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Editorial – A Cry From No Man’s Land

11 November 1939

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 11 November 1939

A Cry From No Man’s Land

The offer of the King of the Belgians and the Queen of Holland to mediate for peace between Hitler and the Allies is the most pathetic incident of the war. Of the sincerity of their gesture there can be no doubt. Peace, justice, and freedom are the very life of the little nations over whom they rule, and even if that were not so, their situation in a No Man’s Land between the terrific forces is full of the deadliest danger. No wonder they appeal for peace, and we shall not blame them if they are not too particular about the character of the peace or its duration, for their situation is desperate and almost any interruption or diversion is to be welcomed.

Belgium fell a victim to the brutal Hun in the last war; this time Holland is in the greater danger. It is believed that Hitler has sanctioned a plan for the invasion of Holland—one of three or four possible alternatives open to him —with the intention of establishing air bases on the Friesland coast for the concentrated bombardment of Britain. If that plan is discarded he must fall back on the attempt to turn the Maginot Line possibly through Switzerland and certainly through Belgium. If Belgium consents to the violation of Holland she will be spared for the moment, but her turn will come. Any attack on Belgium would inevitably involve wholesale violation of Holland. Already the anti-aircraft defences of both countries are constantly in action against German planes crossing their territory. Holland rode out the last war comparatively snugly, and indeed did remarkably well, grieved as she was at the fate of her little friend and rejoiced as she was at the glorious resurrection. But modern air warfare has tremendously added to the terrors a big and bad neighbour can inspire. So far Belgium and Holland have risen to the occasion sturdily, and manned their frontiers and organised their defences with every intention of resisting to the death the stroke with which they are threatened. Happily powerful help is at hand if needed —but both these little countries are at one with their sovereigns in praying fervently that it may not be needed, that the war will pass them by, and will indeed somehow pass away.

The King of the Belgians and the Queen of Holland invite proposals for peace from both sides. Would they present to us a renewal of Hitler’s determination to hold Poland and Czechoslovakia, and to enter into a permanent pact with Russia to share the hegemony of Europe and vassalise Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and the Balkans? Would they present to Hitler a renewal of our determination to demand guarantees for the renunciation of Hitlerism and aggression? Even in the midst of their own immediate and deadly peril they would not venture to invite a discussion of such proposals. To minister at this stage to a German peace would be a fatal betrayal of the sovereignty and independence of their own peoples.

Nevertheless we owe them thanks and sympathy for the effort put forth—for we too desire peace, as earnestly as they, but it must this time be a lasting peace, broad based on the complete overthrow of tyranny.