Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 31 August 1940
The First Year of Armageddon
And so we come to the end of the first terrible year of the most terrible war in the history of the world. It has been a year of world-shaking events. Hitler, the new ” man of destiny,” has emulated and surpassed the greatest exploits of Napoleon, and has brought the whole Continent of Europe under contribution and control, save only these embattled islands of ours, now bristling with the defiance of millions of armed warriors and still more millions of civilians armed only with patience and high resolve.
By successive hammer-strokes Hitler has prostrated, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and France. His fiendish legions have pitilessly laid waste Germany’s neighbours or such of them as made the slightest effort to defend their independence. The story of the invasion of Holland and Belgium will for ever, be the blackest page in the dark history of Germany; the story of the German conquest of France will for ever be the blackest page in the history of that broken and dishonoured people. France was largely destroyed from within, and today her traitors seek to sit in judgment on those who would have maintained her honour and integrity. In twelve months, Hitler has reached out and achieved far more than seemed within the possibility of human accomplishment. In his triumph he was joined at the eleventh hour by Italy, whose part in this war will ever be a classic of meanness, a criterion of foul and shameless assassination for greed and gain.
In twelve months Great Britain going ponderously and reluctantly to war, hating the necessity in every fibre, but trusting confidently in the combined power, strategic and material of the British and French Empires, has awakened to find herself fighting for her life, with her Ally prostrate and used as a spring board for new, fierce, and deadly attacks by land, sea and air, by an enemy enormously swollen and strengthened by the booty of France. In twelve months not one, military success has fallen to’ the Allies in any theatre of war. The outstanding military achievement against Germany was the successful extrication of the British Expeditionary Force from France, after it had been practically’ surrounded and its ports of embarkation destroyed. The, ” epic of Dunkirk,” truly one: of the greatest in all military history, ancient and modern, and a ” crowning mercy ” far beyond the compass of any granted to Cromwell, was nevertheless a great military reverse.
As Mr. Churchill said in Parliament last week, if this cataract of disaster could have been foreseen, none would have predicted our survival by this hour. Nay more, if twelve months ago, we had realised the weakness and suspected the faithlessness of our Ally, we should have felt bound to make terms with Hitler, to abandon the Continent to his sway, and to await miserably our absorption into his system. In the inscrutable wisdom of Providence we were permitted no forward glimpse which might have unnerved us and diverted us from the task we, have it in hand to perform the task for which we have been miraculously preserved no less than the redemption of the’ world from the gross evil under which it now cowers. In these twelve terrible months we have passed through fires which have purged us of our grossness and sloth.
While the enemy has triumphed in many fields we have retained vital control of the seas, and at home, behind the sure shield of our Fleet and Air Force, we are forging the weapon which will at last bring this Colossus crashing to earth. The end of the first year of war brings us to what is perhaps the moment of our greatest peril. The enemy is fearfully strong in all but seapower and even in this field he is capable of working great harm. Urged by the knowledge that there can be no compromise with his last ”enemy, that an unsubdued Britain must ultimately work the ruin and defeat of the” German military system, Hitler must now strike at us with all his strength and all his mighty resources.
This is our finest hour. We stand alone, in the gap while the world waits to see what is to become of its freedom. Already we have received tremendous blows and returned them with interest. Our air defences ‘have been thoroughly tested. If they had collapsed at a touch, as the French defences did at Sedan, all would have I (been over now with Britain and the war would have rolled over these devoted islands toward the West. But the defences held, and in flinging back the assailants inflicted losses too grievous to be accepted even by the gigantic German Air Force. Sea-power ‘and air-power combined had at last given the Nazis a check and the neutrals their first glimpse of the possibility of; successful resistance and final victory over this suppurating invasion of the health and peace and sanity of the world.
So the matter stands at the end of the first year of war.; It sees us in the midst of the Battle for Britain, which is being fought not only over the coasts and cities of these islands, but deeper and ever deeper in the industrial heart of Germany and Italy where nightly now the Royal Air Force is scientifically launching upon vital war plant fourteen bombs for every bomb dropped here. The future is mercifully hid from us that we may go on doggedly and undauntedly to the end, hoping all things, enduring all things, and if it be God’s will, achieving at last the salvation of the world. We have passed a year without positive victory on land though we have had resounding successes at sea and in the air—but in the year that lies ahead the military might of Britain will be felt at many points. The world looks to us for a sign. We believe ourselves capable of giving that, sign, and once given the forces’ of freedom released from the spell of fear will rise up and destroy this desperate enemy of all peace, liberty, and democracy. Great is Britain’s ‘ responsibility at this moment; if we fail the cause of freedom’ is utterly lost. But God helping us, if we are true to ourselves to our traditions and to our ideals, we shall not fail.