Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 11 January 1941
Then understood I the end of these men; namely, how Thou dost set them in slippery places; and castest them down and destroyest them.
O how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end !
Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh, so shalt Thou make their image to vanish out of the city.–73rd Psalm.
Bardia is for Mussolini the writing on the wall. The capture of this strong point, with great booty and a host of men at ludicrously low cost is a mighty feat of British imperial arms, and has changed the military situation in the Mediterranean even more dramatically than the attack on Taranto changed the naval situation.
It was a triumph of co-ordination between our land, sea, and air forces, and has given the enemy a glimpse of the striking power which is being developed by the British Empire. Skilful planning and tremendous “elan” combined with one other element to breach and subdue this fortress in less than two days. The other element was the low morale of the garrison, which endured bombardment so long as the cover held, but could not, or would not face the final storm. It has been said, in extenuation of easy surrender, that the greater part of the Italian force had no stomach for the fight because their hearts were not engaged in the cause; on the other band the “blackshirt” troops, presumably the fanatical element, were the least resistant. The Latin temperament, we are told, gathers courage from attack and loses it in defence.
That may very well be; there have been notable examples of it, as we know to our own grim and ghastly cost. The Italians are said to have fought, like “Macbeth,” under the oppression of a bad conscience. The professional soldier would probably discount most of these theories and ascribe the astonishing performance at Bardia to supremely good generalship, which concentrated a superb force and struck overwhelmingly at a weak point in an unguarded moment.
However wrought, the victory is “marvellous in our eyes,” and fraught with great consequence. It is some measure of the immensity of the task which lies before us that this splendid success, bluntly and grimly acknowledged as such by the Germans, is received here with deep but sober thanksgiving. We realise its importance and its promise. It is a shrewd thrust in the side of Italy, and may open the way to a mortal one. It adds also to the military difficulties of our principal enemy, weakens him strategically and tactically, and forces him, almost for the first time, to adjust himself to situations created for him and not by him.
Hitler has never disguised his contempt for the military quality of the Italian people, but he has benefited enormously from the nuisance value of Italy and cannot afford to see it eliminated. The prestige of Mussolini has been destroyed abroad and seriously damaged at home. The fall of the Italian leader may be near, but it is possible that Hitler and not the ltalians will dethrone him. The full horror of their situation has probably not yet dawned on the Italians, though it was put plainly to them in Mr. Churchill’s recent broadcast. They are now firmly sandwiched between the British Empire and the German Gestapo; they have not even a choice between defeat in war and subjugation by their ally; it seems certain they must suffer both. Such a tragic and vivid instance of the fate ultimately reserved, as the Psalmist has reminded us, for wickedness and deceit.