Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Archduke’s travels

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated a century ago today by Serbian extremists. It was one of the most infamous acts in history since it led directly to the start of the First World War. What is much less well known, however, is that some years earlier the Archduke had undertaken a 10 month-long journey round the world, and kept a fascinating - if sometimes verbose - diary of his travels, expressing delight, for example, at seeing flying fish at sea, or moaning about uncomfortable London cabs in Sydney.

Franz Ferdinand was born in Graz, Austria, in 1863, the oldest son of Archduke Karl Ludwig, the younger brother of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph. He was given the title Archduke of Austria-Este from birth. He began his military career at 12 years of age, rising quickly through the ranks, to be appointed a major general aged 31. Later, as heir-presumptive to the elderly emperor, he was inspector general of all Austria-Hungary’s armed forces.

In 1889, Crown Prince Rudolf (Emperor Franz Joseph’s son, and cousin to Franz Ferdinand) committed suicide, leaving Ludwig in line to inherit the throne. Ludwig immediately renounced the throne in favour of his son, Franz Ferdinand, and died soon after. Franz Ferdinand, however, had fallen in love with a woman, Countess Sophie Chotek, who was not considered eligible to marry a member of the Imperial House of Habsburg. After much negotiation and petitioning, the marriage, which took place in 1900, was allowed, but only under certain conditions: their descendants (they had three children) would have no succession rights to the throne; nor would Sophie share her husband’s rank, title, or privileges.

In this period of European history, Austria-Hungary was an empire full of tensions not only between the regions and their Hapsburg rulers, but between various ethnic groups at odds over religion and politics. Franz Ferdinand is known to have worried about these tensions, and the prospect of the empire disintegrating, and to have considered ideas for allowing the regions more say in government, and more autonomy. But he was not much liked by the people - his public persona is said to have been cold, sharped-tongued and short-tempered - and his political plans were no more popular among the ruling elites.

According to Wikipedia’s biography, Franz Ferdinand advocated a careful approach towards Serbia - repeatedly opposing hardliners in Vienna - warning that harsh treatment of the Serbs would bring Austria-Hungary into open conflict with Russia, to the ruin of both Empires. On Sunday, 28 June 1914, on a visit to Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were shot dead by Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of Serbian assassins. Another of the group had tried, earlier in the day, to bomb the Archduke’s motorcade, but that assassination attempt had failed. The group had been coordinated by Danilo Ilić, a Bosnian Serb, whose political objective was to break off Austria-Hungary’s south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia.

The assassination gave the Vienna hardliners an opportunity to move against Serbia and its fight for independence: Austria-Hungary demanded impossible reparations, and, failing to receive them, declared war on Serbia. The complex web of alliances in Europe, then, was activated as Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary, Germany declared war on Russia, and France and Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. Thus did begin - on 28 July 1914 - World War I.

More information on the Archduke can be found at Wikipedia, and Bio. Wikipedia has a long entry about the assassination itself, and First World War has video footage of the Archduke arriving at the town hall in Sarajevo. See also media articles today: The Guardian, Washington Post, The Telegraph, BBC.

In late 1892 and 1893, Franz Ferdinand traveled around the world, partly, it is recorded, for medical reasons: the journey served both as a cover and as a means to recover. Science was the journey’s official purpose and Franz Ferdinand traveled under the alias of Count of Hohenberg on the torpedo ram cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth. He was accompanied by over 400 people, ranging from a navy chaplain to a royal treasurer. Throughout the ten months of the journey, he kept a daily diary - often in considerable detail - and wrote more than 2,000 pages. The diary was published in two volumes in 1896 as Tagebuch Meiner Reise Um Die Erde, 1892-1893. It was reprinted in 2012 (copies available through Amazon, for example). The original 19th century volumes, though, can also be bought on Abebooks, at a price.

Franz Ferdinand’s diary was never translated into English. However, in 2013, Der Spiegel ran an informative article on the newly reprinted two volumes, and an English version of the article is available online. Much information about the Antipodean part of the Archduke’s journey and diary is also available thanks to Weekend Australian Magazine. In Vienna, the Welt Museum is celebrating the centenary of Franz Ferdinand’s death with a major exhibition on the Archduke’s journey based on his diaries.

Most significantly, the full text of Franz Ferdinand’s diary is being made freely available online and in English thanks to an unknown translator and editor (although he/she does provide an email address for contact). The editor states: ‘I invite you, Dear Reader, to follow Franz Ferdinand’s world tour of 1893, day by day, in a new translation into English. This is a work in progress and help is welcome.’

The Franz Ferdinand’s World Tour website is simple and easy to use, with information on the people who accompanied the Archduke, the ship he travelled in, and a chronological list of days with the date, the place, and a link to the diary’s entry for that day.

In the Archduke’s own preface to the 1896 publication, he wrote: ‘To collect all the thousands of impressions that assailed me and to remember in old age what I cherished as a young man, I wrote daily notes from its beginning of the voyage on. In this, I was also thinking about those who had remained at home. They who could not experience directly the incomparable allures were - if only in weak form - to find a means to participate indirectly in this journey across the world by my offer of my recollections. Thus, I offer my beloved ones and my friends my diary. It contains sights, experiences, thoughts, lessons and hopes to find a level of interest among those for whom it is intended to the extent that it induces affection and friendship.’

Here are a few extracts, the first a shorter entry characteristic of those made at sea, and the second, a longer entry from Franz Ferdinand’s first day in Sydney, which is more typical of the lengthy notes he made when visiting places on land.

3 April 1893
‘The sky was very cloudy and a rainsquall was pouring down in heavy drops, drumming against the deck but quickly evaporate in the heat. Church service was therefore held in the battery.

Still during the morning appeared the Sayer islands, Salang island off the Panga peninsula, in the afternoon the Brothers islands became visible. All these small islands seem to be of volcanic origin, viewed through a spyglass, and thickly covered with tropical vegetation.

During the day we observed tide rips or stream currents that are very common in the Strait of Malacca; these are wave movements that are caused by counter-currents that move in stripes across the otherwise quiet sea and make the steering much more difficult as they cause the ship to drift from its course. I might compare these currents to a quickly flowing watercourse in a sea that flings out foaming, dancing waves at the surface.

An outstanding number of flying fishes, large schools of dolphins as well as fish similar to tuna were mingling. The latter ones pursued, jumping out of the water, smaller fish while these in turn were followed by large birds similar to common dabs that I could not determine more precisely.

The evening was tepid and mild, so that I whiled away an hour on the bridge before I went to sleep, fanned by the the cool evening air, lost in the view of the southern starry sky which I consider by the way inferior in diversity, beauty and splendor of the zodiacs to the northern sky.’

16 May 1893
‘The youngest continent would not receive the sons of the old world in bad weather. As I arrived on deck at half past 6 o’clock, I found the sky clear and serene. The sun was just rising. The sea had calmed down to some degree. Various seagulls and sea swallows as well as large guillemots or penguins were swarming around our ship which was approaching the entrance to Sydney, Port Jackson. The day was gorgeous but the temperature was so low that we were well advised to wear warm coats. From afar we could see the two white shining capes or peninsulas - Outer North and South Head - through which the approach to the harbor leads. These peninsulas descend steeply into the sea with sharp rocky faces and cliffs. Splashing, the waves break against the shore. Hundreds of crag martins and common swifts were tweeting and circling above their nesting places. On Outer South Head is a light house. The entrance is rich in flashy direction obelisks. On a small steamboat the pilot was approaching toward us to take the position of our our old captain from Port Kennedy.

All the harbors that I have yet seen are surpassed in the beauty of its scenery by Sydney - a view shared also by the other gentlemen who saw it for the first time.

Despite many enthusiastic descriptions of Port Jackson we have received, the scenery that opened up before our eyes still surprised us and our astonishment and admiration grew minute by minute.

Having passed through the outlying mountains the ship enters into a narrow channel turns hard towards Southwest - and now there lies a delightful sound in front of us. In the distance the sea of houses of Sydney are glittering, to the right and left small bays are open, surrounded by green hills covered with trees and countless villas and country homes whose gardens were filled with splendid flowers in the calendar autumnal colors. Overall it creates an extremely lively and serene view. The bays are populated with steam boats, yachts and boats of all kinds whose passengers wave greetings to the entering “Elisabeth”. Truly, Australia could not have offered us a more welcoming reception! We saw this as a good sign for our stay which we were looking forward to in a very good mood.

The fine clear cool air that refreshed us contributed in no small part to the great first impression - doubly welcome after the sweltering humid heat of Java that flags both mind and body.

Our joyful mood was even more increased by the German consul general Pelldram, who also represented Austria-Hungary here at the moment and had come to greet us and handed us three messages at the same time.

The whole force of the sanitary police regulations which is applied especially against ships coming from Batavia we had to endure too. First we had to anchor in Watson Bay for the health assessment - a stay we did not have to regret due to the delightful surrounding landscape.

After we had been given permission to proceed, “Elisabeth” continued the journey alongside the picturesque bay shore whose ledges were crowned by small forts and batteries - which seemed to me of subordinate fortification value. We then passed Garden Island with its arsenal and the navy yard of the Australian war fleet as well as Woolloomooloo Bay and then moored at a buoy amidst the warships of the Australian squadron at Farm Cove between Lady Macquarie’s Chair and Fort Macquarie.

The coastal defense is undertaken by the ships of the British navy stationed in Australian waters, the Australian Auxiliary Squadron and of warships in the service of the colony. According to the Australasian Naval Force Act of 1887 the Australian colonies pay an annual contribution of 1,092,000 fl. in Austrian currency to the British government for it to provide the Australian Auxiliary Squadron. Furthermore the construction costs borne by the British government for the ships of this squadron carries an interest of 5 percent paid by the colonies but the overall annual interest is not allowed to surpass 420.000 fl. in Austrian currency. This Auxiliary Squadron consists of 5 fast cruisers and 2 torpedo cannon boats and is commanded by a British Rear Admiral who also is in command of the squadron of the ships of the British navy stationed in Australian waters. This squadron consists of 1 armored ship, 3 cruisers, 3 cannon boats and 1 steam yacht; its main station is Sydney. The war fleet owned by the Australian colonies consists in total of 1 armored ship, 2 cruisers, 4 cannon boats, 13 torpedo boats, 2 torpedo barges and 7 steam boats; the majority of theses ships belongs to Victoria and Queensland, while New Zealand does not own any warship.

Next to us was moored the proud British ship of the admiral, the armored cruiser “Orlando“, with 5600 t; next to it followed the cruiser “Royalist” and the cruiser “Mildura” of the Australian Auxiliary Squadron besides the cannon boat “Boomerang” and the cannon boat “Paluma” owned by the colony of Queensland which is used at shared cost by the colony and the British government to map the coast. On these ships our anthem rang out accompanied by the sound of the guns.

In a short time appeared Lieutenant Governor Sir F. M. Darley, accompanied by his adjutant and cabinet secretary, and soon afterward the commander of the royal squadron, Rear Admiral Bowden-Smith, as well as the mayor of Sydney, Mr. Manning, came on board to greet me. The governor himself had been recalled to England after only two years of service. His successor is bound to arrive soon. Numerous compatriots namely Istrians and Dalmatians who are doing business in Sydney came on board of “Elisabeth” to look for and find friends and acquaintances.

Dispositions for the next few days were quickly made. Then a boat brought me on land to set foot on the soil of the colony of New South Wales and visit its capital, the oldest city of Australia.

Sydney, which lies on the South coast of Jackson Bay that cuts deeply into the land, is situated on a couple of hills - imposing by the number and size of its buildings - and then by and by blends into villa settlements and the green of the landscape. Founded in 1788 as the seat of the penal colony of New South Wales, Sydney - originally Port Jackson, then named in honor of the secretary of state Viscount Sydney - has grown tremendously namely during the last few years. The population increase of Sydney is best illustrated by the following numbers: In 1800 Sydney had barely 2600 inhabitants, in 1861 95.596, in 1881 already 237.300, on 31 December 1892 including the suburbs already 411.710 inhabitants.

As an important trading and industrial center Sydney owes its rise mostly to the safety and size of its harbor which handles more than three quarters of the total imports and more than half the exports of the colony of New South Wales. In the year 1892 2960 ships with 2,804.549 t entered here and 3067 ships with 2,842.635 t departed; the imports of the colony represented in this year a total value of 249,318.312 fl. in Austrian currency, the exports one of 263,666.964 fl. in Austrian currency.

The boat landed below Government House at Fort Macquarie where the road led along a quay to the city. On this quay there was a very busy life as the large steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company as well as those of the Messageries maritimes are moored and are next to the warehouses of many floors in which wool bales and hides were loaded in and out without interruption. Viewed from the quay the two main streets and main traffic veins of Sydney, George Street und Pitt Street, cross the center of the city running parallel from North to South. Even though many streets are arranged in a grid, this monotonous regularity of modern city design is not much noticed as Sydney is situated on hills which continuously changes the scenery of the streets.

Among the many public buildings of Sydney all built in stone I mention the most remarkable: the university, a colossal building with a grandiose hall in Gothic style which rises at the North end of the beautiful Victoria Park, the cathedral and the newly built Catholic Church of Maria, the splendid Town Hall, the palatial post office with its colonnades and a large tower, the museum next to Hyde Park and finally the parliament.

Pretty houses, many with balconies and verandas, and shops on the ground floor where European goods are sold, line the macadamized streets where a busy crowd is going here and there. The streets are highly urban and still very cozy and friendly. Not the least because the visitor thinks to be in a European city as he sees but white faces, among them especially beautiful women and girls - an agreeable view after the colored and in our opinion not very attractive physiognomy of the natives of the countries we had recently visited.

The streets are very busy which is easy to understand in the case of Sydney as an important trading place. The only thing I find fault with is that they have introduced London cabs that are very uncomfortable for its passengers.

The acquisitions we had to do were fully made in the European manner. The transactions went smoothly and quickly and we appreciated not having to search and haggle for hours as in Bombay, Calcutta, Singapore and Batavia.

Then I paid a visit to the Lieutenant Governor in Government House built in Tudor style and distinguished in its interior by its noble calm elegance of its furnishings. Sir F. M. Darley speaks German fairly well which eased the conversation very much. He showed me the garden of the palace which offers a delicious view of the harbor and Mossmans Bay opposite it with its villa quater of St. Leonard. The garden is well kept and contains a rich collection of Australian tree and bush species.

The next visit was devoted to - I suffer from museum addiction - the museum housed in an imposing building and distinguished by the richness, correct arrangement and good conservation of its objects. As I was first interested in the especially Australian species, I turned towards the mammals to study namely the strange class of marsupials. Among the well stuffed animals were represented various kangaroo and wallaby species, from the giant kangaroo to the lovely rock wallaby (Petrogale penicillata), oppossums, the flying squirrels, various species of quoll and possums, the Australian koala, wombat, dugong, the wild dog dingo or warragal and the platypus.

The bird world of Australia is completely represented. Noteworthy are: the New Dutch cassowary or emu; the rare lyrebird; the numerous species of intensely colored cockatoo and parrots, as well as the group of swamp and water fowl which included many species of which I was unaware. Australia seems to be poor in predator birds and chicken species according to the survey presented in the museum while the order of the pigeons has beautiful specimens. One well stuffed specimen of every bird species is presented in a glass cabinet. Thousands of bird bodies, however, are kept in chests to serve as exchange objects from time to time.

The museum possesses too a rich collection of corals and shells, of beetles and butterflies and finally an ethnographic one of objects from the continent and the islands of Australia which I intended to see during a second visit.

In the mean time, the clock struck five, a time where the streets of Sydney are filled with the vivid traffic as the inhabitants of this city tend to go out into the open air at that time.

Following this example we ambled in Hyde Park and in George Street until it was time for the table d’hôte at the Australian Hotel which I intended to attend.

This giant building six floors high resembles in construction, dimensions and installations the English and American hotels but with the agreeably appreciated difference that one did not have to rely only upon English cooking of roast beef and anodyne vegetables but was well supplied with food and drink. The table d’hôte reunited in a large hall a large company. The gentlemen were, according to English custom, wearing dress coats, the ladies even in mostly low-cut festive dresses. Not much laudable can be said about the dinner music performed by some artists who elicited awful sounds out of their instruments.

As the operetta theater that it was said offered good performances was closed and a circus had just left Sydney the day before, there were only two entertainment locations for us who had been deprived of “artistic” divertissement for a long time - the two music halls “Tivoli” and “Alhambra” in which popular singers, among them also Negroes, and female dancers produced themselves in front of the audience that applauded in the manner of the land by shrill whistling and was not particularly distinguished. The audience consisted mostly of workers, sailors and small business men.’


23 August 1893
‘In the morning I again tried my luck to do some shopping in Yokohama and in fact this time guided by the kind Baron Siebold who was completely familiar with Japan and all its aspects thanks to his stay of many years here and also speaking the Japanese language. Unfortunately my efforts were unsuccessful as I tried in vain to find silk and brocade like I bought in Kyoto. I everywhere received the answer that the cloth would have to be ordered first from Kyoto. In contrast I managed to enlarge the board menagerie with lovely white bantams - a full aviary - and enlarge it with one of the already rare cock with their tails of multiple meters in length. I also sent two very cute bears on board that soon became the darlings of the crew and learned in the shortest time to wait in place. Hopefully they arrive at our home healthy as they are intended to be the grace and live in the castle moat at Konopiste.

In the afternoon I wanted to be back in Tokyo and, to evade the lurking eyes of the police, sent Clam and Pronay directly to the capital where they too were festively received by a crowd of over a thousand people and a corresponding contingent of policemen, while I with Siebold exited at the next to last stop and entered Tokyo in rickshaws. The maneuver succeded too so that we could spend a few hours fully unrestricted and eat a dinner in a restaurant of the beautiful Ueno park.’

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Russian cavalry and jams

Sir Robert Laird Borden, the eighth Canadian prime minister who played a key role in overseeing his country’s status from colony to nation, was born 160 years ago today. He wrote daily diary entries during the war years which, though brief and often skittish - jumping, for example, from the state of Russian Cavalry to his liking of jam - provide plenty of insight into Borden the man as well as Borden the politician.

Borden was born on 26 June 1854, and educated in the farming community of Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, Canada. He worked first as a teacher, but then was articled for four years to a Halifax law firm, being called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1878. He moved to Kentville to join a law firm, and a few years later, to Halifax, to join another one, becoming senior partner in 1889. That same year, he marred Laura Bond, but they would have no children.

Increasingly successful, Borden represented many of the important Halifax businesses, and sat on the boards of various financial companies. In 1896, he helped found the Canadian Bar Association in Montreal; and, by the time he entered politics, he was a wealthy man - his legal practice was considered by some to be the largest in the so-called Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island).

Borden first entered parliament as a Conservative in 1896; and in 1901 he assumed the leadership of the Conservative Party. For a decade or so he worked to reform the party, but he failed to win power in the 1908 election. He did, however, succeed in 1911 with an appeal for loyalty to the British Empire rather than closer ties to the US. In 1914, Borden was knighted by King George V, and, in fact, was the last Canadian prime minister to receive the honour.

Borden’s leadership skills though were tested with the onset of the First World War. His wartime government was responsible for the Emergency War Measures Act, the nationalisation of the Canadian Northern Railway, and, after a general election and the forming of a unity government, the Military Service Act in 1917 for conscription. Internationally, he also had a significant impact. He could see how Canada was able to assert itself as an independent power; and thus, in the post-war negotiations, he demanded a separate seat at the Paris Peace Conference. This idea was initially opposed by Britain and the US, but Borden stuck to his position, which led to all the dominions - not just Canada - being able to sign the Treaty of Versailles, and receiving separate membership in the League of Nations.

Borden was Chancellor of McGill University from 1918 to 1920, and, after his retirement from politics in 1920, he was appointed Chancellor of Queen’s University (1924 to 1930). He continued with his business interests, and some statesmanship activities (he represented Canada, for example, at the Washington Naval Conference in 1922 and signed the resulting arms reduction treaty on Canada’s behalf). He died in 1937. Further biographical information is available online at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, The Canadian Encyclopaedia or Wikipedia

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds an original set of diaries written by Borden while he was prime minister, covering the years 1912 to 1918. Recently, the Memorial University of Foundland has digitised a transcribed copy of the diaries, also held by LAC, and made it freely available online.

In her introduction to the online diaries, Dr Kathryn Rose explains: ‘Borden’s diaries are not nearly as personal as historians might wish for, but they highlight themes and issues that he addressed on a regular basis, and provide insight to his approach. Borden, despite his years as a practicing lawyer, was not comfortable with debate or public speaking. He regularly documents the praise received for his addresses, and was quick to comment on the skills of others. His appreciation for the men who served was constant - he enjoyed displays of strength and patriotism of regular parade. More interesting, however, was Borden’s handling of his caucus, particularly the members from Quebec. He constantly dealt with battling members, a situation that often ended in tears, and not from Borden.’

6 August 1912

‘Motored back to London with Laura. Aitken and Bonar Law who smoked all the way. Worked at correspondence all afternoon. Called on Lloyd George by appointment. Had interesting conversation. He talked like a strong Imperialist. Thinks Great Britain will never accept protection. Believes Canada can get a preference in transportation but has no very clear ideas as to mode.’

7 August 1912

‘Parliament expected to prorogue today. Played golf on Combe Hill links with Bonar Law and Aitken. Very good links. Bonar Law good steady player. In Afternoon discussed several questions with Churchill and told him everything depended on strength of his statement. He promised to give it personal attention. Told him I was going to Scotland.’

8 August 1912

‘This morning saw Asquith by appointment. He took me all over official residence. Portrait of every Cabinet Minister. One in office only three days. Discussed visit to Germany. He thinks idle to go there with hope of doing any good. Told him that oar action on naval question depended on Churchill’s statement. He said Churchill was good at such work.’

9 August 1912

‘Delegation as to selection of an Irish port as an ocean terminus. Large number present. Arranged to go to Barrow in Furness, Newcastle and Glasgow next week. Am to receive freedom of City of Glasgow.’

10 August 1912

‘Motored to Lord Roberts. Charming place near Ascot. Met Sir Arthur Wilson and others. Delightful luncheon party. Afterwards motored to Cliveden. Discovered that Mrs. Astor had invited the King on Sunday to meet us. He could not come.’

25 June 1914
‘Returned this morning to find that yesterday afternoon there was a tremendous electrical storm and cloudburst in Ottawa. Our new paths on bank of Rideau almost completely demolished. Hindoo question again to the fore and after consultation with White and Burrell drafted a telegram of instructions. Afterwards White talked earnestly to me of his desire to retire. I told him I wished to do the same. Congratulations still pouring in. Played golf with White 5 to 6:30.’

26 June 1914
‘Further confce with White as to Canadian Northern and GTP mortgages. Discussed with Ackland the situation respecting GTP machinists and sent strong telegram to Chamberlain. Answered many telegrams of congratulations as to my birthday. Wrote to Farquar as to departure of Duke and arrival of new GG. In afternoon laid cornerstone of Perley Home for Incurables.’

1 January 1916
‘A rather melancholy New Year with both of us confined to bed under charge of Doctor and trained nurse. Pain still very severe at times. The nurse, Miss McCurdy, seems very faithful and competent. If I make the slightest movement in the night she is at the door at once. My message to the Canadian people published today seems to be very well received. Many telegrams of congratulation, one especially fervent from Dr. Chown, one also from Hon. Edw. Brown, a member of the Manitoba Gov’t. News from front unimportant but Russians seem to be fathering way. Asquith evidently having great difficulty with his conscription measure which threatens to disrupt his Gov’t.’

24 May 1916
‘Waked very early. Delightful water in lake for bathe if one could plunge in quickly. Glorious air. Read and walked around grounds during forenoon. Late in afternoon Rhodes and I started for Left Blower. I caught one grey on fly but no success either there or at Right Bower or Cedar Bay. Mail arrived during forenoon. Nothing very eventful reported. Russian Cavalry had joined British in Mesopotamia. Rhodes says Tiptrees jams &c much better than Cross and Blackwells. Apricot Brandy and Cherry Whisky liqueurs very good. Mrs Yank broils trout very excellently. Splits them, removed backbone and broils in olive oil. Weather very cool and breezy.’

26 June 1918
‘Attended at Imp. War Confce for half an hour in effort to expedite proceedings. Interview with Lord Mayor of York who desires to confer freedom of city. [. . .] Then Confce with Capt. Straight, Capt. Morrison and Lieut. Gunn, repatriated prisoners from Germany who gave thrilling accounts of their experiences. Saxons decent and even kind, Hanoverians cruel and brutal, even more so than Bavarians; Prussians worst of all. Then interview with Long and told him of our conclusions as to means of communication and status of Dominions; direct sam’n to Prime Minister, He admitted need of change but doubted P.M.s time. Then to War Com. where we discussed memo to be submitted to Grand Allied Council respecting Russia, labour men abolished political truce today. Dined at Lord Curzon’s.’

21 December 1918
‘Fine in morning. Early at office. Several callers. Jones came with draft tlgm as to purchase of 800,000 standards of lumber by British Govt and I approved of sending it to White. Dafoe came with draft tlgm. as to naval matters which I also approved. It gave particulars of my action on behalf of Dominions last summer. Hankey brought for my consideration draft of minutes of last Imp. War Cabinet and I gave him suggestions as to revision. [. . .] Worked at documents for Cabinets on Monday and Tuesday, especially Smuts interesting paper on League of Nations. Walked 4 to 5:30. In evening went to Wyndham’s Theatre to see “The Law Divine”; very interesting and remarkably well acted.’

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Astronautics is my life

Archie Edmiston Roy, a Scottish astronomer, was born 90 years ago today. Although successful and widely published as an astronomer, he was better known to the public for his investigations of psychic phenomena, being dubbed the ‘Glasgow Ghostbuster’. He died less than two years ago; and at a memorial service, one of his sons chose to read extracts from a diary showing his father was already obsessed by ‘astronautics’ as a teenager.

Roy was born on 24 June 1924, the son of a draughtsman at a shipyard in Clyde, Scotland. He was educated locally, and at Glasgow University. He became a teacher before joining the university’s astronomy department in 1958, rising to a professorship in 1977. He married Frances and they had three sons.

In the 1960s and 1970s, as a consultant to Nasa, Roy was involved with the moon-landing project. He was the author of several world-renowned textbooks and over 70 scientific papers on astronomy, as well as on neural networks and models of the brain. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the British Interplanetary Society; and he was honoured with having an asteroid - (5806) Archieroy - named after him.

However, Roy became better known for his psychical research, especially after the release of the Hollywood film Ghostbusters which led to the media labelling him ‘the Glasgow Ghostbuster’. He was often invited to investigate supposed haunted houses in Scotland and sometimes to banish ghosts or poltergeists. He became president of the Society for Psychical Research and Founding President of The Scottish Society for Psychical Research. In 2004 he was awarded the Myers Memorial Medal by the Society for Psychical Research. One of his last books, The Eager Dead - A Study in Haunting with a foreword by Colin Wilson, was published in 2008.

In addition to his two main professional interests, Roy also tried his hand at fiction, and published several novels during the 1970s. He died in December 2012. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, The Scotsman, The Guardian, The Telegraph, or the Association for Evaluation and Communication of Evidence for Survival.

In March last year (2013), a memorial service was held for Roy at the Glasgow University Chapel. A full report was published in Frontiers magazine. The Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor John C Brown, spoke on Roy’s achievements, not least that he had remained a university tutor for nearly 60 years. ‘He had an ability to focus - to penetrate deeply into something he was fascinated by,’ Brown said, whether an astronomical problem or issues in psychic research and the paranormal. His investigations convinced him that existence did not end with death, and he used to enjoy summing it up by saying: ‘If I die and I find out I have not survived, I will be very surprised!’

One of Roy’s sons, Ian, also spoke, and he referred to a diary kept by his father when still a teenager. Ian explained that, at the age of 17, his father had contracted tuberculosis and was subsequently interned at Bridge of Weir sanatorium. It was there that he started to keep a journal: ‘What was most striking from his writing at this time - aged only 19 - was his complete commitment to his chosen science and his determination to return, against all odds, to Glasgow University to pursue his passion, at a time when TB was more than likely to claim the life of sufferers and when his primary interest in ‘astronautics’ was considered little more than fantastical by the mainstream. So, I’d like to share a couple of entries from this diary which I feel best illustrate this part of his life and which I have found both fascinating and humbling.’

10 August 1944
‘On Saturday, Mother, when we were walking along the Bottom Avenue, asked me whether I would not like to enter business, and certainly I feel myself that I have a business mind, although I am simultaneously so romantic in temperament. Mother’s idea was that, as the possessor of a shop or two, I would be my own employer and, if I felt at any time, not entirely fit, I could take a rest from work. It appears to me that there are several flaws in Mother’s argument but at the same time, the prospect of building up a successful business has its appeal.

My mother, of course, has no idea as yet, of my own plans and it with these ambitions before me that I have been debating the usefulness of taking her advice. I have come to the conclusion after some thought, that the course of returning to the university, and studying maths, physics, chemistry and astronomy, is the more certain way of furthering my astronautical career. If I entered business, I might in that way, run the lower risk of breaking down in health again, but I cannot see how it helps my plans. I might find spare time enough to make astronautics my hobby, but the idea has no appeal. Astronautics is my life, and returning to my studies being the best way of serving that science, I shall go back to the University.’

16 January 1945
‘I am home. I arrived here yesterday at five, and even now, on Tuesday evening, I find it hard to believe that I am awake. Bridge of Weir seems to be a dream, though I shall never forget it or the people I met there.

Before I left, I had a long talk with the Chief. He was very kind, wanting to know my plans for the future. I told him I wanted to go back to study Maths, Science and kindred subjects. I did not tell him I meant to devote my life to astronautics. I wanted him to let me home, not send for a mental specialist.’

2 September 1945
‘Father paid the bills but only after the telephone was cut off. He was asking me about my fees for the Varsity. He didn’t seem too happy about them.

I had a letter from the Registrar saying that a place has been kept for me so if all goes well, I start in October. Strewth! How unsettled I feel at times. At others I think of the goal I have set myself and decide that nothing will stop me.’

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Around the world in diary days

It is 40 years ago today that I upped and left my home and family to travel round the world, not to return for nearly three years. That day - 18 June 1974 - also marks a watershed in my diary-keeping habit, in that I started keeping a daily diary, to record my travels; and I have kept up the diary habit (although not every day) since then.

I completed my university degree in mid-1973, and had no idea what to do with my life. I went from temporary job to temporary job, and my parents, eventually, kicked me out of their house, believing I should pay my own way. As chance would have it, I found a flat share in Earl’s Court, and my flatmates were all travellers, Aussies and Kiwis, who had come overland across Asia. It wasn’t many months before I decided to go off and explore the world too. My aim was to hitchhike across Asia, to Bali, then fly to Australia where I would work until I had enough money to get to South America and travel there for a while.

With relatively little preparation - I bought traveller’s cheques, forwarded money to a bank in Singapore, and tried to get some preventative medicines - I set off. I had no visas, there was little in my rucksack apart from clothes, books, a map of Europe, and - most importantly - a photostatted guide put together by travellers for travellers to India and beyond. At the time, there were no Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books, so the photocopies were a near-essential supplement to the information gathered along the way - from others on the so-called Hippy Trail.

Oh yes, and in the rucksack, I also had a 1973 desk diary which I planned to use as a journal. I don’t recall why I used an out-of-date diary, with all the confusion of the days being wrong, but it was probably to save me buying a new one. (There was a half a page for each day, which was often insufficient, so I would write in other parts of the book, going backwards from the June start point, and note down something like ‘see also 23 May’ - thus I filled the book even though it only covers my travelling for about six months.)

I hitchhiked much of the way to Bali, although trains were far easier (and very cheap) in India; aeroplane was the only way across Burma at the time (though, one could stop for a week there on route to Thailand), and from Bali to Darwin. I also took a plane out of Laos, and from Singapore to Bali; plus I took boats across the Persian Gulf and to and from Sumatra. But hitchhiking was the always the aim: generally it was free (and, when drivers charged, it was still cheaper than any other form of transport), and, it brought me into direct contact with all kinds of people, mostly from the country I was in, who would often enhance my experience in some way.

The journey took me through the following countries: Belgium, Germany, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (and Tibet), Burma, Thailand, Laos, Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia. And these are a few of the experiences I found in this, the first part of my round-the-world adventure: seeing Nureyev perform in Swan Lake (see below); driving a truck across sand-rutted desert; watching a car accident in the middle of the Persian Gulf waters (!); discovering deserted ancient cities; walking hand-in-hand with Arab boys; selling blood; feeling hash-induced paranoia in the middle of tribal Afghanistan; having bedouin hosts eat scraps from my own plate; watching four Pakistanis fully occupied in operating a domestic lawnmower; seeing dead people burn; losing and finding my diary; meeting godless priests in a remote Himalayan monastery; overviewing the largest book in the world; window-gazing in Bangkok; receiving charity from the poor; learning to swim against the current in crocodile-infested rivers; finding the largest flower in the world; being stoned by children; fearing moonlight sacrifices; working in a power station; being nearly wiped out by a cyclone.

Any how, in memory of that thing I did, 40 years ago, upping and leaving, so casually, to travel the world - something which surely has affected my whole life long - here are the first few diary entries I wrote in that first travel diary (NB: the World Cup was taking place in West Germany - England hadn’t qualified, but Scotland had!).

18 June 1974
‘The English Channel
THE PARTING MADE
Last day in England. I drive father into work because his car is in the garage waiting for the fridge man. At Endsleigh I buy five months insurance for £16 - the chemist can’t get me any Daraprim. I pack and bathe after salmon salad - watch the football - pick father up. Half way through Scotland-Brazil I leave home - I am crying and so is Mum - I virtually run out. I am in a daze right the way through to Brent, it is as much as I can do to keep my eyes dry on the tube. Total funds: £150 in envelope, £85 in wallet, $240 in traveller cheques, £150 in Singapore.’

19 June 1974
‘Brussels
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT CARD, DARAPRIM AND MUTTI
I meet a Kiwi on the coach from the waiting room to the ferry. He’s from Christchurch - we have a couple of lifts together. He’s off to Amsterdam and me to Brussels. Oh dear what a job to remember my French. I am quite weary and despondent. I ask a copper how to get to Rue Charles De Groux and walk the long way round Congress to Rue Belliard. A pharmacie is getting me the Daraprim. My forged letter gets me a current international student card. Mutti, my stepfather’s mother, makes me very welcome. I fall asleep on Mutti’s floor watching the football.’

20 June 1974
‘Brussels
ATOMIUM AND BELGIAN FOOD - FATHER VISITS
Mutti talks and talks and there’s never anything I can directly disagree and debate with her, it’s always ‘yes I suppose so’. She is very healthy - we walk miles and I am more tired than she. At the Musee, there is a large section on ancient Iran and Anatolie and Egypt - some fine examples of original letters and envelopes of the day. Mutti dresses for bridge - I suss out the tram system and go north. I’m most impressed by the Atomium from Expo 60. Father turns up before seven and we go to a typical Belgian restaurant - plain decor, good service and excellent food - Waterzooie - prawn croquets. I walk a little - rub a brass for luck and visit the Manikin Piss.’

21 June 1974
‘Nurnberg
MOTORWAY HITCHING, BMW TO AIRPORT, WURZBURG
Say goodbye to Mutti and am on the road by 11.30. First lift is from a friendly van driver - we communicate little in French. Lifts take me past Liege and Aachen and Koln - from the autobahn there is a magnificent view of Koln and the cathedral. Two splendid lifts follow - the first to Frankfurt from a young guy who offers to take me into town for a meal after two hours at a conference - I decline. But I am very lucky to change some money - the E-5 goes straight by the airport - phew! - I will eat this weekend. A student in a rented car takes me to and around Wurzburg. It is very lovely - there’s an old chateaux by the castle on the hill overlooking all, and an old palace where an international Mozart festival is being held. I finish off the night with a non-talking falling-asleep lift to just outside Nurnberg.’

22 June 1974
‘Wallhalla
NURNBERG, REGENSBURG, WALLHALA - A SEARCH REWARDED
I sleep reasonably well on lumpy ground in some services - and feel really ace after a thorough wash and clean in the services. It takes me over an hour to get a lift to Nurnberg. I tour round all the lovely buildings c/o Nurnburg tourist organisation. I am sitting underneath a cloudless sky on some parapets overlooking the city. Just now more tourists are coming to see the view. Nurnberg is more lovely than Wurzburg. The countryside is splendid, forests rolling like dunes out of sight. A long walk, a long beer and big hassle getting out of town. Regensburg is second rate - but I am hungry, the last thing I ate was a roll yesterday morning. I look and look for a non rip-off place to eat and eventually find a snack bar - schnitzel and chips for DM 3.95 (like a dream come true finding this). I lie in the park and clean my feet in the fountain. I have a bad head all afternoon and evening, from the sun I suppose. One beer lasts the whole of the Scotland-Yugoslavia match - 1-1.’

23 June 1974
‘Vienna
RIVERS MEET AT PASSAU - MEAL IN LINZ - WIEN
A heavy dew in the night. An hour and a half till 8:30 to get a lift - two lifts to Passau. Everywhere in this area there are churches - very beautiful, very old. Here in Passau, does one of them contains the biggest organ in Europe? Many houses too are old, and the castle-type houses on the tops of small hills always make the scene beautiful. I am sitting on a bench looking out across where the Danube and the Inn meet - church bells are peeling and the sun is hot. It is so peaceful here, the water flowing fast to pass Wien and Budapest and Bucharest, a long way to the Adriatic.

I get a lift from the head of the largest spectacles frame-maker in the world, in a Merc - following the Danube with the forest and fields and beautiful views to Linz. Some Austrian hamburgers ‘mit salat’ - tasty. A little sleep and a hefty walk and a long wait for a lift to Wien, but I make it by 6:00. A bier and football - Poland 2 Italy 1 - and a map from tourist information. I walk around, although it’s a bit of hassle, of course, with the pack - some fabulous buildings - the Hofburg home of the Habsburgs in winter - Baroque mostly - statues abound - Austrian elections for President - everyone must vote.

A real hassle finding somewhere to sleep - I’m wandering around this park up by the Sud Bahnhof - strange men keep following - it is half an hour before I realise it’s the local gay playground. I storm off and sleep very well in the gardens of some college.’

24 June 1974
‘Vienna
PIGEON MAN - NZ COUPLE AND SWAN LAKE
About 7:00, I buy a lemon tea, wash in the toilets, and a sit in Goethe Park. I talk for a while to a pigeon man - he’s a much travelled journalist, but getting old now he works in a library and writes - every morning he brings food for the pigeons and talks to them. He shows me the way to the periodicals room where I read the Guardian (19 June). It’s also a good place to leave my bag. I go to the Esperanto museum but it looks dead and decayed so I don’t bother - the Neue Gallerie where I find Cezanne, Van Gogh (best of which is his self portrait), Degas, Munch. I meet two chatty girls from Brighton - graduates who’ve been to Prague and Budapest.

We meet outside the Vienna State Opera at 4:00 to get tickets for the ballet - crowds of people, and our numbers are shouted out. This entitles us to a place in the queue where we wait until 5:30. I buy a ticket and then have to wait again to have the ticket torn and again, with even more of crush near the top of the stairs, to find a place - but I have to check my rucksack in and so lose the chance of securing a place. I meet a couple from New Zealand who let me join their patch, and for one act I have a seat. This is first ballet I’ve ever seen live, and what a way to start - Carol Cain and Nureyev in Swan Lake. Cain is fabulous. Her movements, with Nureyev controlling her, are faultless - apparently Nureyev rewrote acts 1, 3 and 4 and changed Tchaikovsky’s music. There are tremendous applauses through each act and after - at the end I leave before the encores have finished. I am invited to join the NZ couple for coffee but I don’t have enough Austrian funds. I sleep in the same place.’

Monday, June 16, 2014

And so made significant

Sir John Cheke, an English classical scholar and statesman, was born exactly 500 years ago today. He left behind no diaries, but he is credited with influencing Edward VI - the Boy King who died aged only 15 - to keep a diary. King Edward’s diary is one of earliest surviving English diaries, and is all the more remarkable for having been written by a teenager who was also a reigning monarch. Remarkable, too, is the fact that we have some idea of why Cheke advised the young man to keep a diary. 

John Cheke was born on 16 June 1514 in Cambridge, the son of Peter Cheke an administrator at the university. He was educated at St John’s College, where he excelled at Latin and Greek, became a fellow, and became a protestant. Dr William Butts, a friend of his father, was also a great friend and counsellor to John. He spoke highly of the young man to King Henry VIII, who gave him an exhibition [grant] in 1538 to aid his studies. Two years later, on Henry VIII’s foundation of the regius professorships, Cheke was elected to the chair of Greek.

In 1544, Cheke was confirmed as tutor to the young Prince Edward to teach him, according to documents in the famous Cotton Library (part of the British Library), ‘of toungues, of the scripture, of philosophie and all liberal sciences’. He left Cambridge to live in the prince’s household, and continued as Edward’s tutor after he became king in 1547, until 1549. Also, in 1547, Cheke married Mary Hill, and they would have three sons.

Cheke increasingly became more active in public life: he sat as member for Bletchingley for two short parliaments; he was made provost of King’s College, Cambridge; he was one of the commissioners for visiting Cambridge and Oxford universities and Eton College; and he was appointed to help with draw up a body of laws for the governance of the church. He was knighted in 1551, and in 1553 the new and protestant queen, Lady Jane Grey, made him one of her secretaries of state, and he joined the privy council.

On the accession of Mary, a Catholic, however, just days later, Cheke lost his positions and was, briefly, imprisoned in the Tower of London. On his release, he fled abroad, living mostly in Strasbourg. He published further papers on Greek pronunciation, but was beset with debts and concerns over the lack of provision for his family. He continued, however, to oppose Mary’s Catholic regime, and was arrested again, in Belgium, and imprisoned in the Tower. There, faced with the prospect of death by burning, he publicly and humiliatingly recanted his Protestant faith - providing Mary with a propaganda coup. He died of shame - or so it is said - soon after, in 1557. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), or from John Strype’s 1821 biography, The Life of the Learned Sir John Cheke, freely available at Internet Archive.

More about Edward VI’s historically valuable diary - some extracts and links to online texts - can be found in another Diary Review article. Here, though, is a passage from Strype’s biography explaining Cheke’s advice to the young King Edward VI to keep a diary:

‘And that all King Edward’s transactions, and the emergencies of his kingdom, whether public or private, might be the better remembered by him, (whereby his experience might be the greater,) Cheke directed him to keep a diary of all occurrences of weight; and to write down briefly, under each day of every month, debates in Council, despatch of Ambassadors, honours conferred, and other remarks, as he thought good: and this, we may conclude, produced that excellent Journal of this King preserved in the Cotton library, and printed thence by Bishop Burnet. And, to set forth the benefit of keeping of such a day’s book, Cheke is said to use this aphorism, “That a dark and imperfect reflection upon affairs floating in the memory, was like words dispersed and insignificant; whereas a view of them in a book, was like the same words digested and disposed in good order, and so made significant.” ’


The Diary Junction

Diary briefs

The White Feather Diaries - Ekklesia, Quakers, The Independent

William Begbie in the trenches - Edinburgh News

Sports days in the trenches - The Guardian

1918 diary of Sergeant Major Arthur Goulding - Nottingham Post

Lewis Harcourt’s ‘unauthorised’ diaries - Bodleian Library, The Telegraph

Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary - Oxford University Press, Daily Mail, Amazon

National Army Museum WWI exhibition - Culture 24

The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams - University of Tennessee PressCharlotte Observer

Jennifer Anniston keeping a diary? - Hollywood News Daily

Denis MacShane to publish prison diaries - The Guardian

Student’s diary of Leningrad blockade - The Centre for Research on Globalization

Friday, June 6, 2014

Operation Neptune

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the name given to Operation Neptune, on 6 June 1944, for the Allied invasion of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion led to the restoration of the French Republic, and significanlty contributed to an Allied victory; indeed D-Day is considered to have been a turning point in the Second World War. The following is a random selection of diary entries written on, or close to, 6 June 1944, each one with its internet source (except for the last - ‘waiting for Winston’ in the House - which I have transcribed from Harold Nicolson’s published diaries).


Winifred Basham [Ipswich]
6 June 1944
‘Once more the balloon has gone up, only this time it’s our balloon. D-day, H-hour and all the rest of it has come at last and our troops have landed in France again after four weary years. They seem to be mainly in Normandy and are fighting in Caen. Mr Churchill says all is going well. We have done nothing but switch the wirelesses on and off all day as the news has filtered in. It all seems a bit of an anti-climax Climax in a way for we expected them to bomb us to glory as soon as we started, but so far not a plane has crossed the coast. All the same I am not looking forward to tonight which is Percy’s night on.’

WW2 People’s War

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Arthur Ward [A Battery 11th (HAC) Regt. R.H.A.]
6 June 1944
‘We heard on the wireless that the Invasion of Europe had started on the Normandy beaches and it would be called D Day, the same day we heard that Rome had fallen to the Allied 5th army. We had a lecture by the C.O. that we were to have more extensive training, then join the 5th Corps in the 8th army. 5th Corps includes 1st Armd. Division, 1st British Infantry Division and 4th Indian Division.

We saw a film at Gravina, “Keeper of the Flame” with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, it was very good. Later we heard that on the OP shoot a shell had accidentally fallen near the OP and the C.O. Lt. Col. Goodbody was wounded and his driver killed.’

WW2 People’s War

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Andrew John Broodbank [Radar Operator (Navigator) with 488 (NZ) Squadron, RAF]
6 June 1944
’00:30
DH Mosquito XIII HK534 (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
PATROL - Line “BAKER” - OPERATION “NEPTUNE”
The first “D day” patrol covering airborne landings in Normandy. Patrolling in R/T silence, listening out on Hope Cove (Type 16). Completely uneventful - total observations: 4-6 yellow flares; the same boat twice; & slight A/A activity near Guernsey. 5 patrols completed before returning home.
3:20

14:25
NFT, CINE-GUN & AI EXERCISE III
Crossing contacts with hard evasive by target.
1:00’

Broody’s War blog

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Chick Bruns (7th Army, 3rd Division, 10th Combat Engineers)
June 6, 1944
‘We left for Rome and the Company early this morning. While in convoy a British fellow told us that France was invaded this morning. Everyone went wild. We tried cutting in on the convoy and a tank hit us. Little damage was done. When we got to Rome we didn’t care whether we saw the company or not. We went all over the city and stopped at every tavern or bar. We finally ran into one of the officers so we went out to camp. I took off after dinner and went to town. Cushman and I was all over the city. Went to see St. Peters, but it was closed. Bought quite a few presents and started home about 10 pm. We got lost in the park and wandered all night. We went to a nice hotel but it was full so we just flopped down in a chair and went to steep. We got out to the company about 7 am.’

70 Years Ago

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Alwyne Garling [Colchester]
6 June 1944
‘THE INVASION HAS STARTED. THIS IS D-DAY. Allied troops have landed on North Coast of France between Havre and Cherbourg. Big airborne forces have been launched. Churchill says operations are going in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Our losses have been much lighter than expected. Fighting is going on in Caen 10 miles inland. We were woke up in night about 2.30 by endless planes going over. We could see them with their lights on and they kept on all night. Thought something special was on. It’s been dull and cold and windy all day, and now it’s raining hard. Does not seem very good weather for them. Listened to King broadcast. R.A.F. dropped over 5,000 tons on the coastal batteries during night.’

Heather Johnson’s blog

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William Henry Smith [Private in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders]
7 June 1944
 ‘As we approached the beaches yesterday, all I could think of was one specific line in the speech General Eisenhower wrote us before we left England, “The free men of the world are marching to victory!” I felt reassured as we left in the L.C.I.’s (Landing Craft Infantry) even though I could not hear myself think because everything was exploding around me. I knew that I would fight with all my heart for my country. I would fight with pride. But now, words are jumping out at me. I still can’t describe the horror I saw yesterday as I got out of the L.C.I. and got in the water, some guys were really scared, I could see it in their eyes. Hell, we were all scared. The water was freezing. As I approached the beach, I saw my own friends a few feet away from me, have their arms shot off or even worse die instantly in front of me. Everything has a different meaning once you live through it. Right now a third of my company, a third of us are hiding out in a pit until darkness sets in so we can start looking for the others. I don’t even know where the hell we are!’

Michael WW2 blog

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Eugen Herzog [Luftwaffe)
6 June 1944
‘When it became cooler in the evening, I went out and took a wonderful walk around the town. At home now, it must be pretty during this time of the blooming lilacs.’

WWII Diary of a German Soldier by Helga Herzog Godfrey

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Edward Francis Wightman [Royal Navy Seaman/Gunner on board HMS Ramillies]
7 June 1944
'10.15pm
Had neither the energy nor the time to write yesterday so I’ll try and give a record of the events in chronological order.

We were at our bombardment position about 5am after passing through the minefields in the Channel, swept and Dan-buoyed by the sweepers. As we approached the French coast numerous air raids were seen and we watched pretty fireworks displays for quite a while. About 5.10am, just five minutes before schedule, we opened fire with 15” on a 6” battery on a high ridge. This battery had six guns and they were in armoured casemates, so it was no walkover. After about one to two hours firing, enemy shells landed uncomfortably close without doing damage. This went on intermittently all day. About 6.30am two enemy destroyers attacked with torpedoes. Five were fired and three came perilously close. No more than 50 yards away the nearest. A pack of E-boats was observed and the 4” and 6” armament were blazing away and were very effective, causing the enemy to retire. They attacked again later on and were again driven off. By this time we had ranged the enemy battery and put four of the six guns out of action The remaining two were quite a nuisance and some of their shells landed no more than 20 yards away.

In the meantime one of the tinfish fired at us, and hit the destroyer Svenna, a Norwegian escort of ours. She sank almost immediately and I don't think any survivors were picked up. Bodies and wreckage, rafts, timber etc floated past and we observed the bow and stern of the wreck showing above water. Must be pretty shallow here. Apparently she broke her back. Poor chaps - leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.


Aircraft were now thumping the hell out of German positions ashore and at 6.30am the first wave of troops landed. Later in the day we heard they had succeeded at all points and our Royal Marine Commando battalion had taken a coastal defence battery intact! The day wore on with numerous alarms for aircraft but we saw none. One dropped a stick of bombs between a destroyer and cruiser. JU88 I believe. We carried out several bombardments in the afternoon and evening and eventually completed the obliteration of the last 6" gun of the battery. We then had orders to proceed to Portsmouth to re-ammunition. Fired 220 15” shells and goodness knows how many 6” and 4”. Not one AA gun opened fire! What a difference to 1940.

Just as we were preparing to leave, hundreds and hundreds of gliders came in, in great masses. Each one had a towing plane and they came over for an hour, solid. We estimated over a thousand, so they probably landed at least one complete division. What a sight! Just like a Wellsian dream of the future. I forgot to mention before, that as we went into battle, the captain donned the Maori skirt so how could we come to any harm? Battle ensign was flying from the gaff. Lots of fireworks displays as we left. RAF again giving Germans a bad night.

Time 6.30am: arrived Portsmouth and re-ammunitioned all day. Were we worn out! Sailed again 8.30pm and we still had our deck full of cordite to be stowed. Wonder where we are bound now.

Time 11pm: Too dark now. Write again tomorrow.’

WW2 People’s War

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J. J. McAndrews [Petty Officer 3rd Class]
6 June 1944
‘We heard the French invasion started. We missed the first wave, but are on our way to be in on the 3rd wave.’

Coast Guard Great Lakes blog

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May Hill [Lincolnshire Seaside Village]
6 June 1944
‘So, at last the long-talked of Second Front has begun. I have not even given it a new page and that seems a fitting symbol of how it appears to me. What excitement there may be in towns or elsewhere, in the country does not seem to have touched us here. It is just an ordinary day, after nearly 5 years of war it takes a lot to make us demonstrative. I went on with my ordinary work and made my first toy for sale, a white duck with green wings and yellow beak and feet. It is for Mrs Russell to give to a baby friend. I must make the rabbit for Emmie next and try to send an extra one too. Ciss cleaned her pantry and Rene washed. Jean went to school, indeed she had gone before the announcement.

4000 ships and a great many smaller craft crossed the channel. Great air-liners took air-borne troops behind the German lines. Montgomery is speaking now, a message to the troops of which he is the head. Now a service. Almost 10 o’ clock. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken and now they are singing “Oh God, our help in ages past.” At nine o’clock the King broadcast a call to prayer, not just one day but all the days of crisis. In the news afterwards we heard that all was still going well in France. I fear the “little people” like us would not just go on with this ordinary work. However pleased they may be at the thought of deliverance, at present it means danger and hardship and war. Many will have to leave their homes and many I fear will lose their lives. The service is over, a beautiful service, ending with the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ Arise.”

We are in bed. A motor cycle has just gone by and a swiftly moving plane. Percy was with Home Guards last night. I am pleased he is at home next door tonight. God be with us all those whose sons or husbands or other dear ones have already fallen in this new front. Be with the wounded and comfort the dying and those who are afraid. We had 12 letters from Ron to-day - a record. I had 6, the others 3 each. In the most recent one, only a week since he wrote it, an air mail letter, he says his hopes of return are practically nil. I am almost pleased much as I long to see him but somehow he seems safer there at present. I must try to sleep now. The longed for D-Day has arrived. Deliverance Day, Jean says it means.’

Brian Hill’s website

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Joe Haworth [Sergeant in the Royal Engineers[
6 June 1944,
‘D-Day, it being 07.25 hours this morning. Rose and went for a walk on deck. Feeling pretty rough. Ship rolling pretty bad. Couldn’t face any food. Arrived at our location ‘somewhere in France’ 13.30hours. Began to load on to Rhinos. Assault troops broke through beach head and advancing rapidly. No Sleep.’

Daily Mail

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Sidney J. Montz [lieutenant in Co. D, 8th Regiment, of the 4th Infantry Division, US Army]
6 June 1944
‘2400 - Eating a good meal, may be the last boat team. Sea very rough. Started loading one, went down to compartment with my men about 0230, went over side, down net + it was really tough. Took off to rendezvous area, had a tough time finding it, made it o.k. Started circling, finally the other boats came in. Planes lit up the beaches, AA fire starting, flares dropping, beautiful sight but it scares the hell out of you. All hell broke loose from the beach, some boats hit by 88. We are near beach + 88 opened up on the boat on our right + almost hit us. Some boats hit land mines, lucky we landed because much more we would have sunk - water still rough. Jumped out in waist deep water, about 500 or 600 yds from seawall, the longest I have ever seen in my life. M.G., mortar, + artillery fire around us.

Finally in shallow water + able to run, had to miss all types of obstacles in + out the water. Picked up six rounds of 81mm ammo on the way, it seemed as though we would never reach the seawall. Men being blown up and hit all around me, you could hear them scream, it was horrible. Finally hit seawall, stopped to get a blow and bearing, Gen. Roosevelt walking around telling everyone to clear the beach or they would get killed. Rockets hit the third section [. . .] Time to move or they will kill us all. Gen. Roosevelt gave me lots of courage. Under small arms + artillery fire. Navy left us 1000 yds. too far left, the left outfit caught hell. Moved in very fast, every house + tree loaded with men, they fire at you from all directions, very hard to see them as they use smokeless powder. Will get on to them soon then they will catch hell.’

National WWII Museum, New Orleans

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Cyril Hare [Royal Navy, part of 525 Landing Craft Assault]

6 June 1944
‘At 6.20am all landing craft were lowered into a heavy sea and proceeded to beaches of France on Port side of Cherbourg. There was very heavy shelling from our ships and shore batteries. Bombers were bombing gun positions inland. We landed on the beaches at 7.35am and were met with quite a lot of opposition although our troops soon quietened them. We got off the beaches OK but several were stuck. One of our boats received two direct hits . . . and sank within a few seconds. Four men were killed and four were seriously wounded. The sea was really our worst enemy. It was far too rough for our little craft, although they stood it well. On the way home, one of the casualties died. At 8.45pm, a short service was held, and his body was borne to the sea.’

Hertfordshire Mercury

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Walter E. Marchand [Surgeon with the 4th Infantry Division, US Army]
6 June 1944
‘D day is here! - D day has begun, how will it end? We are now close to the German held coast of France - all is unbelievably quiet, but it isn’t for long. At about 1 A.M. I hear a low sounding drone - I go on deck and here I see plane upon plane flying over our ship toward the hostile shore, towing gliders - these are the Paratroopers and Airborne Infantry - I wish them God’s speed and wish them well, for as I am watching the first planes are over the Atlantic Wall I see tremendous flares go up and great quantity of anti-aircraft fire and flak. God what great numbers of planes there are, and all ours. To our right - toward the Barfleur Peninsula area our Bombers are wreaking havoc on some coastal installations, we can hear the detonations clearly. In the midst of this, the little Cavalry C.T. is preparing to debark and to take St. Marcouf island - this is at H minus 4 hours. At this time also, the C47s are returning from France - flying home after letting go of their gliders or human cargo.

Had very early breakfast - then lay on my bunk for a while - I couldn’t sleep and I can’t sleep - I keep thinking of my wife and my family - I love you my Corinne.

At 0400 the first wave of our Assault Battalion is called to stand-by to load into the boats - there is a great hum of activity throughout the ship. The Captain speaks - our LCM3’s haven’t come yet, but there is still plenty of time. We wait for 20, 40, 55 minutes. Then they come out of the dawn alongside - still enough time to make the H hour landing, for H hour has been upped because of the heavy seas. The LCM3’s are having great difficulty tieing up to the boat - they toss around like corks - but the landing nets are overside and the troops make their way down - but with great difficulty. Often large hausers, 2 inch thick, would snap like a thread and often the man climbing down would be thrown into the small boats. It was especially difficult to get the vehicles overboard into the small boats. “Man overboard” was heard once - a British sailor was knocked overboard but rescued.

First wave - Away, then the second, then the third, then it was my turn to get into my boat with 5 of my men and part of the Battalion Command section - it took long, the boat crashed against the ship time and time again, bending the ramp, and tearing loose, snapping the hausers. Finally we are all in our boat with our equipment, and the men are getting seasick, and they huddle together toward the rear of the boat. I stay near the front of the boat, getting sprayed continuously and I look about me and see hundreds upon hundreds of boats, from the little LCVP’s, LCM’s, LCT’s and LCI’s, to the huge battleships and cruisers, and smoke is billowing from their deck guns, for this is H-40 min. and the Naval barrage starts then, the fire directed against enemy shore installations. Our wave has now formed and we are heading toward shore 7 miles away through rough waters, while on the way in our Dive bombers get to work, pouring tons of bombs against the enemy fortresses.

We are getting close to shore and the boats of our wave go from a line in file to a line abreast formation and speed for shore. I can now hear cannon fire clearly as well as machine gun fire. We all pray that our boat will not strike a mine or an underwater obstacle or get hit by a shell from a coastal battery. All sounds become closer, when about 50 yds. From shore I see 2 splashes on our port bow - enemy fire. The boats streak for shore and hit the beach and we almost make a dry landing - we only have to wade knee deep thru about 20 yds. of water. As we hit, the ramp goes down and we debark - wade in the water, then on hitting dry land start to run. I see dead Americans floating in the water - a ghastly sight. I get my men together and we run up across the beach to a concrete wall, faced with barbed wire and bearing signs.

There are many wounded lying about and we start to care for them, and carry some to the Naval Beach Party Aid Station which just landed after us. I try to orient myself, but we landed at a different place than was originally planned. Enemy fire is increasing, landing just to our left, from our right there is machinegun fire. I have only 1 choice I lead the men thru a break in the barbed wire into the Mine Field and we go in about 50 yds. - enemy fire increases, we dig in hurriedly to rest - we are all exhausted from the fear which we all know as shells come whistling overhead and landing close by. But we must get out of the Mine Field! - I find a path to the right and we start along it, seeing mines all around us - and then the path disappears and we turn back to our former spot - from there we find a small path to the left and we follow it - we see wounded about us and we care for them, carrying some along with us on litters, and the small path leads us to a road and we follow it to the first right turn and we follow it.

Troops and vehicles are now storming ashore in great quantities - some vehicles are hit and burst into flames. We pass burning houses and many dead German and American soldiers. It is now noon - God the 5 hours passed like lightning. At 1300 we come to the “Old French Fort”, now we are close to where originally we were supposed to land. I scout ahead and find my Battalion just 300 yds. up the road, so I and Capt. Scott set up our Aid Station off the side of the road in a large hole and crater made by a 14 inch Naval shell - 12 feet by 5 feet and about 6 feet deep. By this time one of our Jeep ambulances has reached us and we are ready to function as an Aid station. We send out litter bearer groups into the mine fields to pick up casualties. This is ticklish work, but the boys are excellent soldiers and go bravely although they have no paths to follow.

Our ambulance Jeep works up forward and brings back casualties - some are Paratroopers that are pretty well beaten up, having been wounded shortly after landing. We work from this spot for 2 hours and then we move forward to the Command Post which is along the side of a road near Fortress 74 which is still holding out. Shortly after arriving here, machine gun fire becomes active and we have to duck low - pinned down here for 5 hours, could watch the attack on the fortress and the surrender of the Germans. Our boys are doing a splendid job and very few casualties so far. As the sun is setting we note hundreds of C47’s again - more Airborne Infantry landing - They swoop inland and let go of their gliders, to come swooping back. Liason Sgt., from Co. C shot in the leg while lying on the road beside Capt. Scott.

Toward dark a few serious casualties encountered - difficulty of evacuating great - Plasma given right in open. Difficulty in finding path thru mine field to farm house where we will stay for the night - had to cross tank traps filled with water and lined with mines - ticklish business in the dark.

Finally we got all of Aid station together - we were all exhausted - and were so tired that we just fell down and fell asleep - with artillery, mainly enemy, going overhead, most of it, fortunately for us being directed toward the beach.

This is the end of D day - it was hectic from the start - but we had few casualties, and those mainly from mines, which were numerous. Heavy machinegun fire heard all night.’

Black Hills Veterans Writing Group


***

Anne Frank [Amsterdam]
6 June 1944
‘The invasion has begun! According to the German news, British parachute troops have landed on the French coast. British landing craft are in battle with the German Navy, says the BBC. Great commotion in the Secret Annexe! Would the long-awaited liberation that has been talked of so much but which still seems too wonderful, too much like a fairy-tale, ever come true? Could we be granted victory this year, 1944? We don't know yet, but hope is revived within us; it gives us fresh courage, and makes us strong again.’

Spartacus Educational

***
Harold Nicolson [London, Sissinghurst]
6 June 1944
‘I can now say (having passed through the censorship ban) that at Hatston aerodrome yesterday, about an hour before I left, a tremor passed through ward-room. ‘Panic stations order’, was the word passed around. A sense of imminence affected the whole place.

I typed this diary in my sleeper and then went to bed. I did not sleep well as I was cold. The train arrived at 7.35 and I drove straight to [King’s Bench Walk, his chambers in the Temple], missing the 8am news owing to a sudden short-circuit of the light. This was at once put right. I then turned on the 9am news in the General Forces Programme, and heard to my excitement the following announcement: ‘The German Overseas News has just put out the following flash: “Early this morning, the expected Anglo-American invasion began when airborne forces were landed in the Seine estuary.” ’ I then wait till a later flash which says, ‘The combined landing operations comprised the whole area between Havre and Cherbourg, the main centre of attack being the Caen area.’ [. . .]

I go down to the House, arriving there about ten to twelve. When I enter the Chamber, I find a buzz of conversation going on. Questions has ended unexpectedly early and people were just sitting there chatting, waiting for Winston. It was an unusual scene. He entered the Chamber at three minutes to twelve. He looked as white as a sheet. The House notice this at once, and we feared that he was about to announce some terrible disaster. He is called immediately, and places two separate fids of typescript on the table. He begins with the first, [. . .] He then picks up the other fid of notes and begins, ‘I have also to announce to the House that during the night and early hours of this morning, the first of a series of landings in force upon the Continent of Europe has taken place . . .’ The House listens in hushed awe. He speaks for only seven minutes. [. . .]

I lunch at the Beefsteak and then go down to Sissinghurst. There is a an elaborate B.B.C. news programme and Howard Marshall gives a good account of the landings on the coast. The general  impression is the ferrying across the Channel was marvellously successful; that the beach obstacles were not as severe as foreseen and that the Germans were not as numerous; that we have played the first trick better than could have been hoped. But people know very well that the hard test is still to come and that no jubilation of any kind can be permitted for several days.

During the night aeroplanes roar over the house carrying lights. They never stop. Neither Viti nor Mrs Staples nor Jo sleep a wink.’

Transcribed from Diaries and Letters 1939-45 by Harold Nicolson, edited by Nigel Nicolson (Collins, 1967)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Senior’s conversations

Nassau William Senior, a London lawyer better remembered as a pioneer of political economic thinking, died 150 years ago today. He had a great liking for travel in his later years, and kept detailed journals of his trips. However, these diaries are very unusual for being less a tourist narrative of what he saw, than a record of the informed and intelligent conversations he had with people everywhere he went.

Senior was born in 1790 at Compton, Berkshire, the eldest son of a vicar, and educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. After achieving a first in classics, he  focused on a career in the law. As pupil to Edward Sugden, later lord chancellor, he became a certificated conveyancer, and then, in 1817, once Sugden had become master of chancery, he took over the practice. He was called to the bar in 1819. Two years later, he married Mary Charlotte Mair. They set up home in Kensington Square, and then, a few years later, built a larger house at Hyde Park Gate.

In the late 1810s, Senior began writing articles for the Quarterly Review on legal and literary subjects, but then, in 1821, he published one on the state of agriculture. This drew favourable attention from economists, and led on to him becoming a member of the recently-formed Political Economy Club. In 1825, he was appointed to the newly-created Drummond professorship of political economy at Oxford. He explained, in his introductory professorial lecture, that his interest in political economy was largely motivated by humanitarian concern for the poor, and by a conviction that understanding the causes of poverty was an essential preliminary to relieving it. He held the chair till 1830, and then again from 1847 to 1852. Many of his lectures were published as pamphlets, or included in his first book, Outline of the Science of Political Economy (1836). He was also an examiner in political economy at London University, which elected him to a fellowship in 1836.

In parallel to his legal practice and academic work, Senior was a regular adviser to the Whig party, and he was called upon by the government, as early as 1830, to sit on various commissions and undertake various reports, the first of which was on the laws relating to strikes and trade combinations. He also worked on a major report concerning the condition of the handloom weavers.

Senior refused various of offers - a knighthood, a Canadian governorship, and a place on the new poor-law board - but he did accept an appointment in 1836 as one of the twelve masters of chancery, a post that gave him an annual lifetime salary of £2,500. He was friends with many influential European intellectuals and statesmen of the time, and travelled often abroad. One of his last services to government, in 1857, was to serve on a royal commission concerning popular education. He died on 4 June 1864. Further information is freely available from Wikipedia, the Dictionary of National Biography (out-of-copyright version), or the Economic Theories website.

Later in his life, as mentioned above, Senior often went on European tours, during which he kept detailed diaries. During these tours, Senior went out of his way to meet and talk with as many people as he could, often those in positions of power or influence, or with some special knowledge/experience, but not always; and he made a particular note of recording these conversations in his diaries. Indeed, the published diaries contain far more transcribed conversations than they do texts of his own personal narrative.

Senior published one book of his diaries during his own lifetime: A Journal kept in Turkey and Greece in the Autumn of 1857 and the Beginning of 1858 (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1859). This is freely available at Internet Archive. In his own preface, Senior says: ‘The following pages contain extracts from a Journal which I kept in Therapia, The Troad, Smyrna, and Athens, in the autumn and winter of 1857-1858, It was written with no view to publication; but, as it throws light on questions of political importance, I think that I ought not, under present circumstances, to withhold it.’

Three further books of Senior’s diaries were edited after his death by his daughter (M. C. M. Simpson), and each one published in two volumes: Journals, Conversations and Essays relating to Ireland (Longmans, Green and Co., 1868); Journals kept in France and Italy from 1848 to 1852, with a Sketch of the Revolution of 1848 (Henry S. King and Co., 1871); and Conversations and Journals in Egypt and Malta (Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1882). Whereas the transcribed conversations, as recorded by Senior, in the early published book flow within the daily diary entries, this is not true of the diaries edited by his daughter, in which the conversation texts have been published with titles (i.e. the subjects of the conversations) and as if they were a printed interview.

Here are several extracts from A Journal kept in Turkey and Greece, (generally, the entries which include conversations are too long to include here).

13 September 1852
‘We took the omnibus to Kilrush, and the steamer from thence to Tarbert, where we were forced to sleep, there being no means of getting on to Killarney the same day. The inn, however, though simple and unpretending, is excellent. The town is poor, but beautifully situated on an eminence overlooking the Shannon, and surrounded by woods.

When Bonaparte was at Elba, a Captain Flynn, of the Royal Navy, was presented to him. He asked Flynn (as was his custom) where he was born.

“On the banks of the Shannon,” answered Flynn. “Ay,” said Bonaparte, “the Shannon is a grand river, one of the finest in Europe, though you make little use of it. During the Peninsular War, all the grain-ships for the supply of your army in Spain used to rendezvous and lie at a little port in the Shannon, called Tarbert. Below the anchorage you have a 14-gun fort, well-built and strong. But a little lower down on the river is a hill, which overlooks and commands it. A small force might easily land in the night and occupy that hill, and then your fort would be useless.”

I verified these facts to-day. There is the anchorage, the small fort, beautifully placed on a little green conical eminence, and the unoccupied hill behind it, within musket-shot, from which you can look down into the fort, and could pick off every man at the guns.

The young women at Tarbert have the usual beauty of the South of Ireland. I met two girls this evening, bare-foot, ragged, but with the figures and walk of princesses - at least of the princesses of fairy-tales - regular features, and bright ruddy complexions. Simple food, an open-air life, and the absence of stimulants, of hard labour, of stays, and of superfluous clothing, are great beautifiers.’

15 September 1852
‘The Muckross Hotel is ill-situated. The woods of Mr. Herbert’s beautiful place, Muckross Abbey, cut off the view of the lakes. [. . .] We dined with Mr. Herbert. I spoke of the waste state of the greater part of the land between Tarbert and Killarney.

“It is much worse than waste,” said Mr. Herbert. “All that man has done there is mischief. Much of the land which you saw yesterday is good land. Ragweed, indeed, does not flourish on any other. But in order to make it worth cultivating, the first thing to be done is to level the innumerable mounds with which the misdirected industry of its occupiers has intersected it; and the next is to relieve it from the exhaustion to which the alternation of oats and potatoes, and the permanence of weeds, unaccompanied by manure, have reduced it.”

We talked of the squalid appearance of Killarney its ragged half-starved population, and ruinous houses. I said that it reminded me of Fondi or Itri, or the other desolate dilapidated towns between Gaeta and Rome. He thought that I did injustice to Fondi. Wretched as it is, it seemed to him less wretched than Killarney.

“To what,” I said, “do you attribute the peculiar misery of Killarney?”

“I do not think,” answered Mr. Herbert, “that it is peculiarly miserable for an agricultural town in the South of Ireland without trade or manufactures. The deserted houses are the results of death or emigration. The half-starved and quarter-clothed loungers about the streets are attracted thither from the neighbouring country by the hope of casual employment from visitors. What may be called the middle classes - that is, those above the labourers and cottiers - spent the greater part of their little capital during the famine, the successive potato failures have diminished what remained, and the low prices of agricultural produce prevent their recovering their losses.

I will give you a proof of the poverty of this neighbourhood. Kerry and Clare are both bare of wood: the people at Listowel are forced to go fifteen miles off - to Tarbert, or to Tralee - to get even handles for their flails. I was able, therefore, before the famine to sell the thinnings of my woods for rather more than 1,000l a year. Now they do not pay for the cutting.” ’

19 November 1857
‘We started at six yesterday evening, and after a rough passage reached the Piraeus at five this morning. We landed at eight, found carriages and custom-house officers waiting on the beach, had our baggage examined and loaded in less than half an hour, and reached Athens before ten. The day is dark and stormy; the Acropolis and Lycabettus looked down upon us during the whole road, from a background of black clouds charged with snow, none of which, however, fell in Athens. Hymettus to the east, Parnes and Pentelicus to the north and west, attracted it.

We are lodged in cold splendour, in large bedrooms and a salon thirty feet square, looking north-west, with a Lilliputian stove.

The scenery of Athens wants nothing but trees and a river. The Cephisus is a brook, and can be traced only by the long strip of olives which it waters. The Ilissus is a rill. Though we are now towards the end of the rainy season, I stepped across it three or four times to-day. Parnes, Hymettus, and Pentelicus, once waving with forests, do not seem to bear a tree. A garden has been planted round the palace, which 100 years hence, if the trees, now as close as those of a nursery garden, are properly thinned, will be beautiful. It is not more than pretty as yet. Every other tree in and near Athens, except one noble palm in a convent garden, was destroyed during the war, and those which have been planted in their room are still saplings.

When Wordsworth visited Athens in 1832, it did not contain half a dozen inhabited houses. Its present population amounts to 36,000 persons, which supposes about 5000 houses. These are scattered irregularly over about a square mile, to the north of the Acropolis. Those nearest to it, which mount about half way up its side, are fortunately the worst. I say fortunately, because it is supposed that they cover valuable remains, which cannot be recovered until they have been demolished. The better houses are those of an English watering-place, but lower and more scattered; each good one has its little garden. The calcareous soil, and the dryness of the climate, render the streets clean but dusty. Their comparative smoothness is a delicious contrast to the rocky pointed pavements which tormented us during the whole of our residence in Turkey.’

28 November 1857
‘We have now inhabited Athens for ten days, but the weather has been so inclement, that I have not ventured on any excursions beyond walking distances. The thermometer has seldom fallen below 44° out of doors, or below 54° within, and there has been scarcely any rain, but the winds, generally from the north, have been violent. The air out of the house, has been full of dust, and within of smoke; for there are few open fireplaces, none in any sitting room in this inn, and the Greeks have not skill enough to manage a stove. I am told that this is a most unusual season. The Wyses say that they do not recollect so cold a one, that generally the December weather of Athens is charming; and certainly the one calm sunny day which we have had was delightful. As is usually the case in southern countries, the precautions are all against heat. The rooms look north or north-west, and are large and lofty, with numerous doors, and ill fitting casements reaching to the ground.

In summer, when for four months no one ventures out between seven in the morning and seven in the evening, they may be pleasant, they are comfortless now. Nothing but my anxiety to know something of a country and a people which have occupied my thoughts from boyhood would induce me to remain here.

The most interesting ruins in the world are those of Egyptian Thebes and of Athens; I own that I was most struck by those of Thebes. [. . .] I have seldom seen the Acropolis except darkened by a cloudy sky, and a biting north wind. The mountains among which it rises are much higher, and more varied in outline and disposition than those of Thebes, but they are grey, and reflect the grey sky. The sea is beautifully broken by promontories, bays, and islands, and bounded by the fine coasts of the Isthmus and the Morea, but it is three miles off, and is a far less glorious object than the Nile flowing below your feet at Luxor. I have great reverence for Salamis, and for the Academy, but the real civiliser of mankind was not Greece, but Egypt. It was from Egypt, then, and for many centuries, perhaps for many thousand years, before, a powerful empire, great in arms, in art, and in learning, that Danaus and Cecrops brought civilisation to the barbarians of Attica and Argolis.

But, next to Thebes, the place best worth visiting is Athens. The five points that attract me most are the Pnyx, the Areopagus, the Temple of Theseus, the Temple of Jupiter Olympius, and the Acropolis.’

20 November 1857
‘The northerly winds have given Mrs. Senior a cough. She has called in Dr. Macas, a Greek, who appears to treat her exceedingly well. There are several good physicians in Athens. Her cough prevented her from accompanying me this evening to a hall at the palace. We were invited at a quarter before nine. Sir Thomas Wyse took me. We found, in the first of three large rooms, about one hundred and fifty ladies, sitting on one side, and about two hundred men standing on the other. The women were dressed, some in an ordinary European costume, some wore the red velvet cap, long tassel, and short jacket of Greece; and some had their heads and necks wrapped in a large handkerchief, which showed only the face. This is the head-dress of Hydra. Of the men, some were in uniform, some in plain black suits, and some wore the Albanian dress, which the Hellenes have adopted as national: a jacket, either of red and then embroidered with gold, or grey and then embroidered with silver, an open collar, a white petticoat called a fustanelle, plaited like a ruff, reaching from the waist to the knees, and long gaiters, red or blue. Several of the older men looked, what I was told that they had been, robbers. They had risen from that profession to be partisan soldiers, and had been made aristocrats partly by plunder, and partly by gifts from the crown of the national domains.

At about half-past nine, the king and queen came in. A circle was formed of men, and they walked round it, not together, but with a considerable interval. He is a gentlemanlike man, with quiet, easy manners. He wore the Albanian dress. The queen wore a Parisian dress, with an enormous crinoline or cage. She talked much and gaily, particularly to the Prussian minister. The circle lasted long, perhaps three quarters of an hour. During that time the women kept their seats, and the men stood in the other part of the room, the circle being between them.

At last the queen took Sir Thomas Wyse’s hand, the king that of the Russian ambassadress, and walked a polonaise, to which a waltz succeeded, and it being about half-past ten I went away.’

13 January 1858
‘This is the Greek New Year’s Day. A great ball was given at the Palace. I went at about nine, and found the rooms, which are very large, full. [. . .] I was introduced to Mr. Rangaby, the minister of foreign affairs. He asked me “what were the improvements of which Greece seemed to me to be most in want?” I said roads; that if I could appoint a prime minister for Greece, it should be one of the Macadam family.

“It is true,” he answered, “that the absence of roads is a barbarism which we have inherited from the Turks. In this country, intersected by torrents, bridges are wanted every two or three miles. The government by law ought to make the bridges, the demoi [people] the roads. The government has totally neglected its duty. The demoi have sometimes performed theirs, but their roads, having become useless from the want of bridges, have gone to ruin. But we are now seriously at work. We have passed a law, requiring every man to contribute from six to twelve days’ work on the roads every year, and the minister of the interior promises us bridges. As we know nothing of roads, we have sent to France for a road-maker.

The Ponts-et-Chaussée have given us M. Galiani. We pay him three times as much as we pay to any of our ministers. But he says that he can do nothing with Greek workmen. So some cantonniers are to be sent from France to help them. In the mean time he is repairing the Piraeus road.”

“He is repairing it,” I answered, “by throwing on it a bed, about a foot thick, of unbroken shingle taken from the beach, which will never bind, through which it is difficult to force the wheels of a carriage. I fear that you have made a bad beginning. Another subject of complaint, “I continued, “is the collection of your land revenue.”

“The collection of it in kind,” he answered, “is a serious evil, but we cannot substitute a money payment until we have a cadaster - a general valuation of all the lands in the country.”

“At least,” I said, “you might require the farmers of the revenue to send and take their tithe, instead of requiring all the grain of every district to be sent to the areas at an enormous expense of labour and time.”

“I fear,” he answered, “that to require the farmer of the land revenue to send for his tithe would involve so much expense, and so thorough a change of system, that I despair of its being attempted. We must wait for a cadaster, and then take payment in money.”

***

Here is Senior’s daughter’s preface to Conversations and Journals in Egypt and Malta, dated September 1881; and one extract.

‘In publishing my father’s Conversations I have always endeavoured to seize the moment when the countries whose politics and habits they record were objects of especial interest. There surely will never be a more opportune occasion than the present for the appearance of his Journals in Egypt and Malta. When, in 1859, Mr. Senior brought out his Journal in Turkey and Greece, much that was valuable and interesting had to be omitted, and the names of nearly all the speakers suppressed. The lapse of a quarter of a century has relieved me almost entirely from the necessity of omitting either names, facts, or opinions; and yet the present volumes cannot be considered out of date; for, as my father says in one of his conversations, “The East does not change.” ’

25 November 1855
‘We started at six this morning for the Pyramids. We left our boat and mounted asses at the dirty town of Geezeh, As the inundation has not sufficiently subsided to enable us to take the direct road, we had to travel along a dike, whose windings made the distance amount to 12 miles instead of 6. On one side of us was a green plain of young crops, on the other side was water, or land, just left by it, and covered with black mud. We saw the process of cultivation: one man was throwing sand upon the mud; another, with a flat piece of wood at the end of a pole, was beating it down into the mud, and so mixing it with the soil: as far as the inundation extends this supplies the place of sowing, ploughing and harrowing.

About a mile from the end of the inundation the dike had given way, and the water was flowing in two or three black-looking streams. Forty or fifty half-naked men collected round us, hoisted us, two to each person, by putting their arms round our legs, carried us over, and, what was more difficult, pushed and pulled over our asses.

After a ride of two hours and a half we reached the sandy slope, about a mile within the desert, leading to the rocky plateau on which the Pyramids stand, that of Cheops, the largest, being nearest to the Nile. We had brought no lights with us, and the Bedouins, who had collected on our arrival, had only about an inch of taper. We were unable, therefore, to enter. Some of the party, each assisted by two Bedouins, scrambled to the top. I was not one of them. The day was hot and hazy, and I was not inclined to take half an hour’s violent exercise in the sun, to be rewarded by a prospect much inferior to that from the terrace of the Citadel.

The Pyramids do not gain by a near approach. Seen from Cairo, or even from the distance of a mile or two, their noble proportions appear; when you are under them, they look like fantastically formed rocky hills.’

The Diary Junction