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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Andrew Cunningham papers in British Library, London

Great Russell St, WC1. Tel. 020 7636 1544 ext 367.

Some of the entries may be fleshed out at a later date and posted again. We invite comments, corrections and expansions. Please give date of entry referred to. [comment]

Diary of Admiral Andrew B. Cunningham, 1883-1963, C in C Mediterranean 1939-1942; 1st Sea Lord, Aug 1943 to 1946.

 [ diary 1944 | diary 1945 | diary 1946 ]


Sat Apr 1 1944

So many interesting things are happening that I think it behoves me to keep a diary.'

(Details of Anvil).

Sun Apr 2

(Refers to the delay of the appointments of Somerville and Frazer).

Mon Apr 3

In connection with Bombing and Overlord, at the Cabinet meeting

Considerable sob stuff about children with legs blown off & blinded old ladies but nothing about the saving of (?) to our young soldiers landing on a hostile shore.'

Tues Apr 4

C.O.S. meeting as usual nothing very interesting but Crossbow reports show progress by the enemy in his preparations.'

Thurs Apr 6

After lunch went to the A&N stores & found they had a surprising amount of fishing tackle. Found the CAS on the same lay buying waders etc.'

(Details of Mtg in PM's Map Room re Fleet Train. Nothing decided).

Mon Apr 10

(Re Greece) 'P.M. butting in and a (? recommendation) to leave it to the man on the spot, Rawlings.'

(Re Anvil) 'The PM is however trying once more to get agreement by a personal signal to Marshall on the basis of the battle for joining the bridgehead having first priority then a look round & a decision whether to carry out Anvil or go on in Italy. The extra LSTs from the Pacific to be sent to the head (MED?) in the meantime.'

(Agreement reached on 1944 building programme and fleet train) 'The PM is sound on the fleet train but wants the Admiralty to surrender ton for ton given for the F.T.'

Tues Apr 11

(Shaved in cold water.) 'It's time they renovated and brought up to date that Chequers house.'

Cabinet meeting 18.00 -- 'The Foreign Secretary is away & the PM is doing his job obviously with much enjoyment from the flow of telegrams couched in melodious language which we had read out to us.'

(Did not think much of General Alexander) 'I cannot believe that he is of much use as a General.'

Fri Apr 14

(Expressed the hope that he had persuaded the PM to abandon ANVIL).

Mon Apr 17

(CAS came in for criticism because the CROSSBOW threat was of the same size as last week).

(Reference to Bombay explosion).

(Re Greece) 'Some confused thinking on the PMs part about maintaining discipline as evidenced by his message to Government.'

Apr 18

(PM did not like Daniels and yet Cunningham said he had no intention of changing him).

(With reference to Egypt) 'The PM as usual out for the use of force regardless of the fact that the necessary force is not there. He also as usual said a few hard things about the CinC.'

(With reference to Somerville and Frazer and CinCs in general) 'Presumably if his strategical views do not coincide with those of the PM he does not get the job. This appears to be nearing a relapse to the times when an admirals correct political views were a better reason for his employment rather than his ability.'

Sat Apr 22

(Re Greece) 'PM approved my signal to C in C suggesting torpedoing of the Haephestos & at the same time sent me a very after lunchy minute about what the C in C should do & what precautions he should take.'

(Cunningham ignored this completely).

Mon Apr 24 (NB written on Thursday).

PM much worked up about losses of shipping in Bombay explosion & fire. Demanded that I arranged a researching enquiry.'

Tues Apr 25

(Silenced PM on further naval bombardment).

(Dinner at 10 Downing Street) 'Rather dull but PM in great form & showing his extraordinary memory in talking of the various invasions of this country',

Apr 26

(Bombings in France, Cunningham concerned that the French might end up by hating us because of heavy losses. concluded that there was both a military and political angle to this matter -- the former was that it would help Overlord. His overriding feeling was that the situation was the same as it had been three weeks' ago).

Apr 27

(In connection with OVERLORD) 'I suspect the basis on which expenditure is worked out is much inflated with many margins for safety.'

(Decision to stop bombing of France. Cunningham felt that it had been the indecision of three weeks ago which was at fault)

Tues May 2

Very little time left which I devoted to watering down the statement made by the PM yesterday that the anti U boat war was won. I quoted some pretty telling figures.'

Wed May 3

PM in most genial & reasonable mood.' (Reacted fiercly to news of a BBC statement of MEW spokesman).

Sun May 7

Pottered about.' this is the whole diary entry for the day

May 8

(Meeting 23.00) 'The Simalur project trotted out & at last I had to say quite plainly that I did not agree with it. PM took it very well but moaned about there being apparently nothing for the British forces to do against the Japanese this year.'

Tues May 16

(Re Japan) 'We are quite hung up by want of decision.'

(Meeting at noon) 'PM had passed a statement rather high flown & with some statements of doubtful accuracy in it particularly as regarded future plans.'

Winston for ? rather halting & appeared to have difficulty in finding suitable phrases. Perhaps the doubt of how it would appear in the press was influencing him.'

May 17

(PM sent a severe minute to Percy Noble about not leaving Washington) 'Some people cannot keep their mouths shut. I suspect it is the PM himself who has been chattering.'

(Refers to Somerville diary and Criticism of Mountbatten).

May 18

(PM carried through building programme) 'on his own' (was sound on this).

May 29 Whit Monday

Found another memorandum from PM refusing to let James Somerville be relieved, such stupid reasons -- he really is quite childish sometimes.'


(Discussion about CROSSBOW).

May 31

(Re Brendan Bracken:) 'a nasty piece of work . . . (reputed to be one of Winston's bastards but I doubt it).'

Fri June 2

(PM in worked up state. Plans to embark in Belfast for OVERLORD. The King wrote to him and seemed to have had some effect).

June 3

I told the others CAS Meeting of the PM's movements. Hollis thought the King's letter had done the trick. Personally I believe it was all bluff & that he never really meant to go.

Mon June 5

(Downing Street) 'A good lunch & as usual lots of wine. PM very worked up about OVERLORD & really in almost a hysterical state. Much conversation. He really is an incorrigible optimist. I always thought I was unduly so but he far outstrips me.' 'PM very worked up about him.' (This refers to General de Gaulle whom Cunningham calls in the diary 'Prima Donna de Gaulle.')

Tues June 13

(Woken up by air warnings) 'So CROSSBOW has come at last. The results from the Hun point of view can hardly be considered satisfactory as only one fell in the built up area of London.' (Bethnall Green).

(Meeting to discuss CROSSBOW, SHAEF to attack the Supply and launching sites).

(Cabinet Meeting 18.30) 'PM looking a bit sunburnt from his trip to the beachhead was a bit childish at times.

Wed June 14

To my surprise no CROSSBOW attack during the night.

Sat June 17

COS meeting as usual. Considerable discussion over CROSSBOW which appears to be more of a threat than was originally thought.

Mon June 19

(Meeting of CROSSBOW committee with PM in the chair) 'He was at his best and said the matter had to be put robustly to the populace. That their tribulations were part of the battle in France & that they should be glad to share in the soldiers dangers.' (Decided to sound sirens as little as possible so that they could all get a good nights sleep because) 'you either woke well rested or in a better land.

(Later cabinet meeting) 'First Lord confronted by the PM saying he could not visit the coast of France.

Tue June 20

(Another bad night because of the FBs).

Much reduced effort by the flying bombs during the day . . . The sites have I think been heavily bombed today which may reduce their activity.

Wed June 21

(Operation CROSSBOW affected Constitution Hill, St Georges Hospital, Buckingham Palace Garden wall).

(COS Meeting) 'PM has stepped in on Admiral King's removal of the US naval forces without consultation with us. As usual without knowledge so we had to curb him a bit.

(Map Room Meeting with Smuts in attendance) 'Then the PM who had lunched well developed his ideas and altogether the COS two good hours.

Thurs June 22

(Meeting 22:30) 'I had some firm exchanges with the PM about the bombarding ships. He must poke his nose into what does'nt (sic) concern him. However he got little change out of me. He suggested that I had made him complain to the President about General Kenys(?) unilateral action in removing his forces from OVERLORD. I told him quite plainly that I had not wished or asked him to signal to the President. We closed down quite friendly at about 01 15.

Fri June 23

(Details of flying bombs coming towards Admiralty but which in fact landed on Watneys brewary).

Mon June 26

(COS 18:00. Called out by PM to deal with Stark) 'PM handled this well & we were all smiles.

(Further meeting with PM to do telegrams to US turning down ANVIL and pressing for completion of N Italy campaign).

Tues June 27

(CROSSBOW, Duncan Sandys, the Professor Lord Cherwell at the meeting. The Professor trying to make out that all his prophecies had come true) 'There is no doubt we have been caught.

(Cabinet meeting 18:00) 'discussion on CROSSBOW initiated by Home Secretary by a rather intemperate and overdrawn memo. I think the PM and Air Ministry do take this threat too lightly' . . . saw the differences as political 'The Labour members of the Govt tending to be sentimental & the Conservatives taking what they probably thought the robuster line 'This is nothing we can take it' sort of attitude.

Sat July 1

(COS Meeting 10:30) 'Discussed PM draft telegram to President. I do not at all like its tone. I feel we should have done better to give way more gracefully. Still he knows his man and may well be right.

(Telegram amended and passed at a later meeting).

Slight discussion on the FB [flying bomb]. I worked up the PM on the subject of trying to abate the nuisance by reprisals on small German towns. He is all for it but says there must be some excuse such as making parts of the machine otherwise he will be right up against Jesus Christ as exemplified by the Archbishop of Canterbury!!.

(Noted that the V1 launching sites appeared to be lightly constructed & can be run up in no time).

Mon July 3

(Discussion of flying bomb).

Tues July 4

(Bottomley talking about Cherbourg peninsular sites. Refers to a draft telegram PM wants to send to President. Did not think that it would do good and doubts the wisdom of sending it).

Wed July 5

(Re telegram discussed at COS Meeting) 'The trouble is the PM can never give way gracefully. He must always be right & if forced to give way gets vindictive & tries by almost any means to get his own back.

Thurs July 6

There is no doubt [that the] PM is in no state to discuss anything -- too tired and too much alcohol. But he was in a terrible mood. Rude and sarcastic. I had a couple of blows with him about the Far East. The net result was that we sat from 22:00 to 01:45 listening to him talking mostly nonsense & got nowhere

(Noted that Eden, Cuttler ? and Lyttelton were going against him) 'his obstinacy & general rudeness may be the last flurry of the salmon before you get the guff into him.

Sat July 8

(Refers to PM rather immoderate minute) 'He obviously had a bad day after his statement in the House of Commons.

Sunday July 9

There is no doubt the PM has got the sticky end over these L.C. [landing craft]

Mon July 10

(Cabinet Meeting 17:30 re CROSSBOW) 'PM in very sweet & chastened mood, probably remembering last Thursday.

(To do with L.S.1) 'PM obviously afraid it would put CULVERIN out of court & rather unwilling. Has sent a memorandum.

Thurs July 11

(CROSSBOW crash in Sweden)

Fri July 14

(Far East Strategy) 'The attitude of mind of the politicians about this which is astonishing. They are obviously afraid of the Americans laying down the law as to what is to happen when Japan is defeated to the various islands posts & other territories . . . But they will not lift a finger to get a force into the Pacific they prefer to hang about the outside & recapture our own rubber trees. No decision of course though there are indications that the 3 ministers are starting to disagree with the PM.

(Chequers dinner, with Henry Stimson as guest) 'PM in great form & good conversation at dinner.'

Mon July 17

(Bomb details).

Wed July 19

PM has gone over to France for two days and is living on board Enterprise. It is to be hoped that no one drops a bomb on him.

Mon July 24

PM full of his visit to France & was more inclined to talk than to listen.

PM very polite about his living in Enterprise at Arromanches.

Wed July 26

(Cabinet Meeting -- PM tells COS that their manpower requirements are ridiculous for Japan).

Thurs Jul 27

(Cabinet Meeting on the 'rocket').

Fri July 28

PM who apparently had lunched well in a jocular mood so business proceeded slowly.

Sun July:30

Found a memorandum from the PM asking what sort of fleet could on have on 4,000,000 men against the Japs. I hope we shall be able to bring him down to earth.

Mon July 31

PM's minute on the study of retaliation by gas was to the effect that he could do nothing if the warriors as well as the parsons were against him.

(PM in good form in Cabinet Meeting. Discussion about bus drivers and air raid warnings.) 'He had to set down any passengers that wished to be set down & that it was at his discretion to continue the journey. The judgement of Solomon!.

Wed Aug 2

PM speech on the wireless. Sounded not too bad but it was made to appear that the army had landed themselves in France without any help from anyone.

Aug 3

It appears that the PM wishes to go off to Italy for a rest taking CIGS [Brooke] & CAS [Portal] with him. Mountbatten's arrival should put him back to the 10th. I can understand him wanting a rest. He wears himself out concerning himself with details & other people's business.

Aug 4

(PM insisted that the cuts be made to the Navy and Air Force of 200,000 and:30,000 from the Army for the Japanese war. Discussion of offer made by Petersen, head of Swedish Secret Service, to swap details of V2, V3 and V4 for GB's plans for the invasion of Norway. GB wanted this information for nothing and it was suggested the following tack be used:) 'The First Sea Lord was inexpressibly shocked that he should try & bargain over information which had to do with the lives of innocent British women & children.' (Also bad effect that this would have on Anglo-Swedish relations. Decided though that the information would be given as a last resort.)

(Rumour that Churchill had sent a telegram to Eisenhower [recommending] changing ANVIL to Brittany).[True: see Churchill to Eisenhower, Aug 4, 1944 (DDE Libr.]

Tues Aug 8

I had two tit ups with the PM. One when he said no information had been procured about Northern Australia to which I replied we had plenty of information & the delay in receiving it was entirely due to his want of decision in sending party to collect it. The other he tried to compare the casualties of the FAA [Fleet Air Arm] with those of the Bomber Command which he said were 7,000 out of 10,000. I disputed this figure, which of course is entirely fallacious. It is more like 7,000 out of 40 -- 50 thousand. No decisions were reached, in fact a thoroughly wasted day. What a drag on the wheel of war this man is. Everything is centralised in him with consequent indecision & waste of time before anything can be done.

Wed Aug 9

(Cunningham and Churchill both produced papers on the Japanese war and Ismay was given the job of producing one paper embracing the points of both papers) 'Ismay produced the combined paper at 22:30. It had been ready at 16:00 but the PM had given him orders that he was not to circulate it to the Chiefs of Staff before the meeting. Thus are we governed!! I presume he himself has such a crooked mind that he is suspicious of the COS . . . The first four paragraphs devoted to the subject on which we were to approach the US COS [i.e., the Joint Chiefs] & the way it was to be done & the 5th arranging to doublecross them. I often wonder how we expect the US COS to have any respect for us we allow our opinions to be overridden & ourselves to be persuaded against our own common sense at every turn.'

Thurs Aug 10

(Message to US Joint Chiefs of Staff by the PM) 'As usual full of inaccuracies, hot air & political points. Not the sort of businesslike message we should send to our opposite numbers. One good political point he wished to make. He wants to be able to have on record that the US refused the assistance of the British Fleet in the Pacific. He will be bitterly disappointed if they don't refuse!!!

Fri Aug 11

(Re COS telegram to US Joint Chiefs) 'We discussed PM's amendment to our telegram to [US] COS. In a closed session Ismay told us that he was just raving last night & absolutely unbalanced. He cannot get over having not had his own way over ANVIL. To my surprise it was Portal that suggested we should have to have a show down with him before long if he went on as he is now. I have long thought it. He tries now to dictate to the COS what they shall say to the US COS. We decided to alter the message to some extent to meet his views & hold it up for 24 hours to let him recover his balance a bit.

Sat Aug 12

The Chiefs of Staff decided that after their exhausting week with the PM the Vice Chiefs could take the Saturday meeting while they had a day off.

Mon Aug 14

Cabinet meeting at 17:30. Such a change with Attlee in the chair. Everyone who wished to gave his opinion & yet business was expeditiously accomplished.

Tue Aug 15

(Some discussion on CROSSBOW and BIG BEN, the German rocket threat).

Wed Aug 16

Wife wanted him to interview a gardener 'He wants a good wage, £3--5 a week, but we will see.' In fact the gardener never came.

Sun Aug 27

1st Lord [A V Alexander] rather sad as he had one or two rather sniffy messages from the PM about his trip to the Med. PM terribly small minded & selfish about it. I urged 1st Lord to stand firm & go on with his arrangements.

Mon Aug 28

Went to bed with the prospect of having to be at Northolt at 07:00 to meet the PM.

Tues Aug 29

PM's trip put off 12 hours on account of weather so there was no early rising. . . . PM was hurried to his car by [Lord] Moran [Churchill's doctor]. He certainly looked ill . . . two nurses & a specialist had been sent for. I hope it is only wise precautions. It would be a tragedy if anything should happen to him now. With all his faults (& he is the most infuriating man) he has done a great job for the country & besides there is no one else.

Thurs Aug 31

An infuriating telegram from the PM to Alexander just in. Alexander has been up to his old game of complaining about the navy to the PM. I will have it out with the CIGS tomorrow.

Mon Sep 4

(Very busy preparing for trip to Quebec and turning over the business to [Admiral] Syfert).

Tues Sep 5

(Talk with PM) 'If he keeps up his present attitude things should go well in Quebec & it will be what the Americans call a 'love pact.' (LOVE FEAST?) But it takes little to lose his vengeful temper & he will do anything then to get the better of our allies.

He sent for me at about 17:00 to tell me there was a rumour that Germany has capitulated. Also to say that if true he must remain in England & what was to happen if we were two days out & it proved to be true. I said the only thing to do was to turn the ship round & come back.

Wed Sep 6

The PM persists in thinking that Italy is one of the main theatres whereas as things are going in France & Russia it really has become a theatre of little importance. No meeting with PM today. He is very flat probably as a result of M & B.

Thurs Sep 7

The COS lunched with the PM. What a lunch. A whole dressed crab each, curried chicken with all sorts of trimmings, & some sweet & cheese. I am still feeling the effects. The PM still very flat, not much sparkle about him.

Sep 8

Now in the Gulf Stream

He was in his worst mood. Accusing the COS of ganging up against him & keeping papers from him & so on. Would not see that Italy after Kesselring is again defeated becomes a secondary front & that the real work is on the Russian & Western fronts. Wants at all costs to keep Alexander's army up to full strength even though there are more divisions than Alexander can use. Is determined to have an amphibious operation, to take Istria even though it is of no military consequence & so on & so on. The worst of it is his feeling against the Americans whom he accused of doing the most awful things against the British. There is no question he is not well & is feeling this hot sticky weather. . . . PM sent for the commander & tried to get him to alter out of the Gulf Stream. As this would take him over the Newfoundland Bank he rightly did'nt [sic] like it. Together we went & convinced the PM.

Sun Sep 10

Lunched with the PM as we were entering Halifax [Nova Scotia]. Half lobster & a lamb chop brandy & cheeses!! . . . My compartment had a double bed!! . . . During daylight crowds at the stations to see the PM.

Tues Sep 12

[At Québec] Had a meeting with the PM at 18:30 & found him in a mood of sweet reasonableness.

Wed 13 Sep

PM upset our meeting at 10:30 with American COS by sending for us at 10:30. He had absolutely nothing to say & we wasted an hour of our time. Plenary meeting at 11:30. PM led off & gave quite a good review. He offered the British main fleet for operations against Japan in the Central Pacific & it was at once accepted by the President.

Thurs Sep 14

In the afternoon with the PM we met the Canadian War Cabinet. PM did'nt [sic] give much away but we arrived at what Canadian forces were to take part in the war against Japan & where they were to be employed.

Fri Sep 15

(Meeting at 18:00) 'PM then proceeded to run through the CCOS final report to him & the President & tried to amend it. We pointed out it was our report agreed with US COS & as far as we were concerned not susceptible to amendment.

He was just at his worst & Brooke was very patient with him. He would'nt [sic] argue with the agreed directive to Mountbatten & was quite impossible & looked likely to wreck all the good that had been done. Finally we left him as he had to see General Marshall but we briefed Eden to talk to him.

Sat Sep 16

(before final plenary meeting) 'We first had a meeting with the PM when he read out a document he was putting in about Burma. Very inaccurate & rather off the point,

. . . (PM wanted a meeting when they had arranged to go fishing) Portal wrote him a note pointing out all the arrangements he was wrecking & he gave way. He really is a most selfish & impossible man to work with.

Wed Sep 20

Lunched with the PM who seemed well & pleased with himself. The usual heavy lunch. Soft shelled crabs & large steaks. I found the former a much over rated dish. Leathers, Ismay, PM & myself talked till 16:00. He told Leathers that the fleet train must be done on a handsome scale & that if we wanted:30-40 more ships we must have them.

. . . The PM told us that Eisenhower had sent a message to the President telling him that he thought a German collapse was not far off.

Sep 21

A signal from the Cabinet to the PM saying that all is agreed about the pay question for those taking part in the Jap war but also saying that it is quite impossible at this stage to guarantee security of employment for the men taking [part] when they come home again I am glad to say the PM has taken exception to this. Dined with the PM Leathers & the M & B doctor, Martin & Colville present. The usual rich food. Caviar, Lamb chops, sweet & cheese (Stilton) Vodka, Champagne, port, brandy & whisky & soda. PM in excellent form & most interesting about his time at the admiralty in the last war. Talking about Jackie Fisher, Dummy Oliver & Knyert Wilson. He holds himself blameless over the Coronel battle but if my memory serves me he was anything but.

Sat Sep 23

(Parliament speech) 'I was given the military bit to vet & for once it is fairly free from exaggeration. But he has a habit of making out that the army & no one else are doing any of the fighting. This I altered & I hope he will accept it.

. . . Dined with PM. Much conversation ranging from the next League of Nations to the South African War.

Mon Sep 25

Lunched with the PM who was a bit annoyed at not getting on shore at Fishguard. I had a minor ? tirade with him over Alexander & Wilson's positions respectively in the Mediterranean. He has always held that Alexander is independent of Wilson.

Wed Sep 27

(Re food for the Channel Islands) 'PM decided to tell the Huns that they were responsible for feeding the civilians & if they could'nt [sic] do it they had better surrender. In any case of starving or illtreating the civilians they would be held responsible.

Thurs Sep 28

Moth brought up a false alarm from B.W. that a cow had died in our meadow from anthrax. I rang up Mona & found the cow had died from being choked by an apple.

Mon Oct 2

(PM informs him of his intended visit to Moscow -- Cunningham not to go because he had no military knowledge according to Churchill. He replied no point, as Stalin has no naval knowledge). 'He did'nt [sic] mean to be rude but just was. There is no question that a visit by him to Moscow will be valuable. They may settle the Polish question & perhaps come to some arrangement in the Balkans & about Greece.

Wed Oct 4

I find that in the Cabinet paper giving the minutes of the PM's meeting with Mackenzie King all I said about the Canadian ships taking part in the Pacific war has been left out, whether by intent I know not,* but I must see to it as it was of value to the Canadian CNS. [* Pencil note:] On purpose, dirty work.

Sun Oct 8

Left at 14:10 & arrived London at 19:00. A wet & misty drive.

Sun Oct 15

Spent the day very pleasantly picking apples. Or rather shaking them into a net spread under the tree. . . . PM has hung up appt of Commander in Chief Ceylon. He must have his finger in every pie.

Mon Oct 17

(Re suggestion that more troops to Italy was not such a good idea) 'It will probably cause a storm when the PM sees it.

Tues Oct 18

PM's return now billed for early Sunday which is a d-d nuisance.

Sun Oct 22

Left at 15 45 to meet the PM arriving at Northolt 17 40. In the event I arrived at the aerodrome half an hour early & the PM 40 minutes early so missed him. Had a very bad tummy. Too much fruit I expect.

Mon Oct 23

Cabinet meeting at 17:30. PM obviously in robust form. He got on to me about FAA doing nothing but I got back to him as I don't believe there has been a week they [could] have done more.

. . . Had a talk after dinner with First Lord & Secretary. Former much disturbed by the way the Prime Minister treats the navy in discussion & hinted at leaving the Government & campaigning politically on behave [sic] of the navy. He said he would have the support of a large section of the working people. Personally I thing the PM says these things to try & annoy us. He certainly would not stand up to a pro navy campaign.

Fri Oct 27

PM rang me at lunch time to ask for news of the battle & to ask if it was safe to send a congratulatory message to the President. I assured him it was.

Sat Oct 28

(At Bishops Waltham) 'Strolled round the garden & did a bit of sawing which definitely upset my tummy.

Mon Oct:30

(Cabinet meeting) 'It was amazing to hear the PM using the arguments that I used last time & which he then scoffed at . . . Staff meeting at 22:00. The PM the very essence of sweet reasonableness. All telegrams were passed & he agreed to Sait's (??) appointment as Commander in Chief Ceylon . . . Answered the PM's minute about wishing to know more about Power before appointing him Commander in Chief East Indies. Gave Power a good write up which he richly deserves.

Tues Oct 31

Anti U boat meeting at 18:00. PM in the chair. Rather a knock-about turn with all sort of wild ideas floating about. . . . At one point the PM told the S of S for Air Sinclair that all he was doing was to show the impotence of his bombs.

Thurs Nov 2

Lunched with the PM. . . . PM told us that following to discussion of giving Alexander, 2 extra divisions that it was thought at the US HQ that it would be cheap at the price providing Montgomery accompanied the two divisions to Italy and Alex came in his place. I have always thought that the Americans would never like Montgomery.

. . . During lunch the PM declared that history would pronounce on the DRAGOON operation (taking of Toulon Marseilles etc) & rather implied that the verdict would be unfavourable. I suggest that it would depend on who wrote the history. To which the PM replied that he intended to have a hand in that.

Fri Nov 3

When at the hairdressers rung up & told PM wanted to see me. Met him & Ismay in the small room at the back of the hall. The President has arranged with Stalin for a meeting between Nov 15 & Dec 15.

Sat Nov 4

(COS meeting) 'In closed session I told the other two about the suggested arrangements for the next meeting & my minute on the subject to the PM. CIGS told us that PM has now completely changed round & decided to send Jumbo Wilson to relieve Dill. Of course the only reason for this is to get Wilson out of the way & appoint Alexander Supreme Commander Mediterranean a post for which he is totally unfitted. We balked this in Cairo last year but it looks as tho' CIGS & PM have agreed on this together. I may however be maligning Brooke. This is a good example of the way things are now run. The COS are just told what to do.

Mon Nov 6

PM still determined to send Wilson to relieve Dill and yet in Nov 5 there was an entry to the effect that John Dill had died last night at Washington & have Alexander as Supreme Commander Mediterranean. All three COS realize that this would be a bad appointment. CIGS hesitates to tell PM so as he is accused of jealousy. He asked me to tell the PM what I thought & I will if I get the chance.

. . . Cabinet at 17:30. It started with a row. The PM drew attention to a statement in the press about the Indian Budget made by the Viceroy Lord Wavell. The PM made the usual nasty remarks & finally said the Viceroy had probably made these remarks to popularise himself with the Indians. This was too much for Leo Amery who told him not to talk damned nonsense. This shook the PM considerably & there was no end of a row. Amery withdrew the actual words but not the sense of what he had said. John Anderson also took exception to some of the PM's remarks & the PM said he was ready to go etc, etc.

Tues Nov 7

Heard that the 12 15 cabinet was put off till 17:30. This effectively stopped my going to see Richard III.

(Several remarks about the unsuitability of Alexander & command organisation as proposed by the PM.) 'Staff meeting with the PM at 22:30. I put forward my objections to Alexander as Supreme Commander Med. These were received calmly by the PM who merely said he recognised my right through knowledge of the personalities to criticise the appointment, but that he disagreed with me. He was not to be moved though I rubbed it in again later. The tragedy is that CAS & CIGS agree with me but decided to take the line of lease resistance. The upshot was that the PM had his way.

. . . PM wants Admiral Ramsay away from SHAEF! Why?.

Wed Nov 8

Wed Nov 8

(COS meeting and Alexander's appointment) 'I fear they are a bit tired of standing up to the PM. It may have done some good.

Thurs Nov 9

(Lord Mayor's banquet) 'PM made a speech, good in parts, but I thought the best came from the retiring Lord Mayor Newcomb.

Fri Nov 10

PM has I believe flown over to France today to be present in Paris at the November 11 celebrations.

Sat Nov 11

Drove down to BW & had lunch on the way -- rotten weather. Employed myself pruning roses in the garden and got soaked.

Mon Nov 13

Cabinet at 17:30. Business went briskly with Attlee in the chair although the COS were kept to the very end.

Wed Nov 15

(COS meeting) 'It came out that the PM was carrying on a signal correspondence with Alex behind Wilson's back & in his signals to the PM criticising Wilson's set up. I was almost too disgusted to speak. Portal came out with that it showed Alexander's complete unfitness for the post of Supreme Commander. It is all so dishonest.

. . . I am disgusted over the state of impotence the COS committee is reduced to. Here we are -- all three of us know that Alexander is unfitted to be Supreme Commander Mediterranean & yet we are allowing ourselves to be bullied into it by the PM. I made my protest but was not supported & can do nothing more.

Fri Nov 17

(Meeting with PM nothing particularly interesting meeting put off until January with President & Russia. Molotoff to come instead of Stalin. Difficulty with Ernie King and the line taken by Cunningham).

Mon Nov 20

(COS meeting) 'The principal business was Ismay producing a brace of pheasants for each of the COS. He had been shooting with Lord Portal who sent the birds.

Tues Nov 21

(Cabinet meeting) 'The rocket was discussed and the PM said that although we should all be prepared to meet our Maker we should remember that the chances of it happening was [sic] 600,000 to 1!!.

Thurs Nov 23 [Thanksgiving Day, USA]

('Thankyou America' celebrations) 'Winant made quite a good speech & the PM who was very well received a for much ? not very good one.

Mon Nov 27

(Cabinet meeting) (S of S for Air and first Lord said they had not been consulted on the treatment of deserters put in by S of S for war) 'A justifiable complaint. PM tried to take the line that the Air & army should do what the army wanted as their numbers were so much greater.

Wed Nov 29

Meeting with PM at 18:30. Jumbo Wilson present. A completely wasted hour and a half. PM appeared to have forgotten all that had passed in the last 10 days. Nothing settled except that a rude signal was to be sent to Tito.

Sun Dec 3

A bag from the Admiralty at 18:00. The PM rather surprisingly fully concerned in delay to Pacific fleet.

Mon Dec 4

Brooke told us he had spent an hour on the 'phone with the PM about Eisenhower's meeting with Montgomery & their discussion of the command question. He was seeing PM again at 15:15. PM was objecting to being left out of the discussion. He will not realise it is none of his business.

. . . Cabinet at 18:00. PM attacked me about the Marines & appears to think we have 80,000 of them just engaged in sitting around.

. . . The Board of Admiralty dining the PM in celebration of his 70 birthday. PM sat between First Lord & myself. He was very cheerful & amusing. First Lord spoke well & PM replied & gave us a hopeful outlook for the navy's future but warned us that we must take the air into account. To my horror he finished by proposing my health in very flattering terms. So I had to reply. I quite forgot to thank him for proposing my health -- a bad & stupid omission. I thanked him for the encouraging things he had said about the navy's future and assured him that in spite of his sometimes bad remarks I had always known that he was basically sound. . . . We were on 'Andrew' terms at the end of the evening.

Tues Dec 5

PM had been busy in the night. Several telegrams to Wilson & Scobie rather urging them to drastic action in Greece. . . . Long telegram to the President reviewing the war situation . . . re manpower The point is that the PM wishes the other two services to try & release men for the army so as to keep it up to strength for the final round of the German war.

Sun Dec 10

PM sent him Harry Hopkins a message' (re Greece).

Mon Dec 11

Hopkins has asked the PM that there should be no recriminations & the PM had agreed. I pointed out however that this action of King's had made the whole system of command in the Mediterranean illusory so it was decided to send a message to this effect to Somerville for him to use as ammunition if it ever became necessary. Cabinet at 12:00 taken by the Deputy PM so it went quickly. Greece discussed to some extent & it became evident that though the PM's speech on Friday was good its tone had given much offence. As Attlee put it 'It was a good horse but not for that race.

. . . Another point made in this morning's cabinet was the communistic tone of the BBC's announcements.

Tues Dec 12

(Detail about Greece & the King and appointment of a Regent in Greece and how the King refused. Meeting with Eisenhower. Dinner with the PM).

We did not break up till 01:30 & as we were leaving the PM called me into the cabinet room. He first asked me if I was Scottish which I confirmed. He then said that he had been looking into the position of the Orders of Knighthood & did I know about the Order of the Thistle. I replied that all I knew was that it was a very honourable Order. He then asked me if I would like to be a Knight of the Thistle. I thanked him warmly & said I should take it as a great honour. He then said he would recommend it to his Majesty. I trust I have not let myself in for too much. After a cup of soup he then proceeded to sit down to a pile of papers in spite of my remonstrances as he was obviously dead tired.

Mon Dec 18

Cabinet at noon. Taken by Deputy PM so business proceeded rapidly.

Tues Dec 19

Anti U Boat meeting at 18:30. PM inclined to lash out at all & sundry & rather petulant. Declared that he could'nt [sic] understand the difficulties of finding a U boat on the bottom. Why had the problem only just been encountered etc etc.

. . . PM finished up with a dissertation on the Western front situation & said he preferred the tortoise with its head out even if it looked like biting him.

Wed Dec 20

Thick fog all day.

(Cabinet meeting with info. on Monty and Bradley) 'PM gave a discursive account of the battle. When the position is restored and the shouting dies down he hopes to be able to authorise the addition of a quarter [written as a fraction] million men to the army. I hope the Americans won't ask why it was'nt [sic] produced before.

Thurs Dec 21

(15th wedding anniversary).

Sun Dec 22

PM rang me at noon & said he had heard from the President who proposed a meeting at Yalta at the end of January & asked me to let him have a report on the place.

Mon Dec 25

A most cheerful Xmas dinner with Wehrmacht champagne provided by Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith Eisenhower's chief of staff.

Tues Dec 26

Discovered that the PM had flown to Athens to try with Eden to clear up the mess there. Very enterprising of him but it's rather taking a hammer to crack a nut. He is living in Ajax.

Wed Dec 27

Cabinet at 17:30. Deputy PM in the chair so business went briskly.

Thurs Dec 28

(COS meeting) 'Question arose on a message from PM about sending more troops to Greece to clear Athens quickly.'

Fri Dec 29

Just as I was getting ready to go to the cinema show Henry V a cabinet was put on at 18:00. The PM had arrived back & wished to give an account of his visit to Greece to the cabinet. Not much that we did'nt [sic] know before. He was favourably impressed both by the Archbishop of Athens & General Plastiras. He also stated that our soldiers were quite sure that we were doing the right thing in Greece & were getting rather tough with ELAS troops.

Sun Dec 31

Most of the morning occupied shifting frozen cow pats to the rose bed where I hope they will provide good roses. Hard frost during the night but the rain brought on a thaw. Drove back to town in the afternoon. Road not as frozen as I expected but it took 2 hours.

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."

© Focal Point 2004 F Irving write to David Irving