Page 3, 17th May 1940

17th May 1940
Page 3
Page 3, 17th May 1940 — E XUBERANT imaginations now saw

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E XUBERANT imaginations now saw

lihlans on tall steeds in a triumphal progress down the Strand, and insolent Prussian officers swaggering in the lounges and bar of the Savoy Hotel. The veteran positivist, Mr Frederick Harrison, feared that we should not be alive to our peril till the German army had begun to loot the cellars of the Bank of England. Some expected the invader to disembark at Harwich, seize Colchester, and then effect a lightning advance on the metropolis.

He was already reputed to have in his possession secret gun emplacements in its vicinity. Others held that he would land at the mouth of the Humber, and by an advance to the Mersey cut England in two. According to a third view both operations would be executed simultaneously. Naval a n d military experts put their heads together.

They reached the not unnatural conclusion that invasion on a large scale was not practical so long as we held command of the sea, and that if we lost command of it our enemy would most likely prefer the cheaper method of starving us into submission to the more costly one of invading us.

Another, though lesser, peril remained. Competent judges were of opinion that even while our fleet remained unbeaten it might under favourable conditions be possible in the early days of war to rush a force of 70,000 men across the North Sea for the purpose of creating a panic which would either prevent the departure of the expeditionary force to France or lead to a demand for its recall if it had already gone. Professional soldiers in those days shook their heads when they spoke of Mr Halciane's Territorial Army.

And Again in 1914 I N the autumn of 1914 the possibility of German raids on the east coast was no longer remote. It was thought that while the High Seas Fleet engaged the Grand Fleet, the transports, escorted by the older warships, might slip across. Towns and villages in the Midlands prepared to receive refugees from the eastern counties,

But soon the expansion of the army caused all talk of a raid to cease. Yet continued military opposition to the Channel tunnel indicates the apprehension still felt at the prospect of giving up that ever-diminishing measure of security which our island position gives us.

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