22 DECEMBER 1939, Page 1

The War on Fishing-Smacks

The Nazi reply to the destruction of the Graf Spee ' appears to be the initiation of a new warfare on fishing- smacks. At any rate the synchronisation is suggestive, for it was on Sunday evening, just when the last rites of the Graf Spee ' were being celebrated, that ten or a dozen fishing-trawlers were mercilessly bombed and machine- gunned by Nazi aeroplanes in the North Sea. Since then there have been daily repetitions ; crews in small boats have been attacked, and several neutrals are among the victims. This newest barbarity is characteristic, for the Germans are being driven by a succession of frustrations to a succession of barbarities. The U- boat war against British warships yielding little fruit, war is declared against British merchant ships. British mer- chant ships being too well protected for the U-boats to achieve the devastation they desired, neutrals indiscrimin- ately become the victims. The submarine campaign gene- rally providing mainly disappointments for its authors, the lawless warfare of unmoored and undeclared mines is initi- ated. Now to that is added—perhaps out of nothing more or less than spleen, since the operation is militarily meaningless —the attack from the air on fishing-smacks. There are brave and chivalrous men in every section of the German forces, by land, sea and air, but as a whole those forces, the army so far excepted, are debasing every decent tradition that better men than themselves have established and observed. Such things cannot be forgotten in the final reckoning. There is a distinction between war and deliberate murder.