We have now evacuated 220,000 men, which is amazing when I recall how we feared that we should lose 80 per cent. But there are few grounds for enthusiasm really, except moral grounds. We have lost all our equipment. The French have lost 8o per cent of their forces and feel that we deserted them. Gort  says that he offered to take more French off, but that they were too dead-beat to move and that all those who could be galvanised into marching a few miles further were in fact rescued. This may be true, but the French with their tendency to attribute blame to others will be certain to say that we thought only of rescuing the B.E.F. and let them down.
I escape at 6.15 to Sissinghurst. Our train is ti hours late, because trains are pouring up and down the line transporting remnants of the B.E.F. We pass twelve trains packed with tired, dirty but cheering troops. I only see one man who is shell-shocked, and he sits staring in front of him with drooping eyelids, as if drugged. The others might have been returning from a two-days' route march.
LETTERV.S-W. TO H.N.3rdJune, 1940 Sissinghurst
Last night was one of the most beautiful nights I ever remember. I was out late by myself getting some of Ozzy's sheep back into the field from which they had escaped. One lamb got e'gare into another field, and I pursued it through the long wet grass, led by its bleatings, and the faint glimmer of its little body. The rim of the sky was still pink with sunset. Venus hung alone and enormous. The silhouette of the sentry appeared above the parapet of the tower.
LETTERV.S-W. TO H.N.4th June, 1940 4 King's Bench Walk, E.C.4
I was terribly rushed yesterday as I had to get out a Memo for the Cabinet about invasion. We do not know whether to warn people now, or to wait till it becomes likely. It is 80 per cent probable that the enemy will attack France first and only go for us afterwards. Yet we must be prepared for the invasion when it comes and the public must be told what to do. We have got a long list of instructions, but do not like to issue them without Cabinet orders. As Duff was over in Paris, I had to do this all myself.
My dearest Viti, I suppose it is some comfort to feel that it will either be all over in August or else we shall have won. Hitler will not be able to go on into next year. The whole thing is, 'Shall we be able to stand it?' I think we shall. And if we win, then truly it will be a triumph of human character over the machine.
But actually I do not believe that invasion will come, especially if the French are able to put up some show of resistance on the Somme. How I long for the spirit of Verdun to revive! It may—you know what the French are. I feel so deeply grateful for having hard work to do in these days. And now comes Italy. My dearest, what a mean skulking thing to do. The French have offered them practically all that they want in Tunis etc, but they want more and more. They are like the people who rob corpses on the battlefield—I forget what these people are called. The Greeks had a name for it.
Bless you. Courage and hope. This afternoon Winston made the forest speech that I have ever heard. The House was deeply moved.
LETTERV.S-W. TO H.N.8th June, 1940 Sissinghurst
I wish I had heard Winston making that magnificent speech! Even repeated by the announcer it sent shivers (not of fear) down my spine. I think that one of the reasons why one is stirred by his Elizabethan phrases is that one feels the whole massive backing of power and resolve behind them, like a great fortress: they are never words for words' sake.
How strange it is to have no knowledge of what is about to befall us. In ordinary times one seldom thinks how odd it is to have no knowledge of what may happen even within the next hour, but now the consciousness of this ignorance becomes acute. I see the future only in terms of colour: scarlet and black. But as you say, courage and hope. And there is always the bare bodkin.
LETTERV.S-W. TO H.N.6th June, 1940 4 King's Bench Walk, E.C.4
I dread the result of this battle. The French are outnumbered both in men and material, and not too good in heart. If they can only hold the Huns this time, then we are all right. And even if they lose Paris, it is not the end in so far as France is concerned. I feel so much in the spirit of Winston's great speech that I could face a world of enemies.
There is a growing feeling against what is called 'the old gang'. Our reports say that the men who have come back from the front feel that Kingsley Wood and Inskip let them down and must go. Chamberlain would have to go too. How odd the world is. Yesterday in the Ministry I observed Lord Salisbury in a top hat and frock-coat coming down the stairs. I said, 'What are you doing here?' 'Trying to save the Conservative Party.' I did not press him, but I suppose that he feels that Duff and Winston are the hopes of the Party and that Anthony is too weak. But I gather that Anthony is doing well in the War Office.
DIARYl0th June, 1940
I give my draft of the Invasion pamphlet to the Director-General, who takes it down to the meeting of the Home Defence Ministers. The War Office, to my mind, do not seem to have faced the problem that the Germans will treat as saboteurs any civilians who obstruct them. If we encourage sabotage, a tremendous responsibility will rest upon our heads and only the Cabinet can decide.
The Duty Room Committee is about as gloomy a meeting as we have had. The German mechanised Divisions have crossed the Seine at two places and have managed to throw pontoon bridges over the river. All the other bridges have been destroyed. The petrol dump at Rouen has been set on fire. We have begun to evacuate Le Havre, and the Division that we had there is apparently being brought back to England. It seems inevitable that Paris will fall shortly. Meanwhile we have evacuated Narvik. The Cabinet decided that no news of this should be given to the public, but as the evacuation is front-page news in the New York newspapers, we send Walter Monckton down to the Cabinet to persuade them that if we withhold the news any longer, all confidence in our communiques will be destroyed. Italian intervention seems a matter of hours.
We all feel in a strange way exhilarated by this day of disaster.
LETTERV.S-W. TO H.N.12th June, 1940 4 King's Bench Walk, E.C.4
I saw Andre Maurois this morning. He had left Paris yesterday. He said that never in his life had he experienced such agony as he did when he saw Paris basking under a lovely summer day and realised that he might never see it again. I do feel so deeply for the French. Paris to them is what our countryside is to us. If we were to feel that the lanes of Devonshire, the rocks of Cornwall and our own unflaunting England were all concentrated in one spot and likely to be wiped out, we should feel all the pain of all the world. What makes me gnash my teeth is that Hitler said he would be in Paris by isth June, and I think he will meet that date, thereby increasing his mystic legend.
I had to go this morning to represent Duff on the War Cabinet Committee of Home Defence. What is so odd is that there were all those Cabinet Ministers and they were completely unguarded. We all stood in Whitehall afterwards and chatted amicably. And not one policeman or detective was there. I rather like that in the British manner, but I don't think it wise.
What a joy it is for me to be so busy at this moment and in so central a position. I really feel that I can do some good, and I am embattled. I did not know that I possessed such combative instincts. Darling, why is it that I should feel so gay? Is it, as you said, that I am pleased at discovering in myself forces of manliness which I did not suspect? I feel such contempt for the cowards. And such joy that you and I should so naturally and without effort find ourselves on the side of the brave.
DIARY15th June, 1940
I have been too rushed this historic week to write my diary in any detail. The events crowd thick and fast and each one seems worse than the other. Yet a curious psychological effect is produced. Fear and sorrow seem to give way to anger and pride. It may be because I know that I shall kill myself and Vita will kill herself if the worst comes. Thus there comes a point where Hitler will cease to trouble either of us, and meanwhile by every means in our power we will continue to worry him.
Then there is another state of mind which I notice. I am able almost entirely to dismiss from my thoughts any consideration of the future. I do not even have such pangs about the past as I had when the situation was less catastrophic. My reason tells me that it will now be almost impossible to beat the Germans, and that the probability is that France will surrender and that we shall be bombed and invaded. I am quite lucidly aware that in three weeks from now Sissinghurst may be a waste and Vita and I both dead. Yet these probabilities do not fill me with despair. I seem to be impervious both to pleasure and pain. For the moment we are all anaesthetised.
DIARY 17th June, 1940
The Reynaud Cabinet has resigned and Petain has formed a new Ministry including Darlan. The Germans have broken through as far as Dijon, and the French are apparently evacuating the Maginot Line and destroying the works. Camrose telephones me in some agitation. He is very much afraid that if the Germans get hold of the French fleet, we shall have no chance at all. I try to cheer the old boy up, but find it difficult to adduce arguments other than blind confidence and blind determination not to give way.
At 12.30 I go to Sammy Hood's  room and find that he has been listening to Petain on the wireless. The important phrase is, faut cesser la lutte'(must stop the fight). This is most inconvenient to us, especially if the French Navy is also surrendered. Lunch with Robert Vansittart at the Carlton Grill. He also feels that everything turns on what happens to the French Fleet. If they manage to join us, then we are all right. If they scuttle themselves, there is a chance. But if they fall into the hands of our enemies, then we shall indeed be in a dangerous and even desperate position.
LETTERV.S-W. TO H.N.19th June, 1940 4 King's Bench Walk, E.C.4
I think it practically certain that the Americans will enter the war in November, and if we can last till then, all is well. Anyhow, as a precaution, I have got the bare bodkin. I shall bring down your half on Sunday. It all looks very simple.
How I wish Winston would not talk on the wireless unless he is feeling in good form. He hates the microphone, and when we bullied him into speaking last night, he just sulked and read his House of Commons speech over again. Now, as delivered in the House of Commons, that speech was magnificent, especially the concluding sentences. But it sounded ghastly on the wireless. All the great vigour he put into it seemed to evaporate.
I saw Louis Spears for a moment just back from France. He said that the confusion was almost unbelievable. Our offer to unite with France fell very flat. I was pleased to feel that I was going to be a French citizen and am sorry it did not come off.
DIARY 21st June, 1940
Today the French delegates were received by Hitler in the dining-coach at Compiegne in which the Armistice of 1918 was signed. Hitler gave them an allocution scolding them for having been so wicked as to win the last war. Poor people, my heart bleeds for them.
A note of elation permeates the diary after the fall of France, but it becomes at times almost telegraphic in its concentrated brevity, since Harold Nicolson was busier than at any other period of his working at the Ministry of Information throughout the week with only an occasional night at Sissinghurst. The Ministry soon became the target for criticism by a Press resentful at being fed the news which officials thought fit to print, and by a public who disliked the idea of having their morale investigated and analysed. Duff Cooper made matters no easier by his ill-concealed disdain for journalists. In addition, it was a new Ministry, staffed for the most part not by regular civil-servants who would have been prepared to accept orders, but by brilliant amateurs from the Universities and the intellectual world of London. 'The presence of so many able, undisciplined men in one Ministry', wrote Duff Cooper in his autobiography,4 'was bound to lead to a great deal of internal friction. . . .
I was never happy there. . . . With other departments I was continually squabbling, especially with the Foreign Office and the three Service departments.' But while Duff Cooper was unhappy, Harold Nicolson was not. He was his Minister's lightning-conductor. Since British relations with defeated France was the dominant topic of these weeks and France was the country which he knew best after his own, he was a key person in the right job. Many of Harold Nicolson's own friends were among those people, British and exiled, who stormed the Ministry with offers of their services and ideas for influencing British and neutral opinion. A great deal of his time was spent in such interviews, and in attending Standing Committees at the Ministry several times a day. He drafted the Cabinet statement on British war aims, advocating a Federal structure for postwar Europe and increasingly Socialist measures at home. His Parliamentary work was slight—a few questions to answer but no major debate.
Week by week, as the Diary shows, a German invasion ofBritain was expected. It is curious that so little thought was given, at least in the Ministry of Information, to the difficulties which the Germans faced in improvising so colossal an operation. The Germans had made scarcely any plans before the fall of France. Hitler expected Britain's surrender as a natural consequence of it. 'I can see no reason why this war must go on', he declared to the Reichstag on 19th July, but the British reply was unequivocal defiance. Orders were given by Hitler to prepare for a landing by forty divisions on a 200-mile front between Ramsgate and Lyme Bay, but tactical disagreements between the German Army and Navy, the essential condition that air superiority must first be won over Britain's southern coast and the organisation of invasion transports, made it impossible for Hitler to contemplate a landing before mid-September. The frequent invasion scares in Britain were due to nothing more than nerves and German propaganda. In July probing attacks by the Luftwaffe on British Channel shipping began, but the Battle of Britain proper did not start until August, and there was as yet no bombing of London.
DIARY29th June, 194o
Guy Burgess  comes to see me, and I tell him that there is no chance now of his being sent to Moscow. Jean Monnet comes to see me. He says that there is no chance of France in her present stunned and wounded condition accepting any Government, National Committee or individual established under our protection. Petain and Weygand are still great names in France, and the French people are mitigating their humiliation by saying it was all our fault and that we deserted them. Monnet thinks that a really national movement may some day emerge in the French Colonies, but that meanwhile we should avoid anything which might look as if we were using any body of Frenchmen in our own interests. I agree with him absolutely. I beg Spears not to encourage de Gaulle too much. The difficulty is that Duff himself is very Gaullois.
DIARY30th June, 1940
Have a long talk with Eve Curie  who is determined to remain here while she can. The French Government are becoming definitely hostile, and are turning all their propaganda against us not only in France but in the United States. The French sailors in our harbours are worried about their families and such help as we hope to get from the French colonies is melting away. In fact it is clear that throughout Europe people imagine that we stand little chance in the great invasion, and they are all, including Rumania and to some extent Turkey, coming to terms with Germany.
 On this day 64,000 men were landed from Dunkirk at southern British ports.
 Lord Gort, Commander-in-Chief of the B.E.F., had landed in England on the previous day and reported to the Cabinet. H.N. had been given the gist of this report.
 The final total of evacuations from Dunkirk was 370,000, of which approximately 110,000 were Frenchmen.
 Mussolini did not actually declare war until loth June, but it was already obvious that he was preparing to do so.
 The German attack on the Somme. The attack had opened at dawn on 5th June, between Amiens and the sea. Soon the offensive spread to the whole 400-mile front. But against 143 German Divisions the French could deploy only 65.
 The evacuation of Le Havre was completed in the early morning of 13th June. 2,200 British troops were brought back to England, and another 8,800 carried round by the Navy to Cherbourg to continue the fight.
 Narvik was abandoned to the enemy on 8th June.
 Viscount Hood, Private Secretary to Duff Cooper.
 The Armistice agreement stipulated that the French Fleet should be demobilised and the ships laid up in their home ports for the duration. But several units escaped to British ports.
 This proposal, originated by Vansittart, de Gaulle and Jean Monnet, was for a single Government and common citizenship between the two countries.
 In fact, Hitler did not speak a word to the French delegates. He left the railway-car immediately after the preamble to the Armistice terms had been read out.
 Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess (1911 – 1963) was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union.
 Head of the Anglo-French Coordinating Mission in London until the fall of France, and author of the postwar Plan Monnet for the economic integration of Europe.
 General Spears, who had been Churchill's personal liaison officer with the French Government, had brought de Gaulle to London on i7th June, and was now head of the British Mission at de Gaulle's Headquarters.
 The biographer of her mother, Marie Curie, the famous French physicist.