Page 5, 30th May 1941

30th May 1941
Page 5
Page 5, 30th May 1941 — NOTES AND COMMENTS IT is difficult to estimate the precise
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People: Raeder, Roosevelt, Franco
Locations: Alexandria

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NOTES AND COMMENTS IT is difficult to estimate the precise

1' significance of the changes recently made by General Franco. While on the one hand the changes in governmental and administrative posts would seem to have weakened the Falangist position and therefore have made Spanish intervention, whether active or passive, less likely. the Party has been given control of the press and of propaganda. The Falangist organ Arriba prophesies, moreover, impending decisions of great importance. One thing, however, seems to be certain, and that is that General Franco himself is yet more firmly seated in the position of supreme power, and that being so we need not fear any hasty or impulsive decision which would retard the slow and painful work of recovery from the effects of war, The news that the difficult subject of settling the points in discussion between Spain and the Vatican has been achieved lends additional weight to the view that Spain is reaching the all-round stability upon which any worth-while reconstruction must be based.

Vichy's position is infinitely more difficult than that of Spain, but since the time when these notes were last written we have heard of nothing which conflicts with our view (held apparently in this country only by ourselves) that Petain and Darlan have no thought of the allround betrayal of which they have been so freely accused. We cannot, of course, disregard the possibility that French leaders should ultimately despair of a British victory and very reluctantly decide that France's only hope for the future lies in making what terms it can with a • victorious Germany. But if this is a danger, the right answer is surely to prove to France that their fears are unfounded, and President Roosevelt's action is likely to go far along this direction. And while Frenchmen are divided on the issue, it is wishful thinking to suppose that the great majority are not at present content to follow their leaders in the extremely difficult path which they are treading. Every Anglo-American success will powerfully encourage the Vichy Government to stand firm, however burdensome be the immediate results. Firmness, yet combined with courtesy and sympathy, are needed on our part.

CRETE AND THE AIR FORCE

IT must have come as a shock to the ordinary man to hear that the Germans once again possessed the command of the air in the battle of Crete. And if that ordinary man troubled to look up a regent reference book, such as Horrabin's Atlas-History of the Second Great War, he would be even more surprised. For there he would find Crete described as " A New British Air Base." " Immediately upon the entry of Greece i into the war,' t is further stated, " the Greek island of Crete became of the first importance, since it provided both sea and air bases for the harassing of Italian communications with Libya, and the Albanian ports."

The ordinary man might also recall the excuses given in the Greek campaign for the lack of sufficient air protection, namely the lack of suitable aerodromes, and he might well wonder how it is that the Germans, so soon after the conquest of Greece, have been able to find effective bases for a full scale invasion of an island from the air. Lastly on further examining a map of the F-astern Mediterranean, he might observe that the distance from Alexandria to Crete is only 350 miles and from SoIlum to Crete only 250.

With the best will in the world one begins to wonder whether the British command in the Middle East is really up to its job. The importance of Crete and Cyprus from a strategical point of view was never in doubt. There was a reasonable amount of warning. Conditions for the successful defence of these islands were good. white the problems set to the attacking forces were great. Yet when the battle begins we are told that there has not been (and cannot be) any provision for the vital air-defence, only to hear a little later, when the enemy has secured a strong foothold, that our bombers and fighters are in a position to obtain successful results. It is certainly high time Parliament began to press some awkward questions and to cease gaping in silent admiration at the Government.

THE BISMARCK

THE sinking of the Bismarck will bring

home to the Germans that Great Britain still rules the waves, even though in the depths under the waves Germany is making a bid to destroy our merchant fleet, The tragic and unlucky loss of the Hood actually emphasises how rare have been serious losses in the waters of the Atlantic despite the German efforts to make up for their lack of important surface craft by submarines and in the

air. And when a great ship like the Flood blows up through a chance shot the fate of its destroyer is sealed. Out of this encounter the German navy has come out absolutely and relatively very much worse off. Admiral Raeder is likely in future to watch his step more carefully.

On the other hand the Royal Navy operates under a heavy handicap in the narrower waters of the Mediterranean, and Germany there has been able to take a heavy toll of our ships defending Crete. The vulnerability of warships, insufficiently protected from the air and subject to heavy and continuous attacks from hostile bombers, would seem to have been demonstrated. But even this serves to show with what skill the Mediterranean fleet has been operating during the year, since it has rarely been out of range of the enemy's air-force. Nor is it easy to feel assured that in this critical battle of Crete either our navy or our forces on the islands have received the air protection which might have been given them, had sufficient imagination and foresight been possessed by the high command. NTO useful purpose is achieved by dis guising the fact that for the next few months and perhaps until the beginning of next year our shipping position will be highly precarious. We need not anticipate a loss of more than 3,000,000 tons a year, but it is improbable that we shall be let off much more lightly. For the present, American aid cannot possibly keep pace with such a figure. By all accounts we cannot reckon during the rest of the present year with the total construction of more than 900,000 tons. It is only in 1942 that acceleration is at all likely to close the gap. True, acceleration is already proceeding. For the first quarter of the current year 126,000 tons were completed, but the second quarter is already likely to show an increase up to 200,000 tons and though the interim period will be definitely trying, 1942 may show some truly amazing figures. It is then that the "Ugly Duckling " vessels provided for in the Emergency Programme will begin to come into being. No less than 370 of these standardised cargo vessels of 7,000 gross tons each are provided for. Mass production methods will then be in full swing and an annual output of 3,000,000 tons, sufficient that is to say to offset the probable rate of sinking, is likely to be achieved. For the intervening period, however, we cannot but underline again the vital necessity that every man or woman should pull his or her weight to the last ounce of their ca pacify, and that every acre should be utilised to the utmost, for it will be hard days and snort commons till the shipping tide turns.

COMPULSORY FIRE WATCHING

T HERE can be no question about the A State's right to make such duties as fire watching compulsory on all those who are physically able to perform them and complaints reaching us on this account are founded less on the principle of compulsion itself than on its inequitable application. Thus men putting in a twelve hour day in the factory are in many cases aggrieved that they should be called upon to sacrifice a night's rest and still continue without intermission at their work on the following day. This, we admit, is a matter, if not of justice, then at least simple commonsense. Where a man's work needs quickness of mind and alertness of eye, it is ludicrous to put him under a wholly excessive strain. While, therefore, the exhortation of the more disgruntled that the job should be undertaken by " all those people who are riding about in Rolls Royces " hardly offers a practicable solution (riding in a Rolls Royce, that startlingly ubiquitous vehicle, is apparently the hall-mark of the natural fire watcher) a system of drafting from the less harassed occupations should surely be arranged. The problem is a pressing one. In many shops some of the more skilled hands are trading on their indispensability and are openly refusing fire watching duties. Such conduct is, of course, indefensible, but that does not mean that there is no grievance. Indeed there is here not only a striking inequality in the sharing of war burdens but an unintelligent and uneconomic apportionment of human resources, which calls for immediate rectification.

A FAMILY IN POLAND 'SATHAT war and the ruthless pursuit of nationalist policies really mean to human beings can often be better understood by a vivid description of one man's fate than by all the rhetorical arguments in the world, We therefore quote from a letter written by a Polish woman now living in the General Government area. Before the war she was living in comfortable circumstances. The letter reads: " Forgive the scribble, but an opportunity has come to let you have a letter, so I have sat down straight to write it from the rough work which I have to do now. But my hands are shaking, and besides I am sitting low and writing on my knees. We haven't any table, and we sit on our beds, for we haven't any chairs either. It makes life very difficult when you haven't got anything, or anything to wear, or anything to cook with.

Fuel is difficult, too. You may have heard that we are living in the forest, in a hut which is more like a shed; there are great cracks in the walls. You can guess that it is very difficult to get warm enough even to be able to take off our overcoats for a little while.

" All our anxiety is to get food for the children, Our means are coming to an end and we don't know what will happen then. We continually console ourselves with the thought that spring and summer are near, that there will be berries and so on, and it is always easier to manage then. At present all our efforts are concentrated on filling the children's bellies. We are selling what is left of our wardrobe: our coats, clothing, and boots, and that will help for a little while . but I don't dare to think what will happen after . . The children are a continual anxiety, they haven't anything, even to read, and of course are not getting any education. They help as best they can in our present life, they fetch water, collect brushwood for fires, help in the cleaning, and so on. I have to do everything and in particular I do all the fetching and carrying, that it safer for me to do than any of the others, for I am over forty. At times the journey is very hard; recently I had to go to the town, five kilometres, and the snowdrifts were so deep that I hardly got there. I always return home dreading that I shall not find them all there. The older boys are already as tall as their father, though they are still so young, and with the continually increasing forced deportations we never know how long we shall have them with us, That is the worst of all: this everlasting

threat hanging over us. And Marysia also is fifteen and . . . she is very good

looking.. And such terrible things are happening. Arid there are other dangers and fears. There has been a new wave of general deportations and it is again getting near here. Shall we be able to escape it? You have no idea how difficult it is both rneterially and morally ... All our effort, all our endeavour is to avoid breaking down . . But how long will our strength last?"




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