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Editorial – Britain’s Battle Begins

17 August 1940

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 17 August 1940

Britain’s Battle Begins

The battle for local air supremacy,” an essential preliminary to any” serious attempt to invade this country, has been fairly joined. The process of testing our defences has so far proved very costly to the enemy, but he is playing for a high stake and expects great losses. It is too early to say that a decision has already been reached, but if our defences continue to exact toll at the present rate, the Battle for Britain will not long be in doubt, and Hitler’s hope of winning the war in one summer campaign will have vanished.

Behind the glorious fighting spirit and marvellous skill of the R.A.F. is the calm determination of the British people to endure all things, and to support by high civilian morale as well as material effort the gallant defence of our beloved country, now fiercely assailed by air and presently perhaps by sea and land. The southeast and south coast areas have been subjected to particularly intense attack and the civilian, population of that region have had an uncomfortable experience to which they have reacted with soldierly discipline. The Sunday school children of the little town of! Portland, who sang hymns during a great air battle over the docks and harbours of Portland and Weymouth, are symptomatic of the coolness with which the shock of battle is being accepted by all people determined to “stay put” and see it through.

The delivery of the long threatened assault is but a part, and perhaps at first not the most important part, of Hitler’s design to knock the British Empire out of the war. It is now fairly clear that Italy has been assigned the other part, which is to detain and immobilise large British Forces in the Near East, and now or later to break our grip on the Mediterranean, our vital ganglion. It is clear also that each half of the battle must for us be self-sustaining and that any attempt at present to reinforce one field from the other will conform to the enemy’s strategy rather than to our own. On a cool, dispassionate survey off the situation we see much to hearten and encourage us in both fields. In spite of the defection of the French in North Africa, the Italians alone do not constitute a formidable threat, and though we must make our account with the certainty that they will be stiffened and led by Germans, British sea-power allied, to well distributed land and air forces should hold the position there for as long as may be necessary to beat off the direct threat to Great Britain and to carry the fight into the heart of enemy country.

For many weeks now the, R.A.F. have been relentlessly hammering at the industrial plants, docks, harbours, aerodromes, and oil stores of Germany, and have now, in spite of the loss of French air bases, begun to make Italy feel the weight of the British air arm. As our power in the air grows we shall be able to release the great forces already gathered on land for the British offensive which , as Mr. Anthony Eden and his predecessor. Mr. Hore Belisha, agree, can alone win and end the war. Meanwhile, standing almost alone, and fighting absolutely alone, we are passing through a crucial, critical, and uncomfortable phase. That we shall emerge, not unscathed but triumphant, the magnificent exploits of the R.A.F. are glorious assurance. “He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.”