Home World War Two Stories from the War Editorial – Recoil

Editorial – Recoil

3 May 1941

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 03 May 1941


Once again Mr. Churchill has been called upon in an hour of black discouragement to rouse the elation to new hope and effort, and right well he performed his part.

He set the example of looking fairly and squarely at a situation full of difficulty and peril; but also of seeing the war steadily and seeing it whole. When the last tribute has been paid to the glorious heroism of the British and Greek forces, when due allowance has been made for the losses inflicted on the German hosts which have now occupied Greece, when regard is had to the inevitability as well as the hopelessness of our Greek adventure, when the cost to Germany has, been counted and reckoned against a bloodless occupation, we have to recognise the battle of Greece as just one more round in the war, and for us a lost round.

As Mr. Churchill reminded us after Dunkirk, wars are not won by successful evacuations and masterly retreats. As in Norway we went too late and with too little. At an early stage of the war Mr. Neville Chamberlain announced our intention of smiting the enemy at the time and point and with the force that would produce maximum effect. This was sound military wisdom which we have had the mortifying experience of seeing applied mainly by the enemy. After twenty months of war we are still opposing heroism to science and virtue to competence. The enemy has extracted full value from the advantages he has won by his perfidies and brutalities, and he has found moral obloquy no particular handicap. So far he has been able to meet us on land with overwhelming force; where he could not do this as in the British Isles—he has chosen not to do so at all.

He did not venture into Africa until sixty thousand of Wavell’s men were safely out of the way. When Hitler declared his eagerness to fight the British everywhere, he meant wherever he could be sure of overwhelming odds in his favour. It is the business of his brilliant staff to provide these conditions and to avoid battle unless they can. It is our business to organize victory by relying more on weight and less on courage, and by giving our forces at least a sporting chance of the local superiority essential to success in arms.

Our sea-power operates silently and certainly but slowly; where it can be brought to bear it is used with devastating effect, but it is the business of a skilful and resourceful enemy to present the least possible surface to powerful and concentrated attack by a superior arm. The Germans cannot give us direct battle at sea, where they are reduced to guerilla tactics; at this stage of the war we are very much in the same situation on the Continent of Europe, except that we are building a land and air force which when equipped will be able to withstand the full shock of Germany’s military might; whereas it is inconceivable that the Germans can mass comparable naval power within the time that remains to them.

Their hope is that victory in the battle of the Atlantic will bring down the British Empire and reduce the Royal Navy to a Maginot Line. It is a vain hope though a serious threat. The Germans cannot be unmindful of their own danger that of having erected a ramshackle empire of conquest on shifting sands of seething hate. They seek the lordship of a world which loaths their name and race and must eventually rise up and destroy them. They believe, however, that with the British conquered they can rivet their tyranny on mankind for ever. Conversely they know that all their conquests are empty and useless unless and until Britain has been put down.

We must keep the field now and take the field in good heart and earnest presently. Thrice we have been thrust from the Continent by this massive Nazi machine, but the time is coming when we shall meet it on equal terms on a battleground of our own choice. In Norway, in Flanders and in Greece we have demonstrated the individual superiority of our forces; the German High Command has strikingly confirmed this by its care to provide an overwhelming margin of strength against us. All our energy, civil and military, must be directed to cutting away that margin and meeting the enemy not merely with courage and resolution but with tank for tank and plane for plane.

This is a war of mass and machinery and not of Arthurian chivalry.