13 DECEMBER 1940, Page 3

Merchant Shipping Losses

The fact that this week's statistics of sinkings of merchant vessels show that the total was less than the weekly average for the whole period of the war would be more reassuring if the weekly average were not itself so disturbingly high. Last week's total was some 52,000 tons, the weekly average some 62,000. In the week before last the alarming figure of close on 88,000 was reached. The situation, therefore, shows some improvement, but we clearly cannot afford to go on losing even 52,000 tons a week. The difficulties created by Germany's occupation of the French submarine bases and our loss of the Eire naval bases are obvious, and Hitler has made no con- cealment of the efforts he is exerting to reduce this country by submarine and air blockade. Fortunately there are some grounds for thinking that the Germans are already doing their worst, whereas there are still possibilities of further defensive measures on our side. The coastal command of the R.A.F. is being strengthened, as the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons on Tuesday, and as the full fifty destroyers obtained from the United States come into service the situation will to some extent be eased. But the two developments most to be desired are the acquisition in some form or other of more light merchant-ships and naval craft from America and such a turn of events in the Mediterranean as would release British cruisers and destroyers from that sea for service in the Atlantic. As events are shaping, that transfer may be possible before long.