05 October, 2010

Day 88 - Battle of Britain

There is much domestic news, but the Manchester Guardian is in no doubt as to the most important story - the meeting between Hitler and Mussolini. The headline refers to a failure of the attacks on Britain, and a threat of "new ways of intensifying the war".

The paper's news values are shared by the New York Times. It also homes in on the Hitler Mussolini meeting, although its emphasis is on a possible widening of the war. There is a recognition that the war against Britain will be prolonged "through the winter", but also speculation that the war will not be fought exclusively round the British Isles.

The Hamburger Frendemblatt asserts that the war has changed from a European dispute between a continent led by Germany, Italy and Great Britain into a great final struggle of a new world. It will not only be carried out in the regions of the British Isles, but also on African soil.

This is an interesting and not illogical assertion, and one that has already been discussed openly in the British and American press, most recently three days previously.

The Axis leaders will know the vital role of Egypt and the Suez Canal in linking the UK with the Empire and dominions, and know that Britain must defend that territory, even to the extent of transferring forces from Britain (which is exactly what is happening). Thus, attacks in Africa serve to weaken the defence of the home country - a pressure Churchill is continually having to deal with as he balances the forces available to him.

This is something the Daily Express correspondent picks up as well. "Hitler has not quite abandoned his dreams of a Blitzkrieg against the British Isles," he writes, "and wants to engage Italy in an intensive campaign of divertive (sic) action".

This creates a further perspective to the battle of Britain. There is the tendency to look at the fighting in the UK in isolation, with the Africa campaign separate and distinct. Hitler and Mussolini, however, seem to be making the linkage. Pressure from the Italians, particularly in North Africa, is judged to have a direct effect on the fight on British soil, drawing resources from it. On that basis, the two campaigns are conjoined - British and dominion troops fighting in Africa are part of the Battle of Britain.

What works for Britain, however, also works for Africa. And here, William L Shirer, monitoring Italian comment on the Benner meeting, relays the view that the Duce is angry with the Germans for giving up the plan to invade Britain. German forces on British soil would have the effect of reducing pressure on Italian forces in Africa. And the delay by the Germans means that the Italians are the only Axis partner confronting British ground forces.

The Glasgow Herald also reports the meeting at length. It notes that the Nazis are "reticent" about it. But the paper cites the Italian newspaper Popolo di Roma which published a piece before the meeting. This suggests that the Axis leaders would probably discuss a joint plan for "a long fight to the finish" against Britain.

From this and the general tenor of the coverage, it is crystal clear that any prospect of an invasion of Britain this year is over. It is now October, the weather is generally foul and the likelihood of there being the requisite period of good weather are non existent. Even without the Brenner meeting, the British must know there is no imminent risk of invasion.

And that is certainly the view of Major E G E Lloyd, MP for East Renfrew – reported by The Glasgow Herald on this day. "I am convinced that the possibility of a successful invasion and conquest of Britain is now finished and done with for ever", he says. "The Battle of Britain, in my judgement, is almost over, and has been won by us." Lloyd adds that, "We may have to face heavy bombardment this winter," but he then goes on to say that, with the passing of this month, the real centre of the war would travel from Great Britain to the Mediterranean.

With this, the Germans should know - if they are thinking straight - that the air war against Britain is not going to yield immediate, or any, strategic results. But, it would appear, they are not thinking straight. Shirer writes that they are in "a great state of mind because the British won't admit they're licked". They cannot, he says, "repress their rage against Churchill for still holding out hopes of victory to his people, instead of lying down and surrendering, as have all Hitler's opponents to date". He thus writes, "The Germans cannot understand a people with character and guts".

And across the Atlantic, in a remarkable intervention in the US press, David Lloyd George, prime minister during the previous World War, wrote a lengthy authored piece. He had refused Churchill's entreaties to join his government, thereby eschewing the opportunity to make his views heard within the Cabinet. But now he was complaining that the government he had refused to join had failed clearly to state its peace objectives. The first step his 1917 War Cabinet had taken had been to clarify its ideas as to the ultimate objects it sought to obtain by the war, and then to consider the ways of obtaining them. Is anyone considering these problems today, he asked. If not, it is now time it should be done.

COMMENT: Battle of Britain thread