh said of the Cavaliers, with a feather in their caps. They are laughingly scornful of death. They are intent, not so much on killing Germans, as, quite consciously, on saving those things which love of God and love of their country have taught them to value. Dr Murray is fearful that “the prosaic virtues of self-control, moderation, honesty, diligence and care for truth” may be killed by the war spirit. We have no such fear as the consequence of that spirit that is sending men to face peril in the air, on the sea and in fighting the flames of burning homes. No good thing was ever preserved by men afraid to die. Let us thank God in these days of peril for the laughing Cavaliers, “in their heart of hearts believing victory crowns the just”.
Battle of Taranto
22 November 1940
MR CHURCHILL was fully justified in describing the report of the destruction of a considerable part of the Italian fleet at Taranto as “good news”, good news, that the nation needed, of a highly successful and possibly decisive operation, as skilful as the saving of the convoy by the Jervis Bay was heroic in the great Nelson tradition. We leave to the experts consideration of the various aspects of the Taranto engagement that may occur even to the layman. The failure of the Italians to invade Greece — even successfully to resist Greek counter-attacks — the keeping of the Italian fleet in harbour open to destructive attack without adequate anti-aircraft defence, the long delay in Libya, taken together, certainly suggest that Mussolini can achieve little or nothing without larger German reinforcements and possibly without skilful German leadership. To beg for that aid will be a sad blow to the Duce’s prestige, and the harder and more often Italian cities can be attacked, the sooner will the Italian people be persuaded that the game is not worth the candle. Mussolini’s grotesque claims in his speech on Monday and his attempt to minimize the Taranto defeat were proofs of Italian discomfort. It is much to be regretted that there has been such a long delay in publishing the photographs of Taranto. Mussolini has only dared to deny what the Admiralty never claimed. But the photographs would serve to substantiate the Admiralty reports, to the further heartening of the nation and its friends, and might well supply proof that the British claims have been understated.
Bombing of Coventry
22 November 1940
THE bombing of Coventry was a dramatic example of the frightfulness of modern war. It is declared by the Nazi newspapers to be a reprisal for the bombing of Munich. Coventry possesses important industrial works, and in the endeavour to destroy them, the enemy has gutted a cathedral, wrecked a city of charm and character, killed and badly wounded a thousand civilians, and rendered many thousands more homeless. À la guerre, comme à la guerre. This is war as it is waged to-day. The people of Coventry have borne their affliction with a courage equal to that of the people of London. In so far as the bombardment from so high an altitude that accuracy of aim was impossible was intended to break the morale of the Midlands, it has been as complete a failure as the nightly attempts to break the morale of the capital. The assistance services seem to have functioned speedily and successfully. Ministers were soon on the scene to collaborate with the local authorities, and the King followed to convey to the citizens the sympathy of all their fellow-countrymen. Other cities may suffer as.Coventry has suffered before the war is over; but, as is admitted by the German High Command, these indiscriminate and persistent bombings cannot possibly win the war; nor in the stubborn mood of the British people can they have any serious political or economic result. On the other hand, calculated and repeated destruction of Germany’s oil stores and synthetic oil plants has obviously had both military and political consequences. The limited supply of oil may be already hampering aggressive plans. The need for more oil caused the acquisition of Rumania, the invitation to Molotoff to come to Berlin, and the Italian invasion of Greece as a first step to ensure oil supplies from Russia, Iran and Iraq.
General Wavell launches offensive
20 December 1940
THE brilliantly planned and gallantly carried out operations in the Western Desert have, from many points of view, outstanding historic importance. With the unchecked defeat in Albania, General Wavell’s offensive has smashed Italian prestige in the Near East. Mussolini is in evident danger of losing Libya and the Italian possessions in East Africa. Arab opinion, already pro-British, has become more emphatic in its support of this country, and this may mean the revolt against the Vichy Government both in Syria and in the French North African possessions. There are reports from Italy, more or less reliable, of increasing popular resentment of the war into which Mussolini has led his people. But unless the army revolts, and unless the disillusioned nation finds some magnetic leader, risings would easily be put down. Barricades are of no use against tanks and bombing planes. It is rumoured from America that Hitler is preparing to send an army into northern Italy to prevent organized anti-Fascist movements in the industrial centres, and this may be true. In any case, the next fortnight must be heavy with portentous events. Further British successes on land and sea may well put Germany’s ally out of action, with the result of largely destroying the Axis threat in the Eastern Mediterranean, and making it possible to have part of the Mediterranean British fleet in the Atlantic, and, at the same time, may completely change the situation in the Balkans.
Capture of Bardia
10 January 1940
THE capture of Bardia, with an immense number of prisoners and vast quantities of stores and munitions, is a success of far-reaching importance, and the nation has every cause for gratitude, to General Wavell and his staff, and to the courage and skill of the Imperial Forces under his command. The British losses have been surprisingly small, and since the Italians certainly do not lack courage, there is every justification for the belief that they had no stomach for the fight. The complete failure of the Italian air force both in Albania and the Western Desert is a continued source of surprise, and the lack of any help from Germany, though a large German air force is reported to be in Italy, remains difficult to understand. It would seem that General Wavell is preparing to push further west and to invade Tobruk, but whether he does or not, the Italian threat to Egypt has been destroyed, and her swift defeat jeopardizes her position in Abyssinia and Somaliland. Mussolini’s dream of an African Empire would seem, indeed, to have vanished into very thin air.
Appeal to America
14 February 1941
THE Prime Minister was on the top of his form on Sunday evening. He remains essentially a man of letters as well as a master of rhetoric. There was nothing in his speech so fine as the famous tribute to the R.A.F., “never have so many owed so much to so few”; but the peroration was simply magnificent, and the appeal to America, to whom the speech was primarily addressed, “give us the tools and we will finish the job,” was superb in its employment of simple words in a trumpet-call to a great cause. Scorn for evil men and evil deeds; confidence in the great spirit of a great nation; repeated warning against complacency: all these were packed into half an hour’s talk with a wizard’s skill. “Now fierce and biting in its scorn,” says the New York Sun, “now triumphant in its talk of glory, now solemn and subdued in its warning of danger ahead, finally rising to the very summit of eloquence, this speech could not but have left the English-speaking world with a flame of resolution burning in its heart.”
UK-US Lease-Lend Bill
14 March 1941
THE passing of the Lease-and-Lend Bill through the United States Senate by a larger majority than was anticipated is a tribute to Mr Roosevelt’s supreme political astuteness. He knew exactly what he wanted — authority to make his country the great war arsenal for Great Britain. With his complete understanding of the mentality of American politicians and of the strength and weakness of the forces opposed to him, he also knew exactly how to attain his purpose. Apparently the administration might have shortened the Senate debates. But Mr Roosevelt preferred to allow his opponents — the isolationists, the pacifists and the pro-Germans — to talk themselves out and to demonstrate their futility by their prolixity. Meantime, and while the talking was going on, the President prepared his plan for an immediate delivery to this country of ships, tanks and planes, and he is now authorized to permit British ships to refit in American dockyards, a matter of vast importance. Hitler has been fighting Mr Roosevelt with well-subsidized agitation, comparable to that which worked the undoing of France, and with the subtle encouragement of narrow-visioned idealists, represented by such papers as the Christian Century. And Hitler has been badly beaten.
Battle of the Atlantic
28 March 1941
THE Battle of the Atlantic is being waged with increasing intensity. That was certain to happen. Shipping losses are very serious. The bombing of Plymouth as of other western ports is part of the plan of campaign to cut off supplies. It would seem that Germany has now a considerable force of surface ships in the Atlantic. They will, at least for the time, avoid, if they can, any meeting with British naval forces. Their business is to destroy merchant shipping, not to engage in spectacular and hazardous adventure. All the available sea and air resources of the Empire are mobilized in the Atlantic struggle, and it is not for the half-informed or ill-informed critic to question the strategy that has been adopted. But even the layman can realize that it is far better business to bomb the U-boat bases at Lorient and the bomber aerodromes and to destroy oil storages at Rotterdam, than to terrify the burghers of Berlin.
Yugoslavia toes Axis line
28 March 1941
“AND, vowing that he’d ne’er consent, consented.” Prince Paul, the Regent of Yugo-slavia, has toed the Axis line. After long hesitation and faced by strong popular opposition, the Yugo-slavs have followed the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Rumanians and the Bulgars to the modern Canossa, ready to sign away their nation’s independence. Hitler has won another bloodless victory. The Yugo-slavs will have, of course, received all sorts of pleasant-sounding assurances in Vienna, none of which will be kept one minute longer than is convenient to Hitler. Already Germany has taken control of the Yugo-slav radio. Before these lines are printed, she will probably have taken over the railways, and within a few days there will probably be a double drive through Yugo-slavia and Bulgaria to the Greek frontier. “It is fear, little brother, it is fear,” that has caused this latest surrender. Hitler’s policy of terrorism has again been justified. But except that her cities will not be bombed and her women and children killed and maimed, experience might have taught the Yugo-slav Government that the results of surrender to Hitler are little more endurable than the results of a Nazi conquest. It is only a fortnight ago that Bulgaria surrendered, and Bulgaria is already hungry.
Week of victories
4 April 1941
THIS week has been a week of victories for the free peoples, and a singularly bad week for Oriental tourists in European capitals. Mr Matsuoka must have needed to exercise all his Eastern inscrutability to conceal astonishment and hide misgiving. His carefully organized reception in Berlin coincided with the badly mistimed sideslip of Teutonic nerves-diplomacy in Belgrade. His banquetings in Rome served to celebrate one of the most fearsome series of combined defeats by sea and land which a civilized nation has ever had to face. Crippled by torpedoes from the air, the limping Italian fleet fell by night into the jaws of the fifteen-inch guns at point-blank range, off Cape Matapan. Only Mussolini knows how many of his ships are at the bottom of the Mediterranean, but on any computation the Italian navy has sustained a further deadly wound. While this was happening, the news was announced that Keren the impregnable had fallen, and that Harar had been captured. Since then, Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and Diredawa, the crucial rail and road junction in Abyssinia, have surrendered. The Italian land forces in their East African Empire are shattered and isolated. The cry now is, “Addis Ababa before the rains.” And there is ground for hope that this may be accomplished.
Yugoslavia to resist Axis
4 April 1941
YUGOSLAVIA has regained possession of its soul from the politicians who tried to sell a nation’s soul behind the nation’s back. The Premier’s phrase is wholly justified. What animates the gallant people of that Balkan bastion is the inspiration of a national tradition founded on religion and nourished by its Church. We comment elsewhere on the noble and decisive part played by the Yugoslav Patriarch. As we write, it is stated that Germany has presented three demands on Yugoslavia: an apology for alleged “incidents”, which may not be impracticable; the ratification of some sort of non-aggression pact with Germany, which might possibly be within the region of discussion; and demobilization, which is unthinkable. Yugoslavia has to face dire potentialities, not least of which is a vast temporary concession of territory, should invasion materialize. But there is every sign that the people is united in the absolute determination to defend itself if attacked.
Hitler invades Balkans
10 April 1941
IN THE Totalitarian scheme of life, the worse the deed, the holier the day. Being pressed for time, Hitler could not wait until Good Friday to make his attack on Greece and Yugoslavia. But he followed Mussolini’s precedents with sufficient closeness when he chose Palm Sunday for his latest aggression, and gave notice of his intention to the Greek Government some fifteen minutes after he had started to carry it out. The single-track Nazi mind divides mankind into two classes: Hitler’s slaves and Hitler’s enemies. During the last few days, Hungary has had to be added to the former class, and the British Government has promptly withdrawn its diplomatic representation since Hungary was taken over as a base of operations against the Yugoslavs. But it gives good ground for satisfaction that the remaining free peoples of the Balkans actively affirm their preference for being classified among the enemies of Nazidom. What made their resistance the more gallant was the certainty that any feasible strategic plan must involve initial concessions of territory at certain points. Such things, unfortunately, must be before a famous victory.
Allied defeat in Libya
18 April 1941
THE disappointment of the Libyan campaign is great. To lose most of the territory gained in the spectacular advance of January and February is hard, and the capture of three distinguished Generals by Nazi side-cars, an almost comic accident of the war of movement, is a minor feather in the enemy’s cap. Swift as the enemy has been, however, he was too late to influence the course of events in East Africa and Abyssinia, where provinces of infinitely greater importance have passed finally out of enemy control, and from which Imperial troops are rapidly returning to the defence of Tobruk and the protection of Egypt. The Times reported on Wednesday that the Duke of Aosta had sent an envoy under safe conduct to Diredawa to open a parley with British officers. Taking this in conjunction with the recent surrender of an Italian Divisional General, with a few hundred starving men who represented all that were left of his Division, it seems fairly safe to conclude that the fighting in Abyssinia is really over. It is much for which to be thankful that peace should break out in one quarter of the globe at least. We pray that it may spread as quickly as the war has spread.
Hess lands in Britain
16 May 1941
NOTHING so much relieves anxiety and strain as a hearty laugh. This sovereign remedy was provided in full measure by the announcement to the British public on Tuesday morning that Rudolf Hess had bolted from Germany in an aeroplane, and landed safely in Britain, where he is now under guard. The comedy was immeasurably heightened by the entertaining notice, issued by the German propaganda, that Hess had taken leave of his senses before he took leave of Augsburg. Here was an event which could not be covered up in a blanket of silence. The disappearance of the Führer’s shadow and second deputy for the Leadership could be concealed neither from the world nor from the German people. Hitler has put the best face that he could on the defection. The transparency of his explanations, which amuses the world at large, will not amuse Germany. It shows a crack in the Nazi machinery, and that at least one of the directors of the gang has realized the patent truth, that by their failure to ensure victory this year, the Germans have in fact lost the war.
Italian surrender in Abyssinia
23 May 1941
ABYSSINIA is the one bright star in the war on land, undaunted by any even temporary eclipse. The surrender of the Duke of Aosta with the well-earned honours of war brings to an end all major organized resistance by the Italians in Ethiopia. In view of the amazing distances which have been covered, the immense obstacles to be surmounted and the gallant tenacity displayed by the defeated commander, the achievement of the Imperial Forces and their brilliant leaders deserves all of the high praise which Mr Churchill has bestowed upon it. The news of an advance from Habbaniya towards Baghdad lends a more inspiriting tone to affairs in Iraq, and shows that Britain, too, can find a use for troop-carrying aeroplanes. It is possible that the airborne foray made this week on Crete may have been, not so much a rehearsal for an immediate attack in force, as an attempt to draw off British forces from Iraq and Palestine. Hitler is a past master in the art of keeping his opponents’ attention distracted. But the British command is not only determined to defend Crete, with its strategic air and sea bases, but also well aware of Hitler’s wiliness. If shipments of munitions are reaching Suez on the scale which may be hoped, it will be increasingly difficult to upset the dispositions of the Middle East command. The delay caused by the Greek campaign, brief as it was, may well prove in the end to be an iron nail in Hitler’s coffin.
Hood and Bismarck sunk
30 May 1941
THE first news of the week is of the sea. One capital ship, two modern cruisers and four destroyers make up a heavy price to pay for admiralty, and the nation mourns the loss of many gallant men whose value is to be reckoned far higher than that of the machines they operated, in a country where personality is rated as the most precious possession of the human race. The price has been paid; but the admiralty has been preserved. The Bismarck, hundreds of miles from where she sank the Hood, has joined her at the bottom of the Atlantic, disabled by the unremitting attentions of the British fleet from making any safer port. Ship for ship, the exchange is favourable to Britain. The Hood, though a great and powerful unit, belonged to the battle-cruiser type, which has been rendered obsolete by subsequent naval development. The Bismarck was a brand new and up-to-date battleship of immense strength and high speed. Relatively, the German loss amounts apparently to half their existing battle fleet. The Navy’s brilliant work last week-end does not give much encouragement to the other half to repeat the challenge to the freedom of the North Atlantic routes.
Allied defeat in Crete
6 June 1941
BEYOND all question the principal lesson of the battle of Crete is the effectiveness of what a writer in the National Review describes as “quantitative” surprise. If there arrive at the threatened point ten times the expected number of dive-bombers and twenty times the expected number of airborne troops, together with supplies adequate for them to execute their purpose, the German tactics leave no opportunity for repairing deficiencies in the defence. Herein lies the stringent and completely valid reason for keeping overwhelming forces temporarily immobilized in Great Britain. Whatever disasters fall elsewhere, Britain must be maintained impregnable.
Hitler invades USSR
27 June 1941
THE whirligig has spun. Hitler’s genius for treachery has made Britain, with its jealous regard for personal liberty and an inheritance traditionally Christian, the associate in arms of the godless and persecuting Soviets. Christians are bound to claim the precedent of Mr Churchill’s speech for stating that no word which they have spoken about atheistic and materialistic Communism shall be unsaid. The blood of thousands of martyrs can only be washed out by deep repentance and bitter sacrifice. On the other hand, again following Mr Churchill, Christians, who are themselves in arms against the most cynically immoral power in history, cannot refuse either to aid or to be aided by whatever other nation or government is actively opposed to Nazidom. One does not stop to ask the casual assistant in a rough and tumble to display his certificate of baptism, before accepting his services in the general effort to dispose of a homicidal maniac. Be it sufficient for the moment that, whatever his motives, Stalin is committed to the struggle to put fetters on the principal enemy of peace and order throughout the world.
US occupies Iceland
11 July 1941
A LARGE force of British and Canadian troops will be set free for other duties by America’s pacific invasion of Iceland. The significance of this move is very great. Politically, it indicates that more importance attaches to the things that President Roosevelt actually does than to the things which, for his own good reasons, he sometimes seems hesitant to say. Strategically and tactically, it appears to mean that the United States are taking off the shoulders of Britain a still greater share in the Battle of the Atlantic. It is inconceivable that America should occupy Iceland in force, and not take every step to keep communications open with that forward bastion of its defence system; and a sea secure for American troop-ships is a sea secure for British freighters. Turning from the cold north to sun-baked Syria, we observe with satisfaction and relief that the desert columns operating from Palmyra and towards Homs present a serious threat to General Bentz’s back door.
18 July 1941
IT WAS a peuliarly happy coincidence that the fourteenth of July was also the day on which honourable but decisive terms of armistice were signed between the British and Free French commanders in Syria and the representatives of Vichy. At last the miserable spectacle of fellow-citizens and allies locked in fratricidal combat has been brought to a close, and co-operation between Vichy and Berlin has been concluded, so far as concerns the Middle East. The end was reached, not through the slow but gallant frontal advance, which had to contend with immense geographical difficulties in the coastal area, but through the imminent threat levelled by the desert columns against the communications and rear of the Vichy forces. This fact affords additional proof that the tactics of 1914 have been superseded by the strategy of 1941. Campaigns to-day are not being won by carnage and barbed wire, but by concentrated lightning strokes, converging movements, and successful attempts to break through hostile positions rather than to capture them.
25 July 1941
THE triumphant inauguration of the V campaign is convincing proof that British propaganda is not wasting all its opportunities. Whatever may be said of previous efforts to impress neutrals and arouse the spirit of subjugated Europe, the V sign is a bold, imaginative and potent symbol, as Mr Churchill has said, of the unconquerable will of the occupied territories, and a portent of the fate awaiting the Nazi tyranny. It is now revealed that the original author of the campaign is a member of the Belgian Parliament, fit representative of the people and spirit which produced Cardinal Mercier and Burgomaster Max in the last war. Even the German radio has admitted that, during the last few days, the V for victory has sprung into sight from one end of Europe to the other. Its effect in sustaining the confidence and hope of the oppressed, like the arms of Moses uplifted in Rephidim, and its power to make the Nazi overlords feel as well as look ridiculous, may be judged from the alacrity with which the Germans have attempted to appropriate it. Their elephantine efforts will deceive nobody, any more than their endeavour to conceal the miscalculations of their Russian campaign. The Russian front may bend, but it has not crumpled up, and M. Stalin’s marshals seem to have devised at least a temporary answer to the problem of the panzers.
22 August 1941
LAST week we wrote: “Mr Churchill and President Roosevelt have remained silent and out of the public eye. The World awaits their breaking of silence with a rising eagerness.” The meeting of the two statesmen, at which we could no more than hint, had become the great news of the day on Thursday afternoon, and has since gone reverberating round the globe. The eight-point statement, issued jointly by President and Prime Minister, represents an incalculable advance in that battle of brains for which Commander Stephen King-Hall, in his closely reasoned book, Total Victory, just published, contends so cogently. In total war the political aims of the antagonists are of the first importance. The political initiative has now been wrested from the enemy, and it remains for that initiative to be maintained by the constant sounding in the brain of both the oppressed and the enemy populations of the glorious realities of liberty and life which are embodied in the declaration. There was one omission from the eight points which has doubtless caused some surprise, but does not justify misgiving, and that is explicit reference to religious freedom — the liberty of a man to worship as he will. But that has been so constantly iterated as to be a great fundamental which did not call for particular specification.
Anglo-Russian occupation of Iran
29 August 1941
THE strategical importance of Iran can be appreciated from the merest glance at a map. It occupies the bridge of territory between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf; its land frontiers march on the north with the U.S.S.R., on the west with Turkey and Iraq, and on the east with Afghanistan and the Indian peninsula. The development of Fifth Column activity in this region might have enabled the Nazis to stab Russia in the back, threaten the security of Iraq and Syria, complete the encirclement of Turkey, and cast a menace at the freedom and increasing war effort of India. In a word, Iran, already penetrated in recent years by German commercial influence, presented the Nazis with an ideal opportunity of throwing half Asia into a ferment. Technicians and tourists assumed an importance that could not be disregarded. The Iranian Government, after repeated warning, failed, either from national sentiment or from fear of consequences, to clean up the alien infiltration. Acting, therefore, with the promptitude which has been rendered possible by the recent flow of munitions to the Middle East, British forces, entering the country from the south and west, are on the march to join hands with Russian forces from the north.
Menacing attitude of Japan
24 October 1941
IN THE Far East, Japan has adopted an attitude of decision, but what exact form the decision will take can only be guessed, and perhaps has not even been determined. . .
The unconcealed aim of Japanese policy is to exploit the seas and shores of the Western Pacific from Vladivostok to Bangkok. Perhaps for the moment Manila and Singapore may be excluded from the programme; but nobody can imagine that, given the opportunity, they would not be promptly added to the bag. If only Japanese politicians could be certain of a Nazi victory in Europe, they would have a good chance of achieving their object. Were Hitler an assured survivor, Britain would be left at best exhausted and helpless, while America, with the Atlantic to watch and ward, would be given good cause to relax her ingrained preoccupation with the Pacific. So far, so good. But there is an insect in the unguent. To carry out their programme, Japanese militarists need to strike their blow now. The reason is partly in order to earn Nazi good will, which, though of only temporary value, would be useful for the moment; partly in order to forestall Nazi greed, for a victorious Hitler would leave no gleanings for his jackals — Mussolini’s allotment in the share-out since the fall of France gives some indication of that certainty. Any fruits of victory for which his friends cherish a longing must be safely harvested by them before his own pickers can reach that end of the political orchard. There is also another reason for promptness: action must be taken before America becomes either too strong in warlike, and especially naval, equipment, or too belligerent in temper. The need for prompt decision is therefore plain enough. The difficulty is to calculate whether Hitler will be able, in spite of his losses, to annihilate Russian resistance before the spring, and so free his hands to keep Britain fully employed next summer.
Warning to Finns
7 November 1941
WHEN the Finnish armies reached their old frontier in the course of operations against Russia, there was a widespread desire among the Finnish people to make peace. Russia, for its part, made known its willingness for an honourable settlement. But nothing came of it. Last month the British Government warned the Finns that if their invasion of Russia were not halted, they would have to be considered the enemies of Britain. They did not halt. Now this week America has conveyed a final and public warning that the continuance of their offensive is incompatible with their continued enjoyment of friendship with the United States. We can scarcely hope that the warning will be heeded. The Finns committed their fortunes to Hitler, and under his harrow they rest. Hungary and Rumania are also harnessed to his chariot of wrath. With the Christian Slavs of Rumania, dragged against their will by desperate leadership into the wildest and bloodiest schemes of expansion in the Ukraine, English Churchmen feel as deep and tragic a sympathy as with the Finns. But facts are facts, and war is war. Britain cannot ignore indefinitely the fact that these three any case being worked that one more would hardly be surprising. . countries are lending all their resources to the active prosecution of war against the Russian people, whom Britain is doing everything in its power to support.
Libyan issue in the balance
28 November 1941
THE eyes of the world are turned to Libya. As we write, the issue is still undecided, but nothing has occurred to dim the prospect of ultimate victory for the British and Imperial troops. It will not be won without heavy losses. But if the endurance of the men and the machines can be sustained, and the vital supply lines can be kept in undiminished operation across the desert, the gains to be expected from the battle should decide the fate of North Africa. It is clear that from the first the British Command intended to conduct a large operation, and not a series of small ones. Such of the Axis frontier posts as have not already fallen have been outflanked and surrounded. Bardia and Gambut have been captured. Rommel’s main forces, operating mainly south-east of Tobruk, have failed to break out to the west and freedom. The tanks on both sides seem near the point of exhaustion, and Rommel can bring up no fresh armoured brigades, as the British can, to support his infantry. Axis aircraft are being heavily reinforced, but the Royal and South African Air Forces still sweep them off the principal battle grounds. Slowly but surely Rommel has to face the consequences of weariness, attrition and deficiencies in supply. The presence of an Indian force, with tanks, at Augila, only a hundred miles from the Tripoli road and the sea, threatens to block equally reinforcements to Rommel and a retreat from Benghazi. We should not have expected this desert-borne force to be large. But such miracles of transport are in any case being worked that one more would hardly be surprising.
Hitler’s advance into Russia checked
5 December 1941
THE news this week from the battlefields is as good as could be expected at the present stage alike of the war, and of the output of munitions. One thing has happened which is of profound significance. For the first time, Hitler’s legions have received, not merely a check to their advance, but a positive defeat. At Rostov and in the Donetz basin Hitler took a chance and has lost the gamble. In a desperate attempt to obtain the mastery of Moscow —with its communications and, above all, its provision of shelter for his troops — before the full rigours of the winter should set in, he threw every available resource into a full-scale attack on the Russian capital. The local advances, inseparable from an assault of such weight, have gained him less ground and smaller strategic success than in any comparable undertaking on which he has previously engaged. The offensive has been held and the Russians retain the spirit, the men and the supplies to offer effective counter-attack. But in order to make the effort, Hitler either weakened, or else failed to sustain with adequate support, his vital offensive in the south. His Panzers reached Rostov, only to be outflanked by a brilliant counter-offensive, delivered with admirable skill and coolness by Marshal Timoshenko.
For the first time in this war, a well trained German army ran. The fleeing troops abandoned not only Rostov, but all the accumulated stores and dumps which had been pushed up on this front. Many of them even threw away their rifles. The consequences of this major defeat are immensely serious for the enemy.
Japanese attack Pearl Harbour
12 December 1941
THE unscrupulous barbarism of the Japanese attack, without declaration of war, and while direct negotiations were actually proceeding, has groused and united the American people as never before in their history. The heaviness of their initial losses has revealed to them, as nothing else could, the magnitude of their unpreparedness. Not unnaturally this sharp blow to their national confidence immediately released a whole cycle of irresponsible rumours and unconfirmed reports, to none of which should much serious credit be attached. America still has to learn the lessons of stern realism, that have been impressed on Britain by two years of Nazified war. The situation in the Pacific is grave, but gives no ground for panic. The main naval base at Hawaii has been shown not to be immune from raids. Damaging attacks have been launched on the Philippines, where Manila, if it can be held, which seems doubtful, will repeat, with Hongkong, the part played by Malta in the Mediterranean. Japanese landings have been made on the north-east coast of Malaya, and, although there is no present need for apprehension about Singapore, an old battle-cruiser and a brand-new battleship have been sunk by hostile aircraft in the attempt to dispose of the invaders. The seizure of Thailand creates difficulty. It threatens both Rangoon and the Burma Road to China; but in either direction the country is extremely difficult for ground troops, and the principle value of Thailand to the Japanese appears to lie in the possession of its aerodromes and as an important source of food and raw materials.
PAAn explosion on the US destroyer Shaw during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941
War in the Far East
19 December 1941
THE moral of the Pacific is the influence of air power. By the use of air forces operating from aircraft carriers, Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and the American Fleet during the first hours of hostilities. Since then, by similar means, she has carried out air reconnaisance over the American coast. By the use of air power she has covered her landings in the Philippines and broken the resistance of isolated forward bases of the American fleet, and is now bombing Hong-kong. By still more striking use of air power, locally and temporarily at least in superior strength, she landed and reinforced troops on the Malay peninsula, captured an important British aerodrome — so hampering the air defence — and sank two British capital ships, which were undefended by aircraft of their own. . .
The Japanese attack on Burma and Malaya brings the Empire a long step nearer to the position in which Great Britain has stood since the fall of France. Australia and New Zealand are now fighting, not merely for an idea and for a righteous cause, but against a threat, not impossibly remote, against their own homelands. The unpalatable fact has been brought home that it is extremelv unsafe to give any hostages to an Axis-controlled fortune. India also has felt the jolt. Members of the All India Congress Committee, which meets within the next few days, appear to show divided views about the attitude demanded of them by recent events in the Far East; but it is clear that they still include many intransigents. The Viceroy has issued a strong appeal to the people of India to forget their domestic differences.
Hong Kong in peril
24 December 1941
THE latest news from the Far East has brought increased anxiety, particularly for the fate of the heroic defenders of Hong Kong, who by the latest accounts are still holding out in the centre of the island. Its capture, which can hardly be long delayed, will be an unhappy business, especially since the recent reinforcement of its garrison by Canadian troops and improvement its in its defences had encouraged the belief that it could be successfully held. This assumption, of course, rested upon another, that Britain would retain, if not the command of the sea, at least the occasional capacity to run a Japanese blockade with supplies and reinforcements. The loss of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse destroyed all possibility of this, even if it were ever more than an unfounded hope. . .
Of more serious strategical importance is the evacuation of Penang, for its occupation will give the Japanese a coveted window on to the Indian Ocean. . .
Hitler dismisses von Brauchitsch
24 December 1941
IN THIS country and throughout the Empire, events in Libya and the Far East have been claiming most attention; but for the final issue of the war what is happening in Russia is far more important than anything that is happening or may happen in Cyrenaica or Malaya. And what is happening in Russia provides the most cheerful news the democracies have so far had. The new retreat from Moscow continues. The Russians, despite the resistance of rearguards and the adversity of the weather, press their attacks without respite, and what may have begun as a planned withdrawal is becoming something very different. German attempts to minimize the significance of this change of direction are unconvincing, since armies which are merely trying to shorten their line to suit their convenience do not as a rule leave quite so much equipment behind them as the Germans are abandoning to the Russians. But the pretence is wearing thin. The announcement on Sunday that Hitler has dismissed Field-Marshal von Brauchitsch and is personally assuming the command of the army may mean very much or very little. At best it may foreshadow a crisis in the relations between the army and the Nazi party, who have never been the happiest of comrades. At worst, it may be no more than an admission that Germany’s Eastern war plans have miscarried. And best or’worst, it is an unmistakable sign of growing discomfort, if not of discomfiture. It follows rather significantly upon Dr Goebbels’ appeal to the German people for gifts of winter clothing. Meanwhile, Germany’s puppet allies, who made war when Germany commanded and can only make peace when Germany permits, may well turn to their history books and read again the story of 1812. Napoleon, who went into Russia with 450,000 men, came out with about 30,000, and two-thirds of his original army were not Frenchmen.
The fall of Singapore
20 February 1942
SINGAPORE has fallen, with heavy losses in men and material. The Japanese have already invaded the southern districts of Sumatra, where the refineries of Palembang, which the Dutch have destroyed, were responsible for more than half the oil production of the Netherlands East Indies. Sumatra is only divided from Java by twenty-five miles of sea, and consequently the threat to the latter island has become acute. Whether, or how long, its coast line can be defended — Java is a hundred miles longer than Great Britain — remains to be seen. Certainly nothing but the prompt arrival of strong air forces can save it. Meantime, British and Imperial forces are falling back from strong positions on the Salween river in Burma — a movement which bears an ominous resemblance to the previous retreat in Malaya. The release of armies from Singapore will increase Japanese pressure on Burma. Unofficial critics are not in a position either to estimate the extent of the help forthcoming from Chinese troops — who know the Japanese too well to mistake their paratroops for innocent coolies — or to judge the present possibilities of substituting a more northerly route for the traffic hitherto carried on the Burma Road. What is certain is that the peoples neither of China nor of India will be anxious to share in the “new order of co-existence and co-prosperity on ethical principles”, offered by General Tojo as a radiant alternative for the nations of the Orient to the “ruthless despotism of Britain” and “the despotic rule of the Dutch”.
The spirit of vengeance
27 February 1942
WE HOPE the moral and political experts, who have been loud in criticism of Dr Temple for condemning the spirit of vengeance against Germany, and have raised an outcry over every attempt to distinguish between Nazi criminals and the totality of the German people, will study the remarks of Premier Stalin on those subjects, issued in his Order of the Day on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Red Army. According to that firsthand authority, the statement that the Red Army aims at the extermination of the German people and the destruction of the German State is “a stupid lie”. On the same showing, the identification of Hitler’s clique with the German people and State is “ridiculous”. The Red Army, said Premier Stalin, does not and cannot entertain racial hatred for other peoples. It is only in so far as the German people display a propensity to associate themselves with the Nazi system and policy that Russia needs to fight them or desires to overthrow them. Since it has thus been demonstrated that such progressive views can be held without any weakening, in those who hold them, of the resolution to destroy Hitler and all his works, it may be hoped that they will no longer be regarded in this country as signs of patriotic decadence, or as evidence of unjustifiable intrusion by the Christian religion into political concerns.
Obliteration bombing of Germany
5 June 1942
THE concentrated bombing of Cologne and the Ruhr by forces of more than a thousand aircraft has certainly opened a new front in the European war. The raids were by far the largest operations of the kind which have yet been conducted by either of the opposing forces. Cologne endured a horrible and devastating ninety minutes. The Germans themselves have admitted that great damage was done, but the strongest testimony to the destruction wrought is their attempt to conceal from their own people the full scale of the attack. They will admit no more than two hundred and fifty British aeroplanes over Reich territory and only seventy above Cologne. They obviously dare not add fuel to German apprehension by revealing the disparity between British strength at Cologne and the feeble rejoinder which was all that they could muster against Canterbury. The second raid covered a larger area, in and around Essen, but though the separate fires were less intense, the aggregate damage done to German industry was equally vast.
These were all-British raids. But the airmen of the United States are eagerly awaiting the completion of their own organization to enable them to take their turn in the bombing offensive against Germany. There is no good pretending that raids on such a scale are anything but horrible. The casualties among operatives and their families, either working in the bombed factories or sleeping in the areas round them, cannot but be enormous. Such is the method of warfare enforced by the Nazis on the civilized world. It is a war not only of troops upon troops, of machines against machines, but of the factories which produce the machines and supply the troops. They and the people who work them are all in the front line and must face destruction together.
19 June 1942
MUCH has been heard of the methods and machinery adopted to secure co-operation between the group of nations included in the British Commonwealth and the great people of the United States. Very little had been heard, until the publication of the Anglo-Russian treaty last week, of the means of collaboration between Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The silence was broken dramatically by the news that M. Molotov has recently visited London and Washington, that conversations have been held between high Russian officers and staff representatives of both the democracies, and that, with the full knowledge and approval of America and the Dominions, Britain has signed a twenty years’ alliance with Russia. The two most powerful peoples of Free Europe have formally pledged themselves to work together for the uprooting of Nazi cruelty from its native soil, for the prevention of any subsequent revival of Axis aggression in Europe, and for the reconstruction of civil society, shattered by the Nazis, on the basis of the principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter. By means of this great treaty it is to be hoped that all apprehension for the future security of peoples, both large and small, in Eastern Europe will be set at rest.
Stalingrad the pivot
21 August 1942
IT IS Stalingrad which is the pivot of Soviet strategy. This is partly because of its intrinsic importance as an armament centre, and partly because it is the bastion of the Volga, the principal highway for supplies from the south. Battles of unrivalled stubbornness are raging on this front. The Russians have managed to contain the German offensive, but have not altogether brought it to a halt. The latest break-through at Kletskaya, admitted by the Russians, is unfortunate, and doubly so if considerable numbers of prisoners were left in Nazi hands. The Russian position south-east of the Don bend near Kotelnikovsk has definitely improved, which is of good augury for the security of Astrakhan and the defence of Grozny. Everything depends on the course of operations during the next few weeks. If Stalingrad can become another Moscow to the Germans, they may still learn to rue their rapid advances in the Caucasus. The Russian attacks in force at Voronezh and Rzhev and Leningrad might then prove the curtain-raiser to a strategic offensive in several simultaneous acts; and the concerted drama might well extend to Egypt and to Western Europe.
28 August 1942
THE initial excitement having died down, it is now possible to weigh up coolly and critically the daring raid on Dieppe last week. Whatever the losses sustained (and General McNaughton’s message to the Prime Minister of Canada does not conceal their severity), it is no mean achievement to have been able to maintain a powerful force for nine hours of daylight on one of the most heavily defended outposts of the French coast. Even if all the special objectives were not attained, the enterprise must have provided the officers and men involved with invaluable experience, and must have furnished the High Command with the most thorough and up-to-date information about the much vaunted German defences. On balance the raid justifies measured confidence in the success of more far-reaching operations in the future. A prime necessity would seem to be that these should not be unduly delayed. Presumably the Germans, too, are soberly digesting the lessons of the raid, and will make every effort to strengthen their fortifications.
Brazil joins the Allies
28 August 1942
THE entry of Brazil into the war gives cause for solid satisfaction which is not tempered by disappointment that Chile and Uruguay have not thought fit to follow suit for the present. President Roosevelt’S remark that it would hasten the end of the struggle need not be wholly explained away as diplomatic hyperbole. There is no doubt that, with her considerable German and Italian populations, Brazil has for many years been the cynosure of Axis ambitions. Germany was keenly conscious, long before Great Britain became alive to it, how close Rio de Janeiro is to Dakar, and how useful the extended Brazilian coastline is to lurking U-boats on the look-out for fuel. Henceforth her important harbours will be at the service of the Allied fleets, and her territorial waters will no longer be a safe refuge for Axis vessels in trouble.
Battle of Alamein
30 October 1942
THE British have got in the first blow in Egypt; the big attack has at last been launched. There could be little surprise about it. All last week its imminence was indicated by the incessant pounding of the Axis positions by Allied aircraft. Everything suggests that General Montgomery, by a great feat of organization and by the destruction of enemy supplies, has secured a superiority of men and material which he is determined to exploit. It is impossible to judge, from the laconic communiqués and the compressed despatches of correspondents, how successful the initial phase has been. But the definite assertions that gains to date have been held, and are being extended, encourage measured confidence. The Royal Air Force is evidently on top. Africa has never before seen such concentrated activity of bombers and fighters. Under the shelter of incessant sorties, and preceded by heavy artillery barrages in the manner of the last war, the infantry eat steadily and methodically into the Axis lines.
Exit Rommel, Darlan, Vichy
13 November 1942
EXIT Rommel. Exit Darlan. Exit Vichy. The past week has been the most dramatic since the fall of France. In the united strategy of the United Nations, Africa has been called in to redress the balance of Europe, and Hitler, recognizing the incontestable fact, has marched to Marseilles. Pétain has made two protests. The first, directed against the Americans, was backed with guns. The second, addressed to Hitler, is a mere form of words. Though the Pétain-Laval circus may return to Versailles, every honest Frenchman now knows who is the enemy; and the first reaction of events in metropolitan France should be the rallying of freed France in Africa to the fighting flag of General Giraud. No new front can be opened immediately in Europe. But there is immediate necessity for Hitler to garrison southern France and Italy. He dare not leave the defence of Italy and Sicily to the despondent and disaffected natives. Nor can he retire to the Brenner. That would indeed be an abject confession that Europe is too big a place for German arms to defend or for a Nazi new order to control.
Battle of Stalingrad
27 November 1942
A RINGING cheer is echoing round the world of free nations for Premier Stalin, for his city of Stalingrad, and for the glorious troops under his direction. Allied strategy is manifesting its unity by the perfect timing of the right and left blows which it is delivering, in this disastrous month of Axis discomfiture, to the gangster powers. Hitler is very far as yet from being groggy on his feet. But he has just taken some heavy punches, and his violent attempt to cover up in Tunisia does not hold out too bright a strategical prospect for his arms. The headlines of victory are not a prelude to relaxation of effort: they must act as an inspiration to every man and woman among the free peoples to redouble their energies, so that the armed forces may be enabled to Strike and strike again and go on striking.
French fleet scuttled
4 December 1942
THE scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon was as far-reaching in its consequences as it was dramatic in its setting. For once the Nazis’ cynical technique over-reached itself. Had they had the courtesy to inform the French Admiralty of their intentions beforehand, Vichy would almost certainly have forbidden Admiral de Laborde to destroy his ships. The self-immolation of the fleet has not only deprived the Germans of its use, on which they obviously counted, but has relieved the Royal Navy of a burdensome responsibility. But the explosives which annihilated the French warships had the even more devastating effect of blowing sky-high the feeble sham of Vichy authority. The fires of Toulon illuminate the first stirrings of the resurrection of France. The belated patriotism displayed by Admiral de Laborde and his men points the way to a readier cooperation between all Frenchmen who, despite honest differences in the past, unite in the desire to serve France.
1 January 1943
THE bloody murder of Darlan was a disgraceful crime, and was followed by a too hasty but by no means too drastic punishment. Assassination is not a weapon for civilized peoples. Why it came to be employed by the Admiral’s murderer is a mystery on which no light has been thrown and about which any present speculation would be misplaced. Almost Darlan’s last act is reported to have been a move towards reconciliation with the other elements of the French people still in arms. His death obviously makes the need for such reconciliation more urgently pressing than ever, since it was Darlan’s personality, whatever judgment may finally be passed upon it, which held French North and West Africa together, and which brought them back wholeheartedly into the war. No time was lost by the acting authorities of French Africa in appointing General Giraud as his successor. It has now been disclosed that, during the battle of France, General Giraud would have been appointed generalissimo of the French armies had he not been taken prisoner by the Germans. He is a soldier without any political past.
29 January 1943
“UNCONDITIONAL Axis surrender” is a first-rate slogan for the campaign of 1943. Not even Mr Churchill could have expressed better the aims and spirit of the United Nations than Mr Roosevelt has in this phrase. The meeting of the Prime Minister and the President, with their respective staffs for a ten-days’ consultation at Casablanca is a fresh landmark both in Anglo-American relations and in the strategical conduct of the war. The conference would have been yet more impressive had it been possible for the leaders of Russia and China to attend it also; but General Chiang Kai-Shek was prevented by distance and Premier Stalin was unavoidably detained on other pressing business. The purpose of the conference was to think and plan unitedly about the next steps for the united campaign. Hitler hardly needed to be told that the first aim of the Western democracies is now to take all possible weight off Russian shoulders; the time and manner still remain for him to discover, and it scarcely needs a prophet to foretell that the lightening of Russia’s burden will mean, not a slackening of her efforts, but an extension of her victories.
Fall of Tunis and Bizerta
14 May 1943
WHILE it was becoming increasingly clear that the enemy forces in Tunisia were doomed, and must sooner or later be decisively defeated, the sudden fall of both Tunis and Bizerta a week ago, and the capture of over a hundred thousand prisoners, were events which have occurred more speedily than was expected. The victory for Allied arms is undoubtedly a tremendous one, and the results of supreme importance. While at one time it was believed that the enemy might be able to hold out on the Cape Bon peninsula for two or three months, the whole peninsula is now in our hands, and only one small pocket of resistance at Zaghouan remains. The undertaking is a supreme triumph of British generalship and an effective answer to those critics who, earlier in the war, were so discouraged by reverses that they had no good word to say for those who directed the army. It has also shown that, as the King pointed out in his message of congratulation, the Allies can work together in an efficient manner. A particularly gratifying feature is the part that the French army has played; and not least of the results will be a revival of self-confidence among the French themselves, and the disappearance of that national defeatism which played such a large part in the surrender of France three years ago. Now the Allied troops will be able quickly to r’each India and Burma against the Japanese enemy. In Europe the Axis is forced on to the defensive, vainly wondering at which points the Allies will make landings — and the Prime Minister has paid another visit to Washington to discuss with the President further plans for Allied co-operation.
16 July 1943
SO SICILY takes the first shock. The Allied command maintained to the last few hours a subtly imaginative ambiguity about its true point of attack, and in the end the Axis was taken by surprise with the hammerblow of what was after all the obvious. There was nothing very astonishing about the lack of serious opposition to the landings of Allied troops on the beaches; nobody could have guarded every yard of the long coastline. A heavy swell made it rather more difficult to put ashore the vital guns and heavy equipment, but the Navy executed its task incomparably well. What was surprising was the enemy’s delay in launching serious counter-attacks. His organization may have been thrown out of gear by the bombing of his headquarters at Taormina, though surely the Bosche of all people would not rely on a single unduplicated mechanism of control. And there may be substance in the suggestion that he had massed his troops to meet an invasion in western instead of eastern Sicily; but this also is hard to accept unreservedly, though he certainly showed more vigour against the Americans at Gela than against the Eighth Army at the more important ports of Syracuse and Augusta.
The fall of Mussolini
30 July 1943
FEW items of news could have lent a keener appetite for Monday morning’s breakfast than the announcement that Mussolini had fallen from his Fascist’s heaven. Mussolini is not the greatest or most ruthless European exploiter of political blackguardism. But he occupies a secure niche in the natural history museum of political infamy, for he first transplanted to the modern and civilized West methods of action reproducing the cruelty and irrationalism of the Orient at its worst, unrelieved by any trace of the oriental virtues. His resignation has been hailed with acclamation and rejoicing from one end of Italy to the other. The Italian people had never as a whole accepted the Fascist ideology: they certainly never regarded with any satisfaction the war in which they were involved with England. Now they have torn down Fascist emblems, looted Fascist food-hoards, renounced Fascist principles, sacked Fascist newspaper offices, and dismissed the Nazi Gestapo. As midnight descends on Fascism, a gleam of dawn appears for Italy.
10 September 1943
ITALY has surrendered unconditionally. After war’s fitful fever may she sleep well. But there was no mafficking in the black-out at Piccadailly Circus on Wednesday night; it is quite well understood that Italy’s capitulation only marks one step — though a long one — in a grim process; it still remains to break the major horns of the ungodly conspiracy which dominates Europe and half Asia. Yet much is already gained. British and Imperial arms, fighting in full co-operation with invaluable Allies during the later stages of the conflict, have laid a Great Power low. The fortress of Europe has been breached. The decline of Germany’s relative strength is signalized by her shameful inability to save her oldest partner from military disaster. The senior satellite having fallen, consternation reigns among the juniors. Time alone can show where the Germans propose to make their stand. They will assuredly not abandon their hold of the Balkans. But first reports from Italy, taken with the havoc on the railway system, suggest that they may not retain much more of that country than the remoter defences of their own frontiers.
Hitler occupies Rome
17 September 1943
HITLER, of whom it was formerly said that he could take Portugal by telephone, is now in the happy position of being able to take the Pope by taxi-cab. It is no good dismissing his occupation of Rome, any more than his possession of the person of Mussolini, as a melodramatic coup of no practical value. Such evidences of vigour and aggressiveness give an immense fillip to German morale and administer a damper to democratic and patriotic elements in the Balkans. The German reaction to Italy’s capitulation has been extraordinarily rapid and efficient, and makes a painful contrast not only with the longdrawn course of the Italian peace negotiations, but with the small advantage the Allies have been able to take of the armistice since its signature. The sober truth is that, while the terms were severe and sweeping beyond precedent, the Germans have so far managed to prevent their fulfilment, except in so far as concerns the Italian fleet and the ports of Apulia. They have managed to establish effective control over the bulk of the Italian peninsula — centre as well as north — they seem to have secured the Dodecanese, including Rhodes, which the Italian garrison might have secured had a single Allied destroyer arrived to stiffen them; and they have apparently disarmed the numerous Italian divisions in the Balkans.
Tehran and Cairo conferences
10 December 1943
THIS has been a week for Allied diplomacy on the grand scale. The three conferences certainly mark a decisive turning-point in the war, and they also give solid hopes of a more intimate and co-operative relationship between the four, great powers in the peace which will follow it. The most striking sentence in the Teheran communiqué is the one declaring that complete agreement has been reached on the scope and timing of forthcoming military operations, and that they will come from east, west and south. With this guarantee of a global strategy the promised destruction of the German forces should be ensured, and the acrimonious political debate about a second front should be brought to an end. It is noteworthy that the annihilation of the enemy’s armies, U-boats, and industrial resources are referred to in terms suggesting that they are of equal importance. Speculation on the details of the Allied programme, and the time, place, and manner of the blows contemplated, may fittingly be left to the Führer and his worried advisers.
The first Cairo conference brought together President Roosevelt, General Chiang Kai-shek and Mr Churchill round the same table for the first time. China has thus been enabled, and will henceforth be enabled, to play the full part in Allied discussions and planning which her position and heroic resistance make her due. Both the terms of the official announcement and the presence of military and naval commanders confirm the view that one main purpose of the conference was to put the finishing touches to plans for securing Japan’s unconditional surrender. . .
On their return from Teheran Mr Roosevelt and Mr Churchill, with their staffs, met the President of Turkey at Cairo for a three-day conference at which Russia was also represented. Turkey is one of the few neutral countries remaining in the world, but she occupies a position of the greatest strategic importance, and should a landing take place in the Balkans, she herself would almost certainly become involved in hostilities. Already there are reports of troop formations in these countries, and they may soon form an active theatre of war. But the importance of this third conference lies also in the fact that Turkey not only renews her alliance with this country, but is also prepared to talk with Soviet Russia, with whom in the past she has often been on bad terms. . .
General Eisenhower to be Supremo
31 December 1943
GENERAL EISENHOWER’s appointment as Supreme Allied Commander in the forthcoming campaign for the liberation of Europe closes a period of somewhat unhealthy public speculation. It is a tribute to his remarkable gift for welding together in one military machine men belonging to different nations and different Services. All those who have worked under him agree that he is an outstanding figure, and it is to him at least as much as to anyone else that the Allies owe the accomplishment of a practical unity in campaigning unparalleled by anything in military history since war first became a really complex operation. The invasion of Europe is an enterprise pre-eminently demanding not merely a united plan and unified control, but firm handling by a single authority, strong alike in intellect and character. In Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder the Supreme Commander will have a brilliant deputy, who has abundant experience of working in co-operation between the principal arms of modern warfare. The nomination of an air officer to a post involving the command of sea and land forces is an innovation pointing to the extraordinarily important role which the Allied Air Force will play in operating the Second Front.
9 June 1944
LISTENERS to the King’s speech on Tuesday evening heard an utterance of manly sincerity in deep contrast to the apologetic whine and fluffy indecision that too often pass tor religious broadcasting. King George prefaced the invasion of western Europe by the Allies with a simple call to prayer for God’s blessing arid a direct affirmation that their purpose is to put God’s will first. He sealed the enterprise with a spirit of true religion. As he spoke, news was coming in from the beaches, telling of initial difficulties triumphantly surmounted and unexpectedly small losses in the opening phase; whether owing to surprise or policy, or because the preliminary offices of the air commands had been conducted so efficaciously, the enemy made no very strenuous opposition to the landings, and the Navy put the troops ashore with brilliant organization and dash. Paratroops, gliders and infantry, tanks and guns and engineers, touched down on French soil four years and a day after the completion of the evacuation from Dunkirk.
PARoyal Marine commando troops land in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944
By the time that these lines are being read, the fierce local conflicts reported from Caen and elsewhere may have given place to bloody fighting between masses of men and machines. . . .
Flying bombs ‘childish’
23 June 1944
WITH all deference to Sir James Barrie, there is something quite unnatural about a boy who never grows up. How .unnatural and how horrible Peter Pan — or perhaps we should say Struwelpeter — can be in real life is illustrated in Adolf Hitler; and unhappily there is only too much evidence that Hitler is typical of a vast mass of the German people. Their latest exploit in discharging flights of pilotless aeroplanes, stuffed with high explosives, over southern England, is extravagantly childish. These flying bombs betray immense ingenuity and have cost uncounted man-hours to produce. Yet both the invention and the labour are misplaced: they have resulted in a mere freak of cruelty which can contribute practically nothing to winning the war. In total war it is now a widely accepted principle that not only ports and factories and administrative centres may be bombed, but also the homes of those who operate them. In attempting to carry out such a policy, Hitler is no worse than others. His trouble is that untiring pains and resourcefulness have only led him to blind, crude and sporadic effects.
‘What is that to thee?’
14 July 1944
IT IS now permissible to mention some of the places hit by flying bombs during the new campaign of hate. The Guards’ chapel has been demolished during divine service, and a number of the congregation killed. The Bankruptcy Court, close to The Church Times, has been wrecked, happily out of office hours, Here the missiles destroy a home and massacre its inhabitants, there they create a glazier’s paradise of broken windows, elsewhere they blow a crater in the surface of a pond. Hitler would lay waste English towns and ports, if he could, as the R.A.F. has laid waste Berlin and Hamburg. The bombardment falls indiscriminately on the just and the unjust. Why, we have been asked, does one suffer while another is spared? Christ, who strongly asserted the operation of a particular providence over every sparrow that falls to the ground, also predicted that one should be taken and another left. If the transference to unseen service comes sooner than human judgment might expect, the Christian will await a full explanation hereafter: till then, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” People who walk by reasoned faith, rather than by mechanical vision, need not demand of the Almighty an immediate and exact accounting for His disposition of their lives. They trust Him.
‘A Bishop in Insurrection’
28 July 1944
THE Bishop of Hongkong purports to have ordained a woman to the priesthood. Apparently, he has taken this action entirely on his own authority.
Admittedly, the situation which confronted him was difficult. A trained deaconess was left in pastoral charge of a large congregation within his diocese, in the absence of any resident priest. By her devoted labours and example she held the congregation together, and a priest visited them once a month to celebrate the Holy Communion. Then came the Japanese. Communications became precarious, and it was no longer possible for a priest to pay regular visits, though we understand that access was not completely cut for occasional travellers.
The isolated Christian community thus became faced with the prospect of being deprived of Holy Communion, except at long and irregular intervals. In these circumstances, the Bishop might have explained the difficulties to his people, instructed them in the method and duty of making a spiritual communion, and exhorted them to hold fast to their faith until the tyranny from which they suffered was overpast. Or again, he might conceivably have directed their deaconess to adopt some temporary measures during the emergency, in order to sustain their sense of Christian fellowship, without adopting any action which would raise, questions of sacramental validity or loyalty to established Church order.
The Bishop, however, did neither of these things. He chose to go through a form of ordaining the deaconess as a priest. Before committing himself unilaterally to this flagrant breach of the working principles of the Church, of which every bishop is supposed to be the pre-eminent guardian, it seems that he neither considered the wider implications of his action nor consulted wiser heads than his own. He preferred to play a lone hand, not like a civilized leader who is himself subject to constitutional authority, but like a wild man of the woods. . .
11 August 1944
ON AUGUST 1 the Poles of Warsaw rose against the Germans as one man, under the commander appointed and recognized by the Polish Government in London. That by itself sufficiently shows whether the Poles in their homeland are out of touch with their political leaders in exile. Since then the people of Warsaw have been fighting a desperate and far from unsuccessful battle for their city, of which they hold important sections. But, as is natural, they are hard pressed for ammunition and light anti-tank weapons. It would be interesting to know why the Allied Governments have not been more prompt to supply them with these essential requirements, so easily conveyed by air. We cannot but recall that complaints of similar neglect have been heard from the men of the Maquis in France. Meantime it is most satisfactory to learn of the courtesy with which the Polish Premier and his colleagues have been received in Moscow. Obstacles have mounted up in the last few months between Moscow and the Poles. Now is the chance to overthrow them and cement a lasting friendship within the framework of the United Nations.
15 September 1944
THE invasion of Germany has begun. To those with a historical sense the entry into Germany by the Allied forces over the very same river Sauer, forming the frontier between Luxemburg and the Reich, which the Germans crossed a month over thirty years ago, when they committed their first act of aggression against a small, defenceless State, will seem a fitting reply to the initiator of aggression in two European wars. The reaction of the German people remains to be seen with the exception of an invasion of East Prussia by the Russians at the beginning of the first world war which culminated in Hindenburg’s victory at Tannenburg, Germany has not experienced foreign aggression upon her soil since the Napoleonic wars, though she has been successful on several occasions in bringing her forces on to the territory of other nations. While the more fanatical Nazis may be expected to resist for a long while in hedgehog positions, it may well be that the ordinary German will become tired of the war and not prepared to continue a useless resistance. The capture of the port of Le Havre by the Canadians is an asset of great importance to the Allies, with their need of another great port for their supplies, and should make the storming of the Siegfried line a far easier accomplishment.
Dumbarton Oaks Conference
6 October 1944
ONLY one clear fact emerges from the conference at Dumbarton Oaks, namely, that little hope of future peace exists unless it can be assumed that the greater Powers will continue both to co-operate loyally with one another and to run a straight course in their own individual proceedings. Everything depends on the joint and several honesty of the possessors of great material strength working in the closest collaboration. The greatest political stumbling-block of the war has been the difficulty experienced in securing personal discussion between national leaders who are immersed in domestic and military problems and cannot easily throw their preoccupations aside in order to confer. We believe that the Polish problem might be solved if Marshal Stalin and Mr Churchill could sit down together and grapple with it. We doubt if it can be solved if they do not. The dropping of supplies to Warsaw by the Russians, enabling its useful and heroic struggle to be prolonged beyond all expectation, has given the liveliest satisfaction to their friends in this country. But the Lublin Liberation Committee’s threats against General Bor fill English hearts with blank dismay. The tangle needs to be sorted out by two strong hands, clasped in an enduring and understanding fellowship.
Civil war in Greece
8 December 1944
MEMBERS of the House of Commons will doubtless be restive through to-day’s debate on Greece. For there are two sides to this horrible picture. The exiled Government and King have grown apart from the main Greek body — E.A.M. with its private army E.L.A.S. For three years past E.A.M. has harassed the enemy but has also acquired a lawless mentality which is now hard to shed. It has fought gallantly but has also been brutal to lukewarm locals; and if has battled against the rival royalist body of Colonel Zervas’ E.D.E.S. which has fought for a return of the monarchy. E.L.A.S., led by the Communist Party but no more “communist” in outlook than the Jugoslav partisans whom Britain supports, has — like Marshal Tito — fought against the King’s return.
M. Papandreou’s Government is the King’s, but King George, however necessary, is not liked. Nevertheless, Britain regards him and his Government as “constitutional”, and this country has rightly or wrongly put itself in the position of backing him. While E.L.A.S. was in the Government all was more or less well. Now British forces are firing on Greek allies whose loyalty to the same cause has illumined a squalid war. Both sides can argue rights and wrongs about the past week’s banned demonstrations, and about the shooting by police who have served in turn the Metaxas dictatorship and then the Germans; but when British troops shoot at people supported even by civil servants picketing their own ministries, it begins to look as if Britain may be backing a minority. Whatever is the truth, private armies must be disbanded. The issue is, which side shall disband the other?
16 February 1945
SELDOM has a secular conference borne a clearer stamp of the harmony of morals and practice than that just concluded at Yalta. The first reaction to the Crimean communiqué is of thanks to Almighty God. The next is of admiration for the three big men who, almost as much as any other single factor, make the Big Three big. The Marshal, the Prime Minister and the President emerge with towering success and good promise. Their decisions are military and political. But the latter are instinct with accord about practical moral issues on which this conference is not the end but the start. As the final paragraph confesses: “Victory and the establishment of the International Organization will provide the greatest opportunity to create the essential conditions of . . . a peace.” The Big Three admit, in short, that practice must yet accord with precept. The Foreign Ministers are to review the situation every quarter.
Death of President Roosevelt
20 April 1945
BRITAIN mourns the loss of President Roosevelt as deeply as America. One most encouraging feature about President Truman is that he is essentially a humble man of simple origins and simple tastes. As yet he has had no opportunity to display a personality in any sense comparable to that of Mr Churchill or Marshal Stalin. But he is personally deeply dedicated as they are to the service of the people, and especially of the humble. There is no doubt that to the limit of his ability, which it is Christians’ duty to pray God to endow, President Truman will execute the Roosevelt policy so far as he understands it.
PASoviet and Polish troops in the battle for Berlin, 1 April 1945
Victory in Europe
4 May 1945
IN CONTRAST to the levels to which man can fall, and has fallen, comes the glorious and happy feast of the Ascension of our Lord. While the secular State ignores the glory of perfect humanity ascending to glory with the Father, the Church elevates this feast to a liturgical level comparable to Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. The Church also precedes it with a break in the triumphant notes of Easter by the institution of Rogationtide — a short period of special prayer. Originally it was prayer for the bountiful supply of the fruits of the earth, meaning a good harvest. In the modern world it applies as appropriately to the fruits of all man’s industry on all the raw materials of the earth from coal to cucumber, and may be taken, too, to embrace the conditions under which Christian men are still condemned to work. This year the period coincides with the incipient strains of V-Day, with hopeful if impishly mysterious warnings by Mr Churchill that there might be an “announcement of decisive importance justifying celebration”.
All are beginning, very naturally, to slacken the tautness of their nerves, but for Christians the proclamation of our Lord’s ascent to glory must be the major subject of thanksgiving. With it this year will go a deep realization that but for sin the present horrors would be unknown, and that everyone has a life of reparation and repair ahead. For young lives, as much as for old, Ascension Day is a feast. And as correspondents point out on this page, the 1944 Education Act continues the existing provision that children may be withdrawn from school. Nor need the child return to school once he or she has heard Mass and worshipped God: Ascension Day may be a whole holiday, and it should be.
Whatever else is doubtful in the present welter of rumour, Hitler and Mussolini are dead, the garrison of Berlin has capitulated, and peace negotiations are certainly under way. The points now at issue, evidently, are two. Somebody must offer unconditional surrender to the Big Three. And he must be competent to do so. The fact that Admiral Donitz has seized the vacant post of Führer suggests a doubt about his readiness to surrender the German navy, though at the same time it is more than doubtful that the German army would fight on for an admiral. Once a proper surrender has been made, it is anybody’s guess what terms will be imposed. The production of Hitler’s authentic body is widely canvassed as one. It is now certain that he was not at Berchtesgaden, as once seemed likely, nor does military defence of the redoubt any longer seem to be in question.
The nation to give thanks
11 May 1945
HIS MAJESTY THE KING reigns “by the grace of God”; he is not only crowned but consecrated. After Mr Churchill met the Commons on Tuesday, the House adjourned for prayer it St Margaret’s, Westminster; its proceedings are regularly opened with prayer. Next Sunday has been nationally set aside for national thanksgiving and national prayer. In short, the King’s kingdom, whatever its shortcomings as an institution and whatever the shortcomings of its citizens, is formally and officially dedicated to the service not of man but of God. By the same token the designation of Sunday for national thanksgiving is natural, and corresponds to a spontaneous wish of the people that, whether they as individuals worship God or not, there should be no neglect of the Almighty in the apportionment of gratitude and praise for victory. And as every one had reason to expect, the King’s speech on Tuesday was instinct with the fear of God, as have been his speeches at other and less happy times, such as September 1939.
PAChildren in London celebrate on VE Day, 8 May 1945