Editorial – The Battle for Britain

20 July 1940

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 13 July 1940

The Battle for Britain

We are in the presence of tremendous events, the real significance of which we are unable to appreciate at this distance of time and space. The whole world is resounding with hammer-blows intended to reshape it: not a day passes without its chronicle of battle, murder, and sudden death. The papers dismiss in a paragraph an event which would normally have occupied the greater part of a peace-time issue.

The war is teaching even newspapers to keep down to essentials. Surely never again will journalism occupy itself with trivialities. However we may sigh for the old happy secure setting of the “silly season,” the world beyond this war will never recover the careless rapture of the world before the war. But this is no time to speculate upon the world beyond the war, or upon our war aims, which are now reduced to Security and Survival and these two boil down to — Victory.

We must win or fall to cureless ruin. The battle for Britain is warming up and though we have not yet been subjected to land raids either by sea or air we are at the stage of preliminary assault on ports and communications. So far we have reason to congratulate ourselves on our defence. This has taken severe toll of daylight raiders, and neither by night nor by day has the enemy been able to inflict important damage on any military objective port, ship, factory or aerodrome. He made his greatest effort on Wednesday, employing hundreds of aeroplanes, and suffered his severest loss. It seems fairly certain that he will suffer loss in proportion to effort, and though our defensive air forces are numerically weaker, the margin is almost cancelled by the fact that we are operating on short interior lines with powerful support of ground and sea gunnery, leaving us with the clear advantage of our great superiority in  the quality of men and machines.

In this blitzkrieg there is inevitable damage to property, with injury and loss of life to the civilian population, though as yet this is not on the expected scale and the civilian morale, even in districts which are constantly visited and threatened, is very high. We are reminded that casualties from air raids so far are not comparable with the casualty rate from road accidents which before the war we had come to accept as the inevitable price of so called progress. This may be small consolation to those injured or bereaved by the action of the enemy but it does help to set this scene in some sort of proportion.

The Germans are also operating outside the immediate war zone against our supplies and communications by air and submarine. In this field also the intention is to beleaguer and counter-blockade us. It will not succeed, but the Royal Navy are presented with a tremendous problem in dealing with it. Their task would have been terribly complicated if the villains and villeins of Vichy had been allowed to, present the French fleet to their German masters.

On the whole the battle for Britain is going well for us. We have nothing to fear from the Increased intensity we may expect, for we are fighting under conditions offering great advantages to the defence, and enabling us to inflict exhaustion and loss on the enemy at a rate which would not have been possible in operations at greater distances from our air fields. This advantage is paid for by our civilian population, who are brought into the front line and share to some extent, the hardships and dangers of the campaign, in spite of the wonderful skill and gallantry with which the  blows now aimed at them day and, night are warded off and returned.

They have the consolation of this close association with the fighting forces and they know that for their sufferings ample reprisals are being exacted by the R.A.F. whose incessant raids on German and German occupied territory are beginning to fray the legend of German invincibility and to let into Germany some of the light of truth about the way the war is going.

The boldness and, swiftness of the measures taken by the British Government and the Royal Navy to prevent the French Fleet from falling into the hands of the enemy, have tremendously heartened the Empire, impressed the United States, and, we may be, sure, dismayed our enemies, and increased their respect for the formidable force they have provoked.