10 JUNE 1943, Page 1


THE sense of standing on the verge of what, with the Russian campaign, will constitute the greatest military operations in the history of the world is both impressive and oppressive. But it is far more oppressive for the Axis Powers than for any of the Allies. In Italy especially a universal and tragic consciousness of fate impending is unmistakable, even though the deletions of the censor and the inventions of the propagandists. With the concentration of bombs and shells on Pantellaria the assault on Europe may be said to have begun. The island's garrison has ignored the first demand for surrender, a refusal which does honour to its fortitude, for the ordeal of ceaseless bombardment from sea and air must be unimaginable. Pantellaria may well be in Allied hands by the time these lines are read. In that event, within a very few days or hours it will have become a base in the next step in the offensive against Italy. That, as the Prime Minister made clear, is not the only operation contem- plated, and any tendency to impatience over the delay in launching a campaign intended to be the beginning of the end will be checked by a reflection on the singular delicacy of synchronisation necessary and the dependence of everything on wind and weather and to some extent on the moon. General Montgomery did on one occasion surprise his opponents by launching an offensive on a completely moonless night, but normally some degree of light is desirable, and it is worth Observing that the moon will be giving half its maximum illumination or more from June itth to June 25th. What history may have been made before the latter date it is fruitless to speculate and baffling to imagine.