The War Illustrated No 80 Vol 4 March 14th 1941

The War Illustrated March 14 tfi, 1941 The Battle of the Western Approaches After threatening us for months with an invasion, Hitler now promises a war of exter­mination on the high seas. Certainly we may expect in the near future an intensification of the U-boat campaign in our Western Approaches— those Atlantic traffic lanes along which-the life-sustaining ships reach British ports. ~\\J here can Hitler “get us down”?y y Not in the Western Desert, not in the wastes and jungles of East Africa not in the Balkans or the Aegean not in Palestine or at Suez. Not anywhere, indeed, save within sight,of our own shores. Only by a tremendous onslaught against the British fortress couid Hitler perhaps win the war :only in that way— or by starving us out. O f the two alternatives we may well suppose that the Fuehrer would prefer the second. If he can turn the sea approaches to this island into one vast graveyard of British ships then there will be no need for the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of German lives. The fortress would have to surrender —brought low not by the guns of the enemy but by the grim spectre of famine. Thus the really decisive battle of the war may have to be fought— perhap£it is even now being fought —in the Western Approaches, in the traffic lanes to our ports that face the Atlantic. We may trace them in a huge semicircle enclosing our western coasts, stretching from the Bay of Biscay whereto the Atlantic joins the Arctic. The English Channel, the Irish Sea, St. George’s Channel, the waterways of the Atlantic between Iceland and the Faroes, the Faroes and the Orkneys, between the Orkneys and Norway, the North Sea— these together constitute one great battlefield in which even now Hitler’s U-boats are waging deadly war against our ships. A time of crisis is approaching Mr. Stimson, America’s Secretary of War, has declared that he is “apprehensive as to the possibility of a crisis within the next 60 or at least 90 days.” He was speaking on Jan. 17, so he had in mind the end of March and April. Many other indications togo suggest that these weeks of spring will be indeed critical. ‘We Have Not Been Asleep this Winter ’Certainly Hitler will do his best to make them so. Now our sea warfare can begin in earnest,” he declared in his speech in the Munich beer cellar on Feb. 24. “We have been waiting for our new U-boats, but in March and April a naval warfare will start such as the enemy has never expected. Wherever Britain touches the Continent we shall face her. Wherever British ships cruise, our U-boats will be sent against them until the hour of decision arrives.” Then, after boasting that the German Naval High Seas forces and U-boats had sunk 215,000 tons of shipping in two days, including a convoy with a tonnage of 125,000, he went on: “they will then see whether we have been asleep this .winter, and who has made use of time.” The Fuehrer’s figures were ludicrously false, but his boasts about his U-boats are in a different case. A year ago it was being said that “Hitler had missed the bus,” but in avery short time it was proved beyond a doubt that he had caught it with plenty of time to spare. We maybe sure that he has not missed this bus either, and that all during the winter the shipping yards under his control—and what a col­lection they make, not only in Germany at the ports on the seas and rivers, but in Occupied France and Belgium, Holland and Denmark and Norway, Italy and Rumania, and, maybe, Japan !—have been working overtime in producing those U-boats which, though smaller than their predecessors, may well prove just as dangerous because they will be operating at only short distances from their home ports. “There is no doubt,” said Lord Beaverbrook in his broadcast to Canada on February 23, “that the enemy intends to attack us in our ocean pathways— above all in the North-Western Approaches. We shall be subjected to constant raids on our shipping. There will be ceaseless attacks under and over the seas. The battle will belong and bloody. The toll of tonnage will be heavy, too.” In the last war the Kaiser's U-boats had to be ocean-going ships, for their bases were hundreds of miles from the principal shipping lanes which were the scene of their activities but in this war Admiral Raeder has control of the Channel ports, of Brest and Bergen, and many more. One advantage accruing to the Nazis from their occupation of the Channel ports is that the U-boat crews do ANS W E RING HITLERS CHALLENGE of Feb. 24 when, speaking at Munich, he threatened anew U-boat campaign of unparalleled intensity, the shipyards of Britain and the Empire are turning out new ships at a rate never before approachcd. The work of the Royal Navy is one reply to H itle r’s threats another is the scene above, typical of many similar ones elsewhere, in a British shipyard. Them erch antm anon the Seft is being rapidly completed, while th a ton the right is ready for launching. In the approaching ocean struggle, as Lord B eaverbrook warned the Empire, the toll of tonnage will be heavy.'* W e must be ready to replace it. Photo. Central Press
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