South Yorkshire Times – Saturday 25 July 1942
In the presence or imminence of great events in Russia and Egypt shipping is still the prime consideration looming behind all the plans and projects of the United Nations. This factor conditions all our strategy and has done ever since the fall of France.
It is now even more than a lifeline bringing raw materials and supplies to our factories and our homes. It is a positive weapon of war without which all other weapons are of little worth.
The position bears comparison with the critical days of 1917, when the German submarine blockade came near to beating the Allies. But then the threat of starvation was paramount, whereas to-day the issue is not so plain.
Hitler has always sought to deal singly with his adversaries and at all costs to avoid dual preoccupation in battle on a major scale. He has now come to the hardest part of his task, which is to overcome and destroy Russia before the joint weight of an Anglo-American attack takes him in the rear.
To this end he has done everything in his power to delay and thwart the preparations of the two Great Western powers. And the concentration of all these spoiling tactics has been and is being directed against our shipping. Stretched almost to the limit by world-wide commitments involving countless voyages of thousands of miles our shipping has been harried by every means within Hitler’s power. The U-boat and long-distance bomber have constituted the most direct intervention, but land successes have also been exploited to extend sea mileage. Hitler has no doubts that once he has settled the Russian business he can keep Britain and America at bay indefinitely, and there is every indication that he is right.
Whatever the extent of sabotage and the “go slow” campaign in the occupied countries, It is certain that together they represent an immense addition to the industrial machine constantly employed in replenishing the Nazi arsenal.
If it is Hitler’s game to hamper our preparations to suit his own time-table it Is obviously our plain necessity to baulk this intention at all costs. The American shipbuilding programme is making magnificent progress; two ships are being launched per day, soon the number will be three, next year four. A year hence the United Nations will have ships and to spare.
But will that be soon enough? The Minister of Production spoke last week-end in the most solemn terms of the next eighty days. Days of destiny indeed. If we are to remain masters of our fate we must outstrip everything that we have done hitherto. And this does not merely mean ceaseless effort in forge and mine and workshop. It means that all must be ready to make a personally sacrificial contribution so that from these islands there shall come blow so terrific in its intensity that the way to victory and the complete destruction of the Nazis shall be smashed open beyond question.
To lay the foundations of victory we must depend not on schedules but largely upon the ships we have or shall have presently. If this means that rations must be cut we must abide by such a necessity; if it entails further adjustment of our tastes and pocketing of our preferences we must welcome the discipline; whatever is required of us to this vital end we must do.
Our chance is coming, and we must on no account let it slip by. Our ships must not miss this tide which leads on to fortune, for the cause we have at heart depends on it. Such illusions as we may at one time have cherished about the Nazis staking all on a short war must be cast away. Hitler’s conquests have placed new cards in his hand, and success in Russia would supply the missing ace of trumps. With such a hand to bid from, time would take on a fresh significance for him. At all costs we must deny him this key card