Editorial – Taking the Strain

11 July 1942

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 11 July 1942

Taking the Strain

In Egypt the war situation has improved during the last seven days. El Alamein, stoutly defended by the South Africans, interposed the necessary obstacle which deprived the spearhead of Rommel’s advancing hordes of momentum. For three critical days the Germans hurled themselves against our positions, but the supreme effort demanded by General Auchinleck was forthcoming.

The El Alamein block became the key to a rapidly improvised defensive system and almost within sight and sound of the fabled comforts and delights of Alexandria the invader was fought to a halt. His most intimate sight of the coveted prize remains an apocryphal glimpse obtained through the fled glasses of an Italian war correspondent. But having stopped die rot for the time being we are yet faced with the inescapable necessity of doing more.

While Rommel remains at the threshold of the Nile delta all our plans for future action are thwarted and imperilled. Having failed to rush the defences at the first onset the Germans are not the sort lightly to yield ‘ the very great advantage they have gained.

There are signs that a new bombing ordeal for Malta is developing. This means that supplies are being pushed across the Mediterranean narrows as fast as Germany and Italy can send them. Having thus advanced his forward bases beyond all initial hopes, Rommel will not budge, if he can possibly help it, until he can re-gather his forces for a blow by which he counts on bringing the campaign to a victorious conclusion, and smashing our grip on the Middle East.

On our side it is imperative not only to frustrate this deadly design but to hurl the Afrika Korps back out of reach of our slowly and painfully stored Egyptian bases. After rallying the Eighth Army to a great defensive stand General Auchinleck cannot harvest the full fruits of this success unless he pulls off the complementary stroke of a decisive counter move. Within the massive scheme of Hitler’s plans the advance into Egypt is a secondary item, as events on the Russian front now begin to prove. It can hardly have been expected to turn out so favourably, though it still falls short of producing rich dividends in any but a strategic sense.

The main weight of Germany’s yet formidable armed might is now being thrust in on a comparatively narrow front against the Red Army. Moving against Soviet defences based on the River Don, the Reichswehr can swing north against Moscow or south on the Caucasus if it prevails.

Here, as in Egypt, the paramount necessity is to blunt and bring to a standstill the armoured spearhead ever probing and prodding for a tender spot where defences can be smashed through. In the Middle East respite has been obtained. Sebastopol proved that Russian soldiers are not a whit less stubborn than British troops. The avowed policy of the Red Army is to grind down the enemy’s strength, to exact the uttermost payment in equipment and flesh and blood. There must be a limit to successes as dearly bought as those which Hitler has secured on the Eastern front. Each costly mile of his advance brings nearer that day of reckoning.

In the meantime, with one eye on Japan, malevolently quiet for the nonce, the United Nations face the supreme task of smothering the Teutonic fury now bent on settling matters in Russia and the Middle East preparatory to turning on Britain and America. It is a task which admits no failure. Much, perhaps all, hangs on its successful discharge.