7 JUNE 1935, Page 22

Air Currents MOATS have been to the fore lately, but

moats, however picturesque, are archaic things, and it is against archaic out-

looks that General Groves for so long has been protesting.

Since he joined us at second wing headquarters of the old Flying Corps somewhere near Ypres in the spring of 1915 he has filled many much more eminent appointments both at the Air Ministry and at Geneva, and of late years he has been inveighing against the air policies of successive governments. He complains that while our professional soldiers and sailors refuse to recognize that the next war will not resemble the last war, and while they hate, mistrust and belittle new weapons, our politicians have turned blind eyes to the realities of the European situation and have starved aviation, both civil and military, of its necessary financial nourishment. He thinks it useless to go a-bargaining without assets, and he believes that the harsh reality is that armed force is still the dominant factor in human affairs: He goes further, and holds that of all kinds of armed force air force is the only force that matters in Europe today. War, he says, is no longer an affair of fronts, but one of areas. The next war will be decided by the breaking of the civilian morale under devastating aerial offensives, to which the only effective counter will be aerial retaliation. "Look to your moat" to him is a wretchedly inadequate cry.

" Let us forget the moat" (he says in effect) "and make ready to hit the other fellow first and hard. Then we shall have a useful voice in the preservation of peace. But if we neglect our offensive weapons nobody will care two pence what we think or say or do."

Like many another unfortunate prophet General Groves has had his thunder stolen from him. He has written an excellent short summary of the present air position throughout the world, both civil and military, and he boils it all up into a vigorous demonstration of the vital necessity for immediate and substantial British 'expansion in the air. It must be gratifying to him that the Government, after spending years giving a disarmament lead, has now decided that altruism has been carried far enough, and that we dare not remain any

longer in our ill-equipped state. At the same time he must have been disappointed that his book did not emerge from the press before the decision to treble the Home Defence portion of the Royal Air Force was announced. • Discussion of the merits or, as some may think, the fallacies of General Groves' case must necessarily entail a parallel dis- cussion of high Imperial policy, and that is outside the reviewer's province, but apart from this very important subject of air-offensives there are one or two matters in the book calling for comment. On the passive-defensive side the air raid preparedness on the continent is contrasted with British lethargy. But here, again, if we have not yet reached the enlightened state of European Russia, where,. according to General Groves, every child is equipped with a gas mask, we have, at all events, made an initial move and have created a new department charged with the direction and co-ordination of the efforts of local authorities. The author maintains that civil aviation must inevitably play a vital part in the ultimate structure of military aviation, and he condemns as niggardly the financial policy under which Great Britain has fallen so far behind German civil aviation achievement. And nobody, studying the statistics of the world's civil avia- tion activity, can feel much complacency at the British share. What we have done we have done reasonably well, but we have worked slowly and have not done more than a fraction of what needs to be done, and General Groves upbraids the Government heartily for neglecting to secure for British civil aviation a position in any way commensurate with the com- manding position won and held by the British merchant navy.

The prodigious growth of American aviation under a system of lavish State aid is well known, but the position in Soviet Russia offers a good deal of scope for reflection. The Soviet has not been slow to grasp the various implications of aviation, and the central gov.ernment with its aid is able the better to maintain control in outlying provinces. Russia's air organiza- tion is reputed to be both big and reasonably efficient and Russia is fast becoming a first-class air power. If she continues the development she may rapidly become a very commanding figure in world affairs. In this connexion General Groves demonstrates how aviation has already changed the whole Russo-Japanese situation, for while every single Japanese city and port offers an ideal target for Russian air raids, there are no such vital Russian objectives within striking distance of Japan. Altogether this is a stimulating little book, whether its political views are sound or not, and it summarizes so much air information so concisely and so readably, that it deserves, and it will no dcubt receive, very wide attention.