Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Many things have happened

‘Well, here I am aboard ship and three days out of New York, waiting for a convoy at Halifax. This seems to be a fitting place to start a diary. I am leaving my continent as well as my country and am going forth in search of adventure, which I hope to find in Italy, for that is where we are headed.’ This is the first entry, dating from 100 years ago today, in a diary written by a young aviator on his way to serve with the British in the First World War; one of the last entries starts with the words ‘many things have happened’ and includes a roll call of the dead. The aviator would soon be killed in action, and some years later his diary would be published as War Birds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator. Although the diary’s actual author was identified in later editions as John MacGavock Grider, no explanation was given as to the anomaly of the diary continuing until August 1918, Grider having died in June. However, a new edition of War Birds explains that, in fact, the text is not one person’s diary but a construction created from several aviators’ diaries, letters and the like.

Grider was born in Mississippi County in 1892, and worked on his father’s farm. In 1909, he married Marguerite Samuels, and they had two sons, but divorced in 1916. The following year, he traveled to Chicago to enlist as a cadet in the aviation section of the US Army Signal Corps. The US still had no air service, and so young aviators, like Girder, were sent to serve with the British. Initially stationed in Oxford, he and his friend Elliot White Springs were assigned to No. 85 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, and were soon flying missions over France. Grider had only been in France a month when his plane disappeared. Subsequently, a German pilot confirmed his plane had been shot down on 18 June. For more on Grider see the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture; and for more on Springs see The Shrine of Dreams.

Some years later, in 1926, Springs privately published a limited edition of a book he called War Birds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator (freely available to read at Internet Archive). The book was then serialised in a magazine called Liberty, and became a best seller with further mass produced editions. In these, Springs made reference to his friend Grider as being the author of the diary, and that Grider had wanted his memoirs published. (However, by this time Grider’s family had successfully sued Springs for having used Grider’s dairy.) In the original 1926 publication, Springs provides no introduction or foreword, and the book begins with the diarist’s entry for 20 September 1917 - as reproduced in full below. The last entry is marked as having ‘no date’, but before that one are many entries from August. However, this creates an obvious anomaly since Grider died in June. The anomaly and authorship of War Birds are referenced in several threads on the Aerodrome website, but are also discussed by Mark Hillier in his introduction to a new edition of the diary: War Birds - The Diary of a Great War Pilot (Frontline Books, 2016).

According to Frontline Books: ‘War Birds records in detail the stresses of training and the terror and elation of failure and success during combats with the enemy the First World War. This unique edition of War Birds has been produced from a copy owned by another officer from 85 Squadron, Lieutenant Horace Fulford. In his copy, Fulford made numerous hand-written annotations and stuck in a number of previously unpublished photographs - all of which have been faithfully reproduced.’

In discussing the anomaly of authorship, Hillier states: ‘Of great relevance to this subject is the book entitled Letters from a War Bird: The World War I Correspondence of Elliott White Springs. Edited by David K. Vaughan, this publication not only sets out all of Springs’ letters, notes and extracts from his log book, but analyses the structure of War Birds and how extracts from the letters were incorporated into the text. It reveals that one of Springs’ letters states that War Birds was ‘based largely on my letters, my diary and my combat reports. I also used [Eugene] Barksdale’s diary and supplementary matters given to me by [Robert] Kelly and [Larry] Callahan.’ Also of interest is the fact that Springs is quoted as saying that the diary ‘became the actual history’ of the 210 [total] US Air Service cadets who went over to the UK and served with the RFC or USAS under RFC control, which implies that its purpose was more of a representation of the experiences of all of them rather than a tribute to one.’

Here is the first entry, dating from 100 years ago, in the original diary, as well as the last dated entry.

20 September 1917
‘Aboard R. M. S. Carmania in the harbor of Halifax.

Well, here I am aboard ship and three days out of New York, waiting for a convoy at Halifax. This seems to be a fitting place to start a diary. I am leaving my continent as well as my country and am going forth in search of adventure, which I hope to find in Italy, for that is where we are headed. We are a hundred and fifty aviators in embryo commanded by Major MacDill, who is an officer and a gentleman in fact as well as by Act of Congress. We are traveling first class, thanks to him, tho we are really only privates, and every infantry officer on board hates our guts because we have the same privileges they do. Capt. Swan, an old Philippine soldier, is supply officer.

This morning when we steamed into harbor, which is a wonderful place, we found five or six transports already here. The soldiers on them, all that could, got into the boats and came over to see us. They rowed around and around our boat and cheered and sang. They were from New Zealand and a fine husky bunch they were. One song went: “Onward, conscript soldiers, marching as to war, You would not be conscripts, had you gone before.”

This is a beautiful place. I expect my opinion is largely due to my frame of mind, but it really is pretty. Low jagged hills form the horizon and on the south side of the river as we came up, is solid rock with a little dirt over it in spots but the rock sticking thru everywhere like bones thru a poor horse.

We went thru two submarine nets stretched across the mouth of the harbor. I wish I had words to describe the feeling I had when all the soldiers in the harbor came over to tell us howdy. One New Zealander, I think he was a non-com, stood up in the back of the boat and said, “You fellows don’t look very happy.” And I guess our boys don’t at that - the doughboys, I mean. We’ve got over two thousand of them on board of the 9th Infantry Regiment of the regular army. Anyway, New Zealand beat us cheering with their full throated, “Hip Hurrah Hip Hurrah Hip Hurrah!” But they said they were five weeks out and knew each other pretty well, while our boys aren’t acquainted yet.

I have a stateroom with Lawrence Callahan from Chicago, who roomed with me at Ground School, where we suffered together under Major Kraft and had a lot of fun from time to time in spite of him. We almost got separated at New York as he was going to France with another detachment over at Governor’s Island. I got Elliott Springs, our top sergeant, to get the Major to have him transferred to us. We had a good crowd over at Mineola and I saw him in town and he told me he was in a rotten bunch over there. I was a sergeant as Springs had me promoted because I took a squad out and unloaded a carload of canned tomatoes after two others had fallen down on the job. We got him transferred all right and then he got mad as fury at Springs because he made him peel potatoes for four days for chewing gum in ranks. On the fourth day Cal told Springs how much trouble he had taken to join his outfit and that he hadn’t come prepared to be a perpetual kitchen police. Springs said he was very glad to have him but if he wanted to chew gum in ranks he’d have to peel potatoes the rest of the day every time he did it. Cal said he’d already been assigned to the job for four days. Springs said he knew it but that so far he hadn’t peeled a single potato and he was going to get one day’s work out of him if he had to chain him to the stove to do it. Cal won tho, because Springs was too busy to watch him and he never did finish one pan of spuds.

I’ve got to go to boat drill now. We practice abandoning ship every day.

That’s over. My platoon is assigned to the top deck and Captain La Guardia is in charge of our boat. He is a congressman from New York City and learned to fly last year. He is an Italian so was sent over with us. He managed to bring along two of his Italian ward bosses as cooks. One of them owns a big Italian restaurant and yet here he is as a cook. And he can’t cook!

I probably won’t write much in this thing. I never have done anything constantly except the wrong thing, but I want a few recollections jotted down in case I don’t get killed.

I am going to make two resolutions and stick to them. I am not going to lose my temper any more  - I fight too much. And I am going to be very careful and take care of myself. I am not going to take any unnecessary chances. I want to die well and not be killed in some accident or die of sickness - that would be terrible, a tragic anticlimax. I haven’t lived very well but I am determined to die well. I don’t want to be a hero - too often they are all clay from the feet up, but I want to die as a man should. Thank God, I am going to have the opportunity to die as every brave man should wish to die - fighting - and fighting for my country as well. That would retrieve my wasted years and neglected opportunities.

But if I don't get killed, I want to be able to jog my memory in my declining years so I can say, “Back in 1917 when I was an aviator, I used to - !”

I’ll probably not write any more for a week, or perhaps no more at all.’

27 August 1918
August 27th
Many things have happened. I hear that Bobby got shot down up at Dunkirk and is no more. Tommy Herbert has been shot in the rear with a phosphorus bullet. Leach has been shot thru the shoulder and isn’t expected to pull thru. Explosive bullet. Read is dead and so is Molly Shaw.

Alex Mathews is dead. He was walking across the airdrome after a movie show over at 48 and a Hun bomber saw the light when the door was opened and dropped a two hundred and twelve pound bomb on him. They dropped about thirty bombs on the airdrome and killed about forty of 48’s men and set fire to the hangars. They broke all the bottles in our bar. Cal and Nigger and I were further ahead and threw ourselves into a ditch. Nothing hit us but we sure were uncomfortable. The night flying Camels brought down one of the Huns, it had five engines and a crew of six men. It came down in flames and lit up the whole place. Barksdale got shot down in an S. E. and landed in German territory but set fire to his plane and got in a shell hole and covered himself up with dirt. The next morning the British attacked and took that sector. Barksdale said the Scotsman who pulled him out couldn’t speak English any better than the Germans and he thought he was a prisoner at first.

One of our noblest he-men, a regular fire-eater to hear him tell it, has turned yellow at the front. He was quite an athlete and always admitted he was very hot stuff. He was ordered up on a bomb raid and refused to go. The British sent him back to American Headquarters with the recommendation that he be court-martialed for cowardice. He would have been too, if his brother hadn’t have been high up on the A. E. F. staff. He pulled some bluff about the machines being unsafe and they finally sent him home as an instructor and promoted him. He may strut around back home but I’ll bet he never can look a real man in the eye again.

Springs had a wheel shot off in the air last week. Ralston came back and took up a wheel to show him and everybody ran about the airdrome firing Very pistols and holding up wheels for him to see. He understood and sideslipped down all right without killing himself. He said he saw a Dolphin pilot kill himself several weeks ago landing with a wheel gone. The Dolphin pilot didn’t know it was off and the plane turned over on him.

Bonnalie was never considered much of a pilot. He was an aeroplane designer before he enlisted and knew a lot of theory but he took a long time to learn to fly and no one thought he would ever be much good. He put on one of the best shows on record and has been decorated with the D. S. O. His citation appeared in The Gazette. [. . .]

17 and 148 have been having a hard time. 17 has lost Campbell, Hamilton, Glenn, Spidlc, Grade, Case, Shearman, Shoemaker, Roberts, Bittinger, Jackson, Todd, Wise, Thomas, Frost, Wicks, Tillinghast and a couple of others. Hamilton and Tipton were the two best Camel pilots we had. And they have about six others in the hospital too. Wicks and Shoemaker collided in a fight.

148 has lost Curtis, Forster, Sicbald, Frobisher, Mandell, Kenyon and Jenkinson; and Dorsey and Wiley and Zistell are in the hospital. Jenkinson, Forster and Siebald went down in flames. Frobisher was shot thru the stomach and died later.

Of course that’s not a bad showing when you consider that they have shot down a lot of Huns and done a lot of ground straffing and have been flying Camels which were all the British could spare them. The British have washed out the Camels and are refitting their own squadrons with Snipes. A Camel can’t fight a Fokker and the British know it.

But we’ve lost a lot of good men. It’s only a question of time until we all get it. I’m all shot to pieces. I only hope I can stick it. I don’t want to quit. My nerves are all gone and I can’t stop. I’ve lived beyond my time already.

It’s not the fear of death that’s done it. I’m still not afraid to die. It’s this eternal flinching from it that’s doing it and has made a coward out of me. Few men live to know what real fear is. It’s something that grows on you, day by day, that eats into your constitution and undermines your sanity. I have never been serious about anything in my life and now I know that I’ll never be otherwise again. But my seriousness will be a burlesque for no one will recognize it. Here I am, twenty-four years old, I look forty and I feel ninety. I’ve lost all interest in life beyond the next patrol. No one Hun will ever get me and I’ll never fall into a trap, but sooner or later I’ll be forced to fight against odds that are too long or perhaps a stray shot from the ground will be lucky and I will have gone in vain. Or my motor will cut out when we are trench straffing or a wing will pull off in a dive. Oh, for a parachute! The Huns are using them now. I haven’t a chance, I know, and it’s this eternal waiting around that’s killing me. I’ve even lost my taste for licker. It doesn’t seem to do me any good now. I guess I’m stale. Last week I actually got frightened in the air and lost my head. Then I found ten Huns and took them all on and I got one of them down out of control. I got my nerve back by that time and came back home and slept like a baby for the first time in two months. What a blessing sleep is! I know now why men go out and take such long chances and pull off such wild stunts. No discipline in the world could make them do what they do of their own accord. I know now what a brave man is. I know now how men laugh at death and welcome it. I know now why Ball went over and sat above a Hun airdrome and dared them to come up and fight with him. It takes a brave man to even experience real fear. A coward couldn’t last long enough at the job to get to that stage. What price salvation now?’

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Not careless jottings

James Evershed Agate, born 140 years ago today, was a leading theatre critic in the first half of the 20th century, and one of the most well-known literary figures of his time. He is all but forgotten today but deserves to be better remembered for his witty and discursive diaries, all but one of which were published in his lifetime under the title Ego. In one intriguing entry from 1945, Agate reveals how conscious he was of writing his diary for publication: ‘How far should a writer take his readers into his confidence? Shall I “lose face” if I confess that the Ego books are not the careless jottings of idle half-hours? That I think Ego, talk Ego, dream Ego? That I get up in the middle of the night to make a correction? That before the MS. of any of my Ego’s reaches the publisher it has been through at least a dozen revisions?’

Agate was born at Pendleton, Lancashire, on 9 September 1877, the eldest of six children. His father was a cotton broker with a strong bent towards the theatre, and his mother was an accomplished pianist. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School, and then joined his father’s business, where he worked for 17 years. During his 20s, he was an avid theatre goer, and tried his hand at writing plays. In 1906, he began to contribute a weekly theatre column to his local Manchester newspaper, and within a year he had joined the Manchester Guardian as a junior critic. During the war, he joined the Army Services Corp and was posted to France. His knowledge of French and of horses led him to be appointed hay procurer; and his system of accounting for the business was turned into an official War Office handbook. He later collated articles sent to the Guardian from France into his first book L. of C. (Lines of Communication).

In 1918, while still serving in France, Agate married Sidonie, daughter of a rich landowner, but the relationship was short-lived, and, after their separation, Agate’s relationships were openly homosexual. After the war, he published a second collection of essays, Alarums and Excursions, and many more books followed. In 1921 he moved to The Saturday Review as theatre critic, a position once held by Bernard Shaw (who Agate had long wanted to emulate), and two years later to The Sunday Times, where he remained for the rest of his life (though he combined this role with being drama critic for the British Broadcasting Corporation for a number of years). He also wrote about film and literature for other media, and was a keen follower of various sports. He died in 1947. Further information can be gleaned from Wikipedia, Neglected Books, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), and an episode of BBC’s radio programme Letter from America.

From 1935 until his death, Agate wrote nine volumes of diaries published with the titles  Ego 1, Ego 2, etc., the last, Ego 9, appearing posthumously - each one subtitled as the Autobiography of James Agate. The first was published by Hamish Hamilton, the second by Victor Gollancz, and the rest by George G. Harrap (including several volumes of condensed extracts entitled A Shorter Ego). The diaries are a breeze to read, full of wit, anecdotes, gossip, sarcasm, as well as literary, theatre and music news (but nothing on politics of social issues). He often includes the text of letters he receives, and records problems with his health or finances, but most often he writes about his own writing/journalistic preoccupations and about his many friends and acquaintances
. Alistair Cooke, in an episode of his famous Letter from America describes Agate as ‘A Supreme Diarist’. Several volumes of Ego can be freely read online (Ego 4, A Shorter Ego - volume 1, Ego 9). The following extracts come from Ego 2 and  A Shorter Ego - volume 3).

15 March 1944
‘Moths won’t eat silk. I made this important discovery on going to my hat-box to fish out my topper for the Royal tea-party. The hat-box is one of those old-fashioned double ones; I found that the brown bowler that I used to wear at the horse shows had been completely eaten away, whereas the topper was intact. Bought a new tie, the first since the war, and paid the shocking price of 37s. 6d. for it. The morning coat, having made fewer than a dozen public appearances, is still very handsome, and altogether I think I was looking fairly smart when I presented myself at the Palace half an hour too early. Brother Harry having telegraphed from York that on no account was I to forget the occasion or be late. Nobody else in the enormous, empty room except a highly distinguished, ambassadorial personage chatting with some kind of Sultan. Presently an official came up to me and said, “Corps Diplomatique?” I replied, in equally succinct French, “Non.” He said, “Are you British?” I said, “Gad, sir !” He said, “The other room, if you please.” So I went into the other room, which was entirely empty. I had time to admire the furniture, which was magnificent; but the pictures seemed to me to be staggeringly unworthy of their setting. They were so conspicuously faded and unremarkable, though I suppose it would take a David or a Delacroix to make anything really effective out of troops being reviewed. Presently some people that I knew came in - Rebecca West, Irene Vanbrugh, Harriet Cohen, Arnold Bax, A. P. Herbert, a couple of my editors - and I recognised in to-day’s party a very gracious gesture to people of my kind, with a sprinkling of the Services. Next I found myself wondering what my feelings would have been if, fifty years ago, I had been granted prevision of this afternoon. What would my kid brother Harry have thought? This led to a moment of something ridiculously like sentiment. And then we formed up in single file, our cards were taken from us and handed from admiral to general, and general to admiral, five or six in all, till they reached the Lord Chamberlain, who read out our names. The King, who was in naval uniform, asked with enormous charm how I did. The Queen, in dove-grey and wearing pearls, smiled as though she remembered me, while the two princesses shook hands very shyly and prettily. While this was going on, a small band discoursed Haydn and Mozart, after which we drank tea out of some very beautiful china.’

21 April 1945
‘How far should a writer take his readers into his confidence? Shall I “lose face” if I confess that the Ego books are not the careless jottings of idle half-hours? That I think Ego, talk Ego, dream Ego? That I get up in the middle of the night to make a correction? That before the MS. of any of my Ego’s reaches the publisher it has been through at least a dozen revisions? That it is only when the galley proofs arrive that the real work begins? I suppose that when I had finished with the galleys of Ego 7 it would have been difficult to find fifty unaltered sentences. The reason for this is that stuff in print reads differently from the same stuff in typescript. Very well, then. The galleys have been returned to the publishers, and one sits back and awaits the page proofs in the vain belief that there is nothing more to do except see that the galley corrections have been properly carried out. Actually I made over two thousand corrections on the page proofs of Ego 7. For the reason that stuff in page reads differently from the same stuff in galley. There is another and more humiliating confession. This is that anything to which I subsequently attach value always turns out to have been an afterthought. [. . .A]ll my best stuff goes into the margin of my page - not even galley - proofs. [. . .] Another trouble is inaccuracy, which is my bête noire. My passion for correctness amounts to a neurosis. Not only do I look up chapter and verse, but I compare editions, telephone to libraries, consult innumerable dictionaries and encyclopaedias, ring up Embassies. And now this morning comes a letter asking how in Ego 6, page 132, I can say that Cora Pearl appeared at the Variétés in Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène when I have already said in Ego 4, page 174, that the theatre was the Bouffes-Parisiens, and the opérette Orphée aux Enfers?!!!!!’

30 April 1946
‘Cold and cheerless. Nothing to do, and nothing to see except ex-repertory actresses trundling about on bicycles. Diarised and got chilled to the bone sitting on Flamborough Head. To the pictures (twice), after which Harry entertained us with card tricks - which he has not done for twenty years - and it was all very, very Tchehovian.’

22 August 1945
‘Lunch with Bertie van Thai at the Savoy, where a really extraordinary coincidence happens. (First let me say that Bertie’s life at the Food Office is one unbroken sea of milk troubles. Either London is drowning in milk and there are no bottles to put it in, or there is an avalanche of bottles and no milk.) Now for the coincidence. At the next table is Kay Hammond with her little boy. Gathering that he is fond of cricket, I beckon him over and tell him how I once bowled out W. G. Grace. Whereupon John Clements leans across and says, “This is unbelievable. In the lounge before lunch I was telling John how at a public dinner my father heard W. G. say that on the sands at Blackpool he had been bowled first ball by a little boy of seven whose name he never knew!” ’

9 October 1935
‘Lunch with Alexander Korda who to my enormous astonishment turns out to be a man of great culture and distinction of mind. We talked about a lot of things including the Goncourts’ novels - which, he says, “are not so good as we thought when we were young men.” He insists that I shall help with his new film of Cyrano de Bergerac, and for the reason that his Hungarian nationality prevents him from detecting the finer shades of English verse. In the end I agree to do what he wants, and I hope my incursion into films will continue as pleasantly as it has begun.

In the evening go to the Reinhardt film of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which Shakespeare is alleged to make his first appearance on the screen. He doesn’t!’

21 November 1935
‘Driving back from lunch to-day had an attack of nerves. At Oxford Circus was on my deathbed, going up Great Portland Street was dead and buried, along Albany Street calculated estate available after insurances raked in, horses sold and debts paid, passing Stanhope Terrace made my will, ascended Primrose Hill and descended to the Everlasting Bonfire simultaneously, and as we turned into England’s Lane was critically considering Jock’s first article as my successor on the S.T.

All this turned out, of course, to be merely what Doctor Rutty, the Irish Quaker, called “an hypochondriack obnubilation from wind and indigestion.” ’

The Diary Junction

Thursday, September 7, 2017

New Zealand’s first premier

‘My reasons for offering myself are, simply, that there are no persons at all fit, and I believe I may be useful; but the Assembly will doubtless be held at Auckland, a terrible undertaking, about as distant from Canterbury as England from Lisbon - a much severer work than going to America per Steamboat from England.’ This is Henry Sewell, a solicitor born on the Isle of White 210 years ago, explaining in his diary (written as a newsletter for his family) why he had decided to enter politics soon after arriving in New Zealand. Within three or so years, he would be elected the colony’s premier.

Sewell was born on 7 September 1807 in Newport, Isle of White. He was schooled at Hyde Abbey, then a fashionable school in Winchester, and after serving articles to qualify as a solicitor, he joined his father and brother in the family firm around 1826. In 1834, he married Lucinda Marianne Nedham, daughter of a retired general, and they had six children. As a result of a bank failure in 1840, his father lost money and when he died two years later he left the family in debt. The brothers, not wishing to go bankrupt, sold part of the business. When Lucinda died in 1844, Sewell left his children with his sister, and moved to London to seek business. In 1850, Sewell married Elizabeth Kittoe. Thereafter, he became involved in the Canterbury Association, an organisation dedicated to the colonisation of the Canterbury area in New Zealand, and he himself arrived there in 1853.

Sewell opened a solicitor’s office, and soon became involved in local politics, becoming a prominent figure in the first generation of colonial politicians. Initially, he represented Lyttelton on the Canterbury provincial council, then was an elected member of the house of representatives and, at different times, part of the legislative council. Three years after arriving in the colony, he was elected premier (colonial secretary at the time), a position he retained for a only few weeks being unable to hold a majority in the house. As treasurer in the first stable ministry, led by Edward Stafford, he was virtually deputy premier. Later he negotiated for the colony in Australia and England. He also served as attorney-general in three ministries between 1861 and 1865, and, after another break in England, he was briefly minister of justice. On retiring from politics, he returned to England where he died in 1879. Further information is available from Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Wikipedia, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB - log-in required).

Sewell kept a diary for some years, written as a newsletter to family and associates (and copied out by Elizabeth). However, he decreed that its contents should not be published or made public until after his death. The manuscript was held originally by successive bishops of Christchurch and was not passed on to the library of the University of Canterbury until the 1920s. In the 1970s it was painstakingly edited and annotated in two volumes by W. David McIntyre for publication in 1980 by Whitcoulls, Christchurch, as The Journal of Henry Sewell 1853-7. The first volume contains a substantial editor’s preface as well as a very long introduction. According to McIntyre (who also wrote the ODNB biography), Sewell was a pessimistic, lonely, snobbish man, who was never really committed to pioneering life. Nevertheless, his journal ‘provides the fullest private account of persons and places in early Canterbury and the beginnings of self-government in New Zealand’. The full text of the journal can be read online at Early New Zealand Books. Here are few extracts from Sewell’s journal, from his arrival and first months in New Zealand.

2 February 1853
‘About 2 in the morning was awoke by Wakefield. We were in sight of Banks’ Peninsula. Hurried on deck in Pilot Coat and trowsers - found the wind blowing fresh and cold from the S.W. with a considerable Sea. The morning sky cold and squally but with indications of clearing. Before us lay a shadowy outline of land with no distinct features. On our left stretching for a long distance a still more indistinct haze of mountain outlines topped with snow looking bleak and desolate. Presently one after the other passengers tumbled up half dressed and mightily excited. In truth it was impossible to resist the furor. Land after 4 months’ Sea voyage - and safe arrival at one’s destination with the prodigious interest about the future before us are sufficient excuses for mental intoxication. All the Telescopes were brought into use. The morning cleared up. Squalls wore off lighter and lighter leaving about 9 o’Clock a lovely day. The wind dropping gradually and the Sea going down. As we neared the land its features became more distinct and we sailed along the Peninsula at about 3 miles’ distance just as if it were an immense moving Panorama more beautiful than any thing I can remember. No doubt this was partly from the special beauty of the day - partly from the excitement. The South wester dropped away by degrees and left us entirely just off the Peninsula. Then the wind shifted as if on purpose to accommodate us and we worked round into harbour with a gentle North Easterly breeze casting anchor about 6 o’Clock. Boats came off very soon. Young Keele as one of the Custom House Officers with the Tide Waiter. I took him by the arm and walked him up and down the deck greedy for news. ‘Where was Mr Godley’ Gone - had left just before Christmas. All the people were gone off to the diggings. Every thing was stagnant. Godley was supposed to have gone to avoid a crisis - The Association was in the worst possible odour - Public meetings were being held about them particularly with reference to some law processes issued against labourers who had given notes of hand for their passage money. The news of Godley’s departure fell upon me like a Cloud. He had left Capt. Simeon his Successor but this was all I could learn about him. Presently Mr Cookson 5 came on board; had a long talk with Wakefield from whom I heard afterwards better accounts of things. Boat loads of people came on board. Some passengers went on Shore. Mr Raven and I among the rest. I went up to Capt. Simeon’s. Found him extremely kind and hospitable - wanting me to stay - Had no time to learn much from him, but what I did learn was far from encouraging. Got some fresh butter and a loaf of bread and set off to the Ship to regale ourselves with these almost forgotten luxuries - Altogether a day of singular excitement.’

15 April 1853
‘Yesterday prepared to set off to Lyttelton, but the weather was desperately bad. All Wednesday night it blew a hurricane. Yesterday wind and rain, and strong indications of a coming South Easter. So we make up our minds to stay where we are.

The Government gives us an indication of their mind by raising technical objections to our Writ of Injunction. It does not exactly agree with the terms in which the Judgment was delivered in Court. So they ask to have it altered; the object being to take advantage of a small opening to let the Government loose from the Injunction without meeting the case on its merits. What a dodge for a Government! and what a Government! However to be up to them called on the Registrar and with him on the Judge. He will not submit to any such shuffling quibbles, and will not loose the Injunction till the case has been heard and disposed of fully upon the merits. He complains bitterly of the attempt made to overbear him and to destroy his independence. He will not be a political partizan of the Government, so the Governor does all in his power to thwart and annoy him. He is absolutely fixed as to the illegality of the Proclamation. Spoke to Col. McCleverty about Simeon’s salary as Resident Magistrate and the hardship of reducing it for the sake of a merely temporary appointment.’

2 July 1853
‘Rain again. Simeon has resolved upon resigning the Agency forthwith which is a great relief. I shall consider him entitled to a quarter’s Salary in advance. I shall have a good deal to do with him after the formal termination of his office.

A good deal of talk with Raven about matters which become connected with one’s future views - but more of this hereafter.

In the evening comes Capt. Fuller dressed like a dilapidated Shepherd, in truth a great object. He seems to have cast off all care about personal appearance, and is a strange contrast to the neat trim Military gentleman at the Adelphi. He comes evidently to seek refuge and hospitality. Board we give him but lodging we cannot, Raven occupying our only spare room. I don’t like the fashion of people coming at all times, and disturbing your domestic privacy - but Hospitality is a necessary virtue in a Colony. Raven and Fuller talk the whole evening of bullocks and Sheep, breaking up land, potatoes and so forth. Fuller is afflicted still with that huge agricultural Family - the Russleys, who eat up his substance like locusts - still I think on the whole he is getting into the right way to do well for himself, but he is half daft. Queer anecdotes one gets of Colonial ways of living. There is the road to Kaiapoi, a never-failing topic of lamentation. Just after leaving Christchurch you enter the Papanui Swamp through which it is next to impossible to drag any vehicle formed for human use. Raven took his children across it the other day. He in advance carrying the eldest girl. Miss Burbidge the Governess and Johnny following on a Cart horse with a pack saddle. Presently there is a scream - the horse is down and Governess and child are in the midst of the Swamp, but with some exertion are safely mounted again. After clearing the Swamp the road becomes slightly better for a few miles, when you reach the banks of the River. Who in England would take the bed of a River for a Road? but so it is, the bottom is tolerably hard, barring a quicksand here and there which may possibly engulph the travellers. After some miles of this amphibious route they get to the Ferry - a ferry for man but not for horses, so the horses have to swim for it, getting thoroughly wet and of course transferring the acquired moisture to their riders on remounting, - then more quagmires and swamp and so home - fifteen miles up the country. Such is winter travelling in the settled District of the Canterbury plains. N’importe - people get on well enough, and on the whole seem rather to enjoy it than not. They are out of provisions up at Kaiapoi and have no sugar. Vessels cannot go round to the Waimakariri this weather.’

29 July 1853
‘Started with Stoddart for Christchurch. To the Land Office. First settled business with FitzGerald and Brittan; got their signatures to the Conveyances of Church Lands. Then talked to Brittan about my Electioneering plan; he highly approved; recommended me to stand for the Town in preference to the Country which was of course to get rid of me as a Competitor. Then he said his Brother-in-law one Mr Fooks who knew all the constituency should canvass for me at once. So I left, considering that Brittan at least would help me. My reasons for offering myself are, simply, that there are no persons at all fit, and I believe I may be useful; but the Assembly will doubtless be held at Auckland, a terrible undertaking, about as distant from Canterbury as England from Lisbon - a much severer work than going to America per Steamboat from England. Besides this, the work to be done is very responsible, and I have no doubt will be very disagreeable; all fighting with the Governor. Watts Russell is an amiable good kind of gentlemanly dummy, utterly unequal to such work. FitzGerald who will probably be returned for Lyttelton is scatter-brained. Brittan is untrustworthy, even if he is returned which is not likely. To undertake such an office has neither pleasure, honor nor profit in prospect. I could however manage to attend the first important Meeting, which will probably be about November. The Governor leaves the Colony in December. His plan is, doubtless, to pay a parting visit to the different Settlements, to hold a Session of the Assembly at Auckland in November - to smother the Southern Settlements by Auckland influence and if possible to get off with eclat. Doubtless he calculates on the Southern Members not coming up. I returned to Lyttelton Friday evening, Stoddart remaining to canvass for me.’

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Secret agent in Moscow

‘Very depressing telegram from Foreign Office. Sent off long telegram re Trotsky. The other day Pravda published ail the documents against Trotsky and Lenin which they had been able to find, including some of English counter-espionage section! They are sportsmen!’ This is from the diary of Bruce Lockhart, born 130 years ago today, who, at the time, was the young British envoy to the new Bolshevik regime in Russia. Later, he would write an international bestseller about his time as a British secret agent. He lived a colourful life, reflected in his diaries. Soon after his death, these were condemned as highly libellous by the modern historian A.J.P. Taylor, but, nevertheless, were edited for publication in the 1970s.

Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart was born on 2 September 1887 in Anstruther, Fife, the son of a teacher. After attending various schools where his father was headmaster, he was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh. He was sent to Germany and France to learn foreign languages. Aged 21, he travelled to Malaya with an uncle who had rubber plantations, and was charged with opening a new rubber estate near Pantai. After three years, and a torrid affair with a local princess, he contracted malaria and was sent home. He joined the civil service, and by 1912 had been appointed a vice-consul for the British delegation to Russia in Moscow. In 1913, while in Moscow, he married Jean Bruce Haslewood, and they had a daughter who died at birth and one son; the couple, however, soon became estranged though did not divorce until 1938.

In Moscow, Lockhart was promoted to consul-general, and was in Russia when Nicholas II was overthrown. However, after returning to London, he was sent back to Russia by Prime Minister Lloyd George as the country’s first envoy to the Bolsheviks, but he was also tasked with setting up a spy network. In 1918, after an attempt on the life of Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, he was arrested, imprisoned for plotting against the Bolshevik regime, and feared being sentenced to death. However, after a month he was released in exchange for Maxim Litvinov, the unofficial Bolshevik ambassador in London.

Lockhart continued working for the Foreign Office, with a posting in Prague, until 1922, and then took in a job in banking which involved much travel through Central Europe. Having already started to contribute articles and gossip items to London newspapers, in 1929 he decided to accept a job offered by Lord Beaverbrook on the Standard, a position he kept for nearly ten years. In 1932, he published his first book - Memoirs of a British Agent - which was an international bestseller; several more books followed in the 1930s. He became something of a personality, counting among his friends many well-known political and literary names of the time (Harold Nicolson, Malcolm Muggeridge) as well as high society figures, including royalty (Edward Prince of Wales).

During the Second World War, Lockhart served as director-general of the Political Warfare Executive, coordinating British propaganda against the enemy, but as soon as the war was over he returned to writing, broadcasting and lecturing. He was appointed Knight Commander, Order of St. Michael and St. George (K.C.M.G.) in 1943. In 1948, he remarried (Frances Mary Beck); and he published several more books in the 1950s. He died at a nursing home in Hove in 1970, and is not much remembered today. Some further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, Spartacus, Spy Culture (where the full text of Memoirs of a British Agent can be read), or The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Lockhart was a committed and compulsive diarist, leaving behind some 200 volumes containing an estimated three million words. These were initially held by the Beaverbrook Library where the Honorary Librarian, A. J. P. Taylor in the mid-1970s, declared they were highly libellous and should be destroyed. They are now housed in the Parliamentary Archive, in the Houses of Parliament library. In 1973, Macmillan published The Diaries of Sir Bruce Lockhart: Volume One 1915-1938 as edited by Kenneth Young. A second volume (1935-1965) did not follow until 1980. A review can be read at The New York Times. The following extracts are taken from the first volume.

11 January 1918
‘At 12 noon met Litvinov, Russia’s new Bolshevik Ambassador, with Rothstein and Leeper at Lyons’ comer shop in the Strand. Litvinov, more sluggish and slower, heavily built with broad forehead did not strike me as a bad fellow. He does not like German goverment [sic] who banished him from Germany. Both men are Jews. Litvinov is married to an Englishwoman.’

28 January 1918
‘Came on to Helsingfors as apparently we cannot get across the bridge. Arrived at 11.30 a.m. in Helsingfors to find the town in a state of revolution. No rooms to be had. Met Lednitski and wandered off with him and Hicks to see if he could get us rooms at the Polish priest’s. No catch, and as we were on the other side of town we could not get back to the Consulate for the firing. Most unpleasant. Stayed the night in small pension. Met Grove [Consul] and Fawcett, the Vice-Consul, who really runs the show.’

30 January 1918
‘Reached Petrograd 7.30 p.m. Streets in a dreadful state, snow had not been swept away for weeks. Everyone looks depressed and unhappy.’

12 February 1918
‘Robins and Bruce lunch. Robins: “Trotsky was poor kind [of] son of a bitch but the greatest Jew since Christ.” ’

21 February 1918
‘Fears of pro-Boche counter-revolution. Events move so rapidly that it is not possible to keep pace with them. Trotsky seems to have re-established his position.’

26 February 1918
‘Saw Trotsky twice today. Loud in his blame of the French and said the Allies had only helped Germany by their intrigues in Russia. American Embassy left for Vologda with Robins. Sent Ransome down with them. Trouble with Petrov about passport. Determined to stay under all circumstances if Bolsheviks can put up any show.’

12 March 1918
‘Very depressing telegram from Foreign Office. Sent off long telegram re Trotsky. The other day Pravda published ail the documents against Trotsky and Lenin which they had been able to find, including some of English counter-espionage section! They are sportsmen!’

13 March 1918
‘Saw Trotsky today and told him about the dangers of Japanese intervention.’

14 March 1918
‘Received long and stupid telegram from Foreign Office. Three numbers are, however, missing. Trotsky appointed president of the Supreme War Council.’

15 March 1918
‘We are to leave for Moscow tomorrow. Petrograd looked very beautiful. Trotsky now made War Minister. Sent off a very hot telegram on Japanese situation. Lenin made great speech at Congress to show why peace was necessary. He said: “One fool can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer.” ’

9 April 1918
‘Telegram from Hicks re Semenov affair. This looks very serious, worked all day sending off telegrams about the situation. Things are moving towards a crisis. Our people at home are so incredibly stupid that they will drift into tragedy, almost without knowing it. We have done our best and it is difficult to see what more we can do. This stupid affair at Vladivostok has spoilt all the advantages which the German landing at Finland could have given us. Everyone here is against it.’

12 April 1918
‘At 3 o’clock last night the Bolsheviks surrounded and attacked simultaneously the twenty-six headquarters of the Anarchists. The latter were taken completely by surprise, were turned out of the houses they occupied and forced to give up their guns, rifles, ammunition and loot. Over five hundred arrested. Saw Djerjinsky, head of Counter-Revolution Committee who gave us a car to go round and see the results of victory.’

19 April 1918
‘Soviet decree about women having the right to divorce a man for a month and the latter not having the right to refuse. Saw Trotsky - fairly satisfactory but hope is not great. In afternoon had long talk with Chichcrin and Karakhan on subject of agreement. Overwhelmed with work. We have no staff, and it is impossible to get through half of what we ought to do.’

15 May 1918
‘Cromie and McAlpinc left. Went with Cromie to see Trotsky about the fleet. Trotsky said war was inevitable. I therefore asked if he would accept Allied intervention. He replied that he had already asked the Allies to make a proposition. I then said that if the Allies would come to an agreement on this point, would he give me half an hour to discuss things. He said: “When the Allies come to an agreement it is not half an hour but a whole day that I will give.” ’

2 June 1918
‘Arrived in Petrograd. Lovely day. Stayed at Petrograd. Rang up Cromie. . . Feeling in Petrograd quite different from Moscow. Altogether quieter and further removed from the struggle. Anti-Bolshevism very strong and hardly concealed. At the cabaret jokes were made at Bolshevik expense which would not be tolerated in Moscow.

Famine pretty severe and grave discontent among the workmen and sailors. Counter-revolution here possible any day.’

6 July 1918
‘Mirbach murdered today by two unknown people who came to the Embassy with false documents. Murder took place at three-thirty. . . We have been moved to a box on the third floor with the Germans opposite. . . Later the theatre was surrounded by troops and no one was allowed to go out. In night and during afternoon rising by Left Social-Revolutionaries. This speedily squashed. Left Social-Revolutionaries fled.’

7 July 1918
‘Radek came to see me. Mirbach’s murderer Blumkin lived in our hotel in room 221. He was a member of the Extraordinary Commission. The Left Social-Revolutionaries during their short revolt arrested Djerjinsky. . . Their resistance was very weak, but for a time they held the telegraph. This was afterwards retaken by Hungarian war prisoners internationalists. Many of the Social-Revolutonaries have been arrested including Alexandrovich, Vice- President of the Extraordinary Commission. He is to be shot immediately. All papers suppressed. No trains to Petrograd or anywhere, no telegrams to abroad. Yaroslavl said to be in the hands of the counter-revolutonaries.’

21 February 1928
‘In the evening dined with Beaverbrook at the Vineyard - very interesting. He offered me a job beginning with £2000 a year as leader-writer for the Standard and Express. He also showed some interest in Continental shares. He is going to Russia and has telegraphed to ask Chicherin if he can take me. Drank some champagne. Late night.’

28 February 1928
‘In the evening went to see Beaverbrook at the vineyard and got an order for Polyphon shares out of him.’

2 March 1928
‘Beaverbrook’s shares have gone up to 270. Saw Sharp of the New Statesman. He very strongly advises me not to join Beaverbrook.

In tight financial hole. Have no money in bank.’

5 March 1928
‘Lunched with Beaverbrook and then came up to London with Jean Norton by car. . .

In evening dined with Hugh Walpole at Arnold Bennett’s house, 75 Cadogan Square. Arnold Bennett very kind about my book. Michael Arlen, T. S. Eliot, the poet and editor of the Criterion, E. Knoblock, also there.

Yesterday and today broke my pledge.’

14 March 1928
‘Went to see Beaverbrook and asked him to give me £10,000 as discretionary client.’

20 March 1928
‘This is the beginning of a critical week, as I must raise at least £750 in order to meet my debts.’

13 July 1929
‘At Hunger Hill for week-end. Hamish, Nancy Mitford. Ba [Cecil] Beaton, and Count Bismarck here. The latter lives in Rome. He is a grandson of the famous Bismarck and hates the Kaiser. The family has obviously never forgiven the latter for ‘dropping the pilot’. Bismarck is a peculiar-looking young man - very aesthetic. He says Fascism is on the decline and is definitely unpopular and that the good relations between the Vatican and Mussolini would not last. Army is definitely anti-Fascist.’

16 July 1929
‘Dined with Fletcher at the St James’s. He gave me a lot of information about our secret service. The head of it now is Admiral Sinclair, a terrific anti-Bolshevik, who has succeeded the old ‘C.’, Mansfield Cumming. The new ‘C.’ is hard up for men for Russia. Incidentally, discovered that Kenworthy has a bad war-record. During the war he was in command of a destroyer in the North Sea and ran into a merchantman. He was the first man to abandon his ship. The gunner, however, and some of the crew succeeded in patching up the leak, and Kenworthy came back. Kenworthy was relieved of his command - but not by court-martial - and was sent to Gibraltar. During war, too, Kenworthy also attended a revolutionary luncheon at which toasts were drunk to the English Republic. Basil Thomson’s man reported this to Admiralty. Beatty and ‘Rosie’ Wemyss were furious and went to L.G. Latter, however, refused to act. Kenworthy has also made a considerable packet of money out of his deals with Russia. Not a good candidate. . . Late to bed. Went on to club afterwards.’

16 June 1937
‘After luncheon went to see Sir Robert Vansittart and told him my plans to leave Fleet Street and also to become a specialist in foreign affairs. He was very nice and said that he would give me all the help he could. He was interesting on the pro-German feeling in Cabinet. He fears that, as usual, we shall talk vaguely of coming to terms with Germany, latter will respond and think they are going to get something. Then will come the bill - bill we cannot pay. And when we do not pay, there will be the same revulsion of feeling in Germany as there was in 1914, when, contrary to their expectations, we came in. Hymn of hate was result.’

10 August 1937
‘Today, too, I sent off my final letters of resignation to Beaverbrook and Wardell. I said much the same thing in each letter: that I should be fifty on September 2, that the strain of the job was becoming too much for me, that I was already the oldest man on the editorial staff, and that as there is only one rule in journalism - that a man must hold his job by his own efficiency - I was merely taking a decision which would be forced on me in a year or two’s time.’

6 September 1937
‘A letter from Miss Foyle asking me to speak at a literary luncheon at which famous correspondents will speak of how they made their best scoops. Refused. There are no ‘famous’ correspondents and most scoops are ‘fakes’.’

The Diary Junction