18 OCTOBER 1940, Page 6



THE enemy will never be beaten by a defensive, however complete it may be ; and it is sheer illusion to think he will. It is only by a victorious offensive that he will be defeated ; and it is well to recognise that there can be no short cut to this end. It may seem attractive to crush Italy and so by the defeat of the weaker partner in the alliance secure a decision against the stronger. But we cannot fail to recognise that Italy is the less accessible and therefore, in a true sense, the less vulnerable member. Clearly it is necessary for us to defeat the Italians in their attack upon the Suez Canal, and the Commander in the Near East is probably acting prudently in concentrating his land force and confining himself to harassing tactics until the enemy has weakened himself by extending his communications farther. If we are impatient at the cessation of direct air attacks upon military objectives in Italy itself, we ought to realise that there are numerous ways in which our bombers could be used with telling effect if a sufficiency were available. It is probable that the Command is doing the best with its limited means.

But even the defeat of Italy would only be in the nature of preparation for the final clash with Germany, and for this we must visualise a successful offensive. The main prepara- tion for this depends upon complete air supremacy. (A grow- ing supremacy at sea is assumed.) The beginnings of this preparation are, of course, being carried out at present ; and with a young, vigorous and experienced Air Command we ought to be able to look forward to its steady extension. Without air supremacy we cannot achieve victory. That at least will be admitted even by those who cannot admit the immense distance an air offensive may carry us. But with the attack applied not only to the destruction of munition factories, power plant, ports and dockyards but also to the complete inner blockade of the enemy by the severance of all the nodal points of his communications, the preparation for decisive attack would be almost sufficient.

Preparation of this character implies not only complete supremacy but also the provision of enough long-range fighters and bombers to raid at will in daylight, not only so to cut communications that internal movement over any but the shortest distances will be impossible but also to keep them cut. With the building-power of the United States at our disposal such supremacy and such provision should not be too distant a prospect. But if it could be so applied, is it conceivable that any country could long continue such an existence? With no prospect of bringing this country to such a pass the Germans imagine they will reduce us to revolution. But, given the proper ascendency, the Royal Air Force with its splendid tenacity, courage and technical skill can and may cut the arteries through which the life of ordered society flows ; and Germany will be reduced to straits compared with which the conditions in November, 1918, were luxury and ease.

It is at least arguable that such an offensive would compel Germany to ask for terms ; for it is not the inability to fight that compels armies to capitulate so much as the desire to escape further punishment. But let it be granted that this form of attack has been carried to such a pitch that the military machine has been gravely shaken, then will come the time to invade the Continent. At present the Germans are stretched out over 2,000 miles, from north to south, and apparently they are now attempting to rival this distance from west to east. They are offering the widest opportunity to an invader with a supreme Air Force and command of the sea. If, as Mr. Churchill said the other day, they have actually contem- plated throwing 500,000 men across the Channel lacking both conditions, could not a nation possessing them and with a tradition of " amphibious" operations consider it pract. cable? Over the 2,000 miles of coastline there is every variety of opportunity ; and it is surely not impossible to choose some place or places which would provide the conditions favourable for the establishment of a deep bridge-head.

The size of the expeditionary force is the next question which requires consideration ; but it is better to consider instead its nature. It will be admitted that only a mechanised force would have any chance of success in such an enterprise ; but the expeditionary force which went to France over a year ago might reasonably be described as a mechanised force. The army which we send abroad in the future must be con- ceived in a completely different way. Every new weapon tends to be regarded as merely ancillary to the army of yesterday. This has been so with the aeroplane ; and of course it has been the case with the tank. This weapon of our invention is not merely a machine to give mobility and force to a prehistoric army but the means to revolutionise it and turn it into the army of tomorrow, the truly mechanised army. It is better to conceive this sort of army not so much as an army provided with tanks as a concentration of tanks provided with an army.

Can it be said that the French army was unprovided with tanks? Not at all: it possessed 2,000 tanks in May ; and even at the battle of the Somme had still over t,000. The mistake made by the French was to use them in packets instead of in compact organised divisions. If we are to produce an army of the sort required we cannot too soon begin the rigid techni- cal training that its type involves. We have ordered 4,000 tanks from the United States ; but we shall need many more than that, and, more important still, we shall need prolonged training in their use and a perfect liaison with aeroplanes. There is no insuperable difficulty in providing the army with a sufficiency of suitable aeroplanes and practising their closest co-operation with the troops ; and somehow it must be done. The de Gaulle division is an admirable model to work to ; but perhaps experience may have suggested some improvements or adaptations which may be usefully incorporated.

At all events the present is the moment to come to some decision on these important points. While we are still in the phase of preparation, while on land all our efforts must be harnessed to the task of defeating the enemy in the Near East, we should be training the army which will take the field when the preparation is complete. We cannot compete with the enemy in numbers ; but we have shown in the air that we can defeat him in quality. Even if we had the numbers it would be folly to think of facing him with an army of tie old type. We must have more heavily armoured and swifter tanks; we must have more and better armoured divisions; we must have more and better aeroplanes. We shall be wise, too. if we use our aeroplanes in more perfect liaison with the ground forces. If we have not only dive-bombers for immediate co-operation with the tanks but also aeroplanes to act against the near communications and others against the distant nodal points we shall be able to circumscribe and control the action as we wish.

An invasion of Germany or German-occupied territory may seem a great venture, and it would certainly require the most careful rehearsing and training; but instead of practising this in British waters we could repeat, extend and adapt the brisk little action of June 25th, which somehow seems to have become already fossilised and added to the museum inste,,d of being used to provide the model upon which could be graftA a bold imaginative plan of attack. The landings then effected were described as " reconaissances of the enemy coastline but they inflicted loss and suffered none. A series of SUC.1 raids if carefully prepared might keep the enemy in a state of nervousness and anxiety ; and there may be occasions In ,Ne immediate future when it will be a great service to forces actually and critically engaged in the East to produce such a state of apprehension in the West. The long stretch of enemy coastline seems to call for some such action ; and what a stimulus it would give at a time when the familiar outlines of the Near East seem to be changing under our eyes.

It will be recognised that this design for victory gives a foremost, perhaps the main, role to industry. This is inevitable, and it is common ground. Even those who venture at present to look no further than the defence of their country recognise it. If the wheels of industry turn slowly, that prospect may continue to engage our attention longer than it should. It cannot monopolise the interest, since there are other countries, not disturbed by the moaning of the alert, which are building for us. But the immediate foreground of any plan for victory must be taken up by provision of material ; and, fortunately, one part of the offensive can be put into action even while we wait for the abundance we need for the decisive attack.