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Editorial – The Follow Through

21 November 1942

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 21 November 1942

The Follow Through

Hitler, it seems, means to make a bid to save something from the wreck of his North African enterprise. As things are it is a desperate gamble for him, but he has never shunned hazardous and unlikely undertakings; in fact, he has carried many of them through in the teeth of the textbook strategists.

The important difference between past strokes of this type and the present task is that now the initiative has passed to the other side, and Hitler must do the improvising against an adversary already powerfully established in a pre-determined field. Hitler is also up against an enemy, who, having tasted success, is fiercely eager to drink more deeply of the heady draught, particularly at the expense of the detested Nazis. As on so many other fronts in this war the struggle is developing into a race in which time rather than territory plays the major part. With the armies of the United Nations converging on either flank, Hitler is rushing troops across the Mediterranean narrows to the only strip of the North African coast which remains open to him. And it must here be noted that this strip of coast is still several hundred miles in length. The sooner our armies can fall upon this potential nest of resistance, the slenderer will be its chances of prolonged existence.

But it can be reckoned as certain that if Hitler has decided to bid for a holding in Tunisia and Tripoli the men sent there to do the job will be as desperate in its discharge as their master in its conception. But though it is wise to take due account of the shifts of a desperate foe there is no denying the actual and potential value of our gains in North Africa and the Mediterranean theatre generally. We are strongly placed to squeeze the Axis out of Africa and must move heaven and earth to make the most of our opportunities. The follow-up is as vitally important as the initial blow, and, whatever the implications, it behoves us to exact every advantage from the position we have gained. The prolonged existence of a Tunisian wedge in our new North African line might beget other dangers. Given time to consolidate anything like a static defence position there Hitler might try for a wide flanking counter move at either end of the Mediterranean. Attacks through Spain or Turkey cannot be ruled out, though the incentive to any such course would be materially diminished if Axis resistance in Tunisia is quickly pinched out.

Though the United Nations have seized great advantages a greater prize is within their reach, and the signs are that they are bent on grasping it. Despite the vast distances involved in the present campaign the British and Americans are performing prodigies of mechanised movement. The spearheads of this great attack must be generously supplied and speedily backed up by whatever reinforcement is needed. This inevitably must mean fully maintained and, where possible, augmented, effort at home, and may imply still more austerity and a yet plainer diet. Russia, too, must be kept well supplied to ensure that when the final onslaught starts the Reich will be an anvil hammered from all sides.

There must be no halt or hesitation in the follow through now that the Allies have struck.