Dine with Kenneth Clark. Willie Maugham, Mrs Winston Churchill and Leslie Howard3 are there. We have an agreeable dinner and talk mostly about films. Leslie Howard is doing a big propaganda film and is very keen about it. We discuss the position of those English people who have remained in the United States. The film-stars claim that they have been asked to remain there since they are more useful in Hollywood, but we all regret bitterly that people like Aldous Huxley, Auden and Isherwood should have absented themselves. They want me to write a Spectator article attacking them. That is all very well but it would lose me the friendship of three people whom I much admire. I come back with Leslie Howard and he continues to talk excitedly about his new film. He seems to enter into such things with the zest of a schoolboy, and that is part of his charm.
DIARY3rd April, 1940
A Group dinner at the Carlton. Anthony Eden is there. He begins talking about the Dominions and is rather worried about the situation in Australia. There is a strong isolationist group there and he is frightened about what may happen at their Elections. He said that Sumner Welles returned from Germany much impressed by their power and confidence, and that Mussolini was also convinced by Hitler at the Brenner meeting 4 that Germany is certain to win. On the other hand, all the news the Cabinet receives from Germany goes to show that they are in a state of anxious depression and that the war of inaction is telling on their nerves more than on ours. He thinks that Hitler is almost certain to attack in the West owing to this loss of morale among the German people. He says that it will be his supreme throw and that he will choose his weather carefully.
At that stage of the dinner we get over the telephone the final text of the Government reshuffle: Kingsley Wood has become Lord President. He is succeeded at the Air Ministry by Sam Hoare. Hudson is made Minister of Shipping, and Churchill is made Chairman of the Committee for coordinating the fighting services. Buck De la Warr becomes First Commissioner of Works and Ramsbotham Minister of Education. Ned Grigg goes to the War Office. Harold Macmillan remarks, `Tweedledum, having been informed by his doctor that his health cannot stand the strain of his present office, is succeeded by Tweedledee, who has also been informed by his doctor that his present duties impose too great a strain upon his health.' Anthony Eden is very discreet about it all, but he much relishes our criticism of Sam Hoare's appointment. I am glad myself, since the changes are so bad that they will render inevitable a complete reconstruction within a certain period. Anthony feels that the whole thing is due to Chamberlain's refusal to part with Sam Hoare. The general opinion is that the Chamberlain Cabinet will not now last for more than three months.
DIARY5th April, 1940
I lunch at the Beefsteak. Harold Macmillan tells us Peter Fleming's mot about the Cabinet reshuffle: 'I do not understand why they bothered to exchange Ministries; surely it would have been simpler to exchange names?'
It is curious to think back upon my moods since 3rd September. I recognise the first stage of acute depression, due, I suppose, to the fear of an immediate Blitzkrieg and to hatred of war. Then came the second stage, trying to sort my ideas in order. And now there comes a third stage when I feel that we can win the war but that we may fail to do so. My attitude to the future is one of acute interest rather than acute dismay. But my anger has increased. I want to win. My God ! I am prepared to sacrifice my whole happiness for victory. I feel resolute and well. I shall have my chance. I feel that in my odd, fiddling, marginal way I am helping. The Spectator articles have their effect. I feel combatant.
DIARY8th April, 1940
Come up in the early train with Walter Elliot, Rob Bernays, Raymond Mortimer and Paul Hyslop, all of whom have been staying with Victor Cazalet. We do not, for once, discuss politics, but we do discuss why I should hate T. E. Lawrence so much. After all, he was a friend of mine and our personal relations were never strained. I say that I feel for him that distaste that I feel for Sir James Barrie and John Galsworthy, namely that he acquired a legend without deserving it: he was fundamentally fraudulent. Walter Elliot asks if I really think that the Arab campaign was fraudulent. I say No, but everything that came after. The Pillars of Wisdom and that inane translation of Homer. He says that I must be jealous of a man of action who achieved more than I did and a man of letters who attempted more than I did. That may be true. But I am not a jealous person and I feel that there must be some other explanation of my antipathy.
We have decided to lay mines in Norwegian territorial waters. This will create a rage. We did it at dawn today and already two German ships have been sunk.
Two tremendous months followed. April was the month of the Norwegian campaign: May the month of Hitler's attack in the West. As the consequence of the first campaign, and almost coincident with the opening of the second, Neville Chamberlain fell and Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. Harold Nicolson was a spectator of these great events from the middle distance. As a prominent back-bench critic of the Government, he was well-placed to record the rumours and shifting attitudes of the Lobbies, but his information about the course of military operations was inevitably second or third-hand, and even the succession of Churchill came to him as a surprise. It is not Churchill or Halifax who is mentioned most frequently in the diary as the future leader of the Coalition Government, but, strangely, Lloyd George. The fact that many of Harold Nicolson's closest friends were now members of the Government paradoxically dried up his sources of information. Political discretion and military security dropped a curtain between him and them. Nevertheless, the diary is of importance for its very errors of fact and judgement. Events which now appear to us so clear emerge as dim shapes looming through a fog. The diary for the critical four days 7th --10th May is reproduced unabbreviated, except for one short passage on 9th May dealing with the personal troubles of a non-political friend.
Hitler's motives for invading Denmark and Norway were three. He had information, not unfounded, that the Allies were preparing to occupy Norway in order to deny Germany the Swedish ore shipped through Narvik. Secondly, he needed bases on the west coast of Scandinavia in order to pursue his naval and air offensive against Britain. Thirdly, he wished to protect the Baltic coast of Germany from any Allied outflanking movement through Norway and Sweden. He had begun to plan the invasion early in December simultaneously with the offensive in the West. On 2nd April he decided that the Scandinavian campaign should precede the attack on France by a month. It was brilliantly successful. Denmark was overrun in a few hours, Copenhagen being occupied by a single German battalion in face of only token resistance. The Norwegian ports of Narvik, Trondheim and Bergen were seized on 9th April from the sea, and Oslo was captured by a force landed from the air on the l0th. While the traitor Quisling set up a pro-Nazi Government in Oslo, King Haakon fled with his Cabinet to the northern mountains, rallied the remnants of the Norwegian Army and appealed for Allied help.
Britain and France responded immediately by two successful naval actions on l0th and 13th April on the approaches to Narvik, and by despatching three small military forces to Namsos, Andalsnes (north and south of Trondheim) and Harstad outside the Narvik fjord. All these military operations failed. The advance on Narvik, the main objective, was held up by deep snow and the reluctance of the British military commander to take advantage of the naval victory to force a landing at the port itself. At Trondheim, the proposal for a direct assault on the town was abandoned on naval advice, and the two military pincers from Namsos and Andalsnes were each turned back by energetic German counter-attacks. The British command of the sea-approaches was outweighed by German superiority in the air and on land. The Allied forces on each side of Trondheim were slowly beaten back to their starting points without ever having linked up, and were evacuated to Britain on 2nd and 3rd May. In this first clash of the war between the German and Allied Armies, the Allies were routed.
The political consequences in Britain were serious. The accumulated discontent with Chamberlain's leadership exploded in the House of Commons debates on 7th and 8th May. On the l0th, Hitler opened his offensive in the West, but Chamberlain's fate had already been decided. Churchill had carried great responsibility for the Norwegian disaster, and, as he wrote in his Memoirs, 'it was a marvel that I survived'. He came to power as the direct consequence of one of the greatest failures of his career.
DIARY9th April, 1940
Miss Niggeman arrives to say that there are posters up to the effect that Germany has invaded Denmark and Norway. The I pm. wireless indicates that Oslo, Bergen and Narvik have been captured.
Lunch at the Beefsteak. Walter Elliot there and Ned Grigg.The news about Scandinavia is still very vague, but Ned Grigg assures me that there is no chance of Narvik having been occupied.It must be a misreading for Larvik. I go down to the House. The Prime Minister. who is looking very haggard, makes a statement. It is rather well done and he admits quite frankly that the Fleet is out and that we do not know exactly what is happening. He discredits the rumour that Narvik has been occupied. I go round to see Mummy on her eightieth birthday.
The House is extremely calm and the general line is that Hitler has made a terrible mistake. I feel myself that I wish that we could sometimes commit mistakes of such magnitude.
DIARYl0th April, 1940
The news is bad. It seems that the Germans really have occupied Narvik, have completely overrun Denmark and have occupied Oslo and Trondheim. Look in at the House for a minute. See Jim Thomas. He says that Winston and Anthony Eden were very happy at 7 o'clock last night, but that the Foreign Office are in the depths of gloom. The latter are terrified that the Norwegian Government are going to make an immediate peace. Meanwhile a vague running battle is now passing up and down the Norwegian coast, and we have already lost two destroyers while the Germans have lost two cruisers. The whole issue is still uncertain and vague.
DIARY 11th April, 1940
This great battle by air, sea and land shows me what a child I am about strategic matters. To me it would have seemed an almost impossible operation of war for the Germans to maintain detachments in Norwegian ports without having complete command of the sea. I should imagine that the German General Staff were also of that opinion and had been overruled by Hitler. Thus if he succeeds, he will be thought the greatest military genius since Napoleon, but if he fails, his prestige will be tremendously damaged. Stockholm reports that we are bombarding the German ships in Oslo and have reoccupied Narvik and Bergen.
To the House. It is packed. Winston comes in. He is not looking well and sits there hunched as usual with his papers in his hand. When he rises to speak it is obvious that he is very tired. He starts off by giving an imitation of himself making a speech, and he indulges in vague oratory coupled with tired gibes. I have seldom seen him to less advantage. The majority of the House were expecting tales of victory and triumph, and when he tells them that the news of our reoccupation of Bergen, Trondheim and Oslo is untrue, a cold wave of disappointment passes through the House. He hesitates, gets his notes in the wrong order, puts on the wrong pair of spectacles, fumbles for the right pair, keeps on saying 'Sweden' when he means 'Denmark', and one way and another makes a lamentable performance. He gives no real explanation of how the Germans managed to slip through to Narvik. We have sunk some eight German transports and two cruisers have been damaged. He claims that this has 'crippled' the German Navy. He says that the Faroe Islands have been seized and that Iceland will be protected. His references to the Norwegian Army and Navy are vague in the extreme. One has the impression that he is playing for time and expects that at any moment some dramatic news will be brought to him. It is a feeble, tired speech and it leaves the House in a mood of grave anxiety.
DIARY12th April, 1940
I go up to Leicester. Have some sandwiches with Bertie, and then to the Corn Exchange where I make a speech. It is packed and the audience are receptive. They seem to be far less depressed than in London. It may be that they do not understand what has happened. I feel (1) that Hitler may now convince his people and the neutrals that sea-power is of little real use in narrow seas. This means that the Italians will not care a hoot about us, and already their newspapers are working up an anti-British feeling. Thus Hitler's internal and external prestige will be enormously enhanced and we shall gain nothing. (2) The whisper will spread here that if the Germans can invade Norway with impunity, they may also be able to invade Scotland. Confidence in the Navy will be shaken. Great depression may set in.
DIARY14th April, 1940
I arrive late for breakfast, and ask Mrs Staples for the news. She says, `We have sunk seven German destroyers at Narvik.' I can scarcely believe it. Then the newspapers come. It is true. At noon yesterday the Warspite and a flotilla, including the Cossack, entered Narvik fjord. They silenced the shore-guns and sank four destroyers. Three others bolted up a fjord behind Narvik town but were pursued and sunk. Our own ships suffered little.
The news in the evening is dramatic. Our hold upon Narvik fjord now seems to be complete and I suppose that troops will be landed at any minute. The Norwegians appear to have recovered from the initial blow and to be mobilising as far as is possible for them now that all their control centres have been occupied. And above all we are laying mines outside German ports in the Baltic. I have a feeling that Hitler (being totally ignorant of sea-warfare) has made a grave mess of this Scandinavian bluster. He relied too confidently, it would seem at present, upon his mastery of the air. His naval losses have been most damaging to his prestige. But he is still landing troops at Oslo. I feel that the land-slide has begun and that we may at any moment be faced by an attack on Holland and Belgium, coupled with an Italian occupation of the Balearics and Corsica.
I am fascinated by this crucial stage, since it really boils down to the incessant problem whether mastery of the sea is more important than mastery of the air. The early stages of the Scandinavian campaign seem to have shown that the air was the more important. The later stages have suggested that sea-power in the end prevails. It is too early to decide which of these two theories is correct. But it may prove that Narvik is one of the decisive battles of history.
DIARY16th April, 1940
There is a general feeling of apprehension regarding Italy's intentions. It is feared that at any moment she may seize the Adriatic seaboard while the Germans advance into Yugoslavia from the north. There will be a great feeling in this country that the seizure of Yugoslavia does not concern us and that whatever we do we must keep out of war with Italy. That is a depressing thought.
DIARY17th April, 1940
I find people like Stephen King-Hall and Bob Boothby terribly gloomy. In fact, King-Hall thinks that we may lose the war. The reaction after our first hopes of the Norwegian expedition is bitter, and the fear that Italy, Germany and Russia are about to make a concerted pounce on the Balkans fills us with dismay. As I have always been expecting Italy to come in, I am less depressed. There is a rumour that the Scharnhorst is aground in a damaged condition. If this is true, then Hitler's Norwegian adventure has cost him Lout half his fleet. But he does not care a hoot about that. We are landing, I gather, at Namsos. But there is no concerted plan, the Norwegian generals are all defeatist and I fear we shall not make a good show. The Germans have already cut Norway in half by occupying the railway from Trondheim to the Swedish border.
I go on to the Eden Group dinner at the Carlton where they are entertaining Duff Cooper. His account of the propaganda-consciousness of the United States is terrifying. He thinks the Germans have really persuaded them that black is white. It is of course the mothers of America who dictate the tone.
DIARY 23rd April, 1940
I attend the Watching Committee  in Arlington Street. Lord Salisbury tells us that he had been to see Winston Churchill and had asked him quite frankly whether he believed he could carry on concurrently the job of First Lord and Co-ordinator of Defence. Winston told him that he is feeling in perfect health, that he would die if the Admiralty were taken away from him, and that the Press had much exaggerated his role as Co-ordinator of Defence, which was little more than Chairman of a Committee of the fighting services. He had no right to initiate suggestions or make decisions. He did hint, however, that he would rather welcome it if we could induce the Prime Minister to appoint a Deputy First Lord of Cabinet rank to take the routine business off his shoulders. Salisbury gave him the names of our Committee and he purred like a pleased cat.
We then discuss the question of bombing German towns. The French have always asked us not to do this since they are frightened of reprisals and the natural timidity of the Government rather welcomes this excuse. On the other hand, the impression is being increasingly conveyed that although if one shepherd is killed in the Shetlands we raid Sylt, yet we allow the whole civil population of Norway to be decimated without taking any action against Germany. We don't seem to mind endangering the lives of Norwegians and Danes by bombing Stavanger or Aalborg, but we allow the German factories in the Ruhr to continue at full pressure.
DIARY29th April, 1940
The Watching Committee have an interview with Halifax. We have three main themes.
(1) Lack of initiative, which Halifax counters by saying that we are necessarily on the defensive.
(2) Why do we not bomb German towns? Halifax, who seems tired and distressed, does not really reply to our arguments. He merely says that the Government must abide by the advice of the service departments.
(3) Our lack of effort as illustrated by the Budget, and our lack of courage against such neutrals as Italy and Portugal who are not being really neutral.
Halifax says he has sent a stinker to Salazar.' But it is not a successful interview as Halifax is tired and grim.
Spears told me that the French local mission had told him that our Norway expeditionary force was in a state of indescribable chaos, and that Brigadier Morgan  and two battalions had been lost somewhere in the rocks. We may have to evacuate. That will be a shock to public opinion. I find that people at last realise that we are up against a very rapid enemy and one which possesses equipment more modern than our own. I always expected this and am not perturbed. But the others are glum, glum, glum.
DIARY 30th April, 1940
Roger Keyes accosts me in the Lobby. He is in despair. He says that if only we had struck quickly with the Navy all would have been well. He says that the Admiralty Board refused to take naval risks since they were frightened by the possible attitude of Italy. He says that we have been out maneuvered and beaten because we were too afraid. He says that Winston's drive and initiative have been undermined by the legend of his recklessness. Today he cannot dare to do the things he could have dared in 1915.
The news begins to creep through that the Germans have occupied Stören.2 That means that we are done. I talk to Arnold Wilson who is heroic. I talk to Harold Macmillan who has heard that we shall begin to evacuate Norway this evening. I go to Arlington Street for the Watching Committee and find a glum crowd. The general impression is that we may lose the war. The tanks position is appalling and we hear facts about that.3 We part in gloom. Black Week in the Boer War can hardly have been more depressing. They think that this will mean the fall of Chamberlain and Lloyd George as Prime Minister. The Whips are putting it about that it is all the fault of Winston who has made another forlorn failure. That is hell. I spoke to some Labour members tonight. They said that we should only win this war under a Labour Government. I think they are right.
 Then Director of the Film Division of the Ministry of Information.
 Howard died in 1943 when he was returning to England from Lisbon.The aircraft was shot down by a German Junkers Ju 88 over the Bay of Biscay. Several exhaustively detailed books such as Bloody Biscay (which comes to a slightly different conclusion), Flight 777 by Ian Colvin, and In Search of My Father by Howard's actor son Ronald, conclude that the Germans were almost certainly out to shoot down the plane in order to kill Howard himself rather than Winston Churchill as has been suggested.
 On 38th March. At this meeting Mussolini confirmed his intention to enter the War on Hitler's side when the right moment came.
 The author and traveller. Later in April he was to take part in the British campaign in Norway.
 The mining of Norwegian waters in order to impede the flow of Swedish iron-ore to Germany through Narvik had been suggested by Churchill as early as 29th September. The French and British Cabinets had postponed a decision until now, for fear of German retaliation against Norway and the effect upon neutral and world opinion.
 In fact eight enemy destroyers were sunk without the loss of a single British ship.
 It was not true then, but on 8th June the Scharnhorst was so severely damaged by British torpedoes that she was out of action for several months.
 Duff Cooper had recently completed a lecture-tour of the United States. In Old Men Forget (1953) he summed up his impressions of the tour as follows: 'It was to be hoped that the British would win, but it was to be hoped still more that no American boy's life would be thrown away fighting for the British Empire.'
 A new group of Peers and members of the House of Commons, including the majority of the Eden Group, meeting under the chairmanship of Lord Salisbury.
 Dr Antonio Salazar, Prime Minister of Portugal since 1932.
 Brigadier Morgan was in command of the southern pincer at Andahsnes. He had already lost some 700 men, and was retreating to his base.
 Admiral Sir Roger Keyes M.P. had sought command of the naval assault on Trondheim, but the operation was cancelled on 18th April.
 A railway junction 30 miles south of Trondheim.
 The British Expeditionary Force in France had only one Army Tank Brigade, comprising 17 light tanks and 100 infantry tanks. Only 23 of the latter carried even the 23 pounder gun: the rest machine-guns only. See Churchill The Gathering Storm page 441.