Hutchinson's Pictorial History of the War, Series 15 No 4

THE WAR AT SEA bv I hast been rightly im­pressed onus since Japan opened her attack that Germany is still enemy No. i and that we must noon account weaken our effort against her.On the other hand we have to con­sider the possibility of Japan ’s actions affecting our operations against Germany. If Singapore fell, and I would add, if Sumatra and Ja v a fell, the effects would be felt right through our war effort. For three main reasons. One, that among many other important re­quirements a great part of our tin and rubber sup­plies would cease and you realise how indispensable these are for most war pur­poses. Two, the Japanese would be better placed to attack our vitally import­ant sea routes in Austral­asian waters and in the Indian Ocean, and the extra protection we would have to provide there must weaken us elsewhere. The third reason is that if we lost these places the difficulty of turning to the offensive would be immeasurably greater. I think it no exaggeration, but perhaps a bit Irish, to describe the fight for Singapore and the Dutch East Indies as part of the Battle of the Atlantic. You cannot divide strategy up piecemeal, especially where war at sea is concerned. However, that we are not doing, as, judging by the impressive decisions announced from Washington about allied unified strategy, the Far Eastern theatre of war is obviously considered to be one to which profound and immediate importance is attached. War at sea is largely a matter of bases, and fleets cannot operate far without them. Our ancestors, in their wisdom, early realising that we might often have to fight far from home and possibly on several fronts at the same time (as we are doing now), built up a chain of bases along the principal sea highways of the world. For instance, on the direct route to the Far East from the United Kingdom we find Gibraltar, Malta, Alex­andria (a recent development), Aden, Bombay Colombo and Trincomali in Ceylon Singapore and Hong Kong. These bases have been provided to a greater lessor extent with docking, repair and storing facilities and defences. Similarly, the United States had started two chains of bases westwards :one from Alaska towards Northern Asia, and the other through Honolulu, Wake and Guam to the Philippines. We can then say that this latter chain connected up with ours and that both their chain and ours met a Dutch chain connecting Singapore with Australia. What has happened ?Japan ,working from in­terior lines and having jumped a claim in Indo-China, thus acquiring a nice advanced base, is busy taking out links of the allied chains where they approach each other. Wake, Guam, Hong Kong and Manila have gone. There is a threat to Singa­pore and probably also Jato v a and Sumatra. Other Dutch islands have been attacked. You see,the Japanese idea is to create a big gap between the Allies across which concerted opera­tions on a concerted plan would be difficult. Also, of course, to occupy permanently these lands rich in so many things she covets. All this shows how necessary it is to hold onto what is left to sous that we keep a bridgehead in this most important strategic area. You have to be well up in geography to think in terms of strategy. If I may digress, here is a little story more lessor to the point. When I was Naval Attache at the Hague I paid a visit, shortly before Germany’s attack on Holland, to our Army Headquarters in France and, as I was travelling across then neutral countries, I was in plainclothes. When we arrived at the British front a sentry stopped the car, opened the door, looked meat suspiciously and said:“ Oo are you?” I answered :“Naval Attache, Hague.” Looking more suspicious than ever and somewhat puzzled, he said:“ ’Aig, ’Aig, ’ere you’re talking about the last war.” You see, his mind switched more easily to the greal field-marsha! than to geography. I said in my last broadcast that it would be interesting to see what new efforts the Axis powers would make to save the situation in North Africa. It is quite certain that the enemy has been making, and it seems likely that he will make further efforts of this nature. The Germans have sent a number of submarines into the Admiral Sir Gerald Dickens, K.C.V.O. DIVE-BOMBING DEFENCE Balloons protecting merchant ships have proved an effective deterrent to dive-bombers contemplating attack. r77
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