North African campaign boosts morale

An Italian position destroyed during Operation Compass. The military success was welcome news in Britain.

News of the British success in the desert of North Africa proved to be a welcome moral booster on the home front. As the second Christmas of the war approached there was now one substantial territorial achievement to be celebrated, at the end of a year in which British troops had been ejected from continental Europe.. The American journalist Molly Panter-Downes writing for the New Yorker magazine recorded the change of mood:

London has been a city of smiling faces and heart-warming headlines all week. The papers have solemnly warned the public against imbibing too freely of the “heady wine” of of victory on land and pointed out that difficulties were sure to be encountered as the British lines of communication lengthened in Africa and Graziani’s shortened.

All the beaming average citizen knows is that the victory in the western desert has finally scotched the public’s suspicion that, though the Air Force is magnificent and the Navy grand, the Army still thinks it’s fighting some other war — the Crimean, say. What made people happiest was the perfect timing, slickness, and coordination of the attack, showing that the bitter lessons of France and Flanders have been well and truly learned. “Speed” and “brilliance” had been ruefully looked upon as exclusively Nazi nouns for so long that it was certainly heady to find them back in the British vocabulary again.

See Mollie Panter-Downes: London War Notes 1939-1945

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: