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Editorial – The Rigour of the Game

25 November 1939

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 25 November 1939

The Rigour of the Game

The position of European neutrals is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. For our part we regret this, though we cannot forget that their future freedom is staked on our victory in this struggle. If the Allied cause goes down every lamp of liberty in Europe will go out. Nevertheless, we would not willingly extend the area of the war by embroiling States whose only desire is to stand aside from the quarrel and to continue their normal peaceful life, so far as that may be possible amid this inferno.

A major conflict between powerful and widespread forces such as those of the Allies and of Germany is bound to affect profoundly the safety and welfare even of innocent bystanders. Germany is a bad neighbour at best, and when desperate she is horrid. Unable to break the stranglehold of our Fleet she is resorting to the terrorism on which all her success has so far been founded. Instead of turning her full armed might against the comparable forces of Prance and Great Britain she is harrassing and intimidating the small States on her border.

This is the Hitler technique of bloodless war, which cannot be practised against equal strength. For this reason, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Denmark, are under the abiding threat of invasion, and are only protected from violation—as unhappy Poland could not be—by the nearness of powerful aid. Even so, Germany may yet commit this last infamy, though it will be the sure and final sign of despair and defeat. Her new campaign of frightfulness at sea, manifested in the indiscriminate sowing of mines in shipping lanes, is but an intensification of the war on neutral, shipping which she has conducted from the first.

We are strong enough to blockade Germany according to international law, with complete regard for the rights and safety of neutral shipping. Germany is unable to wage war in this way. In default of means to break the blockade by main force she must strike beneath the water, for the seas have been swept of her surface ships.

The intensification of mine warfare has borne hardly upon neutrals. The Germans have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Doubtful whether to disown these new atrocities or to boast of them, Germany nevertheless gloats over them. In the last war her resort to this same barbarous practice of scattering mines in the path of shipping with utter disregard of the safety of passengers and crews was met with swift and powerful retaliation from the British Navy. The last link in the blockade was then forged.

German exports were seized and impounded. That action is again I being taken. It is unfortunate for neutrals that this should involve further curtailment of their overseas trade. Again the Dutch are the chief sufferers, since Holland is the principal outlet by which Germany is still able to export and so earn the foreign currency she badly needs.

Germany’s barbarous behaviour has only strengthened the British Navy’s grip by giving occasion and justification for the final destruction of her export trade. Neutrals have been treated with the greatest consideration by the British Navy, and we may be sure that the extended powers of search and detention will be exercised in the same spirit. As for the Germans, they have been given a dose of their own medicine. They have done their utmost to hinder and discourage neutrals from trading with this country. They cannot now complain if we for our part cut off all German overseas trade through neutrals. Since Germany chooses the “rigour of the game” she must expect to be fought in that stern spirit.