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Editorial – Standing By

1 September 1939

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 09 September 1939

Standing By

A week of tension, with the issues of peace and war swaying in the balance and the scales beginning to descend apparently on the side of war, was rounded off last night by the news of the complete mobilisation of the Navy and the decision to commence to-day 1 the evacuation of school children from areas scheduled as dangerous in the event of war. The British and German Governments have carried out a full and final exchange of views with as yet no sign from Herr Hitler that he has turned from an intention which implies a warlike settlement of his differences with the Poles.

If such, indeed, be his determination he must by now realise that in carrying it through he will encounter the combined might of Britain and France, both nations being inflexible in their resolve to come to the aid of Poland in such an event. There has not been, nor will there be, any sign of flinching before Germany’s brutal bluff. A situation has been reached when threats of force no longer carry the weight which influenced the ore-Munich atmosphere.

The Fuehrer must by this time have the clearest understanding that such is the position and so, while the die has not yet been cast, there remains the faint hope that reason may prevail in the lengthening interval allowed for reflection. Germany’s position is difficult. For this she has herself to blame. She must either plunge headlong into a war which can benefit her even less than it will benefit those whom she chooses to regard as her enemies, or choose the much less spectacular but saner method of negotiation on a basis of justice and equity. The latter course, while not generally favoured by the totalitarian mind, may yet, we hope, be chosen.

On Britain’s part she has studiously avoided closing the door to a settlement arrived at on these lines, and as we write an unofficial message from Berlin fans the faint flame of hope that the way of force may yet be eschewed. It would be premature to indulge in undue optimism, yet while such news must be treated with reserve it is perhaps the most hopeful of a week of stress and strain. Further comment at this stage must be circumspect.

It has to be borne in mind that even if Germany shows herself amenable to the way of negotiation there are two sides to any bargain that may be proposed between the Reich and Poland. Great Britain and France are unequivocally promised to the latter’s cause and there is no thought of their abandoning it for any mere specious show of compromise. In the face of a real readiness on Germany’s part to negotiate freely and fairly, such as Europe would welcome with relief, the Franco-British allies will not be found unreasonable, but, at the same time, it cannot be too clearly emphasised that, if need be, they are prepared to carry out their obligations to Poland in the letter and the spirit.

The British and French peoples are behind their governments to a man and nothing can turn them from their steadfast purpose, which is to oppose, if necessary, with all the forces at their command the menacing spirit of aggression by which the totalitarian States are seeking to impose their will upon nations less willing to resort to war than themselves.