24 MAY 1940, Page 16


[In view of the paper shortage it is essential that letters on these pages should be brief. We are anxious not to reduce the number of letters, but unless they are shorter they must be fewer. Writers are urged to study the art of compression.—Ed., The Spectator."J


Sm,—One of the first acts of the newly-appointed Minister for Aircraft Production has been to " appeal " to employees in garages to transfer their services to factories producing aircraft.

The time has surely come for measures more drastic than mere " appeals."

If the use of private cars were disallowed except in cases where it is necessary for business or professional reasons, it may be presumed that numbers of skilled mechanics would auto- matically be released for work of national importance. In addi- tion, hundreds of thousands of tons of petrol at present expended on " joy-riding " would become available for the prosecution of the war.

It is true that numbers of cars would not be re-licensed and that the Exchequer would suffer a loss of revenue. But that is the price which would have to be paid for an important increase in production which would contribute to the shortening of the war and the saving of human life and property.

If my experience is in any way typical, more and more people in this country have the feeling that, during the nine months of war which lie behind us, the Government showed a wholly unwarrantable timidity about asking even the most rudimentary sacrifices from a public which would have made them only too readily.

Unless the people of this country is prepared to accept sacri- fices of ease and comfort comparable to those which the German public is being obliged, willy nilly, to endure, we shall continue to witness the spectacle of Germany, with inferior resources, building more tanks and more aircraft and having more goods for export than this country.

It should have become abundantly clear by now that this country has to face, and face immediately, a choice between the most far-reaching reduction in civilian consumption on the one hand and a permanent inferiority in tanks and aircraft on the other.

We are fighting an enemy who, over a period of years, has preferred guns to butter. We may continue, for a time, to cling desperately to our preference for butter, but, if we do, we must not be surprised if our troops find themselves out-gunned.

I believe that the British people, faced with the gravest crisis in its history, is ready for sacrifices even greater than those which proved necessary to our victory in 1918. If I were not confident of this I should feel less sure of our ultimate victory. What Englishman, realising that it is a choice between Sunday joy- rides and adequate armaments for our troops, would opt for his joy-ride? What Englishman would resent the disappearance of cream from his table if it was explained to him that so trivial a sacrifice meant more anti-tank guns for the protection of British troops in France or Flanders?

Thanks to a tragic misconception on the part of those whose duty it was to inform us, we have been allowed, during nine months of war, to retain a disastrous illusion—namely, that it is possible to combine the winning of a " total war " with the maintenance of pre-war standards of ease and comfort.

It is time that someone warned us authoritatively against so