National Geographic : 1942 Aug
"Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat" all-out assault of the Axis enemy has been met by an all-out response. The foundation upon which the British war effort rests is a simple obligation known as National Service. Everybody in Britain is ex pected to contribute to the common cause. Nelson's famous dictum, "England expects every man to do his duty," has been enlarged to include women and children (pages 145, 152, 154, 156, 160, 162, 166). The National Service Act decrees that "All persons of either sex for the time being in Great Britain are liable to national service, whether under the Crown or not, and whether in the armed forces of the Crown, in civil defense, in industry, or otherwise." Nine million men are registered for service in the armed forces or employed in vital war work. Another 5,000,000 are registered for fire watching. Every two weeks a new age group is called upon to register. Men are liable for military service between the ages of 18' and 51. So many men have been taken into the Army that there has been a clamor for the release of coal miners, agri cultural workers, and others considered neces sary to keep up production of munitions and food. The military has yielded little. Women Help with Antiaircraft Guns More than five million women have regis tered for work in the uniformed services, in civil defense, in armament factories, or in some other branch of the war effort. Like men, women are liable to compulsory service up to the age of 51, although only unmarried women between 20 and 30 are now being re cruited. Married women between those ages may volunteer (pages 162, 163). Women even serve with combatant units with antiaircraft batteries, for example-but such service is voluntary. The three branches of military service-air, sea, and land-all have women's auxiliaries. Women, by doing work formerly done by men, have done much to release men for combatant service.* Married women who possibly can do so are expected to serve in one of the auxiliaries, in civil defense, or in industry. Wives with husbands in the armed forces, or women re quired at home, are not asked to work in an other part of the country. Moreover, no woman with a child under 14 living with her is expected to work away from home. Out side of these exceptions, and a few others, the women of England, like the men, are expected to do their part. The children are also registering for Na tional Service. A million and a half boys and girls from 16 to 18 years old have signed up. That puts everyone from 16 to 51 in the front line of the fight against Hitler. The British system of National Service, if applied to the United States, would result in the enrollment of 60,000,000 persons. R.A.F. Turns from Defense to Attack The exploits of the R.A.F. are by now a familiar saga. The boys of the R.A.F. stopped the Nazis at a time when they might well have overrun the British Isles and those re maining portions of western Europe still un despoiled by virtue of the existence of a free Britain. The achievements of the R.A.F. came as a thrilling surprise to many of us who were abroad at the time; we had heard so many stories of the size of the German Air Force, of the Reich's great research facilities, and the superiority of Nazi planes. The first inkling we had that the R.A.F. might be able to take care of itself came dur ing the evacuation from Dunkirk, when the British put an umbrella of planes over the French coast and kept it there for three days while some 335,000 men were saved from death or capture. Later I met a plane builder who did not seem to be at all worried about the prospects in the air, and still later I talked with an air man who said: "We have air superiority over these islands. Eventually we shall gain air superiority over the Continent. That will be the beginning of the end." This was on the eve of the Battle of Britain. The airman's assertion proved to be true. The Germans were never able to gain mastery over more than a fringe of British coast and they were soon forced to relinquish that. When they lost 185 planes in a single day, they stopped coming in the daytime. For eight months they came over at night, but eventually they decided that these raids, too, were not worth the expense of putting them on. The British concentrated on fighting qual ity rather than quantity in the production of planes. There is no doubt that Great Britain is first in the air. The R.A.F. may or may not be the biggest air force in the world, but it is cer tainly the strongest. Eventually the United States, with its larger population and superior industrial capacity, should rule the skies. As this is written, Britain enjoys that distinction. * See, by Harvey Klemmer, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Everyday Life in Wartime Eng land," April, 1941, and "Rural Britain Carries On," October, 1941.