For the third week in a row the Observer reserves its biggest headlines for a story about diplomacy rather than war -- here the Hitler-Mussolini Brenner Pass meeting and subsequent threats made against Britain in the Axis press. This is deemed by the diplomatic correspondent to be a 'bogy-war' aimed at European neutrals, an 'elaborate propaganda designed to persuade the victims that Germany and Italy will win the war, and will show no mercy to those who oppose them' (7).
The same page does have several stories pertaining to the air war. There is a report of yesterday's 'spectacular battle lasting three hours over the Kent coast'. The Air Ministry claims that twenty-three enemy aircraft were destroyed for the loss of nine British. There's plenty of robust language here: the enemy 'were knocked about like ninepins' by a 'tornado of fighter aircraft' which 'burst the Nazi formations wide open'. Night raids continue, of course, destroying a church in London, part of a school and a number of houses. The bodies of a two-year-old child and a fourteen-year-old boy were retrieved from the ruins of one house in south-east London; two dead women are still beneath the rubble.
Oliver Stewart says the 'most important event' in the RAF this past week has been the appointment of Portal as Chief of the Air Staff. 'His work in the Bomber Command has been brilliant', and
Nobody understands better than he the full capabilities of the Air Arm. His outlook is at once scientific and imaginative, and he will provide the Royal Air Force with a great and inspiring leader comparable in stature with Lord Trenchard.
Stewart thinks the relative lull in German air activity over Britain may be due to the Luftwaffe being redeployed to other fronts. When the air war does intensify again, 'which may be at any moment, both sides will [likely] throw in new types of aeroplanes'. The Germans will 'show heavier armour and heavier armament', but these will be countered by improved types of Spitfires and Hurricanes. Stewart has an interesting perspective on the best of the current crop of enemy aircraft:
Up to the present it seems, from the views expressed by Royal Air Force pilots, that the enemy's best aeroplane has been the twin-engined Messerschmitt 110 and its sister ship the Jaguar bomber.
On page 8 there's this columnar representation of the mutual air-raiding. As usual, 'Our attacks on Germany' are on aerodromes, oil refineries and other military objectives, whereas 'Germany's attacks on us' consist of dropping bombs at random on suburbs and villages.
The bombing may be slackening, but the government does seem to be working hard at improving air-raid precautions. The latest news (7) is that Admiral Sir Edward Evans, 'London's shelter dictator', is promising
shelters for everyone, no queues, "season tickets" for a million nightly shelterers, and heat wherever necessary.
The idea of the season tickets is that these will be allocated by shelter marshals to their regulars, so that everyone will have an assigned shelter and in theory can be spread out efficiently. The Admiral explains:
"The tickets will be available for tubes and public shelters generally. The principle, I think, should be that mothers and younger children should be given absolute priority when space is allotted in the shelters.
"Working men and women will come next. At present hundreds of them go to shelters as soon as they can after they have finished work, only to find that the best billets are taken.
"They are left in the doorways, draughty entrances, on escalators, and even standing where, if bombs fell, they might get the blast.
However, he doesn't explain what happens if someone don't have a ticket -- are they turned away, or forced to stand in the doorway, or what? And the system for handing them out seems open to abuse.
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