Saturday, 7 September 1940

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Blitz of 1940-41 and the Baedeker Blitz of 1942. See here and here for introductions to the series, and here, here and here for conclusions.

Today's New Statesman and Nation has little to say about a German invasion or aerial strategy, unlike the Spectator yesterday, aside from a brief paragraph in the editorial comments (221) noting that German bombers now have an equal number of fighters as escorts:

The primary object of these attacks has been to engage and destroy as many British fighters as possible. An invasion is only possible if our defence fighters can be seriously weakened.

It does however have quite a bit to say about air-raid precautions, reflecting its left-wing stance. The near-constant raid warnings are interrupting war work (222). Should factories be permitted to keep working through daytime alerts? Do workers need more comfortable shelters in which to sleep through nighttime alerts?

Are the present areas over which the warning is given too large? Is it possible to arrange for a system of subsidiary warnings which will send people to shelters when enemy planes are approaching their own districts? Can the problem in factories be solved by the system of watchers which is now in many factories developing by agreement between men and employers?

Most importantly, 'we' -- meaning 'the whole public' -- must learn to 'discipline ourselves to carry on with necessary work as soldiers, sailors and airmen do during raids'. This is the true meaning of the slogan 'we are "all now in the front line"'.

In the reviews section, Peggy Jay looks at a pair of books on the evacuation of children to the countryside which began just over a year ago, Evacuation Survey edited by Richard Padley and Margaret Cole, and Mrs St Loe Strachey's Borrowed Children (240). She praises Padley and Cole's book -- published on behalf of the Fabian Society -- particularly for its essays on evacuees under the age of five: for example, it seems the best thing to do in their case is evacuate them with their entire nursery school. Jay admits that (as everyone knows),

Statistically, evacuation has been a failure. But the figures have deceived many people about the true significance of this great social upheaval

-- by which she seems to mean the 'mine of information' it has given to 'those who are responsible for helping the young and their parents'. And everyone concerned can justly feel proud of

the evacuated children of our great towns, their quick mental and physical response to a country life, their courage and their adaptability.

A New York correspondent, Hessell Tiltman, writes (via air-mail!) on the remarkable turn-around in American opinion on Britain's survival chances (224). At first forecasts like that of a (sadly unnamed) 'leading air expert and former U.S. "ace"' that 'the Nazi Luftwaffe would knock the R.A.F. to hell' after three weeks were widely accepted. But after only two weeks of bombing 'the Nazi squadrons suddenly took time out to lick their wounds':

a minor miracle had happened. A Blitzkrieg, duly advertised, had gone wrong. And both the British Air Force and the British civilians had shown they could take it. Whereupon shivery Americans recovered their nerve, looked upon life once more, and found it swell. Someone was standing up to that guy Hitler! Wonderful!

Not only that, but with any luck Britain will keep Hitler from threatening America itself. Though Mayor La Guardia's staff are still busily preparing 'a what-to-do-if-you-are-bombed booklet, already christened I.I.C. ("If it Comes")'. Tiltman closes by quoting (225) the New York Times:

If Britain holds out another hour, another day, we can begin to hope that Nazism has reached its flood tide. If Britain falls, many a full moon will round the earth before that tide recedes.

Finally, Critic (editor Kingsley Martin's nom-de-plume for his regular 'A London diary') confesses that the RAF bombing of German forests fills him with 'apprehension' (226):

I know that the line is difficult to draw and that factories and munition dumps are among the trees. But if in this dry season the forests should blaze on a grand scale, the consequences will long outlive the war and our generation. Soil erosion may follow and I recall the American dust bowl. Even the climate may change and the massacre of bird and animal life will alter the balance of nature. We ought to be slow to approve destruction that threatens the post-war recovery of the Continent.

His thoughts on bombing Scout camps are not recorded.

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2 thoughts on “Saturday, 7 September 1940

  1. Erik Lund

    All facetiousness aside, exactly 70 years ago today, the _real_ Blitz started. By this time, the Docklands were alight. 170,000 tonnes of food in warehouses, 220 acres of lumberyard.... How many shiploads is that?

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