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THE WAR: THE DESPERATE GRAPPLE c. P. STACEY TO relate ';Vithin the space of a few pages the tremendous events of the past three months is an unpleasant as well as a singularly difficult task; for the foundations of the western world have suddenly been shaken. rhe complacent confidence of the western democracies is a thing of the past. Paris has fallen. An offensive campaign, exceeding that of 1870-71 in speed and force, has reduced continental France to the status of a base of operations against France's erstwhile ally. Britain's forces have been driven from the Continent, and as these lines are written she is preparing to defend the British Isles-now the last citadel of freedom in Europe-against the savage onslaught of the totalitarians. Even the United S~ates has been somewhat alarmed by the reflection that since March of 1938 the armies of Adolf Hitler have marched as conquerors into nine European capitals. I. THE BALANCE-SHEET oF ScANDINAVIA The Scandinavian phase of the war began on April 9, with the German descent upon Denmark and Norway. It ended (for the time being at least) on June 9, just two months later, with the announcement of the Allies' withdrawal from Narvik, which they had only recently captured, and of the Norwegian army's surrender. By that time Norway had ceased to hold the world's attention, for the greatest battle in history, perhaps, was in progress in France. The northern operations had been subsidiary since the first week in May, when the Allies, after a short campaign, begun with high hopes which soon turned to gloom, gave up the struggle in central and southern Norway. They had discovered that it was impossible to continue it in the face of the advantages conferred upon the Germans by the possession of the only respectable air bases in the country; while German air strength had also made it impossible for AJlied naval forces to effe~t more than a partial interference with the enemy's communications across the Skagerrak. The consequence was the withdrawal of the forces which had been landed at Aandalsnes and Namsos to undertake "diversionary attacks," auxiliary to a frontal assault on Trondheim which never 466 THE WAR: THE DESPERATE GRAPPLE 467 came to pass. Of the events of the campaign no mot·e need be said; but it i!': in order to attempt some estimate of its effects.. From a narrowly military point of view, the most ·important fact perhaps is that the Germans now possess air bases only about 330 miles from the main British fleet base in the Orkneys, which was 510 miles from the nearest point in Germany. For bombing attacks upon the main industrial centres of the British Isles, on the other hand, the acquisition of Denmark and Norway has not much improved their position; Sylt was just as good for this felonious purpose. The whole ea:stern and southern coast of the North Sea being now in enemy hands, British commercial traffic in those waters must have virtually ceased, except for coasters and fishing vessels, and this at least deprives the German airmen of many targets. The new German bases here will be an embarrassment to British operations, but are hardly likely to exercise in themselves a decisive influence on the.further course of the war. Germany has certainly acquired important economic advantages . She now has full control of Sweden's exports of iron ore, and Britain will get no more from this source. During the summer the ore can be moved to Germany by the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Germans will doubtless try· to repair the ruined facilities at Narvik before the winter. Britain no longer has to worry about Norwegian neutrality's interfering with her attempts to prevent transit by this route; on the other hand, German planes working from Norwegian bases are likely to prove a very serious hindrance. Germany has improved her position with respect to food supplies by possessing herself of the Danish dai.ry industry. This, however, is probably a merely temporary advantage, for the industry is mainly dependent on imported forage which will now be unobtainable , and in a long...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 466-482
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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