Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 26 October 1940
Air Mastery Shall These Dry Bones Live?
“Any Frenchman who was not stirred by that appeal must be dead indeed,” was a typical New York comment on Mr. Churchill’s broadcast to the French nation. The best Frenchmen are dead, unfortunately, and what is left has not ‘the power and may not yet, even have the will to rise, so’ shattered is its morale, civil and military.
Out of the vast miserable ashamed apathy of that unhappy race the only energetic principle yet discernible is that of “co-operation with our conquerors” and the only Frenchman who knows , where he is going is the evil Laval, said to be preparing to, commit the final infamy of a declaration of war against the deserted, betrayed and wronged Ally of France, if that will buy from Hitler a peace that will leave France at least her eyes to weep with.
There are reasons why this move should be welcomed by us. The most important is that it would discharge us from the punctilio which prevents us from taking order with the unfriendly French forces in Africa and Syria. Once the hostility of Vichy is clear-cut, and its subservience to Berlin demonstrated beyond doubt, we need hesitate no longer to call upon the French colonials ,to fight with us or against us, or to lie down to us as they are lying down to everybody else.
After the Dakar fiasco there is no room for further softness or sentiment in the handling of what may be a mortal peril. But a declaration of war from Vichy is very unlikely, even though there appears to be no limit to the folly and’ perversity of the Petainists.
There is in all France to-day no stomach for a fight with anybody. If there were, Frenchmen would be clawing the Hun with their bare hands.
The French save for the gallant remnant now with us – are of no military value to anyone, and are unlikely to be for a long time to come. The steel had gone out of them long before capitulation—before the declaration of war it now appears—and it may take a generation to recover the lost valour of a race.
Certainly the French are unfit as the Italians are unfit to take a major part in war, though they may be serviceable later as an auxiliary. Moreover, Hitler has all they can give passively. If it were worth his while to arm them it would be dangerous to do so; if, re-armed, they are not dangerous to him. they cannot be dangerous to anyone else.
Mr. Churchill’s broadcast appeal to the French nation to, “re -arm its spirit” while there; is yet time ought to have brought Foch and the heroes of 1914-1918 from their graves. It was a trumpet call that should have thrilled the manhood of France to its marrow. We do not know to what extent the Germans and the Petainists succeeded in jamming the French version, and perhaps it is not very important.
What we find so difficult to realise is that a sense of shame and guilt, more than anything else, prevents France from struggling to her feet and back to her post on the battlements of civilisation. Not only the malevolent Anglophobes, far more numerous than ever the people of this country realised, but vast numbers of honest French people, in the agony of a national humiliation, wished for the subjugation of Britain also. If Britain not only survives this catastrophic defection but defeats the common enemy single handed, hampered instead of aided by a renegade ally, then what shred of justification for this criminal capitulation will remain?
One day, perhaps, France will rise with Jacobite fervour, hang the men of Vichy, and the invaders with paving stones. But not yet. Terror has entered deeply into the heart and soul of France, and Britain will have to do much hard fighting yet before the spell of Hitler is broken. Mr. Churchill’s broadcast, though wholly ineffectual for its ostensible purpose, was a glorious battle cry of defiance—a classic in itself, requiring no Shakespeare to gild or burnish it.