Saturday, December 31, 2011

Diary briefs

Jim Reeves: His Untold Story (Kindle edition) - Amazon, Panola Watchman

Civil War 150 Legacy Project - Fox News, www.virginiacivilwar.org

Prisoner of war Albert Ions’ diaries - Chronicle Live

Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler - The New York Times, Amazon,

More on Kate McCann’s diaries - The Guardian

Robert Boyle’s workdiaries

Robert Boyle, the great English scientist, died 320 years ago today. Famed for his role as the father of chemistry and modern experimental methods, he is also known for discovering Boyle’s Law, various inventions, and for leaving behind a large number of writings, not least his workdiaries. These latter have been made freely available online thanks to the Robert Boyle Project at Birkbeck College, London.

Boyle was born in 1627, son of Richard Boyle, an Elizabethan adventurer-colonist who made his fortune in Ireland and became ennobled as the 1st Earl of Cork. (Richard Boyle, in fact, was a noted diarist - see The Diary Junction and The Great Earl of Cork.) He studied for a short while at Eton before travelling on the Continent with a French tutor. After returning to England in 1644, he went to live at a manor in Stalbridge, Dorset, inherited from his father. He also tried moving to Ireland, where he owned other estates, but by the 1650s was living mostly in Oxford where he associated with a group of natural philosophers.

Boyle’s travels abroad had given him a taste for scientific research, and, although his first writings had largely been concerned with moral and literary aspects of life, once in Oxford he began to focus more on science. A first achievement - improvements to the air-pump invented in Germany - came with the help of Robert Hooke; and in 1660 Boyle published New Experiments: Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air, and its Effects: Made, for the most part, in a New Pneumatical Engine.

In the early 1660s, Boyle described in print what has since become known as Boyle’s Law, i.e. that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system. Around the same time he also became a founding member of the Royal Society, as incorporated by Charles II (though later when elected President he declined the honour). In 1668 he moved to London, where he lived at the house of his sister, and where he continued to experiment and write until his death on 31 December 1691. Among his more significant publications during this period were: Experiments, Notes, &, about the Mechanical Origin or Production of Divers Particular Qualities; sequels to his New Experiments; Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood; and Medicina Hydrostatica.

See the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy or Wikipedia for further biographical information. However, there is also a large amount of information about Boyle on the Robert Boyle Project website hosted by Birkbeck College, part of the University of London. In 2001, the Project published an online edition of Boyle’s so-called workdiaries, written between 1647 and 1691. More recently, the workdiaries have been given their own website hosted by Cell (Centre for Editing Lives and Letters).

The Project website says: ‘These modest-looking bundles of papers and stitched books, some stained with chemicals and covered with notes and comments, reveal the methods and procedures of Boyle’s scientific enquiries.’ They also include ‘records of recipes, measurements, apparatus and data collection, as well as notes from Boyle’s reading and conversations with travellers and artisans.’ Here’s two tasters of the workdiaries taken from the start of workdiary 16

1 January 1657
‘Take Linseed Oyle {pound}1 frankinsence {pound}; comon Amber {ounce} 2 Gummi Lacca {ounce} 1; Aloes {ounce} 2 Beat the Amber by it selfe & melt it by it selfe Beat the Gumme into fine powder Boyle all these with a gentle fire 2 houres (keeping the Liquor constantly stirring with a Stick least it Burne) till the Materialls be perfectly dissolv’d in the Oyle And then have you made your vernish to guild Leather with’.

2 January 1657
‘Take Aquila Cælestis & dissolve it in as much water as will barely suffice for the solution of it, In this Liquor dissolve as much Sal Infernalis as you can in a gentle heat Then let it stand in the open aire, (stirring it often) till the humidity be evaporated & the bodies united this masse you may if need be once more moisten/original pagination, with the Solution of the Infernall Salt & to make it dry the sooner you may Incorporate it with sifted bone=ashes & when it is perfectly dry draw it over with a strong fire & if need be severall Cohobations, In like maner you may imbibe the fixt Salt of the Homogeneous Menstruum with as much of the dissolvd volatile Salt or Sp: of the same as the fixt salt will retaine & Conjunction being made in the open aire the united Salts may be drawne over with Due Cohobation as formerly’.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Race to the South Pole

One hundred years ago today, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and four others in his team were the first explorers to reach the South Pole. A British party led by Robert Falcon Scott, who had made a previous, but unsuccessful, attempt to reach the Pole, was not far behind, and arrived a month later. However, whereas the Norwegian party returned home, Scott’s party all died from cold and hunger. Scott’s diary of his last expedition was first published in 1913, but Amundsen’s diary has only just recently been published in English for the first time.

Amundsen was born in 1872 to a family of Norwegian shipowners and captains in Borge, 80km or so south of Oslo. Initially, he chose to study medicine at the urging of his mother, though gave up at the age of 21 when she died. Having long been inspired by the great Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen (see Siberian driftwood cannot lie), he sold his medical books and took work as ordinary seaman. By 1895, he had obtained his papers as mate, and by 1900 his master’s license. His first experience of the polar regions came in the late 1890s on a Belgian expedition with Adrien de Gerlache.

In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse Canada’s Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, though the team had to over-winter three times before returning home in 1906. Significantly, during this time, Amundsen learned various skills from the native Eskimos, such as the use of sledge dogs and the wearing of animal skins.

Amundsen planned next to go to the North Pole, but on hearing in 1909 that others had already claimed that prize, he secretly decided to reorganise his forthcoming expedition - to Antartica. Employing the Fram, the same vessel used by Fridtjof Nansen, Amundsen and his team arrived at the Bay of Whales in January 1911, and made a base camp. Five of them set off on 20 October using skis, four sledges, 52 dogs, and employing animal skins, rather than heavy wool, for clothing. Less than two months later, they were the first to reach the Geographic South Pole. Scott, meanwhile, with four colleagues reached the Pole five weeks later, and were bitterly disappointed to have lost the race. All five of them died on the return journey. So tragic was their fate, indeed, that their story has become far more famous that Amundsen’s

After his venture in Antartica, Amundsen developed a successful shipping business, and set out on more ventures using a new vessel, Maud. An expedition, starting in 1918, during which he planed to freeze the Maud in the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram) proved troublesome, costly and ultimately unsuccessful.

Subsequently, Amundsen focused on air travel to reach the Pole. After a promising effort using flying boats, he, and 15 others (including the Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile), succeeded in flying an airship from Spitsbergen to Alaska in two days, crossing the Pole, in May 1926. However, the last years of Amundsen’s life were embittered by disputes over credit for the flight. He died in 1928 while on a mission to rescue Nobile who had crashed an airship returning from the North Pole.

Wikipedia and the Fram Museum website have more biographical information. And The International Journal of Scientific History has a briefing on the claim that Amundsen and his colleague Oscar Wisting were not only first to the South Pole, but also to the North Pole.

Scott’s diary of his ill-fated expedition was published (by Smith, Elder & Co) as early as 1913, in the first volume of Scott’s Last Expedition. This is freely available at Internet Archive. However, it was not until last year (2010) that Amundsen’s diary of his South Pole expedition was published in English, thanks to Roland Huntford. According to the publisher Continuum, Huntford is ‘the world’s foremost authority on the polar expeditions and their protagonists’. His book - Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen - contains Amundsen’s diary entries alongside those of Scott, and also Olav Bjaaland, one of Amundsen’s colleagues.

‘Cutting through the welter of controversy to the events at the heart of the story,’ Continuum says, ‘Huntford weaves the narrative from the protagonists’ accounts of their own fate. What emerges is a whole new understanding of what really happened on the ice and the definitive account of the Race for the South Pole.’

Here are entries from both Amundsen’s and Scott’s diaries concerning their arrivals at the South Pole. The one by Amundsen is taken from Huntford’s book, while the Scott entries are taken from the 1913 publication. It is worth noting, though, that the British Library website has made available, since last year, photographs of Scott’s original 1911 Antarctic diary.

By mistake, Amundsen’s calender was not put back when the Fram crossed the International Date Line, and when the mistake was discovered Amundsen decided it would be too difficult to revise all the diary and log entries, and so he kept the wrong calendar dates going - hence he actually arrived at the Pole on the 14th, even though his diary dates it the 15th. Håkon VII was King of Norway at the time.

14 December 1911, Roald Amundsen
‘Thursday 15 Decbr.
So we arrived, and were able to raise our flag at the geographical South Pole - King Håkon VII’s Vidda. Thanks be to God! The time was 3pm when this happened. The weather was of the best kind when we set off this morning, but at 10am, it clouded over and hid the sun. Fresh breeze from the SE. The skiing has been partly good, partly bad. The plain - King H VII’s Vidda - has had the same appearance - quite falt and without what one might call sastrugi. The sun reappeared in the afternoon, and now we much go out and take a midnight observation. Naturally we are not exactly at the point called 90°, but after all our excellent observations and dead reckoning we must be very close. We arrived here with three sledges and 17 dogs. HH put one down just after arrival. ‘Hlege’ was worn out. Tomorrow we will go out in three directions to circle the area round the Pole. We have had our celebratory meal - a little piece of seal meat each. We leave here the day after tomorrow with two sledges. The third sledge will be left here. Likewise we will leave a little three man tent (Rønne) with the Norwegian flag and a pennant marked Fram.’

16 January 1912, Scott
‘[. . .] Half an hour later he detected a black speck ahead. Soon we knew that this could not be a natural snow feature. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs’ paws - many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal com- panions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. To-morrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return. [. . .]’

17 January 1912, Scott
‘Camp 69. T. -22° at start. Night - 21°. The POLE. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day - add to our disappointment a head wind 4 to 5, with a temperature -22°, and companions labouring on with cold feet and hands.

We started at 7.30, none of us having slept much after the shock of our discovery. We followed the Norwegian sledge tracks for some way; as far as we make out there are only two men. In about three miles we passed two small cairns. Then the weather overcast, and the tracks being increasingly drifted up and obviously going too far to the west, we decided to make straight for the Pole according to our calculations. At 12.30 Evans had such cold hands we camped for lunch - an excellent ‘week-end one.’ We had marched 7.4 miles. Lat. sight gave 89° S3’ 37”. We started out and did 6 1/2 miles due south. To-night little Bowers is laying himself out to get sights in terrible difficult circumstances; the wind is blowing hard, T. -21°, and there is that curious damp, cold feeling in the air which chills one to the bone in no time. We have been descending again, I think, but there looks to be a rise ahead; otherwise there is very little that is different from the awful monotony of past days. Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside - added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.’

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Diary briefs

19th century cricketer’s diaries up for auction - Chilcotts, Yeovil People

Elgar’s diaries to attend concert in Norwich! - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

Chaplain At Gallipoli - Kenneth Best’s war diaries - Henley Standard

Leveson inquiry and Kate McCann’s diary - The Guardian, Mail Online

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbour diaries

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour that brought the United States into the Second World War. A few diary extracts recording the event are available online. East Carolina University has one of the best collection of digital resources on Pearl Harbour; the editor of Skagit River Journal has made available the diary entry of his father; and Brandon University has web pages honouring one of its professors, who was a student in Hawaii on the fateful day. At the political level, the US Secretary of War at the time kept a diary, and entries from this have been used to support the idea that the US and British governments knew of the attack in advance but let it happen so as to draw the US into the war.

The American military base at Pearl Harbour on Hawaii was attacked by Japan during the morning of 7 December 1941. Japan’s aim was to keep the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with its own actions against the overseas territories of several European nations in Southeast Asia. Some 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, launched from six aircraft carriers, caused huge damage: 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded; four US battleships were sunk, and four others damaged (six of these eight, however, were raised and/or repaired for further service); other vessels, including cruisers and destroyers, were also damaged; and 188 aircraft were destroyed. By contrast, Japanese losses, in personnel and hardware, were very light.

The Japanese aggression shocked the American people, which hitherto had been pro isolation and against American involvement in the European war, and it led directly - on the following day - to a US declaration of war on Japan. Clandestine support of the UK turned into active alliance, and within three further days, Germany and Italy had declared war on the US and vice versa. For more information see Wikipedia or the BBC.

East Carolina University’s Joyner Library has an online exhibition commemorating the 60th anniversary of the attack. It provides access to a large number of digital resources, including official and personal texts, biographies, and pictures. However, there are very few actual diary texts. One was written by Robert Hailey on USS Indianapolis; and another by Louis P. Davis, Jr. on USS Reid. There is no biographical information about either sailor. Although Davis’s diary extract sometimes reads as though it was written while the action was happening, the photographs of the diary pages, on the exhibition website, suggest the entry was written all at one time.

Robert Hailey’s diary
7 December 1941
‘G.Q. [General Quarters] at 0538 - routine drill! Shortly before 0800 no. 1 Higgins boat was placed over the side after we had anchored just off Johnson Is. Before other boats could be placed over the side or any trys made dispatches were received that P.H. [Pearl Harbor] Had been bombed by Japanese planes. All plans for landing on Johnson Is. were abandoned. Boats and planes hoisted aboard - no fuel to the 5 DMS with us - course set for interception of enemy forces south of Hawaii - these forces proceeding from the south, last reported near Palmyra - 8 large ships and one Jap sub sunk by planes off PH. - two carriers engaged just outside P.H. several miles - Hickam - Ford Island - residential Honolulu near the Pali bombed. - G.Q. about noon because of what appeared to be a sub - false alarm but not a drill. War has been declared - now there is to be much required from us all.

Afternoon - dispatches, newscasts and “scuttlebutt dope” has kept the day a busy one. Division put on a full wartime basis - all excess gear stowed below. We have changed rendezvous several times - mostly in an effort to intercept the fleeing carriers. P.H. seems to have suffered severely, Hickam damaged badly - 350 men killed in a bombed barracks, oil tanks at P.H. afire Oklahoma hit by bomb, is afire - no word on other damage-rumors Honolulu also damaged.

Manilla definately bombed - Wake & Guam uncertain. Condition II throughout day & tonight - Everyone excited but with only one thought - glad to get things underway and have uncertainty over. No one can understand how this attack was executed and the Japs gotten so close - why carriers not sunk is also not understandable.

Anticipate with what the chance that we may encounter then and get a whack at them- it would be an enjoyable sensation after today’s activity.’

Louis P. Davis, Jr.’s diary
7 December 1941
‘Was peacefully reminicing in my bunk about last night. Had been to a party with the Wilhmots at the Hickam Field Officer’s club. Several alarm sounded the clock said 0800 so I surmised that they must be testing it. Heard a yell from passageway “Mr Davis, we are being attackd” I jumped up ran to the door of the Wardroom. As I went up a Japanese plane bellied up over Ford Island clearly showing the rising sun on it’s wings. Made the director in nothing flat to get battery firing. I am senior gunnery officer aboard and only one who knows how to work the director. I got the machine guns going about 0803. God damn locks on magazine.

Had a hell of a time getting 5” firing. About 0820 I got them ready with ammunition. During time I was getting ammunition for 5” battery I saw Utah capsize astern of us. We are second DD in Harbor to open up with machine guns, first with 5” Arizona is burning fiercely. Her back is broken. Raleigh is torpedoed astern of us Quickly gets bad list to port. All DDs are firing now. This is hottest part of harbor. Plane is attacking our west. “All guns fw’d train 45” “Fire when hearing” Fw’d machine guns are firing steadily. Several Machine seen bullets ricochet off sides of director and mast. One 6” from my head a bunch about a foot away. Glad this is my lucky day.

Gun #2 is firing. Machines guns hit planes burst into flame and crashes on hill dead ahead of ship. No one hurt yet. Port fw’d machine gun burning up “Fire until it blows up” Johny is getting ready to get underway. Plane just connected with 5” shell over Curtiss. Nothing left of him. 2nd attacks starting must be only about 0845. God it’s cold only have on skinny troa [trousers] Plane coming over “Give to him All guns fw’d” Tally two for us today; hope he fries in hell Quickest hangover I ever got rid of in my life. Jesus we need water and everything is shut off. Comparitive lull now. About ten planes shot down during their last visit near the DDs. These ships can sure shoot.

High altitude bomber. No power for director! Engines have been secured Whitney cannot supply enough for 5 ships. Cannot get near them with local control “Cease firing” Wonder whats happening over on battleship row? All DDs out here are safer. Cassen and Downes, other half of hour division burning furiously. Monaghan just sunk sub in harbor. My clothes got here. Must be 0945 California and West Virginia are sinking. Sub just torpedoed Nevada. She is burning fw’d. Wonder how Joe Taussig is? Am so mad am crying. First time in years. Damn dumb admirals and generals. Locking up all the ammunition Good thing we belted machine guns ammo yesterday 200 rds 5” expended no casualties 10,000 rds 50 Cal. expended one gun burned up. “Cut off all magazine locks.” God damn good thing no carriers and crusiers are in.

Only Helena is slighlty damaged and Raleigh Curtiss hit by bomb aft. Oklahoma just capsized. Poor S.O.B.’s

Captain and rest of officers returned.

“Mr. Davis single up.” 1005 under way “Mr Davis report to executive officer” Exec bawled me out for cutting locks off magazines. Says I act too quickly should wait and reflect first Goddamn fool sits home on his fat ass then comes out and tells we are all wet and gives us hell for the way we fought the battle. Ted says he was too scared move coming out. Hope he gets one in the gut So the big thing will spill all over the deck.

“Mr. Davis Captain says clear ship for action” Am hungry as hell. No breakfast. Thrown over all wood and canvas, all excess gear topside and below. “Mr Davis report to Executive officer” “What the hell are you doin you fool”

“Captain’s orders clear ship for action sir.”

Hope he fries in hell. They are bombing Honolulu. Can see them from ship. We are forming up to attack 77 destroyers and Detroit all that’s left of battle force. Passed Nevada in channel burning furiously “secure from GQ set condition three watch one” Rest at last its 1500. Of all the stupid cowards are exec is the worst. Ford at last. Have mid better get some sleep. What a day 5 battleships sunk 2 cruisers hit Agala sunk Half of our division sunk. All because people try to kid themselves.’

***

Victor Andrew Bourasaw was another sailor at Pearl Harbour on the eventful day. He was born in Festus, Missouri, in 1901, but left home in his early teens to mine boron by hand on the Mississippi river. In 1922, he joined the US Navy, and, in 1941, was a chief petty officer on the destroyer, USS Ramsay. The following diary entry can be found on the Skagit River Journal website edited by Victor’s son, Noel V Bourasaw.

7 December 1941
‘This morning at a few minutes before eight the Japanese began an air raid on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field. The Utah and the Raleigh was hit by torpedoes launched by torpedo planes and dive bombers. Bombs of all kind - incendiary, shrapnel and high explosives - were dropped. The hangars on Ford Island and Hickam Field were set afire and all the grounded planes staffed. Also numerous oil tanks were set afire, burning for two days and nights.

About 0815 a submarine was discovered inside of the harbor astern of the Medusa and the Curtis (two destroyer tenders). A nest of destroyers were alongside of the Medusa, and all were taking pot shots at [the sub’s] conning tower. One 3-inch shell hit her bow and tore it off. She then submerged and reappeared again. The Monaghan, DD-354, had got under way and made for her, ramming her and letting go two depth charges. A mighty cheer went up from the crews of the ships around. Of course she has never reappeared since. Unfortunately the Monaghan ran her bow onto the beach on Ford Island and she had to back her engines full speed and, at that, had difficulty backing off.

The Ramsay crew acted like veterans under fire. Each man to the lowest rating did his duty and did it well. Am proud to be a member of a crew like this.

The enemy aircraft, having dropped their bombs, now turn to strafing. They sure are bum shots. We were strafed five times and have only one bullet hole to show on the ship, through the rail on the flying deck.

It was terrible to have to go through that oil-covered water on the way out, seeing our shipmates struggling in it and not being able to help them. We threw life buoys to the ones we saw that needed one.

We found submarines in wait outside. We dropped depth charges as did the other destroyers. The navy authorities are sure that we got four subs. The subs evidently were waiting for the battleships to come out but of course they never did. It would have been suicide. We have heard that the West Virginia and the Oklahoma were damaged. We could see the West Virginia listing considerably as we were leaving port. All this morning the destroyers were busy tracking down subs, pounding them with depth charges. All this morning destroyers are busy tracking down subs, pounding them with depth charges.

Afternoon 7 Dec: Two o’clock, dropping depth charges. We must be getting some for there are usually bubbles and oil. 1430, no word yet from Task Force One, who went to engage the enemy. Still dropping ash cans [depth charges]. Are now in Condition Three at 1500. Two light air attacks on Pearl harbor between 2000 and 2100. Very little sleep for the crew tonight.’

***

At the time of the Pearl Harbour raid, Robert W Brockway was 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Hawaii. His father was in the Army Air Corps, serving on a ground crew, and the family lived in quarters at Hickam Field, where Robert identified with the soldiers from an early age. After being evacuated, he went to Washington, D.C. to continue his studies. He served as a church minister until 1959, and as a teacher thereafter, first at Coventry Technical College in England, then at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. From 1965, he taught at Brandon University in Canada, as a professor of religion. He died in 2001. Brandon University has an extensive website in memory of Brockway, including extracts from his Pearl Harbour diary (photographs and transcriptions).

7 December 1941
‘As I write today from the home of Mr. O’ Sullivan who very kindly took us in, we have experienced a Japanese raid. This morning at 8:00 a.m. I was awakened by loud booming. Believing them to be maneuvers I paid little heed. On going outside, I saw stukas diving and circling, but still paid no heed, until I saw the Rising Sun on wing tips. By then the depot hangars were in flame and gasoline blazed. We went to Burkes [?] and then returned home - everyone telling me that war was on. We then got the Haltermanns in our car and Mr. Willy and I hurried up Aiea heights. We saw a carrier burned to the water edge. Fren [friends?] at Hickam [Hickam Field]. We waited there and then returned. Most of our planes had been destroyed. Our fleet force crippled. The radio had just pronounced martial law. Our forces are supposed to be dealing with the sit[uation].’

8 December 1941
‘As the dawn came after a long weary nite spent anxiously waiting for Japanese bombers which never came, we got the paper stating that some 340 fellows from Hickam were killed. One of them was probably Tony Mariaschella since he was in the 42d. After a morning spent uneventfully Mother, I, Mrs Haltermann and Mr. Wiley went to the field [Hickam] and got the remainder of our stuff. The British are in it too. A parachutist is up back here somewhere and they couldn’t find him. Hickam Field looked hit but not shattered. Purdin’s house is gutted out. So are several friends’. Auers’ all messed up inside. Probably we will never go there again. Pop is in the hospital [he was there with an unspecified complaint at the time of the raid]. Pres. Roosevelt declared war against Japan today. Under martial law Habeus Corpus is suspended.’

***

Finally, it’s worth noting that the US Secretary for War at the time, Henry L Stimson, kept a diary, and that certain extracts from this diary (see paragraph below) have been employed repeatedly over the years by those who believe there was a conspiracy - the Pearl Harbour advance-knowledge conspiracy theory - involving high officials in the US and UK who knew of the attack in advance and may have let it happen so as to force America into the war.

25 November 1941
‘Then at 12 o’clock we went to the White House, where we were until nearly half past one. At the meeting were Hull, Knox, Marshall, Stark and myself. There the President . . . brought up entirely the relations with the Japanese. He brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked perhaps next Monday, for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what should we do. The question was how much we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.’

After the attack, Stimson wrote in his diary: ‘When the news first came that Japan had attacked us my first feeling was of relief that . . . a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people. This continued to be my dominant feeling in spite of the news of catastrophes which quickly developed.’ (This is widely quoted as being dated 7 December 1941, but the sense of the quote seems much later, and without access to the diary itself, I cannot check the date.)

For more on this topic see Institute for Historical Review articles by Charles Lutton and David Irving; and Srdja Trifkovic on the American Patriot Friends Network. Irving, in particular, has a lot to say about Stimson’s diary, claiming there is evidence for post-Pearl Harbour deletions and revisions. Wikipedia, however, has a detailed and well-referenced look at the facts.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saw television!

‘Met John Logie Baird; a charming man - a shy, quietly-spoken Scot. He could serve as a model for the schoolboy’s picture of a shock-haired, modest, dreamy, absent-minded inventor. Nevertheless shrewd.’ This is from the diary of Sydney Moseley, a journalist and writer, who died sixty years ago today; but, he is not well-remembered other than for his association with Baird, and writing a biography of the inventor.

There is very little information about Moseley readily available on the internet. He was born in 1888, and became a journalist, working initially for the Daily Express. For some years he lived in Cairo, editing English-language newspapers and acting as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and others. Back in Britain, he founded the Southend Times and also stood for election to Parliament as a member for Southend-on-Sea.

Moseley worked to promote the invention - a television broadcast system - of his friend John Logie Baird, and was instrumental in persuading the BBC to try it out. There is a little more about this on the Sydenham Town website.

Moseley authored many books during his life. Truth about the Dardanelles and With Kitchener in Cairo were published during the First World War. Books on London, about the criminal system, and making investments followed. Most well known, though, are his books on television, including Who’s Who in Broadcasting; Simple Guide to Television; and Television for the Intelligent Amateur. His best remembered work is probably the 1952 biography of his friend, John Baird, The Romance and Tragedy of the Pioneer of Television.

A little while before Moseley’s death - on 5 December 1961 - Max Parrish published The Private Diaries of Sydney Moseley in association with Moseley’s own publisher in Bournemouth, The Outspoken Press. Used copies are available at Abebooks. The diaries are said to be a ‘startlingly frank record of a poor, ambitious boy’s struggle to make good’. Here are a few extracts.

31 March 1911
‘(Fleet Street) And now, after a week of continuous work, I can rest awhile and write my thoughts. Ten minutes ago I hadn’t a penny in my pocket; now I have over £4! Watney offered me the ‘night news-editor’ job and I accepted - again on space! This means that anything I write through the night which is printed will be paid for. I can ‘order’ any stories from our correspondents in the provinces, too. I think he has a good opinion of me, and this has been strengthened by the report of Sir William Bull, who was ‘very pleased’ with what I did. As regards the work I am about to do, he added: ‘there are great possibilities’ in it, and I am of course going to make use of most of them. According to Watney’s description, it is a post I should love; but I must take care of my health. It is now 6:30pm and I have had nothing to eat since 8 this morning!’

12 April 1911
‘(The Old Victoria Park) I should really be in bed but here I am! Been too busy to write these notes; it seems as if I have made a really good start on the Evening Times. Given a chance at last I am seizing it with both hands. Despite my column stories I am none too confident. I’ve already has some experience of the vagaries of journalism, thank you! It is very easy to slip. Have ordered suit, overcoat and writing desk. The Census job fairly unnerved me. Had to go into terribly poor quarters of the East End slums. St Peter’s Road in Mile End, where I lived, was a paradise in comparison - with trees and a church at one end, and the Charrington brewery at the other! What terrible lives some people endure! I thought I had seen enough! Dead people . . . dying people . . . starving people. There was a beautiful slut sitting beside a coffin. Beneath her rags and dirt was a queen. . . Wrote an article on my experiences which will be published - I hope!
Today I put 10s down as ‘extra’ expenses, and it’s going to Watney for his OK. Careful my lad, careful!’

1 August 1928
‘Met John Logie Baird; a charming man - a shy, quietly-spoken Scot. He could serve as a model for the schoolboy’s picture of a shock-haired, modest, dreamy, absent-minded inventor. Nevertheless shrewd. We sat and chatted. He told me he is having a bad time with the scoffers and sceptics - including the BBC and part of the technical press - who are trying to ridicule and kill his invention of television at its inception. I told him that if he would let me see what he has actually achieved - well, he would have to risk me damning it - or praising it! If I were convinced - I would battle for him. We got on well together and I have arranged to test his remarkable claim.

(Later) Saw television! Baird’s partner, a tall good-looking but highly temperamental Irishman, Captain Oliver George Hutchinson, was nice but very nervous of chancing it with me. He was terribly anxious I should be impressed. Liked the pair of them, especially Baird, and decided to give my support. . . I think we really have what is called television. And so, once more into the fray!’

9 March 1956
‘(Bournemouth) Today is my 68th birthday - and it is time I finally closed my diaries! Would that it were possible to close my mind with equal emphasis. Thoughts, ideas, views continue to chase each other. . . How will it really end?

What comparisons can one make with the past? Were my times the ‘good old days’? Or were they, as our modern progressives call them, the ‘bad old days’? Well - where are we today? We have: penicillin; hydrogen bombs; radio; plastics; Teddy-boys; modern plumbing; Bikini suits; pheno-barbitone; television; cafetarias; automobiles for all; telephones for all; a broken sound-barrier; long-playing records; inflation; diesel engines; higher wages; guided missiles, and aspirin tablets which dissolve much more quickly than ever before. Are we any happier? - more secure? - really better off? One could write much on the subject, and the ensuing discussion would go on ‘far, far into the night’.’

Brighton in diaries

The History Press has just published Brighton in Diaries, a collection of diary extracts about the city, one of Britain’s most vibrant seaside resorts. This is my first published book about diaries. Essentially, it consists of cameos of people, famous and ordinary, young and old, serious and cynical, but with Brighton always setting the scene: like a play, perhaps, in which, despite a medley of brilliant actors and a plot full of intriguing story-lines, it is the set, the backdrop that really steals the show. The idea for the book came out of writing these articles for The Diary Review.

Many legendary writers - including Walter Scott, Arnold Bennett and Virginia Woolf - inhabit these pages, often appearing in their most unguarded guises. Here also are less well-known characters, such as William Tayler (a footman), Gideon Mantell (a surgeon and dinosaur bone collector), and Xue Fucheng (an early Chinese diplomat). There are also several diarists whose writing has never appeared in print before: Olive Stammer, for example, who kept a diary during the Second World War; and Ross Reeves, a young gay musician whose diary extracts are very recent.

Brighton in Diaries also includes a chapter (one of 26) with some diary entries of my own relating to Brighton, starting in 1977 when I first went there and slept in a cemetery. The photo above is of my parents on the Palace Pier in 1951. Having just met, they’d gone there for, what is now referred to as, a dirty weekend! For a little more on the book see the feature published in The Argus.

Brighton in Diaries can be purchased directly from The History Press, from book stores in and around Brighton (such as City Books), and from online retailers such as Amazon. Here are a few extracts:

3 September 1778, Peregrine Phillips
‘A monstrous fish, called a Tunie, but not much unlike a shark, lays on the shore, wearing two double rows of large masticators: it has broke the net, and, towards mending same, the fishermen collect money of the curious.’

13 September 1778, Peregrine Phillips
‘Took the liberty of surveying all the bathing-machines. Fine ladies going - fine ladies coming away. Observe them at the instant of bathing. How humiliating! They appear more deplorable than so many corpses in shrouds.’

14 December 1818, John Croker
‘After breakfast Blomfield called to scold us for not going to the Pavilion at once, and to command us on the part of his Royal Highness to come there. We went there and walked through the rooms again and visited the offices. The kitchen and larders are admirable - such contrivances for roasting, boiling, baking, stewing, frying, steaming, and heating; hot plates, hot closets, hot air, and hot hearths, with all manner of cocks for hot water and cold water, and warm water and steam, and twenty saucepans all ticketed and labelled, placed up to their necks in a vapour bath.’

19 July 1837, William Tayler
‘There are numbers of old wimen have little wooden houses on wheels, and into these houses people goe that want to bathe.’

11 January 1910, Arnold Bennett
‘Grand rolling weather. Foamy sea, boisterous wind, sun, pageant of clouds, and Brighton full of wealthy imperative persons dashing about in furs and cars. I walked with joy to and fro on this unequalled promenade. And yet, at this election time, when all wealth and all snobbery is leagued together against the poor, I could spit in the face of arrogant and unmerciful Brighton, sporting its damned Tory colours.’

30 August 1940, Olive Stammer
‘Fights between planes over Bton, Hove & Patcham. Spitfire down in Portland Road. House tops damaged. Pilot killed. They could only find his hand.’

26 February 1941, Virginia Woolf
‘The fat woman had a louche large white muffin face. T’other was slightly grilled. [. . .] Brighton a love-corner for slugs. The powdered the pampered the mildly improper.’

21 April 1995, Des Marshall
‘I believe Brighton has more disturbed people in relation to the size of the population, than any other town in the country. There’s a sort of unreality about the town. It’s too frivolous. People don’t really listen to each other. They seem very excited and distracted. [. . .] People wear such odd clothes that don’t really match. Could be, sort of punk, with a bit of hippy thrown in, or mohair with greatcoat, or a collar and tie man, with shorts of different colours, possibly even with a bowler hat.’