Have a talk with Jenkins, Attlee's P.P.S. Attlee is worried about the B.B.C. retaining its class voice and personnel and would like to see a far greater infiltration of working-class speakers. He also feels that we should put before the country a definite pronouncement on Government policy for the future. The Germans are fighting a revolutionary war for very definite objectives. We are fighting a conservative war and our objectives are purely negative. We must put forward a positive and revolutionary aim admitting that the old order has collapsed and asking people to fight for the new order.
DIARY4th July, 1940
The news about the French Fleet was not released till 3 in the morning and therefore missed most of the morning papers. This is very bad publicity, and we shall of course be blamed. The fact is that Winston never thinks for a moment about the publicity side. Duff tells me that the Dunkerque has apparently been sunk and that that, Strasbourg has escaped and that a very serious battle is in progress. We may find ourselves actually at war with France, which would almost break my heart. The House is at first saddened by this odious attack but is fortified by Winston's speech. The grand finale ends in an ovation, with Winston sitting there with the tears pouring down his cheeks.
LETTER H.N. TO V.S-W.l0th July, 1940 4 King's Bench Walk, E.C.4
I told the Queen today that I got home-sick, and she said, 'But that is right. That is personal patriotism. That is what keeps us going. I should die if I had to leave.' She also told me that she is being instructed every morning how to fire a revolver. I expressed surprise. `Yes', she said, 'I shall not go down like the others.' I cannot tell you how superb she was. I anticipated her charm. What astonished me is how the King is changed. He is now like his brother. He was so gay and she so calm. They did me all the good in the world. How I wish you had been there. Gort was simple and modest. And those two resolute and sensible. We shall win. I know that. I have no doubts at all.
Meanwhile Hitler seems to be funking the great attack upon England. All our reports from abroad (I see the Foreign Office telegrams) show that he is not now quite so sure. I do not see how he can abandon this great project. If we can stick it, we really shall have won the war. What a fight it is! What a chance for us! Our action against the French Fleet has made a tremendous effect throughout the world. I am as stiff as can be.
LETTER H.N. TO V.S-W.11th July, 1940
I had about eleven people to see me today. I wish I were a Cabinet Minister and could keep them off by a barrage of private secretaries. All this means that I do not see Duff enough. We take taxis together and devise all sorts of dodges. But the result is that he is seeing the Alpha Plus people all day and I am seeing the Beta Plus people whom he throws on to me. But that is the right system. I am there to take things off him and to collect Parliamentary opinion.
The German bombings of some of our ports are already pretty bad. God knows what they will be when they start full out. But our morale is perfect. I am cocky about this war. Cocky. I really and truly believe that Hitler is at the end of his success. They expect an invasion this week-end. That is Hitler's last horoscope date. After that the stars are against him. I feel like a doctor watching a dangerous case of illness. But I like being a doctor. I am so busy that my beloved diary is becoming no more than an engagement book.
DIARY 12th July, 1940
At the Policy Committee I bring up my draft of War Aims. I say that we are about to be faced by a dual problem, one international and the other national. The international problem is this. Hitler may call a European Economic Conference; announce the economic consolidation of Europe, and say, 'Here is a vast purchasing organisation. The Americans wish to sell us their consolidated stocks. What prevents the suppliers from sending their stuff to the consumers? The British blockade. Great Britain is thus imposing famine and pestilence on Europe, and ruin upon the two Americas.' The national problem is this. When bombing begins on a large scale, people will ask, 'What are we fighting for? Would we not be better off with peace plus Hitler?' In order to combat the first, we must have Free Trade and pooled resources. In order to combat the second we must have Socialism. I suggest that I should draft in leaflet form a manifesto promising the world free trade and our own country equality of opportunity. They agree. But it will be difficult to get Duff to put it to the War Cabinet. Will it not be felt that we had better leave this sleeping tiger to sleep in its own way?
DIARY 13th July, 1940
The Germans have been trying to convince us that they will invade us tonight. There is a goodish gibbous moon and fine weather. I go to bed without apprehension.
Ben has bought a Picasso portrait of a woman entirely composed of grey cubes. It was very expensive. It is a determined portrait and it says what it thinks. But I do not like these affirmations in art. I like art to be a relief and not a challenge. But Ben, who is far more expert than I am, regrets this sentimental approach. I am sure he is right.
LETTER H.N. TO V.S-W.14th July, 1940 Ministry of Information
I do so hate saying goodbye to you on Sunday afternoons. It is like going to Persia. I do love you so deeply. It is like the Grand Canyon: as if the surface of my life were up on top in the hotel, and the real depths deep down in rose-coloured layers. Not a romantic analogy—but, oh my dear, I do love you so.
Tray was so happy with us. We must ask him again. He loves coming. I dined with him and Roger Senhouse at the Reform and we listened afterwards to Winston. I clapped when it was over. But really he has got guts, that man. Imagine the effect of his speech in the Empire and the U.S.A. I felt a great army of men and women of resolution watching for the fight. And I felt that all the silly people were but black-beetles scurrying into holes. What a speech! One could feel after that as if the whole world might fall.
Thank God for him. And for you. Winston's best phrase was, 'We shall show mercy, but we shall not ask for it.'
DIARY16th July, 1940
I have a long talk with Duff Cooper about my leaflet on War Aims. He quite agrees that we may be faced at any moment by a German peace move, and that a purely negative attitude is not sufficient. He also agrees that nothing will prove an alternative to Hitler's total programme except a pledge of federalism abroad and Socialism at home. He fears, however, that this is too much of an apple of discord to throw into a Coalition Cabinet. 'You see', he says, 'I am myself more Conservative than you are.' He asks me to draft a Memorandum for the Cabinet putting the thing as tactfully as I can.
DIARY18th July, 1940
Lunch at the Rumanian Legation. Arthur Henderson is there and Brendan Bracken. The Labour people say that they hope Winston will carry on after the war in order to inaugurate the New World. Brendan says that the moment the war is over; Winston will want to retire. He says that Winston is convinced that he has had all the fun he wants out of politics, and that when this is over he wants to paint pictures and write books. He adds that in the twenty years he has known Winston, he has never seen him as fit as he is today, and his responsibilities seem to have given him a new lease of life. He adds that he is very determined not to become a legendary figure and has the theory that the Prime Minister is nothing more than Chairman of the Cabinet. We discuss the question of a General Election, in view of the fact that the House is not in the least representative of the country. Were there such an Election, we might well get rid of some of our diehard Tories.
DIARY20th July, 1940
I think that Hitler will probably invade us within the next few days. He has 6,000 aeroplanes ready for the job. How strange it all is! We know that we are faced with a terrific invasion. We half-know that the odds are heavily against us. Yet there is a sort of exhilaration in the air. If Hitler were to postpone invasion and fiddle about in Africa and the Mediterranean, our morale might weaken. But we are really proud to be the people who will not give way. The reaction to Hitler's speech yesterday is a good reaction. Yet I know well that we shall be exposed to horrible punishment. It is so strange that in this moment of anxiety there is no hatred of Hitler or the Germans. Opinion slides off into oblique animosities such as criticism of the Old Gang and rage that the L.D.V., are not better equipped. All this is dangerous, since it is in essence a form of escapism and appeasement. We are really frightened of Hitler, and avoid the dynamic resistance to him which is uniform hatred. 130 years ago all this hatred was concentrated against Bonaparte. We flinch today from central enmity. If we are invaded we may become angry.
DIARY 22nd July, 1940
Philip Lothian telephones wildly from Washington in the evening begging Halifax not to say anything in his broadcast tonight which might close the door to peace. Lothian claims that he knows the German peace-terms and that they are most satisfactory. I am glad to say that Halifax pays no attention to this and makes an extremely bad broadcast but one which is perfectly firm as far as it goes.
LETTER H.N. TO V.S-W.31St July, 1940 4 King's Bench Walk, E.C.4
We had a Secret Session today. Mm. Hush. All that I can say is that Winston surpassed even himself. The situation is obscure. It may be that Hitler will first bomb us with gas and then try to land. At the same time, Italy and Japan will hit us as hard as they can. It will be a dreadful month. On the other hand, Hitler may feel that he cannot bring off a successful invasion and may seek to gain new, easy but sterile conquests in Africa and Asia. Were it not for this little island under a great leader, he would accomplish his desires. We may fail. But supposing we do not fail? That was their finest hour. I have always loved England. But now I am in love with England. What a people! What a chance! The whole of Europe humiliated except us. And the chance that we shall by our stubbornness give victory to the world.
DIARY 3rd August, 1940
I am feeling very depressed by the attacks upon the Ministry of Information. What worries me is that the whole Press, plus certain pro-Munich Conservatives, have planned and banded together to pull Duff Cooper down. Since the M. of I. should be an offensive instrument, its value to our war-effort will be diminished by this constant sniping from the rear. I well know that much of the Press campaign is selfish, conceited and unfair. But there does remain a grain of truth at the bottom of it. The Ministry is ill-organised and mistakes are made. A Ministry of this character cannot really be conducted efficiently if the majority of the Press are out to sabotage it. And it may be true that if our propaganda is to be as effective as that of the enemy, we must have at the top people who will not only command the assent of the Press, but who will be caddish and ignorant enough to tell dynamic lies. At present the Ministry is too decent, educated and intellectual to imitate Goebbels. It cannot live by intelligence alone. We need crooks. Why I hate Hitler so much is that he has coined a new currency of fraudulence which he imposes by force. I am prepared to see the old world of privilege disappear. But as it goes, it will carry with it the old standards of honour.
DIARY11th August, 1940
A lovely clear morning but rather cold. I bathe nonetheless. A great heron flaps away from the lake. The cottage garden is ablaze with yellow and orange and red. A real triumph of gardening. Viti, who is so wise and calm, asks the unspoken question which is in all our minds, `How can we possibly win?'
It does seem as if we shall shortly be assailed from all angles. The Italians will drive into Somaliland, Kenya and the Sudan as well as Egypt. The Japanese will attack us in the Far East. And Germany, while threatening us at home, may send armies to Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Dakar. Then will come the heavy bombing here and great peace propaganda both here and in the United States. It will be represented that Churchill in his sullen obstinacy is imposing tremendous suffering upon the world, and that if only we would recognise the fact that Hitler has now consolidated Europe, peace and prosperity would return. We shall become the most hated race on earth.
And then gradually the Fifth Column here will get to work. There will be the extreme left taking its orders from Moscow. There will be the extreme right, angry at the humiliation by Churchill of the Conservative Party, and feeling in their blindness that anything is better than the triumph of the Reds. There will be the lower middle-classes who will be frightened of the bombs, and will say, 'Anything better than this. What does Aden or Malta matter to us?' And then there will be the pacifists and the Oxford Group people who will say that material defeat means nothing and that we can find in moral rearmament that strength that is greater than the riches of this world. I can see a man like Lloyd George or possibly Beaverbrook coming out as the prophet of all this, and a situation arising analogous to that which arose in France. Fortunately the whole toughness and strength of this country seems to have passed into organised Labour. They are superb.
I place my trust in the mechanical nature of the Nazi system. If we can, even in a little thing, dislocate that machine, then the inherent self-distrust of the Germans will begin to operate. Just as here people are comforted by the feeling that it is all too bad to be true, so in Germany they are disconcerted by the reflection that it is all too good to be true. If we can last out this winter, prove that they cannot reduce us by bombs or blockade, get the U.S.A. to furnish us with real war-standard production and take some offensive against Italy, then by the autumn, when starvation really spreads in Germany, they may be ready to make a possible peace.
Meanwhile I fear that the invasion threat has created in the last few weeks something like panic in Service circles. The Army were so appalled by the internal collapse of France that they forced the Cabinet to take panic measures over here. The ill-planned and quite heartless internment of all aliens was part of this ten-day panic. Another part were the prosecutions for 'spreading alarm and despondency'. And a third part were our instructions to mount an offensive campaign against rumour and to consider a tightening of the censorship. When invasion did not come, all these three have been modified and the full brunt of public indignation has fallen upon the Ministry of Information and Duff Cooper in particular. It is not a very bright page in our rough island story.
I have come to the conclusion that my character is like a drawing of a very excellent character, only it is unfortunately slightly out of drawing.
On 13th August Goering issued orders to the Luftwaffe for the start of the air offensive against Britain. It was not immediately apparent that the war had entered a new phase, since attacks on coastal towns and shipping had intensified throughout July and early August, and it seemed at first that these raids were merely an extension inland of the earlier raids. Harold Nicolson had not yet heard a shot fired in anger, but during August and September he and V. Sackville-West were spectators from their own garden of a great part of the Battle of Britain, since its centre was the Weald of Kent and Sissinghurst lay near to the centre of the Weald. It also lay directly on the centre-line of the intended advance of the German armies from the coast to London, now that Admiral Raeder had persuaded Hitler that the landings must be confined to the stretch of coast between Folkestone and Bognor.
Hitler's decision to attempt the invasion depended primarily on the issue of the air battle, but even if he had won it, the Channel crossing in face of overwhelming British naval superiority would have made it extremely risky, and on land the British Army was already more powerful than that which the Allies faced in Normandy four years later. Goering's error was to scale down his attacks on the south-eastern airfields and control-centres at the very moment when the R.A.F. was beginning to find the strain intolerable, and gradually to switch to day and night bombing of London, by which he hoped to break civilian morale. These attacks began in earnest on 7th September, and from then until 3rd November London was raided every night. The Germans made their supreme fighter effort on 15th September, when the R.A.F. maintained their 2 to 1 average by bringing down 56 German 'planes for the loss of 26 of their own. Two days later Hitler postponed the invasion 'indefinitely'.
LETTER H.N. To V.S-W.13th August, 1940 Ministry of Information
I had a long talk with Duff yesterday. He thinks that invasion will come since he does not see how Hitler can get out of it. But if it does not come within the next two weeks, it will probably be too late. He must have perfect weather for the attempt. Meanwhile we do not understand why he is wasting so many machines off our coasts. He has lost 200 for certain in the last three days, and although he can replace the machines he cannot replace the 200 pilots. Anyhow the thing is hotting up and I am glad of it.
DIARY15th August, 1940
Go to see a Leslie Henson show. The theatre is packed and everybody is in high spirits about our air triumphs. In fact the superiority shown by our men is a miracle. Duff told me today that the only explanation is the lack of German training. There can be no question of German courage or efficiency. Their machines (though inferior) are not a real explanation. Therefore it must be that in their desire to save petrol they do not give their men sufficient training. Our triumph today was superb.
DIARY18th August, 1940 Sissinghurst
A lovely day. I bathe in the morning and find a widower sitting by the lake fishing sadly. Ben comes over to luncheon. While we are sitting outside, the air-raid siren sounds. We remain where we are. Then comes the sound of aeroplanes and, looking up, we see thin streamers from the exhausts of the German 'planes. Another wave follows, and we see it clearly—twenty little silver fish in arrow formation. There is no sound of firing, but while we are at luncheon we hear 'planes quite close and go out to see. There is a rattle of machine-gun fire and we see two Spitfires attacking a Heinkel. The latter sways off, obviously wounded. We then go on with our luncheon. Ben talks to us about Roger Fry and Virginia. He had written to the latter saying that Fry was too detached from life, and she had written a tart letter in reply.
DIARY19th August, 1940
Frank Pick, our new Director-General, attends the Duty Room Committee. He throws his weight about. He first rages at our delay in releasing the story of Thursday's air battles. We say it is the fault of the Air Ministry. He asks why the Air Ministry should object. We say that it is because if we inform the Germans of the success or failure of their raids while the latter are still in progress we shall be giving them valuable information. Pick says that he doesn't care a hoot for the Air Ministry. He then criticises us for holding up the Somaliland news until tomorrow, when the Prime Minister is to make a statement in the House. He says, 'To hell with the Prime Minister.' We all look very shocked. I think his ideas are right, but his manner is really terrible. Sly and violent he looks, but I daresay that the former is due merely to shyness.
DIARY20th August, 1940
Winston makes his speech in the House. He deals admirably with Somaliland and the blockade. He is not too boastful. He says, in referring to the R.A.F., 'never in the history of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few'. It was a moderate and well-balanced speech. He did not try to arouse enthusiasm but only to give guidance. He made a curious reference to Russia's possible attack on Germany and spoke about our 'being mixed up with the United States', ending in a fine peroration about Anglo-American cooperation rolling on like the Mississippi.
DIARY26th August, 1940
A lovely morning. They raided London yesterday, and we raided Berlin. I work at my broadcast talk. At noon I hear aeroplanes and shortly afterwards the wail of the siren. People are becoming quite used to these interruptions. I fmd one practises a sort of suspension of the imagination. I do not think that that drone in the sky means death to many people at any moment. It seems so incredible as I sit here at my window, looking out on the fuchsias and the zinneas with yellow butterflies playing round each other, that in a few seconds above the trees I may see other butterflies circling in the air intent on murdering each other. One lives in the present. The past is too sad a recollection and the future too sad a despair.
I go up to London. After dinner I walk back to the Temple. It is a strange experience. London is as dark as the stage at Vicenza after all the lights have been put out. Vague gleamings of architecture. It is warm and the stars straddle the sky like grains of rice. Then the searchlights come on, each terminating in a swab of cotton-wool which is its own mist area. Suburban guns thump and boom. In the centre there are no guns, only a drone of aeroplanes, which may be enemy or not. A few lonely footsteps hurry along the Strand. A little nervous man catches up with me and starts a conversation. I embarrass him by asking him to have a cigarette and pausing lengthily while I light it. His hand trembles. Mine does not.
When I get into my rooms, I turn the lights off and sit at the window. There is still a drone of 'planes, and from time to time a dull thump in the distance. I turn on my lights and write this, but I hear more 'planes coming and must darken everything and listen in the night. I have no sense of fear whatsoever. Is this fatalism or what? It is very beautiful. I wait and listen. There are more drones and then the searchlights switch out and the all-clear goes. I shut my shutters, turn on my lights and finish this. The clocks of London strike midnight. I go to bed.
DIARY28th August, 1940
Christopher Hobhouse's widow comes. She tells me that he left her on Monday evening at 4.30 in their little bungalow at Hayling Island. He went down to the Fort [at Portsmouth] and half-an-hour later there was a bombing attack and Christopher and three fellow-officers were blown to pieces. They would not let her even attend the funeral since there was so little left. Poor girl. She is to have a baby in March and wants me to be godfather. She is left without a bean. I feel so sad about it.
 Arthur Jenkins, Labour M.P. for Pontypool, 1935-46, and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Clement Attlee, 1940-45.
 Churchill was determined to prevent important units of the French Fleet at Oran from falling under German control. The British Admiral was instructed to present the French with an ultimatum to come over to Britain's side, sail to neutral ports or scuttle their ships. When the French in Oran refused, the British sank the battleship Bretagne and the battle-cruiser Dunkerque. The battle-cruiser Strasbourg escaped to Toulon.
 H.N. lunched that day with Mrs Arthur James to meet the King and Queen. The other guests included Lord Gort, Sir Alexander Cadogan (Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1938-46) and the Duchess of Devonshire.
 Raymond Mortimer, was a British writer, known mostly as a critic and literary editor.
 The publisher and translator, a very old friend of H.N.
 Horace, Odes, 'If the whole world were to crack and collapse about him, Its ruins would find him unafraid.'
 Labour M.P. for Kingswinford since 1935. He had been serving on the General Staff since 1939, and was to become Under Secretary of State for War in 1942.
 Anthony Eden (The Reckoning, p. 145) confirms this: 'Winston reiterated that he was now an old man [in September, 1940, when he was 65] and that he would not make Lloyd George's mistake of carrying on after the war.'
 He had, in fact, only 2,670 fighters and bombers deployed in the West.
 To the Reichstag, to whom he hinted that he was willing to discuss peace-terms with Britain
 Virginia Woolf's biography of Roger Fry, the art critic, had just been published.
 Frank Pick, who was 62, had been a distinguished Managing Director of the London Underground and Chairman of the Council of Art and Industry. He resigned from the Ministry in December 1940 and died in November 1941.
 On 15th August the British garrison withdrew from British Somaliland under pressure from a greatly superior Italian force.
 Christopher Hobhouse was the author of Fox and several other highly successful books. For a time he had shared King's Bench Walk with H.N., who was one of his closest friends.