Like all celebrated military geniuses, Napoleon made some colossal mistakes. But he had so much practice in war and thought about it so constantly that he arrived very often at sound conclusions, even if he did not always act upon them. One remark of his is specially appropriate to the present war situation. “You may”, he said, “win a battle with an army smaller than that of your enemy, but to win a war you must have superiority in numbers”. That is what gives us certainty that the United Nations will win this war. We may have set-backs. We almost certainly shall have them. The Nazis are not nearly beaten yet, so far as all the signs go. But in time they will find that we are everywhere superior to them in numbers. Not only in numbers of men. Already we have far more aircraft. Already we have probably more artillery. We have always had more ships. We shall have before very long more of everything. Then the German generals will see that it is useless for them to keep up the fight and, as professional soldiers, they will refuse to sacrifice their men uselessly. They will bump off Hitler as readily as they forced the Kaiser to depart in 1918, and will then throw up the sponge. Napoleon's maxim will have been proved true once more.
Curious things one reads in the newspapers! Here is an item that I had to look at two or three times - “Noel Coward is to fly up and down the Burma border singing in the monsoon rain to British troops.” What a picture this brought into my mind's eye – the author-composer fitted with wings, sailing under grey wet skies and piping away hard as he flew! Well, I dare say he would take on even that job. He has had many different ones during the war, and I understand he did them all competently. Certainly his film efforts – In Which We Serve, and This Happy Breed – have been valuable contributions to the war effort. I cannot say as much for his Blithe Spirit, which is now nearing its fourth year, I believe; but it must have added very considerably to his fortune. Its success is due to its knockabout incidents and to skilful acting, but it has amused many thousands and that also is War service. I have seen it twice with great enjoyment.
War makes “the common man”, as President Wilson called him feel that he has become – for the time, at any rate – more important. The “common woman” too. Dwellings for the mass of us used to be put up according to the ideas of the small builder. Very poor ideas they were. Houses were built in long rows all alike, and as ugly outside as they were inconvenient within. Now housewives are consulted as to what they want their kitchens and their parlours and their bedrooms to be like. And in Norfolk men are being asked to say what size the gardens attached to council houses ought to be. Some want an acre, others say one-sixth of an acre would be as much as they could manage to cultivate. The latter is about the size of the average allotment. Some people, not men only, but women, too, occasionally, are able to cope with two allotment patches, but it means hard work. If the worker has only spare time to put in, after a day's work, say, or in between the manifold labours of keeping a house going, such a piece of land, 60 ft. by 180, is to large. An acre would mean a whole-time job, I should think. Few people have any notion how large an acre looks. It will be instructive to see what the general opinion in Norfolk turns out to be.
Harrogate air, known to be of a peculiarly bracing, energizing character, has had a most satisfactory effect on Post Office workers who have been there since they had to leave London because of the bombing. I had occasion to write to the P.O. Savings Bank Department for a relative, who had lost a warrant posted to her. I expected to get a printed acknowledgement in a week or so, and possibly a reply in the course of a month. But within five days after I had posted my letter came a full answer, courteous and helpful, telling my friend what she must do. Mr. Leon Simon, head of the branch to which I wrote, must be a new kind of official – a much better kind than those to whom we haven been too long accustomed. To deal so promptly with a query in wartime and with so much extra work to be done is really marvellous.
All Americans who have come to this country of late express surprise at the quiet way in which we accept the tidings of great events in the war. All Britons who have been in the United States recently comment on the excitability of the population, their readiness to fly off the handle either at good news or bad, and to swallow absurd stories when there is no news at all. For instance, the story printed in a Washington journal that the talk of a Second Front was merely intended to scare the enemy seems to have been widely credited and talked about. A well-known American newspaperman, H.R. Knickerbocker, who discovered where the Nazi leaders had stowed away their illgotten fortunes and how large these were, says that in New York they chattered about the invasion all the time for weeks before it started. He found this tiresome. When he reached here, however, he felt frozen by the cold looks he received when he said anything about it. How is it, by the way, that the original inhabitants of America, the Indians, were the most reserved, silent, inscrutable of beings, while the present Americans seem to possess exactly opposite characteristics?
What is there about the name George that prompts so many people to use it humorously? “Let George do it” has long been a familiar phrase. Why should George be selected as the goat to bear all sorts of burdens? And why do airmen call the mechanical pilot which, in certain circumstances, can be left to direct a war plane for long distances while the live pilot sits back and reads or twiddles his thumbs – why is that called “George”? Is it because there are so many front-rank funmakers with this Christian name? George Formby, George Robey, Wee Georgie Wood, George Gee – I could go on reeling them out for a long time. I should guess that George is not a name many parents choose for their baby sons at present. It may join Marmaduke and Augustus and Cuthbert, which used once to be fairly common and now are turned into jokes.
Will baseball become as popular in Britain as it is in the United States as the result of its being played here by Americans and Canadians and being taken up by British soldiers too? The last-named, I hear, are in the Middle East being provided with bats and balls and masks and gloves so that they can play the game properly. It is far better to watch than cricket. Something is going on quickly. There are no long “overs” without a run being scored. You do not have to sit and wait while a batsman walks from the pitch to the far-away pavilion and another walks out. The excitement at ball games in America and Canada surpasses even that of our football matches. As a game to play, baseball is also better than cricket, for there is not all the long waiting about while your side is batting.
Posters in London are telling the world that “the British Empire is founded on God's word and on God's Sunday”. If any of the millions of Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists or Jews in the British Empire read that, it cannot make them feel very much at home in it. For none of them believes the Bible to be God's Word, nor do they regard Sunday as it is regarded by a certain type of Christian. This kind of thing is ill calculated to draw the bonds of Empire more tightly among all its peoples. As to Sunday, that is misleading too. For the millions of Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics in the Empire do not hold at all the view as to “keeping it holy” which is held by a small number of Protestant sects. They make it a holiday, not a holy day. And if it is still taught that it was ordained by the Almighty after He had created the world in six days and decided to rest on the seventh, how can we justify resting not on the last but on the first day of the week? This kind of street hoarding theology does more harm than good. I fear.