At least, that's how you'd tend to assess the September 1940 situation nowadays. So what did the review of year one have to say? The editor, Sir John Hammerton, led the first page with the following opinion:
Looking back over the last twelve months, I have every reason to be confirmed in an opinion to which I have often given expression ... that small neutral states interlarded among the great states of Europe are a constant source of danger to peace ... the small peoples whose right to "self-determination" was accepted in theory at the founding of the League of nations, and didn't mean a thing at its foundering, will be no better than material for crushing between the upper and nether millstones".
The main article is The First Year of the War Seen in Retrospect, by one Major General Sir Charles Gwynn, KCB, DSO, 'Miltary Critic' of the Telegraph. After four pages of dense narrative, maps with arrows and of course some illustrative photos, Gen Gwynn calmly concludes:
Hitler, after a year of victories, is faced by a new strategic problem, more difficult and involving greater risks than those which confronted him when he could use the whole strength of his army for the destruction of France. His army is halted by the sea. To send even part of it across involves tremendous difficulties and dangers. He must depend almost entirely on his air force to achieve the quick victory he needs ... Can Hitler's General Staff find a solution to his problem before the stranglehold of Britain's Navy and the offensive attacks of her Air Force paralyse Nazi power?
Let's put to one side any views on whether Gwynn's assessment of the capabilities of the RN and RAF in 1940 was realistic; it's his tone I'm interested in. It's the insouciance, the disinterested and measured analysis. (Was he writing from the safety of a bolt-hole in Canada?, one is half-inclined to wonder: but probably not.) The War Illustrated was not a government publication, so not obliged to be tub-thumpingly patriotic or exhortatory: but even so, one might expect a note of stiff upper-lip resolution (as would be found in many a mass circulation newspaper editorial then as now), and/or a hint of mighty travails to yet come.
But 'can Hitler solve his awkward problems?' is something else and, I think, an important corrective to the views we tend to form based around iconic images of St Pauls in the blitz and recordings of Churchill's speeches. Clearly, a significant portion of intelligent Britain could manage something a lot less bombastic.
It is of a piece with two other early-war snippets that I recall. The first is a cartoon (sadly I can't find a copy of it) published immediately after Dunkirk. Two lazy infantryman are lounging, unconcerned, on a summer's day sentry duty overlooking the Channel. One says: So, it's just us now? The other replies: Yes, just the 600 million of us. Confidence in the Empire (and the Channel and the Navy) was obviously a heartening factor - even if this was a line the cartoonist or his editor was trying to push for reason of boosting morale: and put like that, the numbers game probably seemed to favour the good guys handsomely. (Raw numbers meant a lot to folk in those days: you find writers in early 1940 taking great heart from the fact that the Belgium army had 22 divisions. Which goes to show how empty raw numbers can be: but that's not the point.)
The second was a comment made by an American officer on secondment to the War Office, who reported that among the officers of the (British) General Staff, he never once heard anyone express any doubt as to the eventual British victory. I'm guessing that was not just because it would have been treason to state any concerns; nor that these officers had privileged and compelling factual justification for their confidence; nor yet that only gung-ho maniacs were selected for the Staff. It seems more likely that this confidence was - rightly or wrongly - fairly widely shared, just as a matter of general British opinion.
Widely enough that Gen Wynne could calmly publish commiserations with Hitler over his strategic difficulties in September 1940, and not be taken for an idiot, or a traitor - or (presumably) a satirist. Whistling in the dark ? No, I don't think so: just keeping calm and carrying on. Any lessons for today?