The War Illustrated No 105 Vol 5 Sept 10th 1941

61/7 U / fjA f (rf the ll/jj/ls THOSE TWO YEARS THINGS TO REMEMBER Two years have passed since that Sunday morning when, standing round our wireless sets, we heard that we were at war again. Two years—and what years !In those swiftly pursuing hours, those heavy drops o f time, we have known terrible experiences and fearfui joys we have felt the exultant thrill of victory and the cold stab o f defeat :we have been lifted upon the wings c f boundless hope only, erelong, to be plunged into the deeps where reigns a grim and comfortless gloom. From its very beginning this war has been vastly different from the last. We entered it in a mood of sober realism not for us in 1939 the trum pelings and flag-waving, the glam our and glee with which we and our fathers went to war in 1914, when war was still great adventure, supremely glorious, nohle, uplifting, inspiring. We know better today. Only Sir Arthur Keith strangely insists that war is a beneficent pruning-hook. We have no Bottomley bellowing his “patriotic ”bilge. We still havS our stay-at-hom e patriots, our armchair warriors but those o f us who remember the vulgar, senseless clam our o f a generation ago cannot but be impressed by the present absence o f foolish deprecia­tion o four enemy. We know today that though the Germans are dirty fighters they are also brave, bold, and resolute. Then in this war we have had now hite-leather girls who (poor things !)tried to show their patriotism by pinning the emblem o f cow ar­ dice on the lapels o f young men they met in the street. Our girls have found something better to do, whether it be punching tickets or making shells, driving a tractor oran ambulance through the blitz. o r us in these days war is no distant adven­ture. so interesting to read about and to see pictured when it is being fought many miles away by bands o f mercenaries. We have heard the swish o f falling bombs, the crash of gunfire, the noise of buildings collapsing alike castle of cards caught in the draught o fan opening door. War has come very near to us, into our own land, our own city or village, our own street, even our own home. We now know war for what it really is: as the most dirty, disgusting, degrading, and desperately dull activity to which human beings can descend. War has been debunked. But we know, too, that though it is all these things it is something which we have got to get on with and finish as soon and as thoroughly as we possibly can. I o o king back along the road ^which we have travelled in these two years, what are the features that catch the eye? First, those months when G o rt’s men stood side by side with G am elin’s and watched Tod t's engineers toiling on the other side of the Rhine Then we spy little groups o f khaki soldiery straggling and struggling in the mountain passes o f Norway. The scene shifts to the Low Countries, deluged by the flaming horror o f modern war. The whole o f the Western Front leaps into a roaring activity. We seethe survivors o f the once great -nay, still great— British Expeditionary Force burrowing in the sands o f Dunkirk, waiting with a stoical patience for the little ships which by a miracle of deliverance took most of them across the Channel to safety. Since Dunkirk we have had other evacua­tions. After the first triumphant rush to Benghazi our sorely denuded forces in the Western Desert were driven back into Egypt. We went to Greece, and after a tremendous rearguard action we were again forced to take to our ships and sail away. Crete was the same story. Each one o f these was a masterly evacuation, but wars, as Mr. Churchill found it necessary to remind us, arc not won by evacuations. Others have reminded us, too, that wars are not won by speeches, however line .•..H pnoucm we have known disappointments, Awe have had our moments o f compensa­tion. Perhaps the first was in thew a r’s early days when the Royal Navy showed that Hitler’s minelayers, U-boats, and surface raiders were not going to rule the waves. Even greater was the Battle o f Britain o f a year ago. when G oering’s Luftwaffe strove desperately to drive the R.A .F. from the skies. High above us was waged the tre­mendous duel. We watched the smoke trails painted on the azure sky. We saw “Slap-happy H erm ann's ”young men dive to the ground in smoke and flames. An American journalist said that Hitler had taken London but did 'tn know it on which we may com­ment that the Londoners did 'tn know it, cither Our gaze shifts to the ever- rolling ocean, and we watch the G raf Spee shot off the Atlantic, and the Bismarck shelled and bombed into an unmanageable hulk. Then in the far distance we glimpse the peaks o f Abyssinia, and try to form a picture o f that amazing war in which a little army o f British and Indians. South Africans and Africans from the West and East, sent the flimsy fabric o f M ussolini's Ethiopian Empire crashing into the dust. T n these two years we have known the joys o f comradeship, but we have known, too, the pangs o f severed friendship. We have seen our allies torn from our side, and bludgeoned into submission. Never since the crisis o f the Napoleonic wars or the struggle with new-born America was Britain so lonely as in the months following the collapse ot’ France. We realized our loneliness, and, in the Biblical phrase, we girded up our loins as never before— must we add, as never since ?But the darkness o f that dread time began to lift as from across the Atlantic the great American republic roused herself to assist Britain in the fight which is America’s too. As the years have passed, the character o f the war has changed. 1 do not refer entirely to matters o f strategy and tactics, though tank sand dive-bom bers, parachutists, Fifth Columnists, defence in depth, and scorched earth have made all the military textbooks just museum lumber. What I have in mind is the change that has been worked in the war's objectives. When it began two years ago w e v realized that we were fighting for our self-preservation, for our homeland and the Commonwealth, for the maintenance o four liberties, our traditions, our culture, our own ways o f life. But by degrees we are coming to stand for some­ thing greater even than self-preservation. Our war aim shave now a positive ring. Only the other day they were putdown on paper when Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill met somewhere in the broad Atlantic. HP h e years since the last war have been filled A with disillusion and disappointment. W e had such high hopes o f the world to which we were returning from the trenches and the high seas. We thought the politicians meant it when they orated about “homes for heroes ”and “an England fit for heroes to live in .”We thought that more“No war ”was not just a pious aspira­tion. We thought that the League o f Nations was something more than an imposing palace on Lake ...Geneva W e were deceived, and great was the reaction to our disillusionment. T Vow ,however, there is anew ^spirit abroad in the world. Oncc again we dare to hope. Once again we talk o f anew world, and think that it maybe worthwhile to turn our attention to planning it, since we may have an opportunity o f building it. Under the stress and strain of totalitarian aggres­sion anew “freedom front "is painfully being brought to birth, and in its construction, in the re­orientation o four wartime pur­pose, the yeo man’s part has been played by Franklin Roosevelt. If the world is ever to live at peace, he has told us, then we must have freedom o f speech and expression, freedom to worship G odin our own way, and freedom from fear, but we must also have—and here he strikes the note which Mill omitted in his classic exposition— freedom from want. In the light o f that hope surely even those o f us who have moreno illusions left to lose, can find in­spiration and encouragement when we outgo to meet all that the third year o f war may bring. l i .Roy s t o sPike
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