Times and Express, SATURDAY, JUNE 8th, 1940.
Our immense thankfulness for the substantial rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from Flanders mercifully clouded the under-lying tragedy—the colossal military disaster, as Mr. Churchill has the courage and candour to call it.
For days we were buoyed and comforted with the tidings of miraculous evacuation, and the marvellous gallantry and teamwork that made it possible. The radio announcers almost brought us to the point of cheering wildly and demanding more retirements and more opportunities for vicarious glory in the imminent breach.
But as Mr. Churchill reminds us—not unnecessarily—wars are not won by evacuation, and some day if we are to win this war we must advance to the attack. The collapse of the Allied front in Picardy has delayed that day. But for the debacle at Sedan our offensive might even have flowed out of the German push. However, it was not to be, and we have to settle down patiently to repair damage and retrieve disaster.
That can and will be done, now that France and Great Britain are fully awake to their peril, having got grave errors out of their system. We have learned much from the brilliant generalship and staff work of the Germans, and are better able to emulate them in that than they are to equal the individual bravery of our men, demonstrated in the great rearguard actions at Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk.
Nevertheless, we must not forget that we are at grips with a brave as well as a brainy foe, who has used his brains to avoid the necessity for using his bravery. The Hun, however beastly his technique and loathsome his outlook, is a tough customer, dogged in defence, as we have learned before and shall discover again when the tide turns against him. There is in his host nothing like the high general level of personal gallantry by which the Allies in the Battle of Dunkirk matched the greatest deeds of their fathers, the old Contemptibles.
But Hitler’s shock troops are fanatically brave—utterly careless of their lives, and as this force diminishes it will be used with ever greater economy by the careful German general staff. However, all that is in the future. At the moment, the French Army of the Somme, with some British aid, is standing on the ” Weygand Line,” warding off Hitler’s second blow—a thrust for Paris.
If the French line holds this time, all will yet be well. For France this is the supreme test—the new, vital Verdun. ” Its ne passeront pas.” Whatever aid we can lend, by land, sea or air (and we are yet potent allies in all elements) will be gladly and eagerly thrown into the struggle.
Our Air Force may be able to play a decisive part—at any rate it is given ungrudgingly, whatever the cost or the danger to us at home. On both the short view and the long, the French must be given our utmost support in this new and critical phase of the struggle with Hitler’s monstrous military machine.