The War Illustrated No 108 Vol 5 October 10th 1941

The o '/fief DO WE REALLY NEED AN ARMY OF MILLIONS? Never in the long history o f Britain have we made so great a military effort as today. Our Navy is the largest and most powerful in the world. Our Air Force cannot have far togo before it surpasses the Luftwaffe in numbers, as it surpasses it already inspirit. Our soldiers, here at home and on many a distant field, are to be counted in millions. We are trying to do what no other Great Pow eris a tte m p ting :we are trying to be supreme in three elements at once. And not content with this, we have embarked upon a colossal industrial effort, designed to supply not only our own needs but Those o four allies. About the necessity for a great navy and an air force as great in its own field, all men arc agreed. But there is not the same unani­mity about the necessity for a great army. Outside Downing Street and Whitehall there are few who know the actual strength o four present-day land forces, but Mr. Churchill told us nearly a year ago that it numbered two and" a half millions (or four millions including the Home Guard), and there can be no doubt that today it is far larger. Tj1 very male British subject in these islands between the ages o f 18 and 41 is now liable for military service, and time and again the Schedule o f Reserved Occupations has been revised so as to enable more and more men to join the colours. So extensive are the powers granted to the military authorities, and so drastically have they been exercised, that there is hardly a department o four national life which has not been adversely affected in consequence. We are likely to shiver in our homes this w inter—and, much more important, our public utilities and communications are likely to be most seriously ham pered—because thousands o f coal-miners have been drafted into the Arm y.In vain it has been urged that some considerable percentage o f them should be returned to the mines. The War Office is adam ant: once a soldier, always a soldier, is its argu­ment. Industry, however, is not in a position to make so firm a stand, so men who left she mines years ,ago because there was no work for them and secured jobs elsewhere are now being compelled to return to the mines at a lower wage. Again, tens o f thousands of agricultural workers have joined the Army and must remain there, even though the harvest rots in the fields because o f the lack o f workers, even though good ships and gallant seamen are lost bring­ing food to Britain which ought To have been, and could have been, produced within our own shores. The building trade is crying out for craftsmen, and the construction o f aerodromes, aircraft factories, arm­ament works, soldiers’ camps and homes for munition workers is upheld because the carpenters and joiners, the plasterers and painters are forming threes on the parade ground. Our .P.A.R services are being combed week by week since the pow ers-that-be have decided that the defenders o four lives and property against air bombardment can be better employed in khaki. Worse still, never a day goes by but one reads o f complaints that highly skilled engineers, who ought to be making aeroplanes and tanks, ¦invitingly in front o f us ?Why d on't we make a dash on Bergen one day and on Boulogne the next, then ring the changes onO stend and Oslo ?Why waste anymore bombs on the G neisenau and the Scharnhorst ?Why not go into Brest and fetch them out ?Why should ’tn we recapture the dash and daring, the vigour and valour, o f the last war, and repeat Sir KRoger eyes’ Zeebrugge exploit o f 1918? Som ego further and urge that now o r never is the time to invade the Continent— now, when Hitler, with what would seem to abe contemptuous disregard o four striking power, has denuded Western Europe of all his best troops. Altogether unconvincing appear the replies to those questions. We are told that we cannot raid the Continent, still less invade it, because the danger o f a Nazi invasion o f Britain is still imminent because we are not even yet strong enough to invade the inContinent force because— this is the latest excuse— we cannot spare the ships to take our men across the Channel and the North Sea. ¦Rut if we are not going to invade or even raid until we have an army big enough to take on the Germans single-handed, then we shall never be in a position to do so. One docs not have to be much o f a mathematician to realize that a nation o f 45 millions can never compete in numbers with the 120 million Germans and Italians. Thus it is not sur­prising that sonie shrewd observers argue that the real reason why w e have not invaded the Continent is not because we fear for our security, not because we are expecting to wake up one fine morning to seethe Nazi armada throbbing its way across the narrow seas, but because our Army is not yet suffi­ciently equipped. In other words, we are told the Germans are about to invade us be­cause we are not yet able to invade Germany. If it is asked why we are not even yet in a position to take the offensive, then the answer must besought in our production policy. W e have not the men, we arc told it would be more to the point to say that we have not the tanks, the guns, the ships, the planes, the shells, the bombs. A/T eanw’HILE, we are letting slip an extraordinary opportunity— one which we had no right to ex­pect one which, once it is lost, can never return. For three months our Russian ally has been upstanding to the full brunt o f the world's greatest military machine. A t the present moment the Russians are staggering in the scorched wheat fields o f the Ukraine, in the bloody quagmires before Leningrad. They may keep upright. On the other hand, they may succum band then what use will our Army be, however numer­ous, however well-equipped ?When the Red millions have been de­feated, arc our comparatively tiny armies likely to fare any better ?Surely now is the time o f im­perative need to fling into the bal­ance all the weight which we can muster. For if Russia falls, at best the war must continue for years and years hardly better, the war must end in a draw at the worst, we, too, shall be thrust into the pit o f N azidom .E.R oystox Pike shells and bombs, are pushing pens in bat­talion orderly room s,washing up crockery or cleaning the barrack windows. T'here would be fewer complaints about this misdirection o f the nation’s man-power if the necessity for the huge army was more clearly apparent. But there is a widespread belief that our military mandarins have been so bitten by the bug o f their own importance that they consider that the Army 's needs are the only needs worth consideration. But surely it is reasonable to ask, if we have this great army, why d on’t we use it? “Oh ,”reply the mandarins,“ bnt we are using Wit. e have to maintain an enormous force in these islands, ready to repel the Nazi invaders. We have an arm yin the Western Desert and the Middle East, an tho erin India. We have to maintain garrisons in Singapore and Gibraltar, Iceland and Abys­sinia. Besides, the time will come when we shall be able to take the inoffensive real earnest, and then we shall need all the men we can get.” T o which the ordinary man responds with a shrug o f the shoulders. T o put it plainly, there is a widespread scepticism concerning the ability, and the intention, o f I-litlcr to launch a large-scale attack on these islands at an early date. Even the Prime Minister's eloquence, even his warning that the defence services should be ready to meet an invasion by the beginning o f September, have been unable to convince the sceptics. O f late weeks, since the invasion o f Russia, criticism o four military policy for lack o f policy) has become evermore loud, evermore widespread. Why don't we do something to help Russia ?is the question asked in the railway carriage and the saloon bar, in the club lounge and the suburban parlour. Why d on’t we raid the 1,500 miles o f coastline which lie so BRITAIN’S ARMY has at long last a considerable mechanized element. Above we see a division of the Royal Arm oured Corps parading before the King som ew herein the Eastern Comm and on Sept. 12. Photo, Keystone
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