Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Pearl Harbour diaries

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour that brought the United States into the Second World War. A few diary extracts recording the event are available online. East Carolina University has a list of digital resources on Pearl Harbour; the editor of Skagit River Journal has made available the diary entry of his father; and Brandon University has web pages honouring one of its professors, who was a student in Hawaii on the fateful day. At the political level, the US Secretary of War at the time kept a diary, and entries from this have been used to support the idea that the US and British governments knew of the attack in advance but let it happen so as to draw the US into the war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain and rest of officers returned.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 7 December 2011.

The best head in the rooms

Today marks the 190th anniversary of the birth of the painter, Joanna Mary Boyce, best known for her historical works and her association with the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Her brother, too, was a painter, a watercolorist associated with the Brotherhood. He kept a diary, and there are a few mentions - but only a few - of his younger sister. The more famous pre-Raphaelite Ford Madox Brown mentioned Joanna just once in his diary but in doing so he showed much admiration for her art - calling one of her portraits, ‘the best head in the rooms’.

Boyce was born on 7 December 1831 in Maida Vale, London, the daughter of George Boyce, a prosperous pawnbroker. Her father and George helped school her in the visual arts. She began formal study of drawing aged only 11, and aged 18 she entered Cary’s art academy. She worked under James Mathews Leigh at his school in Newman Street, London; and in 1855 she studied with Thomas Couture in Paris. That same year, she first exhibited her artwork publicly, at the Royal Academy, and one of her two paintings, Elgiva (pictured), drew praise from John Ruskin, and from Ford Madox Brown (see below).

Boyce spent 1857 painting in Italy, and late that year, in Rome, married miniaturist Henry Tanworth Wells. She also continued a lifelong practice of analysing the artwork of her contemporaries, and publishing art criticism in the Saturday Review. She died young, in 1861, after the birth of her third child, and Wikipedia says, her last completed painting, A Bird of God, was left on her easel. More information is also available from Reveries under the Sign of Austen. Select artworks by Boyce were exhibited recently (in 2019) at the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of its Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition.

Also in 2019, Boydell Press published The Boyce Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Joanna Boyce, Henry Wells and George Price Boyce as edited by Sue Bradbury. However, despite the conjunction of words in the book’s title, the diaries quoted are those of her brother George. He does not mention his sister very often, but here are few extracts in which he does.

1850
‘14 January. Got up at 20 m. to 6 this morning and met John Note on ice at Regents Park at 1/2 past 7. Skated till 9.30.
Sunday, 20 January. Tom Hakes and I took glorious walk by Primrose Hill to Kentish Town etc. etc.
25 January. To oratorio of St Paul by Mendelssohn, by far the greatest musical treat I have ever had. Exquisite music made the most of (Mem. at Wells’ met Mr Ganci about some sketches for lithograph. Agreement for sketches from a guinea to 25/- and travelling expenses besides).
Sunday, 27 January. Very cold and frosty - took Anne, Joney and Bob to Kensington gardens - skating going on.
30 January. Joined Anne and Joanna at Hakes 3rd meeting of Friendly Harmonic Society.
1 February. Large evening party at home - 64 guests.
7 February. Father and Mother, Anne and Joanna went to Mr Marsh’s. Did not accompany them on account of bad hip.
8February. Finished watercolour drawing of Stolzenfels Castle, old Welsh fiddler. Went with Wells to Hancocks studio. Saw there in plaster a splendid figure of Dante’s ‘Beatrice’ by him.’

1850
‘6 July. My Father is in tears because Joanna is, and the latter because I will not be more helpless than needs be. O, that I were in the wilds of North Wales with one faithful but manly attendant and a few books and drawing materials. Come what would, tis the happiest life I can think of.
10 July. In donkey chaise. Father left.
11 July. Mother and Hester came. Sketching from Prout. Sat on beach.’

1853
‘20 May. Bid goodbye to dear Mother and Joanna as affectionately as my cold heart would allow. To Russell Street whither Father brought my drawing board and set square from Westminster Abbey and helped me to pack up - Boat from Southampton - Tom Seddon soon took berth in cabin. I had supper and passed the rest of the time on deck. The growth of the dawn over the sea most impressive [. . .] the pointed rocks between Alderney and Sark looked very quaint. We touched at Guernsey for 1/2 hour then proceeded to Jersey and visited a friend of Tom Seddon’s at St Aubin - Rev. Mr King.’ 

1855
‘22 September. Received a letter from Joanna in which she says that she, Mother and Bob start for Paris on Tuesday next. Her engagement to Wells was not yet broken off, but she intended doing it after the aspersions and slanders Mother had thrown upon his character were ---ly recanted. Mother (she more than suspects) has descended to writing or dictating an anonymous letter to herself - injurious to Wells’s character, which she had tried to blast in every way she could.
24 September. My birthday - received a letter from Mat [. . .] and one from Wells (containing others, one of which, a copy of an anonymous letter received by Mother on August 4th, a shameful piece of business, I believe, annihilating all respect for the writer of the letter. W., I think, successfully proves the authorship by analysis thereof. A copy of a letter from W. to Joanna with Mother’s written comments in pencil enclosed.
25 September. Wrote to H.T. Wells and enclosed the copies of his letter to Joanna, one of the anonymous letter and his analysis there of -’

It is also worth noting that Ford Madox Brown mentioned Joanna Boyce just once in his diaries (The might of genius) which were published in Pre-Raphaelite Diaries and Letters, but that mention is worth quoting for it heaps some praise on Joanna: ‘Miss Boyce, the best head in the rooms’.

22 May 1855
‘To home to fetch Emma; ’bus to the R.A. Met William Rossetti by appointment. Millais’ picture more admirable than ever. Fireman perfect, children wonderful, but the mother ill-conceived; still as a whole wonderful. Leighton’s picture a mere daub as to execution, but finely conceived and composed, and the chiaro-scuro good; very difficult to judge how he will go on. So much discrepancy ‘twixt execution and conception I have not yet seen it is strange. Miss Boyce, the best head in the rooms. Martineau’s picture good as far as can be seen. Dyce pretty and mannered. Maclise, as usual, mannered. Herbert bad; the Cordelia beautiful however, but wrong in action. A lovely little picture by Inchbold high in the Architectural Room. No good sculpture. . .’

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Saw television!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I put 10s down as ‘extra’ expenses, and it’s going to Watney for his OK. Careful my lad, careful!’

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

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

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

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

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 5 December 2011.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Brighton in diaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published in December 2011.

Friday, November 26, 2021

One died of the plague

‘One died of the plague (most probably) in Eman. Lane, where old Mother Pate lived.’ This is one of the many brief entries in the diary of clergyman and academic John Worthington who died 350 years ago today. His diaries (and letters), covering more than 30 years, were first published in the 19th century, and are freely available to read online.

Worthington was born in Manchester in 1618, and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. As a student, he excelled in classic languages. He was made a fellow at Emmanuel in 1642, ordained in 1646, and appointed university preacher in 1647. In 1650, he became master of Jesus College, and was also briefly rector at Horton, and, from late 1654, rector at Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire. In 1657, he married his ex-tutor’s daughter, the 17 year old Mary Whichcote, and they would have four children that survived infancy.

In 1660, at the Restoration, Worthington was replaced as Master of Jesus College (by Richard Sterne, a previous incumbent), and he retired to Fen Ditton. Subsequently, he moved around taking up different church positions, in Suffolk and Norfolk for example, before accepting a living at St Benet Fink in London. He remained there, attending parishioners, even after an outbreak of plague; but, when in September 1666, the great fire destroyed much of his parish, he accepted an invitation by William Brereton (see Drawing up the sluices) to be preacher at Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. This proved unsatisfactory, so he then accepted the living of Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire, which Henry More had procured for him. 

However, Worthington continued to yearn for the access to books and scholars only available in London. In 1667, his wife died, and three years later he finally moved back to the city as an assistant preacher in Hackney. He died on 26 November 1671. Further information is available at Jesus College, Wikipedia, Early Modern Letters Online, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Worthington left behind a considerable volume of papers, including diary entries written through his life. Each one of these was pithy, rarely more than a phrase or line, but they were published in two volumes (along with a great number of letters) in 1847-1886 by the Chetham Society as part of The Diary and Correspondence of Dr. John Worthington (edited by James Crossley). The volumes are freely available at Internet Archive. Here are several extracts from Worthington’s diaries as found in the published volumes.

1637
‘April 3, 1637. I had a dangerous blow on the eye in the Tennis-Court, but I thank God, it was well again.
April 6. the Master of the College (Dr. Sandcroft) returned from Bury.
April 15. the Mr of the Coll, went to Bury again, where he died not long after & Sr Sterry chosen Fellow.
April 25. On this day was the election of a new Master, viz. Mr. Holdsworth.
April 26. he was admitted.
May 13. This day I heard that Mr. Crosley who was of this College died, at London some day this week, on that very day that he should have been married.
June 25. in the afternoon a Sermon for Confession to the Priest was preached at St. Maries by Mr. Sparrow of Queen’s Coll. & Mr. Adams succeeded him the next in ye same subject. About the end of this month of June very good rye & wheat began to be reaped &c.
July 5. Our Master preached ad Clerum.
Aug. 8. I declaimed in the Hall, being Moderator at the end of Freshman’s Term.
Oct. 1. On this day were the Commencer’s Sermons. Dr. Holdsworth preached in the forenoon. Mr. Duport in the afternoon.
Oct. 2. Dr. Holdsworth kept the Act.
Oct. 3. Mr. Pullen of Magd. Coll, answered.
Oct. 4. From Easter to this day, there have died three in Trinity College, viz. Dr. Whaley, Dr. Stubbins, & Mr. Higson a senior Fellow.
Nov. 4. Dr. Brownrig Mr. of Katherine Hall was chosen Vice Chancellor.’

1647
‘Aug. 1. I preached at Lavenham in Suffolk.
Aug. 15. I preached at Cotenham.
Aug. 16. I payd Mr. Mace 10sh 3d month.
Aug. 20. I commonplaced once.
Aug. 24. I commonplaced once.
Sept. 2. The college gates were shut up.
Sept. 6. One died of the plague (most probably) in Eman. Lane, where old Mother Pate lived.
Sept. 12. One died of the plague at the Bird Bolt.
Sept. 19. I preached in the chappell.
Sept. 20. 1 payd Mr. Mace, &c.
Sept. 26. One died at the Birdbolt.
Sept. 27. Another died there.
Sept. 29. I preached in the chappell.
Oct. 8. I preached at St. Maries in the afternoon, my own course.
Oct. 81. I preached at St. Maries in the afternoon, for Mr. Silleaby.
Nov. 14. I preached at Trinity Lecture.
Nov. 23. I payd Mr. Mace 10sh for the 5th month.
Dec. 2. I preached at St. Andrews, at Mr. Potto’s wife’s funerall.’

1660
‘Nov. 8. I came with my family from Jesus College to Ditton.’

1670
‘Aug. 6. We came to Hackney.’

Friday, November 19, 2021

Feeling greatly dissatisfied

‘I am feeling greatly dissatisfied with my lack of opportunity for study. My day is frittered away by the personal seeking of people, when it ought to be given to the great problems which concern the whole country. Four years of this kind of intellectual dissipation may cripple me for the remainder of my life. What might not a vigorous thinker do, if he could be allowed to use the opportunities of a Presidential term in vital, useful activity?’ This is US president James A. Garfield, born 190 years ago today, writing in his diary just three months after becoming president. Sadly, a few weeks later he was shot by an assassin and died shortly after. His lifelong diaries were first published in four volumes but have since been made freely available online by the Library of Congress.

Garfield, the youngest of five children, was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on 19 November 1831 to an impoverished farmer and his wife. His father died when he was two, but his mother struggled on with the farm. His mother remarried, but soon left her second husband. Poor and fatherless, young Garfield took refuge in books, and left home at 16. However he caught malaria working on the canals, returned home to recuperate, and then was found a place at the local school. Subsequently, he attended Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) and graduated from Williams College. He returned to the Eclectic Institute as a professor of ancient languages, and in 1857, aged 25, he became the school’s president. A year later he married Lucretia Rudolph and the couple would have five children that survived infancy. Garfield also studied law. He was ordained as a minister in the Disciples of Christ church, but by then he was turning to politics.

Garfield became a supporter of the newly organised Republican Party and in 1859 was elected to the Ohio legislature. During the Civil War he helped recruit an Ohio Volunteer Infantry becoming its colonel; and he commanded a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and, while waiting for Congress to begin its session, he served as chief of staff in the Army of the Cumberland, winning promotion to major general. For nine terms, until 1880, Garfield represented Ohio’s 19th congressional district, becoming an expert on fiscal matters and advocating a high protective tariffs. In 1880, the Ohio legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate, and later the same year, he emerged as a ‘dark horse’ Republican nominee for president. He won the election against the Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, by a very small margin, thus becoming the 20th president of the US.

Four months into his Presidency, Garfield was shot - on 2 July 1881 - by an assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau, an emotionally disturbed man who had failed to gain an appointment in Garfield’s administration. Garfield was immediately hospitalised, but died from infections on 19 September. Historians speculate, the Miller Centre says, that had Garfield served his term, ‘he would have been determined to move toward civil service reform and carry on in the clean government tradition of President Hayes’. He also supported the Centre adds, education for black southerners and called for African American suffrage. Unfortunately, it concludes, he is best remembered for being assassinated. Further information is also available at Wikipedia, The White House, Encyclopaedia Britannica and History.com.

Garfield kept a personal diaries throughout his life, all 21 of which are held by the Library of Congress (LOC). (More about how the diaries came to be gifted to the LOC can be read here.) They were edited and published in four volumes - The Diary of James A. Garfield - by Michigan State University Press between 1967 and 1981. These volumes can be digitally borrowed at Internet Archive (volume 4 for example). However, recently the LOC has not only made images of every page of the original manuscripts freely available online, but it has overseen a crowd-sourced project to transcribe those pages which are now also all available online.

The following extracts - from the very earliest diaries to the very last entry in the last diary - have been taken from volumes 1 and 4 of the published diaries.

1 January 1848
‘Hunting with O. H. Judd in a.m. went to Davis school in the p.m. quite rainy.

11 February 1848
‘at school good sleighing now.’

26 April 1848
‘sawed for Barns work by the day. 50 cents per day.

31 May 1848
‘went to Cleveland came back on a canal boat it was about eleven o’clock at night stopped and helped Wm. Weed bail his boat till about one o’clock then went to bed in the cabin alone. Mr. Weed bailed a short time then came into the cabin and got the lamp. I was asleep and I suppose he took my pocket book from my pocket at any rate it was gone next day’

2 September 1879
‘Slept until nine A.M. a troubled dreamful sleep, and was awakened by Clarence Hale, feeling still miserably bad in the head and throat. Spent the day in reading, writing, visiting and moping - thinking much of Crete and the boys who are on their way to New Hampshire.

Read with the surprise which ought not to be felt at anything said by the unveracious press that “Gen. Garfield made a very able and eloquent speech at Biddeford last evening.” I know better. Made some careful preparations to redeem my reputation here tonight. Received no letters nor dispatches, and felt not a little isolation and homesickness.

I think the Maine Election is to be very close. It seems to me more likely to go against us than for us. At eight P.M. met a very large audience in the city hall, and spoke an hour and a half. Did much better than I expected considering the state of my head and throat. After the meeting went to Clarence Hale’s room, and played whist with him, and Mr. Clark and Mr. Cushing. Worked off the heat and weariness of the meeting and retired at midnight, with some hopes of a better day tomorrow.’

4 March 1881
‘At 8.30 A.M. Allison broke down on my hands and absolutely declined the Treasury, partly for family reasons, but mainly from unwillingness to face the opposition of certain forces. Though this disconcerts me, the break had better come now than later. The day opened with snow and sleet, but towards noon the sky began to clear. At 10.30 President Hayes called at my room, and [at] the Riggs, and we drove to the Executive Mansion, and then with the Committee, Senators Bayard and Anthony, along the Avenue to the Capitol. The crowd of people was very great. Reached President’s chamber in the Senate wing at 11.30; at 11.55 went to the Senate, and witnessed the inauguration of the Vice President. Thence to the east portico of the rotunda, and read my inaugural - slowly and fairly well - though I grew somewhat hoarse towards the close. Returning to the Executive Mansion, lunched with the family and then two and a half hours on the reviewing stand.

Inauguration reception at Museum building in the evening. Home at eleven. Met Windom by appointment, and after a full hour’s talk, offered him the Treasury. Retired at 12.30. Very weary. On the day of his inauguration Polk was 49 y[r]s. and 4 mos., Garfield, 49 yrs., 4 mos. and 15 days. Pierce was 48, 2 mos. and 15 days. Grant was 47,10 mos. and 23 days. The latter 1 year and 22 d. old[er] than Pierce and 1 yr., 4 mos., 22 days older than [?] Grant.’ 

13 June 1881
‘I am feeling greatly dissatisfied with my lack of opportunity for study. My day is frittered away by the personal seeking of people, when it ought to be given to the great problems which concern the whole country. Four years of this kind of intellectual dissipation may cripple me for the remainder of my life. What might not a vigorous thinker do, if he could be allowed to use the opportunities of a Presidential term in vital, useful activity? Some civil service reform will come by necessity, after the wearisome years of wasted Presidents have paved the way for it. In the evening took Crete out on the south porch to see the sun set. Blaine came and read draft of instructions to our Minister to Chili. Retired at 12.’

1 July 1881
‘This opening of the Fiscal Year, and day before my trip to New England, has been very full of work. Appointed very nearly 25 ministers and consuls. Dismissed French, the R. R. Commissioner, in consequence of his sending an official letter to the President of the Pacific R.R. instead of his superior officer. Also called for the resignation of the Register of Wills. Appointed Walker Blaine 3rd Ass’t Sec’y of State. He is a bright and able young man and I wanted to compliment both him and his father. Brown returned today, greatly refreshed by his European trip. Cousin Cordelia died today, of the R.R. injuries rec’d when Uncle Thomas was killed. Retired at 12.’

Thursday, November 18, 2021

A day of adventure

‘A day of adventure – At 10 we set forth in the best auto the city could muster to go to the King’s summer palace 75 miles away in the mountains – The auto was minus most of its innards. It hadnt had a spring in the last 10 years & carried no spare tire – the driver saying that if it was Gods will we would make the journey without needing one.’ This is from the unpublished travel diaries of the famous American journalist Dorothy Dix, born 160 years ago today. Dix’s columns of advice for women were syndicated widely across the US and the world, and, by the 1940s, she was considered to have been the most highly paid and most widely read of female journalists.

Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer was born on a large plantation straddling the Kentucky/Tennessee border on 18 November 1861. She received little formal education, and aged 17 married her stepmother’s brother George Gilmer. However, he soon fell victim to mental illness and was incapacitated - a situation that lasted the rest of his life. Elizabeth suffered a nervous collapse, but during her convalescence began writing stories and sketches of Tennessee life. She moved to Louisiana where she found work on the New Orleans newspaper Daily Picayune, writing obituaries, recipes and theatre reviews. As was customary for female journalists, she took on a pseudonym, Dorothy Dix. She was given a column - Sunday Salad - in which she started offering advice for women. This was renamed Dorothy Dix Talks, and would go on to become, Wikipedia reports, the world’s longest-running newspaper feature.

Dix was appointed editor of the women’s section and assistant to the editor of the Picayune, but in 1901 she accepted a lucrative offer from William Randolph Hearst to continue the column, thrice a week, at the New York Journal. She was also known for her sensational coverage of murder cases. She was an active campaigner for women’s suffrage, penning essays and pamphlets, and editing a suffrage periodical. In 1923, she signed with the Philadelphia-based Public Ledger Syndicate, and at its peak her columns were published in nearly 300 newspapers. Dix was receiving, from within the US and across the world, 100,000 letters a year. In addition to her newspaper work, she also authored books such as How to Win and Hold a Husband and Every-Day Help for Every-Day People. She died in 1951, at which time she was credited with being the highest paid and most widely read female journalist. Further information is available online at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopedia.com and Austin Peay State University.

Between 1917 and 1933, Dix travelled widely in different parts of the world, often keeping a diary. These travel journals are held in the Felix G. Woodward Library of Austin Peay State University which claims it has ‘the most comprehensive collection available on Dorothy Dix and her writings’. Dix used the diaries for her book, My Joy-Ride Round the World (Mills & Boon, 1922) but otherwise they have never been published in print. However, the eight travel journals have been transcribed - by Elinor Howell Thurman - and are freely available online at the Austin Peay State University website. Here are some extracts.

Travel Journal - Europe, 1922
30 June 1922
‘Left Paris for battlefields, going out by the gate by which the French troops (35000 in number) were rushed to the front when the Germans got within 13 miles of the city. They went in taxicabs 3 abreast - The first place we stopped was Senlis, a quaint little town with narrow streets & creamy white old stone houses. It was an unarmed town & no resistance was made yet nevertheless the Germans blew up almost half of the houses, with dynamite & took the Mayor & 21 of the most prominent citizens & lined them up against a wall & shot them. It happened that the Mayors father was mayor of Senlis during the German occupancy of the town in the Franco Prussian wall [sic: war] & he also was shot in the same way[.] So one woman had the tragic fate of having both husband & son murdered by the Germans. We then went on to Soissons where some of the fiercest fighting of the whole war took place. It changed hands three times. Its beautiful cathedral & public buildings are ruins, & more than half its houses heaps of stones.

All afternoon we drove thro’ the devasted [sic] region that stretches from Soissons to Rheims, stopping at Chemin des Dames where from the rise of a little hill we could see the whole battle field, & at Berry-au-Bac on the Aisne canal where 500 Scotch troops who were standing with fixed bayonets waiting the order to charge were blown up by a mine the Germans had laid. It was 8 miles away & the explosion left a crater 400 feet across – We were on the scene of the greatest struggle in history[,] for here for 4 years the war swayed back & forth – every inch of ground was fought over a hundred times, every clod was dyed in blood. The terrain is still filled with shell holes & trenches until it looks like a rabbit warren. You can not walk across it for the barbed wire. We picked up hands full of shells & cartridge belts, so rotten they fell apart in your hands at a touch. Miss R. to the horror of the guide came calmly marching in with an unexploded hand grenade. There is no sign of the life that once went on here in times of peace for every village every human habitation was swept away by the bloody tide that rolled over it, yet it is not as desolate as you may suppose for over it all is the rank luxurious growth you see in cemeteries, & the whole plain was a mass of bloom – red of poppies, blue of wild larkspur, white of daisies as if nature spread the tricolor of France over her sons who were sleeping beneath the sod they gave their lives to save.

We staid the night at Rheims & saw the sunset gild the ruins of the splendid cathedral that it took the genius & piety of two centuries to create & that devils destroyed in two minutes. You grow impotent with rage when you behold the infamy that swept away from the world a thing of beauty that can never be replaced. Half of the houses in Rheims were destroyed, & in the whole city only 200 buildings escaped some injury. As we walked slowly back to the hotel we passed what had once been a fashionable restaurant but is now a crumbling heap of stones. In the court there was the gleam of [word crossed out: what] a broken & ruined marble fountain, & back of it fluttered a few rags of family wash belonging to some people who had taken refuge in the empty wine cellar, & were making their poor home there.’

Travel Journal - Eastern Europe, 1926
7 August 1926
‘Left in the morning via the Orient Express – which is an express only three times a week, and ambled along so leisurely it took us from Sat morning at 8.30 until [words crossed out: Tuesday Monday] Sunday at 3 to get to Sophia – We passed thro’ the loveliest, fat farming country, and saw many of the country women wearing their quaint native costume[.] But the trip was very tiresome & made the more disagreeable to me from having partaken not wisely but too well of half ripe melons. On the way up we were awakened in the middle of the night by 3 Bulgarian officials who suddenly flashed their lights in our faces – 4 dishevelled women more or less in the costume of Sept Morn blinked back[.] They jabbered – we shrugged our shoulders & said we didn’t comprehend – more jabber – more shrug – then one man threw up his hands & cried out in despair “These Americans! These Americans! These Americans!” & slammed the door – Afterwards we found out our passports werent vised [sic] right & that it was only as a great courtesy extended to our nation that we werent sent back to Constantinople.

We are staying at a very delightful hotel with heavenly cooking right opposite the palace – a big handsome yellow brick mansion set in fine grounds with the loveliest acacia trees, now in full bloom – Sofia is at the foot of the mountains & I never smelt anything so cool & bracing as the air. –’

9 August 1926
‘A day of adventure – At 10 we set forth in the best auto the city could muster to go to the King’s summer palace 75 miles away in the mountains – The auto was minus most of its innards. It hadnt had a spring in the last 10 years & carried no spare tire – the driver saying that if it was Gods will we would make the journey without needing one – No Turkish or Bulgarian cars carry extras on the the [sic] same principle. The roads are the worst in the world but our optimistic driver started out a clip that would have won a race on a fast track – Rocks, ruts, stones meant nothing in his young life & we went lickety split over them, while every bone in our bodies were [sic] jarred from our sockets & we held on to our false teeth with a death grip[.]

Apparently our chauffers [sic] confidence in Providence was misplaced for soon there was the sharp report of a blow out. Fortunately it occurred by a wayside inn – a regular peasant place – by a babbling brook & we descended and had coffee while he patched the ragged old tire – Again we hit the trail & went skedaddle around hair pin turns & again was [the] ominous sound of a blow out – There was nothing to do but walk back to the road house some 5 miles – Mr Gestat said it was 8 – which we did. But we were partially repaid for the days disaster by the delicious lunch of native foods they served us - A mutton stew made with tomatoes, beans, egg plant, peppers & potatoes, & red with paprika, & [word crossed out: a] sweet peppers stuffed with rice, chopped meat etc & cooked in a cream sauce.

In this region at a place called Kazanlik the finest attar of roses is made[.] They have 80000 acres under cultivation in roses. We intended going there – it is 300 kilometers – but after our experience with the demon chauffer[sic] we decided not to risk it.’

Travel Journal - South America, 1933
29 July 1933
‘At 9.30 Mr Noa – the boy friend provided by the American Express arrived with a fine open car with the top down, and we drove along the series of beautiful bays, seven in number that make the water front of Rio. Nothing could be lovelier than the blue bay dotted with little islands, with always the frowning heigths [sic] of Corcovado looking down upon them – We went thro miles of quaint streets with houses whose architecture took on every fantastic shape that it is possible to give bricks & mortor [sic] – Moorish looking houses with tile borders – houses that were job lots of towers & cupolas, houses with all sorts of statues on the roof – Evidently the Brazilian taste is very ornate for every public building is lavishly & sy[m]bolically adorned – But they are grand for all that –

We went out to see the old palace of Dom Pedro, now a museum[.] It is a big brownish yellow structure in the midst of a lovely park. In it is a small aquarium with a curious cannibal fish that eats people. It is a small blue fish with a snub nose, & a dumb face, but let any flesh appear near it, & millions of it fall upon its victim & devour it in a few minutes. They say a man attacked by it will bleed to death before he can reach the bank, even if it is only 10 ft away – It is a fresh water fish & abounds in rivers, & stockmen test every stream before trying to ford it with animals[.] The guide said that not long ago a murderer who was being hunted down tried to escape by jumping into a river, but he was attacked before any one could reach him by these fish & literally devoured alive & his screams of agony were frightful[.]

In the afternoon went with the B’s to the top of Sugar Loaf Mt, which is accomplished by means of an ascent to a low lying hill, then being shunted in a cage – like the cash in a department store – to the top of Sugar Loaf – across a valley a mile wide & goodness knows how high – We staid up on the mountain – or rather the second one – and had dinner on a terrace[,] a most scrumptious meal with a view that has no equal scarcely in the world – the whole city spread out like a scintilating [sic] jewel on the breast of nature, the water front outlined by strings of electric lights, and the wide expanses of blue water growing bluer and bluer as night fell until all was black except where the moon lay a silver band across it – no words can describe the beauty of Rio because it is the favorite child of nature, which has covered up all its man made defects with bougainvillea. No other city has such monstrosities in the way of architecture yet even these become quaint & interesting in their exotic setting, so that you dont wonder that the new rich taste of a generation ago ran to cupolas & towers & statuary[.]

The street scenes are very interesting[.] I am particularly intrigued by the fruit & vegetable vendors who carry hughe [sic] flat baskets on their heads & on their arms a little folding stand – like [word crossed out: the] suit case racks – which they set up & on which they deposit their wares when making a sale. Quaint too are the men who carry their poultry slung in hampers on either side of a mangy pony.

It seems that when the street car system was inaugurated here that the money was obtained by the sale of bonds. The Brazilians had no knowledge of what either a street car or a bond was so they got their terms mixed & called the cars bonds, which nomenclature goes to this day. They say “take the bondie to so- & so” –’

31 August 1933
‘Went by train to Valpariso [Valparaiso,] sea port of Santiago – City built into the side of the mountain, & streets so steep it makes you dizzy as you skid down them in a car – Drove down to Vina del Mar, one of the handsomest sea side places I ever saw - Gorgeous home[s] & a grand casino – Many of the wealthy Santiagans have their summer homes here –’

Friday, November 12, 2021

Astounding indifference

‘All Germany is talking about the attempt on Hitler’s life at the Bürgerbräu. The press is quite unable to cover up the fact that there is absolutely no ‘fanatical indignation’ described by official propaganda. Rather, an astounding indifference and many people express regret quite openly that the explosion was delayed.’ This is the German diplomat Ulrich von Hassell - born 140 years ago today - writing in a secret diary. During the Second World War, he was an important figure in the resistance, and his diary gives ‘a vivid contemporary account of the various plots against Hitler’s wartime Reich’.

Ulrich von Hassell was born into an aristocratic family in Anklam, Pomerania (then a province of Prussia, now Germany) on 12 November 1881. His father was a colonel in the Royal Hanoverian Army. Hassell attended the Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Berlin, and then, between 1899 and 1903, he studied law and economics at the University of Lausanne, the University of Tübingen and in Berlin. He entered the foreign office in 1908, and three years later he married Ilse, daughter of Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. The couple would have four children. That same year, Hassell was named vice-consul in Genoa.

During the First World War, Hassell was wounded early on at the First Battle of the Marne, and, later in the war, he worked as von Tirpitz’s advisor and private secretary. After the war, he joined the nationalist German National People's Party. After returning to the foreign office he was posted to Rome, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Belgrade. In 1932, he was made Germany’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Italy. Initially, a supporter of Hitler, he became increasingly critical of his aggressive foreign policies and, in 1938, was sacked by Joachim von Ribbentrop. During the Second World War, he tried to persuade others to support a negotiated peace with the Allies; and, subsequently, he campaigned for a military coupe to overthrow Hitler.

In 1942, Hassell was warned that he was under investigation by the Gestapo, but, nevertheless, continued to conspire against Hitler. Eventually, in 1944, following the failed assassination attempt on Hitler (the so-called July Plot), Hassel was arrested. He was soon convicted of high treason, and executed on the same day, 8 September 1944. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Spartacus Educational or the German Resistance Memorial Center website. 

After the war, Hassel’s diaries were found buried in the garden of house. They were published by Doubleday (1947) as The Von Hassell Diaries 1938-1944: The Story of the Forces Against Hitler Inside Germany. The work has been reissued various times since then, not least by Frontline in 2010 with a foreword by Hassell’s grandson, Agostino von Hassel. The book is marketed as providing ‘a vivid contemporary account of the various plots against Hitler’. Some pages can be read at Amazon and Googlebooks

In his foreword, Agostino explains how the diary was written and found: ‘My grandfather wrote his diaries on tiny pieces of paper that he could quickly shove under carpets in case of a Gestapo search. As common with police forces in totalitarian societies, the all-powerful Gestapo was curiously inept and naïve in certain respects. They never found much concrete evidence to accuse him with. Hassell used to stuff his notes into Ridgeway tea cans which, wrapped in oil-cloth, were then buried in the garden of his house in Ebenhausen, a village outside of Munich. After the war these cans were eventually taken to Switzerland to be transcribed.’

Here’s two sample extracts.

1 October 1938
‘One of the few certainties today is the overwhelming and tremendous relief of the whole nation, or rather of all nations, that war has been averted, although Germans, or I suppose the great majority of them, have no idea how close they came to war. In Berlin, London, Paris and Rome the four returning matadors were all received by their peoples as ‘peacemakers’ with the same stormy enthusiasm. Hitler’s brutal policies have brought him a great material success while the French have reason to feel ashamed before the Czechs.

The day before yesterday we went from Wittenmoor with Udo Alvensleben to the residence of the old Princess Bismarck. She and Schoenhausen great but almost tragic impression. She thought her father-in-law no longer counted, that in fact his stature was systematically played down. This latter is true, and in view of the spirit of our rulers and the successful Anschluss policy, very logical. I told the Princess from conviction that Bismarck would withstand this storm victoriously. In the beginning she had been impressed by Hitler, but today thinks of him and his methods just about as Popitz does. R. Kassner the philosopher was also present - a gifted man, filled with the deepest bitterness by the cultural devastation wrought by the Third Reich. Even today I do not feel like an ally of the intelligentsia but see it as a false front that all people who can think for themselves are being pressured into this alliance. I share Princess Bismarck’s belief that a system employing such treacherous and brutal methods cannot achieve good ends, but I cannot follow her when she draws the conclusion (as do General Beck and a thousand others) that therefore the regime will soon collapse. There is not yet sufficient reason to think so.

Yesterday afternoon on my way home I stopped with Alvensleben in wonderful Neugattersleben. Werner Alvensleben came too. He is the famous ‘Herr von A’, of 30 June, who has meanwhile been released from prison and banished to a hunting lodge in Pomerania. He is a somewhat mysterious man, more conspirator and adventurer than politician. It is interesting that he was with Hammerstein (the general), who told him that Minister of Finance Schwerin-Krosigk had looked him up (or happened to meet him?) fresh from an audience with Hitler on Wednesday afternoon, 28 September, and reported as follows: Krosigk, with Neurath and Goring, had gone to Hitler to persuade him of the utter impossibility of fighting the war on which he seemed bent. Krosigk emphasized that financially the game was up, and that in any case we could not hold out during a war. Hitler apparently resisted these arguments until Mussolini’s historic telephone call forced him to give in.’

16 November 1939
‘All Germany is talking about the attempt on Hitler’s life at the Bürgerbräu [8 November]. The press is quite unable to cover up the fact that there is absolutely no ‘fanatical indignation’ described by official propaganda. Rather, an astounding indifference and many people express regret quite openly that the explosion was delayed.

With cold-blooded insolence, immediately after the bomb exploded, the report was put out that suspicion was focussing on Britain. If that was known it is a scandal that it was not prevented. Naturally, it is being whispered that this was another ‘Reichstag fire’ instigated by the Party in order to rouse hatred against Britain. I do not believe this, although the stories circulated by the Gestapo would naturally give rise to this suspicion. Most probably it was a Communist conspiracy or the act of dissatisfied elements within the Party, Otto Strasser supporters. What will be the effect of this attempt on Hitler’s life? I sense that confusion and helplessness are increasing.

I am beginning to believe that the invasion of Belgium and Holland has been given up. For weeks the foreign press has been full of reports on the fears of the Belgians and Dutch and their extensive preparations. The step taken by King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina was apparently the result of this anxiety and has made matters more difficult for Hitler. If he wanted to do it, he hesitated too long - thank God - and thanks to the opposition of the military. (Misleading rumours amongst the people regarding Italy’s becoming involved in the war, amongst other things.) 

A notable event in foreign affairs was the proclamation by the Comintern on the anniversary of the October Revolution. With remarkable sangfroid they throw us into the same pot with Britain and France as capitalistic slave-traders. The incident demonstrates what they dare say about us, apparently for the purpose of quieting their own party members. Since this proclamation also berates the Italians as future hyenas of the battlefield, who will enter the fray when the victory of one party is assured, the Italian press, on official instructions, has taken the field against Moscow and notes that apparently the accordo between Germany and the Soviets was not quite perfect. The French seized on that as a sign that the Axis is tottering, to which the Italians made a rather tortuous response. New story: ‘The Führer has had his driving licence revoked because he wanders too far into the oncoming lane. His axle [same word in German as Axis] is broken.’

Pietzsch came to see us. Very depressed. Basically he now understands exactly the adventurous and bolshevizing policies with which Hitler is leading us into the abyss. Then in the midst of it all he falls back almost automatically into a state of admiration. He tells awful things about the economic disorganization which makes any rational management impossible.

Without any knowledge of the matter in hand, Hitler interfered for political or military reasons, made altogether impossible demands - for instance on behalf of Italy - and thereby turned the whole apparatus upside down. It appears to me that we ourselves are contributing to the British ‘destruction of the German economy’.

Characteristic of the deceptive methods of the press barons I was told by an editor that the newspapers were permitted recently to mention the anniversary of the death of Johanna von Bismarck [wife of Chancellor Bismarck, died 27 November 1894] but were strictly forbidden to mention her Christian piety. Moreover, all magazines and periodicals must publish something adverse about Britain in each issue. The Comintern proclamation was of course suppressed and so are railway accidents. The French and British replies to King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina were reviled, but not published.

I met Guttenberg in Munich. His brother-in-law Revertera has been released suddenly without explanation. At heart Guttenberg remains of course a Bavarian monarchist and would like to build bridges for the House of Wittelsbach now it is clear that the era of independent German monarchical states is over. He is right to worry about Habsburg ideas of dividing things up in the case of defeat, and says this must be resisted. It appears that Gessler has the confidence of the Wittelsbachs. Interesting conversation with General Geyr von Schweppenburg who had commanded a panzer division in Poland. He must have seen some terrible things and become so strongly affected by them that he is now to be found in a sanatorium with a heart condition.

Among other things he recounted was the order at the Bug river not to permit thousands of fleeing Poles, who were streaming back to us in terrible fear of the Bolsheviks, to cross the river. Of course wherever possible he allowed it anyhow.

During his time as military attaché in London the Party had attacked him violently for maintaining that Britain was not bluffing, but that once a certain point was reached they would fight. As late as June Reichenau had asked him with a sneer whether he still believed Britain would go to war. Reichenau, of course, thinks differently now. The only ones who believed Geyr were Beck and Fritsch. I remember in Rome, after the reoccupation of the Rhineland, how Goring assailed the service attachés in London for ‘losing their nerve’. Geyr (at the time military attaché in London) said that the three of them jointly had sent a very straight telegram to the effect that the probability of ‘war’ stood fifty-fifty. He said that ever since the re-occupation of the Rhineland [7 March 1936] the British had been distrusting and had begun to prepare for war. The top military officers friendly to Germany had been replaced by Francophiles throughout.’

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Disconsolate on the pavement

On the day that a future Prime Minister was writing in his diary about Churchill’s General Election victory (see below - We are in easily), Evelyn Shuckburgh, a career diplomat and future ambassador, was doing the same. ‘Just as I was shaking hands with [Herbert Morrison, outgoing Foreign Secretary], he was recognized by the crowd, who booed him the whole way down Downing Street; they had come, of course, to see the new men, not the old. I felt very sorry about this but assumed politicians are used to this kind of thing. I, on the contrary, was disconsolate on the pavement.’ Earlier that year, Shuckburgh had been appointed Principal Private Secretary to Morrison, a position he then retained with the new Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden. Some 30 years later, Shuckburgh would publish his diaries under the title Descent to Suez.

Charles Arthur Evelyn Shuckburgh, born in London in 1909 to an aristocratic family, was educated at Winchester and King’s College, Cambridge. He joined the diplomatic service in 1933 with postings in Egypt and Canada. He married Nancy Brett in 1937 and they had three children. For most of the Second World War he was Charge d’Affaires in Argentina, but after the war he was posted to Prague as First Secretary before returning to London and the Foreign Office as Head of the South American and, later, the Western Department.

In 1951, Shuckburgh was appointed Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, then Herbert Morrison. Later that year, Churchill won a General Election and appointed Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary. During the three years that followed, Eden and Shuckburgh were involved in the post-war reorganisation of Western Europe which led up to the creation of the Common Market, as well as in making an agreement with Egypt over the withdrawal of British forces from the Suez Canal Zone. 

Subsequently, after a period at the Imperial Defence College, Shuckburgh served at the headquarters of NATO in Paris, in 1958, as Assistant Secretary-General. He was British Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council from 1962 to 1966, and, finally, Ambassador to Italy from 1966 to 1969. After retiring, he became involved with both the National Trust and the Red Cross. He died in 1994. Further information is available from Wikipedia, as well as obituaries in The New York Times and The Independent.

Shuckburgh kept detailed diaries from 1951 until his retirement in 1969. According to Archives Hub, ‘The diaries give a vivid impression of the inner workings of the Foreign Office, and later, of NATO, including descriptions of international conferences, working with politicians, and of the life of a diplomat abroad, as a junior member of staff, and as Ambassador. [. . The] diaries offer valuable comment on Eden’s character and achievements, offering an eyewitness account of events leading up to the Suez crisis in 1956 and of British Middle Eastern policy in the decades after the Second World War.’ Extracts from the diaries - focused on the events that led up to the Suez crisis - were published in 1986 as Descent to Suez: Diaries, 1951-1956 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986). The full US edition can be freely borrowed online at Internet Archive.

In his introduction Shuckburgh says: ‘The diaries which form the substance of this book cover the period from the autumn of 1951, when I was appointed Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to December 1956, the morrow of the Suez debacle. For the first three years - to May 1954 - I was Anthony Eden’s closest diplomatic assistant and for two years after that Under-Secretary in charge of Middle East Affairs at the Foreign Office. I was released from the Foreign Office on 20 June 1956, to become Senior Civilian Instructor at the Imperial Defence College. By that time, as the reader will not fail to notice, I was badly in need of a rest. The diaries fall naturally into these two parts, though certain themes run through them both: the relationship with Eden, for example, and his relations with Churchill, the defence of Britain’s interests in the Middle East and the search for a Palestine settlement. Taken together, they offer a sidelight on the events which led to the Suez tragedy of 1956 and this justifies the title which I have given them here - Descent to Suez. They were not intended to be a continuous account of events. I had no clear idea why I was keeping a diary at all, unless it was to interest my wife (for many of the entries took the form of letters home) or just to let off steam. I do know that, in the later stages especially, the thought of being able to write about it all in private before I went to bed was a consolation for the daily stresses of the job.’

Here are the first two entries in the American edition.

26 October 1951
‘By 3 o’clock in the afternoon it was clear that the Conservatives would probably have a majority, though it would be a very small one, and we all assumed that the weekend might be spent in discussion as to whether Mr Churchill would form a Government at once or whether there might be some delay. The Secretary of State (Morrison) came back from his constituency to No. 11 at about 5 but showed no inclination to come to the Foreign Office. I went over to get a decision from him about expelling some Italian Communists from Libya but he (rightly) would not take responsibility for this in view of his knowledge that the Government were almost certainly defeated. He said that if there were any delay in the appointment of a new Foreign Secretary, he would take the decision on Monday.

Half an hour later we were informed by No. 10 that Mr Attlee had resigned and Mr Churchill had been invited to form a Government; also that the King would hold a Council the following morning at 10.30 to swear in new Ministers. It was therefore clear to me that there was a risk that a new Foreign Secretary might walk into the Foreign Office during the course of the next morning. Meanwhile Mr Morrison had gone to Miss Donald’s flat announcing that he would go straight home to bed and did not wish to be woken before lunchtime on Saturday.

Obviously, therefore, I had to get him back and had a painful half-hour at No. 11 in which I stripped him of his Foreign Office key, box, and pass and obtained authority to send over the seals to Buckingham Palace. He was plainly feeling very deflated and very tired. He asked whether it was constitutionally right of me to take away his keys, etc., before the new Foreign Secretary had been announced. I said, ‘no’; he remained Foreign Secretary until his seals had been handed over the following morning. But, as he wished to sleep the following morning, I had to perform the operation tonight. He accepted this and was very friendly about me. He is clearly disappointed at leaving the Foreign Office just when the job is beginning to intrigue him. I accompanied him downstairs and through the communicating door into No. 10 and out through the front door into his car. Just as I was shaking hands with him, he was recognized by the crowd, who booed him the whole way down Downing Street; they had come, of course, to see the new men, not the old. I felt very sorry about this but assumed politicians are used to this kind of thing. I, on the contrary, was disconsolate on the pavement.’

27 October 1951
‘We learned from No. 10 this morning that Mr Eden was the Prime Minister’s appointment for Foreign Secretary and, although the King’s approval had not yet been obtained, I got in touch with his secretary, Mrs Maltby, at 4 Chesterfield Street and offered my services. He at once invited me to join Sir William Strang and Jim Bowker at lunch with him. He also said that he would like to come into the Foreign Office after the Council (postponed till 3 p.m.) and hoped Mr Morrison would agree to this. We did not wake the latter up until 12.15 but he of course agreed, and it was arranged that he would come and see the new Secretary of State on Monday.

When Strang, Bowker and I arrived at 4 Chesterfield Street, we found Eden having a heated telephone conversation about whether or not he was to be described as Deputy Prime Minister in the forthcoming announcement of the new Government. We thought he was talking to Winston. He was protesting strongly that he had been promised this title, that Attlee had had it during the war and Morrison in the recent Government and he did not see why he should not have it, and that it would give him the authority he needed over his colleagues. He did not seem to be getting very far and eventually said he was thoroughly unsatisfied with the situation. There was a pause and Winston came to the ’phone. At once he agreed and there was a great deal of ‘thank you, dear’. Eden then told us that it had been Norman Brook (Secretary to the Cabinet) and the King’s Private 

Secretary (Lascelles) who had been arguing against the appointment. They had alleged that it was an infringement of the King’s prerogative that a man should be named Deputy Prime Minister; the King was free to choose whoever he liked to succeed a PM. William Strang told Eden he thought he was perfectly justified in insisting.’

We are in, easily

‘Went to Bromley with D for the count. We are in, easily. Majority about 2000 higher. Our Liberals were 5000 last time. 1000 have abstained; 2000 to me and 10000 to my opponent. This gives gives me over 12000 majority. Spent the afternoon listening to results on radio. . .’ This is the Conservative politician Harold Macmillan writing in his diary on the evening of the 1951 General Election, exactly 70 years ago today. The Tories had been out of power for several years, and with this success led by Churchill, Macmillan was about to begin a series of ministerial career moves that would lead eventually to him becoming Prime Minster. His diary, published posthumously, is said to be ‘one of the fullest and most entertaining’ of 20th century political journals.

Macmillan was born in London in 1894 to a publisher and his American artist wife (his paternal grandfather, Daniel MacMillan, had founded founded Macmillan Publishers). He was educated at home, then at Summer Fields School (Oxford), at Eton College, and, thanks to a scholarship, at Balliol College, Oxford. Volunteering as soon as war was declared, Macmillan was commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps but soon transferred to the Grenadier Guards. He served with distinction as a captain but was wounded on several occasions. He did, in fact, spend the final two years of war in hospital undergoing a series of operations, followed by a long convalescence which left him with a slight shuffle in his walk and a limp grip in his right hand. 

After the war, Macmillan joined the family publishing business. In 1920, he married Lady Dorothy Cavendish, the daughter of the 9th Duke of Devonshire, and the couple had four children together. However, from 1929, Lady Dorothy began an affair, and thereafter the couple lived separate lives. As a Conservative party candidate he was elected to the House of Commons for Stockton-on-Tees in 1924, though he then lost the seat in 1929. However, before long, he was re-selected to stand for the same seat, and in 1931 and was returned to the House.

Macmillan spent the 1930s on the backbenches but he was very active politically, publishing The State and Industry, The Next Step, The Next Five Years, and The Middle Way. During this time, he also became increasingly concerned at the appeasement of Nazi Germany. When Winston Churchill formed his World War II coalition government in May 1940, Macmillan was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Supply; and in 1942 he was sent to northwest Africa as British minister resident at Allied Forces Headquarters, Mediterranean Command. At the end of the war in Europe, he was briefly - for a few months in 1945 - secretary of state for air in Churchill’s ‘caretaker’ government. When the Conservatives regained power in 1951, he was appointed, successively, minister of housing and local government and minister of defence by Churchill; he then served as foreign secretary and chancellor of the exchequer under Anthony Eden.

When Eden resigned as Prime Minister in early 1957 after the debacle of the Suez crisis, Macmillan took his place. He restored the Conservative party fortunes winning an increased majority in the 1959 General Election. However, Macmillan’s second term of office was beset with crises: a failed application to join the European Economic Community, economic troubles, the so-called ‘night of the long knives’, and the Profumo affair. Macmillan resigned as leader in October 1963. He refused a peerage and then retired from the House of Commons in September 1964. His later years were devoted to writing several volumes of memoirs. He did, later, accept a peerage and was created an earl in 1984. He died in 1986. Further information is available online at Wikipedia, UK government website, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Guardian obituary, Spartacus Educational, and the BBC.

As well as being a memoirist, Macmillan was also a diarist. A first volume of his edited diaries was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1984: War Diaries: Politics and War in the Mediterranean, January 1943 - May 1945. His later diaries were only published posthumously, by the family firm, in two volumes (2003 and 2011): The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 and The Macmillan Diaries: Prime Minister and After 1957-1966. According to the publisher, Macmillan ‘kept one of the fullest and most entertaining political diaries of the twentieth century’. The publisher further adds: ‘He was an acute observer of events and people not just in his own country or party, but on the wider international and political scene. His Diary provides wry portraits of many of the leading political figures of the period and records his personal take on the great issues and events of the day. In the process Macmillan’s wider activities and inner concerns are also revealed, casting light beyond the famously ‘unflappable’ exterior onto the character of one of the most enigmatic figures in modern British political history.’ See the History of Government blog for an interesting article which compares the diaries of Macmillan and William Gladstone.

The following extracts, taken from the first volume of post war diaries, begin with one written on the day of the 1951 General Election. (Trailing dots without brackets are part of the quoted passage; trailing dots inside square brackets, however, indicate where I have edited some text out.)

26 October 1951
‘Went to Bromley with D for the count. We are in, easily. Majority about 2000 higher. Our Liberals were 5000 last time. 1000 have abstained; 2000 to me and 10000 to my opponent. This gives gives me over 12000 majority. Spent the afternoon listening to results on radio. . . 

Altogether, 23 seats gained by Conservatives. No losses, except 1 in Belfast. Megan Lloyd George is out, which is a very good thing. Davies will not be so frightened if she is not there to bully him!’

27 October 1951
‘. . . Attlee went to the King as soon as we topped 313 members of the new House! This seems rather strange. How relieved he must be. So Churchill must have kissed hands at about 6pm last night to form his third administration . . .

The process of Cabinet making, always difficult, seems to have begun. According to the 6 o’clock news the following ministers have been appointed. P.M. First Lord and Minister of Defence - Churchill; Foreign Secretary and Leader of Commons - Eden; Ld President - (with control of Food and Agriculture) - Woolton; Ld Privy Seal and Leader of Lords - Salisbury; Home Secretary - Maxwell Fyfe; Minister of Labour - Sir W Monckton; Dominions Secretary - Ld Ismay; Chancellor of the Exchequer - O Lyttelton. These ministers were sworn in tonight.

This seems an extraordinarily maladroit move - I should say the combined effort of Bracken and Beaverbrook. It is just folly for Churchill to become Minister of Defence. It almost justifies the Daily Mirror! He should have been Prime Minister only, thus showing that he is as interested in economic and social affairs, as in military matters. This is a major blunder and may have most serious results. It might even endanger the ministry, because I think a difficult by-election after this gaffe cd easily be lost. It is also surprising that Eden shd demand to lead the House as well as take the Foreign Office. It is obvious that this cannot be an effective management. There was a hint by the ‘Parliamentary commentator’ that a deputy leader may be appointed. Lyttelton’s appointment is odd, and will (I fear) be a disappointment to him. He had worked hard to fit himself for economic and trade affairs. Fyfe’s appointment is a good one. He will be a better Home Secretary than Minister of Labour. His speeches and writings thoroughly frightened the unions, and in spite of Churchill’s denials during the campaign, made them alarmed and caused them to rally their forces. He will be a good Home Secretary. It seems he is also to be Minister for Wales. This means, I suppose, that Clem Davies has refused to come in. I have heard nothing, as I have stayed in Sussex all day resting. Monckton’s appointment is unexpected, but good. He has a more subtle and a more flexible mind than Fyfe. He shd do very well. Ld Ismay’s appointment as Minister of Defence was generally expected and was explicable. His appointment as Dominions Secretary is unexpected and inexplicable. [. . .]’

28 October 1951
‘. . . It is now possible to form a view of what has happened at this election. The nation is evenly divided - almost exactly even. For if allowance is made for unopposed returns, the votes cast on either side are just about the same. The Liberal party has practically disappeared in the House of Commons. But whereas last time they polled over 2 million votes in the country, this time (since they had only 100 odd candidates) the Liberals have had only the choice of abstention, voting Conservative, or voting Socialist in 500 odd constituencies. As far as one can see, north of the River Trent they have gone 2 to 1 - 2 Conservatives, to 1 Socialist. This is very marked in Scotland, and in places like Durham and North Yorkshire which have suffered under the Socialist tyranny. By this means both Middlesborough and Darlington were won by us. In the midlands, the Liberal vote has either abstained, or gone fifty-fifty or even worse. This explains Lincoln, Birmingham, Nottingham etc. The Liberals of this area have too much of the Civil War radical and roundhead tradition to join a cavalier vote. In suburban constituencies, like Bromley, the Liberals have split on a class basis. The bourgeois Liberal, pillars of chapel and League of Nations Union and all that, voted for me. (2 to 1 was about the figure, but 3/4 only voted - the rest abstained.)

So the result is, once again, a moral stalemate. This follows a long innings by a Govt wh has made a tremendous number of mistakes; has egregious failures in administration; and has been thrown about, like a rudderless hip in a storm, from crisis to crisis. At first sight, therefore, one can only form the most gloomy forebodings about the future. [. . .]

Message from Churchill to come out to Chartwell. I expected this. On arrival, at 3pm, found him in a most pleasant and rather tearful mood. He asked me to ‘build the houses for the people’. What an assignment! I know nothing whatever about these matters, having spent 6 years now either on defence or foreign affairs. I had, of course, hoped to be Minister of Defence and said this frankly to Churchill. But he is determined to keep it in his own hands. I gather the reason is the frightful muddle in which defence has been allowed to fall. In this ‘setup’ the service ministers become in effect under-secretaries (in spite of their grand titles) and will not be members of the Cabinet. I asked Churchill what was the present housing ‘set-up’. He said he hadn’t an idea. But the boys would know. So the boys (Sir Edward Bridges, Head of the Civil Service and Sir Norman Brook, Secretary to the Cabinet) were sent for - also some whisky. It seems that there is much confusion in all this business. Broadly speaking, the old ministry of Town and Country Planning retains these functions, but is now called Ministry of Local Government and Planning. All teh functions of supervising local govt in general remain with it. [. . .]

When I get home, I begin to realise what a terrible burden I have undertaken. Churchill is grateful and will back me; but 1 really haven't a clue how to set about the job. (Among other minor problems, James Stuart, who is motoring south, has disappeared! But he is wanted, to be Secretary of State for Scotland. Nobody can say the Tories stand about waiting for office. It is a job to get hold of them!)

Went in to talk all this over with Maurice. Carol came to dinner. (I have now a lot to arrange - first of all, with my brother and affairs at St Martin’s St). So to bed. What a day!’