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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].

SS-G comments: The overall impression from the diaries at this point is that, having taken the decision to start a diary in April 1944, Cunningham felt obliged to continue with it. The 1945 entries begin to get rather tired and very factual -- apart from the week when he has his eye operation where they are understandably very short. There is also an overall impression that he and everyone else was very tired of the war which was dragging on. A great deal of reference to things like the war going slowly in France, not much progress being made. An overall tone of tiredness about the whole business. Lost some of the sparkle that was there at the beginning. As is often the case with diaries, there are a couple of very neat entries at the start of 1945, when he is beginning a new book.

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 ]


Mon Jan 1

(Got his Thistle) 'COS meeting at 11:00. The PM is being rather difficult about Alexander's visit to Russia & the Greek situation. Personally I can see no good reason for a visit to Russia by Alexander nor can the other two COS.

Tues Jan 2

Staff meeting with the PM at 12 15. He is very anxious for Alexander to go off to Moscow & on his own has wired the President. Cabinet at 17:30. A most discursive business -- much time wasted by not sticking to the point.

Sat Jan 6

Informed by telephone that night that the PM had refused to agree to the appointment of Harold Burrough to relieve Ramsay on the grounds that the post could now be abolished and the staff saved. How he works in such complete ignorance & disregard for facts beats me.

Sun Jan 7

The PM's minute puts me in a hole when talking to Eisenhower tomorrow.

Mon Jan 8

Went over & saw the PM. He had not been told that I had gone over to attend Ramsay's funeral but obviously thought I had gone to discuss Ramsay's relief with Ike. He consented at once to Burrough's appointment. I told him of Ike's troubles [which were? Presumably related to the Ardennes fighting and command jealousies] & he arranged with Ike on the phone to read a nice message to Bradley on the occasion of Ike presenting him with the Bronze Cross.

Tues Jan 9

CIGS disclosed a new scheme of PM's. Tedder was to get a post at the Air Ministry & Alexander to become Deputy Supremo to Ike . . . I told the CIGS that it was quite worthless putting up with the suggestion. The Americans would take it as an insult & think that Alex was being sent to hold Ike's hand. Very heavy snowstorm.'

Wed Jan 10

PM has sent a message to the President about Burroughs appointment & COS to US COS.

Mon Jan 15

(Cabinet meeting.) 'PM said there were many too many sailors out there. I pointed out that in his memorandum on Friday he had implied there were not enough. Of course he passed it off. With reference to the rocket the PM said: "The Angel of Death is abroad in land only if you can't hear the flutter of his wings." First Lord getting very het up about the U boats.'

Thurs Jan 18

'Great speech by Churchill in the House. He lashed out at some of the Labour members. He paid a great tribute to the American army for the way they stopped & repelled Rundstedt's push. This will do much good in the States.'

Mon Jan 22

'A very busy week before us getting ready for Yalta & Malta & getting the PM's views in line with ours or vice versa. . . . Cabinet at 17:30. PM much annoyed at the COS decision about the war-weary aircraft being let loose against Germany unmanned and packed with explosives. As usual complete absence of knowledge of the facts. It looks as though he is waking up to the U boat threat. He talked of OVERLORD bombing of the assembly yards.'

Tues Jan 23

'Staff conference with PM at 18:30. Greece, future of the Army of Italy, date of end of the war in Europe, Penetration groups & many other subjects discussed. Taking the Army out of Italy: Though the PM calls this destroying the army of Italy & is anxious about Alex's position & has now the idea of making him Deputy Supreme Commander to Ike instead of Tedder & making Tedder Supremo in the Med . . . Afterwards talked to the PM on recognition of Ramsay's services for OVERLORD & found he was keen on it & thought it should include Leigh-Mallory.'

Fri Jan 26

11:00 meeting of War Cabinet to deal with CROSSBOW. Very little done -- decisions not reached but effort on CROSSBOW to be increased. 11:30 A/U [Anti U-boat] meeting PM in the chair. Nothing much done but the problem laid bare.

. . . (Cabinet) Fleet train came under heavy attack. But the PM listened to my arguments and the points I made were certainly taken by several members of the Cabinet, the Chancellor in particular.

Mon Jan 29

(Malta:) 'At 21:00 we heard the PM was arriving at midnight en route for Yalta & John went off to the aerodrome to meet him.'

Tues Jan:30

'Of course the PM did not arrive until 06:00 & the waiting reception committee were told that he was not emerging till 09:00. Very nice for them. Actually he had a temperature & went straight on board the cruiser Orion where I gather he has made himself fairly comfortable.'

Sun Feb 4

(Yalta:) 'The President who is undoubtedly in bad shape & finding difficulty in concentrating did not rise to the occasion but the PM did brilliantly. . . . Stalin was good & clear in his points, the PM also very good but the President does not appear to know what he is talking about, and hangs on to one idea.'

Wed Feb 7

'Had a few words with the PM before dinner he said the political talks were'nt [sic] going too badly.'

Sat Feb 10

(At the aerodrome) 'We were ushered into a tent & had the usual dead fish & vodka. A young woman put beside me as interpreter kept urging me to drink "bottoms up." Hers or someone else's was not clear.'

Mon Feb 19

PM returned evidently very fit. He had come down at Lyneham owing to thick weather.

Mon Feb 26

(Re air supplies and factories after the war) 'there is no doubt the PM is right. The requirements need co-ordinating.

Wed Feb 28

CAS told us that early tomorrow there might be an attack on London by the new V1 flying bomb -- greater range but perhaps less weight of explosive.

Fri Mar 2

We dined on caviar, vodka & Crimean champagne at the flat.

Sat Mar 3

PM over in France.

Tues Mar 6

Cabinet at 17:30 . . . Principal discussion however was on whether in the Family Allowance legislation the money (children's allowance) should be paid to the mother or the father. Prime Minister in his puckish mood said it must be left to a free vote & he would not vote at all lest he lose the votes of the fathers or mothers.

Wed Mar 7

(COS meeting) 'Herbert Morrison came & set out the reasons for trying to end the V1 & V2 attacks by drastic action to be taken as far as one could see at the expense of the battle.

Mon Mar 12 Cabinet meeting at 12:00. Atlee [sic] in the chair so business progressed rapidly.

Thurs Mar 15

Little news at 21:00 but Churchill's speech to the Conservative Association was given. There is no doubt the man understands politics & enjoys the rough & tumble of it all. Sounded a good speech but I wonder how much of it he really believes.

Mon Mar 19

Cabinet at 12:00. Attlee in the chair.

Tues Mar 20

Saw a very rude memorandum by the PM to the CAS & Air Ministry. Apparently in one of their bombing attacks on the V2 sites & communications they made an error & knocked down a large part of The Hague. Many Dutch killed & wounded.

Wed Mar 21

Dined with Sir Alexander Livingstone at Claridges . . . Lord McGowan also there. He told me that these dinners though ostensibly given by Livingstone were financed by someone else. I wonder.

Fri Mar 23

Dealt with the PM's suggestion that we should allow the Ministry of War Transport to decide how many ships' sailings there were to be to the Med & East Indies for the next three months -- we decided to resist that. PM & CIGS are off this afternoon to watch the Rhine crossing by Montgomery's army which comes off tomorrow.

Sun Mar 25

Violent nose bleeding now added to the cold. Found a memorandum from PM about the release of trawlers urged by the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries who says operations should now give way to catching fish!!.

Mon Mar 26

A most violent nose bleeding attack at 10:30 prevented me going to COS meeting. Had to get the doctor to plug my nose . . . I had to send Syfret to the Cabinet in my place as I could not trust my nose.

Thurs Mar 29

Had a COS meeting with the PM at 18:30 on Eisenhower telegram sent direct to Stalin '(a most improper procedure)' PM did not show much capacity for picking up the salient points. . . . Something curious has happened at Eisenhower's HQ. Perhaps the US generals have all ganged up & insisted on their national army being under US command.

Sun Apr 1

PM was a bit savage with the message from the US COS & had written a telegram full of soft soap but with some pretty shrewd digs in it to the President. He told us that the President was in a pretty bad way & only the last day or two had been writing his own telegrams.

(Whilst still at Chequers) . . . CIGS got into a chair & read a book he got from the shelf 'The Theory and Practice of Prostitution.'

. . . PM came in & vetted the reply & then we tried to get away but Brookie & I were had by him for a stirrup cup in the library.

Mon Apr 2

Minute from the PM ordering the release of 10% of high grade trawlers in April & a further percentage in May. Such an irresponsible order, just shows how much he knows about the U boat war. I am going to resist it.

Tues Apr 3

Cabinet at 17:30. Smuts, Fraser of New Zealand, Archie Wavell, George ? Khan, Forde & Evatt (?) from Australia present. The PM welcomed them in a discourse on unity.'

Thurs Apr 5

The consequence of staying to the end was that I arrived at the PM's dinner to the Dominion representatives as the soup was being cleared away. PM made a fair speech nothing very striking in it.

Fri Apr 6

PM gave a figure for the killed among the London people including those in the armed forces of one in 131.

Sat Apr 7

Sudden call to COS meeting. The PM neither understood or liked what he called our chilling telegram to Mountbatten about his Rangoon projected operations. Explanations made.

Sun Apr 8

Worked in the garden. Hobbs came in & I set his mind somewhat at rest about wages. A most lovely day. We had tea outside.

Mon Apr 9

Cabinet at 17:30. PM in difficult mood & inclined to show off before the Dominion representatives . . . After dinner found that the War Office were demanding that a memorandum by the PM on the appointment to the Control Commission in Germany which we had arranged in the morning should be answered by the Vice Chiefs, should come before the COS tomorrow. I dug my toes in & said I would not be ready to take it. Someone was obviously trying something on.

Thurs Apr 12

A violent memorandum directed against Tedder by the PM was considered at COS today in private session. It is curious that with all his great qualities when he deals with personalities he gets childish. He is such a bad picker too. Montgomery he has fairly well sized up but he is completely bluffed by Alexander.

Fri Apr 13

Heavy news in the morning papers -- the death of Roosevelt. A sad blow for the Allies. On the whole it was by me not unexpected, he was a very sick man at Yalta. A difficult man to size up -- a bit of an actor but charming & approachable. Probably I never saw him at his best.

. . . Considered a minute by the Secretariat to send in reply to PM's violent one about Tedder. In it we have put him right -- suggested he should withdraw his. The First Lord being away I had an interview by myself with the PM on the subject of his minute ordering trawlers to be given up. I was quite firm with him but persuasive & refused to give an undertaking other than that I would do my best to release 40 in May. As usual when one gets alongside him on a subject he knows little about I had my way. I was glad the First Lord was not there, he rather gets the PM's back up & he enjoys bullying him.' During our interview the PM mentioned that Himmler appeared to be trying to show that he wasn't so bad as painted & PM said if it would save further expenditure of life he would be prepared to spare even Himmler. I suggested there were plenty of islands he could be sent to.

Tues Apr 17

(COS) 'Discussed PM's minute on bringing Sweden into the war. I rather favour his ideas but we compromised on recommending that diplomatic approaches & staff conversations should start at once.' [Biro -e added to Lamb]

Wed Apr 18

11:00 meeting with the PM in Defence Map Room . . . The PM is wiring to the President pointing out that there are two zones the tactical zone & the zones agreed by the European Advisory Committee & that we should not evacuate the former until the control Committee is set up.

Fri Apr 20

The PM came back to us about the minute he wrote about Tedder's functioning as Deputy Supreme Commander in rather a childish minute. We had suggested he withdraw his minute but he refused so we also stuck to our guns.

Mon Apr 23

I am sure the PM is with me but the other two COS are against me. We decided to give Eisenhower what he thought ought to be the terms & leave it to him.

Tues Apr 24

Considered discussions on the President's reply to the PM on fixing of zones fixed by the leaders in the field while operations are in progress & only move into the zones as agreed by the EAC European Advisory Commissions when governments decide. But as usual he has mixed it up with something completely irrelevant, the feeding of the population of Germany, this due to his complete ignorance of what has gone on in the EAC. We sent him a minute & a draft reply to Truman. In the meantime quite a reasonable telegram on the subject of action to taken when the armies meet has been received from the Russians. Nothing of interest going on. The U boats are causing us some losses.

Wed Apr 25

To my surprise the PM took without comment our draft telegram for him to send to Truman for Stalin on the subject of zones.

. . . PM with approval of the Cabinet despatched a message deleted: 'letter' to Stalin giving him the information & informing him that the unchanged view of the British Govt was that the surrender must be to all three great powers.

Fri Apr 27

Final entry 'The end is near.

Sat Apr 28

Another example of the infuriating delays imposed by the PM insisting on having his hand in everything. The signal regarding the Borneo operation which the British COS do not favour hung up for 36 hours & so missed the combined COS meeting in Washington yesterday. No wonder the US Chiefs of Staff complain of delays in getting things through.

Sun Apr 29

Found in the paper the news of Mussolini's execution by the Italian patriot forces. A messy business only to be expected of the Italians.

Mon Apr:30

Cabinet at 18:00. PM very discursive on the foreign situation. He made a remark that though the powers were near the end of their tether as regards fighting they were ending the war in a friendly spirit. There was a tendency to quarrel. Quite true. The French are very difficult & the Russians very suspicious & so difficult.

Tues May 1

Death of Hitler announced. Doenitz announces himself as his successor.

Thurs May 3

Minute from the PM asking if we can get into Copenhagen. At least that's what I think he meant. I answered him explaining the situation as regards mines. Actually we gingered up C in C, H.F., to prepare a plan for passing the Skagerrak some time ago.

Fri May 4

Sent for by the PM with other COS at 19:30. He informed us that Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel had been to Montgomery's HQ & arranged the surrender of all the Northern armies -- Denmark, Frisian Islands, Heligoland, Holland by 08:00 GMT tomorrow. Great news.

Sat May 5

PM very busy on the telephone. He wanted to know the total U boats killed & the percentage by British & US.

. . . PM still very restless & trying to telephone.

[Obviously day entry written at different times because 'Damp gardening' is bracketed off so as to separate it from details about Burroughs' call from 'Frankfurt in Germany.']

Sun May 6

Planted stocks & worked in the garden. Weather changed & we had tea outside, Drove to town. No further news.

Mon May 7

(Re German surrender) 'Russians as usual trying to throw a spanner into the works by refusing to recognise the signature at Eisenhower's headquarters & wanting it done at Berlin & by Zhukov. Air of great excitement in the streets. Lunched with PM. He is in great form but much annoyed with Russia. He is waiting for a transatlantic call from the President & hoped to broadcast at 18:00. After which the Cabinet & Chiefs of Staff were to be received by the King & VE day would be declared. In the event the President must have refused as no broadcast was made.

. . . It is difficult to realise that it is all over at home. What a time it has been.

Tues May 8

A signal from Stalin to PM trying to put off any announcement of the German surrender until P.M. May 9th on the ++++ (PREMISE? PRETEXT? EXCUSE?) that there was still fighting going on, on the Russian front. This will be resisted.

. . . Board [of Admiralty] meeting at 12:00. Principal business was drinking Waterloo brandy of which the First Lord produced a bottle.

At 15:00 [displaced entry] went to the Admiralty quadrangle to listen to PM's broadcast which came through well. Then a short service. (Went to the palace) Some difficulty in getting there owing to the crowds round the palace. For the same reason the PM was very late. HM made a very good little speech thanking us all & the PM replied rather emotionally . . .

Then to the Ministry of Health where the PM, war cabinet, & ourselves appeared on the balconies. Such a crowd. Whitehall packed from the Admiralty to Parliament Square & the latter packed too. PM said a few words. Great enthusiasm.'

Sun May 13

'It is much harder to make peace than war. Cabinet meeting at 18:00. PM treated us to a long diatribe & we did not start business on the agenda till 19 40.' Entries for Wed 16 and Thurs 17 obviously written at the same time as the printed dates have been crossed out and the entry for Wednesday immediately following Tuesday

Mon May 21

'It seems certain we are to have a general election. The PM's letter to Attlee was rather in the nature of an ultimatum but one cannot approve of Attlee's reply referring to a Referendum as smacking of Fascist & Nazi procedure.'

Tues May 22

'Went & saw First Lord. He has much complaint over the behaviour of the PM in this General Election matter. He says Beaverbrook & Brendan Bracken have won & persuaded him to issue the ultimatum to the Labour Party. First Lord deplores the break up of the coalition in this unfriendly atmosphere.'

Wed May 23

'The PM, Foreign Office have not been [on the] consulted arrest of Dönitz government & the CCS have been supine. Government has broken up. The King has asked PM to form a new one.'

Fri May 25

'Very little going on. The political game has stopped all work.'

Sat May 26

'New cabinet announced. I see we are after all to have Brendan Bracken as First Lord. I hope only temporarily. I dislike him, he is Winston's creature & this is obviously Winston's way of trying to gain closer control of the Admiralty. . . . But I dislike all these politicians they certainly put their politics and political careers first.'

Mon May 28

Paget C in C Middle East still without instructions War Office & CIGS minutes on the subject lie unheeded in the PM's box while he electioneers.'

Sat June 2

'I doubt ? the meeting of the big three the date of which hovers between July 15th (cleared by Truman & agreed to by Stalin) and 10 days earlier cleared by the PM.'

Sun Jun 3

'The French are being silly & have ordered the Jeanne d'Arc cruiser to Beirut presumably with reinforcements.'

Mon Jun 4

'Have sent a signal to Commander in Chief Mediterranean suggesting that he occupies all the berths in Beirut harbour with British ships so that should the Jeanne d'Arc arrive she will be unable to berth.'

Tues Jun 5

'A message from the PM suggesting the interception of the Jeanne d'Arc at sea & saying that perhaps there would be less bloodshed this way. I doubt it. . . . Cabinet at 18:00. PM very unsound on the question of intercepting the Jeanne d'Arc. Suggesting that a ship should steam alongside her & tell her not to go to Beirut but was not to use force if she disobeyed. A fantastic idea. Great fight over the fleet train. . . . Finally PM decided that First Lord & Leathers under the arbitration of Anderson should fight it out.'

Thurs Jun 7

'Received copy of a telegram which passed between Truman & the PM on the subject of the French occupation of certain parts of North West Italy & their threat of resisting by force any attempt to set up Allied Military Command.'

Sun Jun 9

'Meeting of "big three" settled for Berlin July 15th. PM is insisting that we have our own enclave guarded by the British military & not be guests of the Russians.

Mon Jun 11

'My report of the Trenchant sinking a Japanese cruiser off Sumatra received with much pleasure by the War Cabinet & the PM instructed me to so inform the Trenchant. . . . PM at the Cabinet spoke for about an hour about the menace of the Russians. He is very gloomy about it.'

Tues Jun 12

(Mansion House) 'Lord Mayor made a good & witty speech followed by the PM fairly good. [This section has been marked in the margin with a green/red/green line] Ike told me that Brendan Bracken told him he was the finest American orator since William Jennings Bryan, the only difference being that Ike talked sense. . . . Went to the Annexe to dine with PM . . . A cheerful party but the PM rather gloomy about Russia. He has always wanted to use the Anglo American retirement to their own zones as a lever to extract similar treatment for us in Berlin & Vienna from the Russians. But the Americans will not go along with him. Their argument being that having entered into engagements about the zones they must keep to them & that that is a better way of dealing with the Russians. I am sure that they are not right.'

Wed Jun 13

'We heard the PM broadcasting about milk for babies -- it sounded a bit incongruous!! I have no doubt he had a strong whiskey & soda alongside him.'

Sun Jun 17

'The US Chiefs of Staff are willing to meet us in London before the 'big three' meeting in Berlin lest they be accused of ganging up with the British against the Russians. They say they don't think it is necessary for them to come with President Truman as the Berlin discussion will be solely political. I don't think they want to meet us!!.'

Mon Jun 18

'We are having another go at the US COS. It is essential that they should be here with Truman & the PM so that we can have their approval of our labours before Truman goes back to the States. Ismay said the PM was thinking of going to Biarritz for a holiday from 4th July to 14th July. He certainly needs one he looked very tired when Eisenhower was over here.'

Tues Jun 19

'COS at 10:30. PM has been firing off minutes most of them off the point. But one of them is to Field Marshal [sic] Wilson suggesting that the first meeting of the CCS should be in London after the Berlin meeting. It looks as though he expected the COS to come to Berlin & twiddle their thumbs. . . . In the afternoon arrived for comments of COS a draft telegram to Truman & Stalin suggesting a months postponement of the 'big three' meeting. Reasons given that the election was a very bitter contest & that the Labour party had refused a free hand to Attlee at the conference. Rather washing dirty linen in public.'

Wed Jun 20

Discussion on the PM's draft telegram which has not yet gone off. Perhaps he is thinking better of it.'

Thurs Jun 21

'PM has of course at short notice arranged the meeting on new construction for tomorrow Friday. I shall not be there.'

Mon Jun 25

[Marked green/red] 'Finally decided to have the meeting of the "big three" on 15th July at Berlin in a suburb called Babelsberg -- an apt name. The meetings with the US COS will take place there.'

Wed Jun 27

'Action on Prime Ministers minute about destruction of War Material for Saturday cabinet decided.'

Thurs Jun 28

'Finally decided that if PM concurred to make an offer on broad lines to the Americans.' in connection with the British army's contribution to the Japanese main operations.

Fri Jun 29

'Approved Planners minute for the PM dealing with the contribution to the Japanese was & also the change in command in S.W.P.A..'

Mon Jul 1

'The PM has put off the Staff meeting we were to have tonight till Wednesday at 22:00. I hope he will not have indulged too much to be sensible. This electioneering is the devil.'

Wed Jul 4

'The PM put on the staff meeting to 12:00 which effectively prevented Mona & I going to the American lunch. A good meeting with the PM who obviously was very tired after his electioneering. He was upset with Herbert Morrison who he said had broken his Privy Councillors oath. Actually Morrison has said in a speech something about the syren [sic] warning against V bombs which had been settled in the Cabinet. PM concluded his remarks by saying 'I'm going to the little bastard's constituency this afternoon I'll let him have it.' He agreed on the question of a land force taking part in the assault on Japanese main islands also the reorganisation of command in S.W.P.A. He finished with a lecture on constitutional procedure after the election.'

Fri Jul 6

(COS meeting) 'It was agreed that we start for TERMINAL e.g. [sic] meeting of the 'big three' at 10:30 Sunday 15th July. The President will arrive Antwerp at about 10:00 that day & the PM at Berlin in the afternoon.' .

Mon Jul 9

'Hollis threw a nasty spanner into the works by telling us that Halifax had sent a message to the PM saying Truman expected TERMINAL to last two to three weeks. I hope there is some mistake.'

Tues Jul 10

'Cabinet at 15:00. Foreign Secretary in the chair so business went quickly.'

Sun Jul 15

'Then drove to our villa. Fairly comfortable & the food situation good. Drink situation poor. We are apparently expected to do with one soda each per day.'

Mon Jul 16

'Leahy most insistent that the President would like to have a memorandum from the PM suggesting some reduction in the terms. . . . However, PM who is quite clever enough to see the pitfalls may decide it worth taking some of the approbation ?. If so I'm sure he is right. The Americans wanted to shift the responsibility for ending the war onto the British

Tues Jul 17

Sans souci -- [which is a palace in Potsdam.] 'An old German woman showed us round. A regular old royalist. The scorn in her voice was worth hearing when she was asked if the Nazi leaders came there. 'Hitler niemals!! Göring nur einmal .' . . . We went into the Reichstag & the Chancellery. We picked up what we hoped were bits of Hitler's marble topped desk & also grubbed about the rubbish on the floor in one room & collected iron crosses & other medals.'

Fri Jul 20

'Got the minutes of the Big Three plenary with my morning tea. PM in general was good about the German fleet but said it must be part of a general settlement. On the detail he was not quite so good. . . . We hope to have a plenary meeting with Prime Minister & President on Tuesday & get back to England on Wednesday. Whether we have to come back or not I cannot say.'

Sat Jul 21

'We embarked in half expressed as a fraction tracks at the saluting base & steamed round the troops following the PM . . . Monty & Alex alongside the PM took all the photography.'

Mon Jul 23

'The PM is certainly keeping his end up but Truman is holding back & not giving him much support. . . . Lunched with PM. He full of zeal to tackle the lend-lease problem but had not read the papers, and too inclined to get down to details. . . . PM said the US did not want the Russians to come in against Japan. PM now most optimistic & placing great faith in the new bomb [i.e. the atomic bomb]. He now thinks it a good thing that the Russians should know about and & may make them a little more humble. Attlee has written what appears to be a damned silly letter to the PM saying we ought not oppose a great country like Russia having bases anywhere she wants them. What an ass!! Attended a banquet at PM's house. Mostly a military affair. . . . Leahy got very bottled & [Admiral] King very mellow, fell on my neck & besought me to call him Ernie!! . . . RAF band played very nicely & made an interlude to the nonsense being talked. . . . Truman looked & talked like a successful small grocer. The PM was not at his best.'

Tues Jul 24

'had our plenary meeting with the President & PM and presented the joint final report. The only thing not agreed was the article on Basic undertakings. Much discussion in which the PM displayed his total ignorance of the subject.'

Thurs Jul 26

'PM rang me up at 09:30 & told me the President was going to fly to Plymouth embark there for USA. . . . Wished the PM luck. He seemed very optimistic. By noon it was clear there was a landslide victory towards the left & by evening the PM was out & had handed in his resignation. . . . It is not difficult now to see the reason[s] and they can be put under 4 headings [reason was in singular]

  1. The hardships the people have undergone have caused them to try someone else.
  2. The thought, not wholly without reason, that the PM was becoming a dictator.
  3. Dislike of PM's 'favourite sons.' Beaverbrook in particular, but Duncan Sandys, Randolph & others may be involved.
  4. The attempt of the Conservative party to cash in on Winston's reputation as a great war leader before it waned. Winston's farewell statement to the nation was to my mind very dignified.'

Fri Jul 27

'Busy speculating who would be the next First Lord. VCNS suggested Strabolgi I nearly fainted. . . . Went with the others and the secretariat to say goodbye to Winston. He was quite cheerful but rather emotional when the moment came to say good bye.'

Goes fishing in Scotland until August 8

[Friday August 3, 1945 was the first time there had not been an entry in the diary since its beginning in April 1944]

Thurs Aug 9

(COS Meeting) ' In the middle of it a charming letter from Winston offering me a barony as a recognition of the work of his friends the COS during the time he was PM. I fear it is just what I don't want. I have not the cash to sustain the dignity. CIGS feels the same but after consultation we decided we could not refuse when offered in such generous terms.'

Fri Aug 10

[Japanese wanting the Emperor to remain as sovereign ruler] 'How often do our rulers miss the salient point ?. When we were lunching with Winston at Potsdam he showed us the draft declaration & all the COS told him that something about the Emperor should be included. Now instead of having a formula of our own we have this Japanese formula which no one can really understand. . . . Well it looks like being all over for which we must be profoundly thankful. I have now my own position to consider. I do not wish to hang on here keeping other people back so as soon as the fleet gets a bit sorted out I will go. My relief requires thought.'

Mon Aug 18

'I fear the PM [Attlee] is aping Winston without the latter's great knowledge.'

Thurs Aug 23

'CIGS wishes to go at the end of the year though Winston has written to Attlee saying that Brooke will stay on quite against Brooke's will.'

Tues Sep 11

'Looked in a reception in Admiralty House . . . Mrs Bevan & a pretty daughter received. Fancy Ernie Bevan having a pretty daughter!! A dull party I left early.'

[Website note on the confusion here between names. John Bevan was head of Churchill's deception comittee; Ernest Bevin was corpulant Minister of Labor, and foreign secretary in Attlee's government;' Aneurin Bevan was the Welsh firebrand and Labour MP.]

Thurs Oct 25

'Winston rang me up in the morning about a ship taking him from Antwerp in November. I think he has a guilty conscience about the navy. Curiously he said that in his Alamein speech he had tried to hold the balance even between the services. This confirmed me in my opinion that he really did'nt [sic] know what he had said as according to press reports he never mentioned the air or the navy. Its wonderful how the Army wins the war by itself.'

Mon Oct 29

'(COS Meeting) Our first business was to consider a very mischievous question to be put in the house by Winston. He wishes to know the numbers of army and RAF personnel at home & in the various theatres of operations. Very awkward as at present there are 1,315,000 army in Great Britain & we cannot honestly say that there are conclusive reasons from a military point of view for withholding the figures. Of course Winston wishes to wreck the Bevin demobilisation scheme & discredit the Government.

Tues Oct:30 1945

Parliament passed a vote of thanks to the Services today. Churchill made a mild protest against the prominent leaders being given no grants & the matter dropped probably never to be heard of again. My preliminary examination of my finances after retirement make it very uncertain whether we shall be able to remain at the Palace House. Rather depressing but we should not have counted on getting anything.

Wed Oct 31

'Mona's birthday & I had nothing to give her as usual.'

Sunday Nov 25

'Left at 16:00 & drove to town to get on with the speech. Found darkness in the streets & no hot water in the flat. The Gas Light & Coke Co employees are on strike!!! I hope most of them have had to do without a hot Sunday dinner.'

Tues Nov 27

'. . . invitation to preside at the first dinner of the Navy Club on Feb 5th with Winston as the guest of honour. I have accepted perhaps foolishly.' [See Feb 5, shows that Brooke was in fact the guest.]

Sun Dec 9

'Kenneth & Heather Browne to tea. Cannot make up my mind whether I like him or not but he has a lot of his father in him. The girl is no beauty but may be quite nice.'

Tues Dec 11

'So I wrote off & accepted the Viscountcy. I don't want it. I am too poor for it to be of any use to me & I care not for these titles but I suppose for the good of the navy one must take it.'

Mon Dec 24

'Drove to Winchester to get a tin big enough to roast the turkey in!!.'

Wed Dec 26

[Request by Lady Keyes to have Roger buried in St Paul's leads to a memory flashback in the diary.] 'I also had some signals from Winston about Roger being in command of the expedition in the Med to take Pantelleria & turned this suggestion down.'

Friday Dec 28

'She Lady Keyes had evidently rung up the Dean of St Paul's & Winston Churchill. The latter rang me up & asked what was the situation. I told him & that James Somerville was going down to see Lady Keyes & that I was suggesting that the burial should be at sea in the Straits of Dover after the funeral service in Westminster Abbey. Winston thoroughly approved & sent a message to Lady Keyes by James S to say so.'

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