War Situation.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 25th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Samuel Adams Mr Samuel Adams , Leeds West

Groaning is perhaps the most characteristic interruption that proceeds from the lips of the hon. Member. Compared with these industrial workers—and perhaps the hon. Member will pay attention to this, because these are the men who are going to win the war for him, with his friends and my friends in Russia to help them—their brothers in the Navy and Army will, after the war, re-enter the street with next to nothing, except the accumulated £9 a year and any gratuities they may be granted, and the knowledge of having run every sort of risk for next to no reward. I have heard the £9 ambiguously described, in very unhappy language, as a "nest egg to fall back upon". The resultant splash will, I am afraid, be neither very extensive nor very satisfying. If you can revise the pay of the Services—and this observation is made especially to please the hon. Member for West Fife—maintain that of the workers, and at the same time avoid inflation, well and good. I should be as pleased as the hon. Gentleman who is physically on my right, but politically so far to my left. But if, by raising Service pay, you risk inflation, let the workers take smaller rewards, and anyone, including the hon. Member on my right, is entitled, if he likes, and is welcome to come into my constituency and quote that against me. Do not let the present Chancellor of the Exchequer say, as he has said inside and outside the House, that no Member of Parliament is willing or courageous enough to advocate this policy. A great many Members say it, openly as well as privately.

The House has been patient, and I have nearly done. But I want to say one word—a very presumptions one—on strategy. I will not apologise for repeating that the Royal Air Force is a far too independent Service, because I could quote great military authority, inside and outside the serving Army, to support that opinion. It is a truism, but none the less true for that, that co-operation between the soldier, the sailor and the airman—tanks, artillery, aircraft and ships—is the only way to ensure military success and to avoid waste of effort and naval strength. Yet we persist, in official but old-fashioned and obsolescent circles, in this curious and quite unaccountable prejudice against the dive-bomber. As has been said to-day—and I make no apology for repeating it—Germany has blasted her way across a Continent by the skilful use of the dive-bomber in co-operation with the tank and infantry. Every one of our calamities has derived in part at least from inadequate air support. There is one exception and one only to that rule in this war: the defence of Tobruk, where the garrison proved, in a manner which might well be emulated in other theatres of war, that there is no need to surrender if, for the moment, you do not enjoy local air superiority.

To ensure success, no military expedition should to-day set out without its flying contingent, and the only way to make sure that that flying contingent is there is to give the Army an air component; so many fighters to a corps, or better still, so many fighters to a division. It is much more important to win campaigns than to preserve the absolute administrative independence of the Royal Air Force.

We have the men, and we are getting the machines, though it would be quite wrong to suggest that we have anything approaching a surfeit of machines. The Royal Air Force, through its commitments, is stretched now as it has never been stretched before. What is now needed is to ensure their proper use and distribution, so that what I believe can happen will happen, that Germany will disintegrate within 12 months and Japan be reduced within three years. I believe it can be done, and I believe the Prime Minister and the new War Cabinet are the men who can do it. We have now such an accumulation of forces on our side that in the end we can only lose this war by one or both of two things—faint-heartedness or crass stupidity. Our present leaders—I hope they are the ones who are going to carry us through—will win our lasting gratitude if they can hasten our victory beyond our present sober hopes and expectations.