National Geographic : 1942 Aug
"Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat" pared to resist invaders with whatever weapon may come to hand. Since December, 1941, membership in the Home Guard has been compulsory for men be tween 18 and 51 not called for the Army (page 161). Every effort is made, however, to pre serve its volunteer character. Members of the Home Guard serve in their spare time and without pay. They patrol roads, guard strategic points, and meanwhile prepare to impede the enemy in every pos sible way. They have received special training in guerrilla warfare, and if an enemy should suc ceed in setting foot on the soil of Britain he would find himself opposed by thousands of guerrillas skilled in the art of individual combat and animated by a fierce determination to die rather than submit to an alien con queror. This determination to defend their islands is a fanaticism with the British. It has been in their blood for a thousand years, and it is a factor which prospective invaders would do well not to ignore. Invasion Plans Smashed by R.A.F. There has been much speculation as to whether or not the Germans actually attempted to invade England in the summer of 1940. To us in London the first intimation that some thing was afoot came when a group of German prisoners passed through. We were used to seeing German airmen in the railway stations. These men, however, were not airmen; they were infantrymen, and immediately the country began to seethe with rumors that the Germans had attempted an invasion and had been repulsed with heavy losses. The British have never settled the matter officially. The only evidence I encountered of an attempted invasion was the report of a friend on the southeast coast who said that splintered barges and some bodies were being washed ashore. Hotelkeepers in the vicinity were said to have secured enough wood for the winter from the barge remnants. Joe Harsch, formerly Berlin correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, later told me he had seen trainloads of wounded soldiers passing through Berlin at the time of the rumored invasion attempt. William Shirer, in Berlin Diary, mentions these same trains. My personal opinion, verified unofficially by a British military man, is that the Ger mans were all set to invade, but that the R.A.F. succeeded in smashing up the invasion fleet before it was able to get under way. The British Army is the third strongest in existence. The great land powers of the moment are Germany and the Soviet Union. The question of which is the greater is now being resolved. On the land, as on the sea and in the air, the United States is growing rapidly in power. But today Britain is su preme, after Germany and Russia. The British, realizing that with their limited population they cannot hope to compete with Germany on a quantity basis, are attempting to train a force of unexcelled striking power. Churchill describes his men as "hardened, nimble, and alert." According to those who have seen them in action, this is another understatement. The men are getting the hardest kind of battle training (page 157). Commando Raids a Prelude to Invasion Specially trained to raid the enemy coast are the famed Commandos. These tough troopers, under the brilliant leadership of Lord Louis Mountbatten, have made daring raids into enemy territory and no doubt will make many more (page 143). An individual Commando raid may not be important, but this type of warfare has great possibilities for confusing and harassing the enemy. English raids were highly successful in the Napoleonic Wars, and they have begun auspiciously in this war. The enemy never knows where the Com mandos will strike next, and he never knows when a raid may develop into an invasion. When the United Nations invade-as they eventually will-the disconcerting attacks of the Commandos undoubtedly will play an important part in the operation. Much has been said and written, but little is actually known about the Commandos. The men must be good physical specimens; they must have a thorough knowledge of hand-to-hand fighting, and they must be ex tremely resourceful. They have some unique weapons, including a combination knife knuckle duster which is said to be very useful at close quarters. One of the most spectacular Commando attacks was the raid on St. Nazaire on March 28 of this year. The objective was destruction of a lock gate in the harbor. A former Ameri can destroyer, the U.S.S. Buchanan, renamed the Campbeltown, was rammed into the gate and exploded. Landing in the face of enemy fire is one of the most difficult of all military operations. The fact that Hitler couldn't do it when he had everything on his side shows what the United Nations are going to be up against when it is their turn to invade.