5 JANUARY 1940, Page 11



F we are asked how the war will develop in the year I that is now beginning we have to admit that there are still too many unknown factors to permit us to make more than a guess. One of these unknown factors is the develop- ment of the Finnish campaign. Is Finland to accomplish the impossible and keep Russia hammering away, with merely the hope of strategic gain, indefinitely? There can be little doubt that with adequate munitions and an appre- ciable reinforcement of troops that might be achieved. If Russia were to learn wisdom and break off the offensives in the extreme north and north-east, there would be more danger that she would succeed in the south. But, up to the present moment, the only signs of tactical or strategical insight have appeared on the Finnish side ; and even a new supply of generals and fresh troops may not provide the power to break through.

But how does this episode govern the development of the war in general? An army, it has been said, marches on its stomach ; and the statement is as trite as it is true. But today we have to realise that the stomach devours immense and increasing quantities of coal and oil. The stomach, in fine, and therefore the modern army, lives on its transport, and if this fails it weakens, hesitates and stops. If the German or French railways could be brought to a halt, how long would the armies remain armies? As long perhaps as oil and petrol remained ; and after that inertia, inanition, breakdown. Take away only the oil and petrol, and aeroplanes, tanks and motor lorries would be completely immobilised. It will, then, be seen that an army is as strong as its transport ; and this, though a commonplace, has implications which may govern the direction of our strategy to new and unexpected developments The arrival of two batches of Canadian troops and of Australians in England and of Indians in France are events of impressive symbolism. They demonstrate in a way that must bring conviction to anyone capable of understanding evidence that Allied sea-power is intact. It is not destroyed, it is not seriously weakened, by the day-to-day sinkings which the German submarines and mines achieve. The sinkings have fallen to a point well below those of the last months of 1917, when it was realised that the German threat had been mastered. It is reported that the Germans are now building much smaller submarines, and it is probable that these will soon infest home waters in great numbers. They may send up the sinkings for a few weeks ; but they are no more immune from the law of consequences than the ' Graf Spec.' Shipbuilding and ship-buying are proceeding apace, and there is no obvious indication of any factor that can com- pletely change the present situation.

Bases in the Low Countries, and the co-ordination of the undersea with a developed air attack, might produce such a change ; but this adventure has been so long advertised that everyone has had time to make preparations for resistance. The anti-submarine and minesweeping services have been expanded and the air service has apparently achieved a definite ascendancy. We are aiming at a complete supremacy in the air ; and a dominant Air Force, even if used only against purely military objectives, would have a very con- siderable effect.

Our main communications, therefore, while requiring con- stant care, seem reasonably safe ; and while that remains true the subsidiary transport can play its destined role. The markets of the world are open to us. Food, munitions and the necessary oil (and high-grade petrol) can be had in what- ever quantities are needed. All that we have to do is to balance our needs, since the consumption of food as well as of oil (and petrol) expand during war. But conditions remaining as they are, we can secure what we want.

It is far otherwise with the enemy ; and when we begin to consider his position the relevance of the Finnish cam- paign becomes at once evident. First of all, it is impossible to ignore the state of the German railways. Apparently efforts have been directed so wholeheartedly to the provision of aeroplanes and arms that the upkeep of the railways has been left to itself. The German Government will now be compelled to attend to this matter, which might become of vital importance in major military operations. This will involve some slackening in the manufacture of submarines and aeroplanes. Railways are, however, a much graver con- sideration for Russia. Transport is thoroughly bad throughout the country; but now it is said the Murmansk railway has been cut, at a time when it is most necessary for the campaign against Finland. If the northern and north-eastern offensives are to be continued, more and more transport will be called for ; more rolling-stock on the railways, more petrol for supply from the railhead, and for tanks. The mere con- tinuance of the campaign in the south, if it is to be pressed to a successful issue, will occupy a steady and increasing volume of transport, both rail and motor.

Besides the concentrations against Finland, Russia has con- siderable bodies of troops near the Rumanian frontier, in southern Asia and in the Far East. On none of these sectors has she sufficient transport to do more than carry on. The Finnish campaign is causing an immense strain ; and it must directly affect Germany. Cut off from the sea, she must look to Russia for many of the substances she requires for war ; but how can she obtain them if the exceptional strain on Russia continues? It has always been doubtful if Russia could supply even a considerable percentage of the essential demands of Germany; but now, with the Finnish campaign increasing her consumption of those very com- modities enormously, and making increased calls on her rolling-stock to transport them, the prospect for Germany is bleak indeed. Take the question of petrol. In peace time Germany uses from 8 to 9 million tons per annum. The synthetic manufacture of petrol has been highly developed ; but more than half the petrol she used had to be imported. In wartime she might use 16 to 20 million tons ; and now she is cut off from the free supply.

Her petrol, in fact, must come from Russia and Rumania ; and in both cases she is met with difficulties of transport, even if an unlimited supply were offered. Rumania cannot send the oil by sea. Danubian transport is not very effective and in winter may even be completely interrupted. In effect, she must rely upon Russia for the bulk of her imports. But the problem of transport in this case is much more difficult. Most of the Russian oil comes from the South Caucasus by pipe-line to Batum. But transport from Batum to Germany involves subsidiary pipe-lines, canals, railways and a change of gauges. Moreover, the continuance of the Finnish campaign means that Russia will have less and less available for export. And yet the needs of heavy campaign- ing on the Polish model, particularly in conjunction with a developed submarine and air offensive, may be enormous.

Germany's position in regard to petrol must be considered unhappy ; but the sources of supply being where they are, in the Black Sea region, it is inevitable the Allies should cast their eyes in that direction. We have a considerable force in the Near East ; and Germany must at least have some anxious moments when she remembers it, particularly now that the Russian army is seen to be as poor as its severest critics held. It is not beyond the bounds of the possible that developments may take place there before the year is out. The chance of immobilising the mechanised and air forces of the enemy may prove irresistible. At present the pressure of events is playing a part in that direc- tion and, though not to be exaggerated, it is equally not to be ignored.