The Daily Telegraph



War has taken on a new and more terrible meaning for civilians. For centuries secure behind our Fleet, our homes have been saved from pillage and destructio­n. Hosts have been assembled for our undoing, but they were doomed to spend their rage impotently at a distance. Its security fortified the nation’s heart; and this has often weighed in the balance more than victories in the field. But we know from recent experience that this security has vanished. We know that the Fleet, no matter how prepondera­nt on the sea, cannot save our homes from the power that strikes swiftly from the sky. We ought to ask ourselves whether we can be defended against this new power, as formerly we kept our shores inviolable. Could the people endure the strain of bombardmen­t from the air and the constant fear of it? Here may be our most vulnerable point; and at it an enemy would strike first, hoping at small cost to himself to weaken our resolve and paralyse mind and arm. This considerat­ion becomes urgent, in view of the maintenanc­e of armed power on a vast scale by neighbours, and, above all, by rapidly growing air power.

There is no imminent danger of war; but no man can be sure of peace even five years ahead. Before 1914 we were content with our small army, knowing that, at the worst, we should have time to create new armies. That assurance has gone for ever. We shall not have time: within a few hours of the rupture of peace our homes, workshops, transport, munition factories will be attacked. If we are not fully prepared, the mere knowledge of our weakness would as surely compel our Foreign Office to make concession­s as it would embolden an opponent to demand them. Our statesmen would not dare to risk a rupture. We should be compelled to yield much without a struggle, and before a squadron took the air. True, at the moment there is only one Power that could strike at us through the air, and that power is France, happily our Ally. But who can say what changes in the distributi­on of air power and in friendship­s may not occur within the next few years? We must, then, consider (quite academical­ly, of course) defence in relation to French air power, and with a view to future possibilit­ies. Air power, as a means either of striking on the instant, or of defence against attack, cannot be created in one year or in two: it must be built up, on foundation­s well laid. What is the strength of France in the air?

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