If Another War Comes It Will Be Battle Of Robots
By COLIN BEDNALL. assistant, : editor of the London Daily Mail and its air correspondent during the height of the V-bomb attack on London. TN thinking of war in the air the most important thing to keep in one's mind is that this is probably the last war that will ever be fought with heavy bombers such as we have known them since 1939. This is not just a personal view but the opinion of people who should know. It was Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthurs Harris' conviction that the day Nof the heavy bomber was coming to an end that won him a reputation as a man with a cne-track mind. It made him impatient of «ny delays in pushing on with his colossal strategic bombing programme in Europe because he, and perhaps he alone, knew that there was even during the duration of this war the danger that the enemy's defences would catch up with the development of, say, the Lancaster or the Halifax. The thing that has come to take the place of the bomber is, of course, the secret weapon, and we might as well tear up all our plans for the future peace unless we appreciate just what the secret weapons now mean to the maintenance of peace. You have probably read of reports that the Germans were working on rocket shells capable of being fired across the Atlantic. From what I know of the subject I would believe that to be a pretty conservative estimate of their possib"ities. The flying bomb, .you remember, came before the rocket bomb, and it was simply a pilotless jet-propelled aeroplane. The man who had charge of the British defences against the flying bomb was Sir Frederick Pyle. He tcok me one day to see some new defences go into action against the flying bomb. The thing that impressed me so much was an even more terrifying thing than the prospect on hand at the moment. Ruthless Gangsters There, on the English coast, was being fought the first real battle of robots the world had ever seen, and it was plain that here was the forerunner of the most terrible conflicts of the future should the socalled civilised world ever be crazy enough to involve itself in war again. Unless it comes, say, within the next ten years, any future war between the major Powers will be fought by ruthless gangsters who will sit smugly in deep underground 'shelters and press buttons that will launch death and destruction against any other country they like to think of. The death and destruction which the future international gangsters will hurl will travel in the form of rocket shells and jet-propelled shells. A jet-propelled vehicle as we know it to-day has to draw on oxygen from the outside atmosphere in order to get the combustion of the fuel it carries. The rocket uses fuels which contain the necessary oxygen, if oxygen is needed, and therefore it can travel outside the earth's atmosphere. This means it can travel at vast speeds and over vast distances without requiring much propulsive effort. The Germans have well and truly solved the / problem of getting a rocket beyond the atmosphere, and, therefore, there is no reason why rockets couldn't eventually be fired from Germany to almost any point in the world
*4- When London was under rocket 4 I attacks we used to be puzzled be- ? cause we usually heard two distinct i explosions each time a rocket landed —that's assuming you weren't too , close, because then, of course, the ' only sensation you got was that of i having the whole world tumble r round your ears. ; lam told that the second explosion > heard on the ground was actually ' the noise of the rocket's impact as it re-entered th§ atmosphere miles r above the surface of the earth. [ And as there was never more : than a split second between the two " explosions, it was a pretty vivid illustration of the speed at which the con- - founded things travelled. Radar and Fused Shells The never-say-die General Pyle was . planning at one time to shoot down even these rockets. He told me it . would be necessary for his gunners to fuse their shells so that they would : actually explode 40 miles in advance i of the rocket they were aiming at. The idea was, of course, that the rocket would be travelling immeasurably* faster than the shell fragments as they fell back towards the ground. You might wonder how the general ever hoped to put his shells in the path of one slim rocket, but the answer to that is to be found only in the mystery, and the still very hush hush mystery, of radar. Radar is, I think, undoubtedly the i most significant single development! of the war, and we can all be proud i of the fact that, like so many big 1 things, it was primarily a British de- i velopment. i It was radar that really enabled < the R.A.F. to win the Battle of ; Britain, because it gave the Spitfires enough warning of the approach of enemy planes to get into position in ] the air to meet the oncomers. J It was radar which made it possible for the bombers under Air Chief Marshal Harris' command to achieve j their astounding accuracy in Germany, and, as the years went by, it was radar which almost enabled the ( Germans to catch up with the bombers. My most striking experience of radar was flying over the Pas de 1 Calais area one moonlight night last ] year. i The ground was completely covered : by a huge cloud formation when sud- 1 denjy, to my amazement, I heard the 1 pilot ask the navigator for a check on his position. The navigator replied: "Well, I think the river we're just crossing is the Seine." I looked out at the unbroken cloud bank beneath us, rubbed my eyes, and then suddenly remem- i bered the answer—radar. i It is important to mention in t connection with war in the air that, t provided aerial bombardment is ( carried out efficiently, it is far more £ humane than is sometimes appreci- r ated. In the latter stages of the bomb- f ing of Germany, the Royal Air r Force mass attacks had become so \ accurate that in some German £ towns the local authorities painted white lines along the streets. i When the air-raid warning was c sounded, the local citizens simply s found the nearest white line and I followed it—undoubtedly running f like Hades—until they reached a r shelter. c The Royal Air Force bombing was a so accurate that once they got out- a side the target area they were safe, c In London, the experience of 1 bombing was far, far worse, for the f very fact that the German crews i were so bad at it. 3 My wife and I spent every night I for six weeks in a basement laundry Y while the Germans tried to hit a S
inearby power station. They never hit the power station, but they hit pretty well everything else round us. I was to learn later that no matter how frightened you felt at the receiving end of bombing, it's a mere tea party compared to the experience of going along with the blokes at the giving end. Ah aeroplane is a very foolish thing in which to go messing round in a rain, of say, 1000 guns. Figures in England show that bombing at all times .has boosted civilian morale and has been followed by marked decreases in absenteeism from the factories and marked increases in factory production generally. ~ Therefore, this war of the future will be of little use unless it can achieve actual physical destruction of an enemy's war potential. I remember an old charlady saying to me one morning: "I still can't stop laughing about what happened out our way last night. "My cousin Gert and I had been out for a pint of mild, and we had just got home when her husband Bert shouted up the stairs that the sirens had gone. 'Come on, Gert,' he said. 'Shake a leg, it's those Jerries again.' Gert replied, 'All right, Bert, just a minute while I get my teeth.' Bert replied, 'Never mind about your teeth, old girl; it's bombs they're dropping, not sandwiches!'" Everybody who has been in London during the raids has stories like that to tell, and they do help to explain the great and wonderful fact that human nature can triumph over the worst that a monster like Hitler- produces.
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If Another War Comes It Will Be Battle Of Robots, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 168, 18 July 1945
If Another War Comes It Will Be Battle Of Robots Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 168, 18 July 1945
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