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Editorial – Reprisal

28 September 1940

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 28 September 1940


We may be on the eve of decisive events in the Mediterranean, but the Battle of Britain still holds the centre of the stage. Hitler’s invasion plans have been deranged, and for the first time the world has been shown what can be done to the vaunted war machine of the ‘Reich by resolute, scientific, and; unrelenting hammer strokes. At last Hitler has found the lion in the path. Our bomber force is to-day smashing and shattering his preparations as fast as he assembles them. At the moment the strokes are concentrated on Channel ports and German war industry; tomorrow it may be that we shall to have to assign to some part of the force the duty of answering the bombardment of London in kind, using the only language the Nazi understands.

Reprisals against the population of Berlin will be undertaken not in hate but as a military necessity, to make the German people feel something of the pain and misery their vile war lords are inflicting on the inhabitants of British cities and towns. Moreover, it is plain that we must deprive the enemy of the advantage of a one-sided ruthlessness. So long as he is convinced that London and Londoners can be assaulted with impunity and without reply in, kind, he will certainly employ his bombers in this way, especially as all their attempts at military decisions have been baffled and defeated by the Royal Air Force. We have nothing to lose by a policy of reprisals so long as it is subordinated to military strategy and not conducted merely as an answering hate. It may in the end be the shortest and most satisfactory way of bringing home to the whole German people the fact that brutality does not pay.

The people of London have endured with exemplary courage and patience an awful visitation, and, they well deserve the fine tributes paid them in broadcasts this week by the King and by the Lord Mayor of London. They have not panicked or reacted as Hitler meant they should. They are being gallantly and skilfully defended by airmen and gunners, and they are entitled also to more protection and an immediate measure of revenge. The full weight of Hitler’s infamy and villainy, no nation could ‘bear and survive, but some retribution should be brought home, here and now, to Germans, of whom, after all, Hitler is but a monstrous image and projection. The demand for more and better shelter is reasonable, and the Government is already moving to meet a clear necessity for reinforcement of a vital sector in the battle front.

The attacks on London are subsiding in violence, but they will return at the least sign of weakening or dispersal of the capital’s air defences, and in any case the persecution of London is clearly an adopted and settled military method with which we have to take account. Hitler hopes by the use of this weapon to drive the people out or else to drive them down, and while it is obvious that his first object has failed, there is some danger that he may succeed in his second, if we carry the organization of shelter accommodation to the point at which the people of London may be tempted to go to ground under remote threats of lone raiders. We know that there is small danger of that ; none at all in the case of the patriotic and courageous elements which are carrying on the life and work of the city or taking their part in the A.R.P. services on which so tremendous a strain has been placed. It may be that they would be helped by complete and comprehensive provision of shelter for the useless and helpless section of the community, though in London as elsewhere, many people who l have opted for this category would be better forgetting their own’ danger by going into the line instead of supinely crouching beneath it.

Those who are carrying on in London to-day are the salt of the earth, as brave in their way as the soldiers and airmen who are turning the flaming sword every way in tilt effort to shield the city from the murdering hordes nightly poured over from France. If they chose to prefer their own security, they would have at least as much right as the rest of the citizens to take deep cover and ride the war out that way. And so London would die, as France died, from heart failure.

The fantastic rumour of a “secret weapon” which would put the people of England to sleep for a fortnight, at the end of which they would awaken to find themselves conquered, occupied, and enslaved, is not so fantastic after all. If the effect of intensive and insistent aerial bombardment is to set up an agitation for the whole population of London to be accommodated in deep shelters to be, immediately constructed at a cost of a few hundred million pound, then Goering’s Blitzkrieg will begin to pay dividends.

We shall not win the war—on the contrary we shall, lose the Battle for Britain—by following such counsels. If we are, to live at all we must live dangerously and never for a moment suffer arrest or suspension of national effort and struggle. Those who are so intimidated by bombing or the threat of bombing as to become hopelessly shelter conscious, have already “ceased from mental fight.” Happily the best and bravest of the nation cannot be driven down and out.

How fine is that best and bravest has been shown not only by London but by hundreds of thousands of provincial citizens who faced their Blitzkrieg while London was still immune.