6.5.42

People do not seem pleased about Madagascar [1] as they did about Syria, [2] perhaps not grasping equally well its strategical significance, but more, I think, for want of a suitable propaganda buildup beforehand. [In the case of Syria the obviousness of the danger, the continual stories about German infiltration, and the long uncertainty as to whether the Government would act, gave people the impression that it was public opinion which had forced the decision. For all I know it may ever have done so, to some extent. No similar preparation in this case.] As soon as it became clear that Singapore was in danger I pointed out that we might have to seize Madagascar and had better begin the buildup in our Indian newsletters. I was somewhat choked off even then, and some weeks back a directive came, I suppose from the Foreign Office, that Madagascar was not to be mentioned. Reason given (after the British troops had landed) “So as not to give the show away”. Result, the seizure of Madagascar can be represented all over Asia as a piece of imperialist grabbing.

Saw two women driving in an old-fashioned governess cart today. A week or two back saw two men in a carriage and pair, and one of the men actually wearing a grey bowler hat.

[Much speculation as to the authorship of articles in the Tribune, violently attacking Churchill and signed “Thomas Rainsborough”. [3] Considered by some to be Frank Owen, [4] which I do not believe.]

[1] Allied forces landed at Diego-Suarez, Madagascar, on 5 May and by September had taken over the island, strategically important in the light of naval losses in the Indian Ocean. It had supported the Vichy government under Pétain.

[2] It was rumoured that the Germans would move east from Crete in June 1941. Allied forces therefore invaded Syria, wresting it from Vichy French troops.

[3] the original Thomas Rainsborough, or Rainborow, was a republican who fought for the Commonwealth in the Civil War. He commanded the warship Swallow in 1643 and two years later a regiment in the New Model Army. In 1646 he became an M.P. and led republicans in Parliament but was eventually reconciled with Cromwell. He was fatally wounded in battle in 1648. The name was adopted in Tribune to exemplify extreme radical, Leveller-type views. The pseudonym was being used by Frank Owen.  

[4] Frank Owen (1905-1979; OBE, military), journalist, author, and broadcaster, was a Liberal M.P., 1929-31; edited the Daily Express, 1931-37 and the Evening Standard, 1938-41 (both right-wing Beaverbrook newspapers). With Michael Foot (acting editor, Evening Standard, 1942; later, Deputy Leader and Leader of the labour Party, 1976-83) and Peter Howard, he wrote Guilty Men (Gollancz 1940), under the pseudonym Cato, which attacked Chamberlain, Halifax, and other Conservative leaders for appeasing Hitler. In Beaverbrook: A Study in Power and Frustration (1956), Tom Driberg writes of Owen, ‘who had lately been called up but was writing in Tribune, under the pseudonym Thomas Rainsborough, articles severely critical of Churchill and his war strategy’ (p. 287). He served in the Royal Armoured Corps and South East Asia Command, 1942-46, and was promoted from trooper to lieutenant colonel by Lord Louis Mountbatten with instructions to produce a daily paper for the command from 1943 despite the strenuous opposition of Sir James Grigg. He reprinted in SEAC seven of the occasional pieces Orwell wrote for the Evening Standard, 1945-46. He edited the Daily Mail, 1947-50, and wrote, among other books, The Three Dictators (1940) and The Fall of Singapore (1960). 

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4 Responses to 6.5.42

  1. I haven’t seen the original ms, but I suspect that this:

    > For all I know it may ever have done so, to some extent.

    Should read as follows: “For all I know it may even have done so, to some extent.” (ie., ‘even’ in place of ‘ever’).

  2. Ben Klaasen says:

    Stephen, the language has changed in seventy years. Orwell’s use of ‘ever’ here means ‘always’: “…it may always have done so”. This meaning makes sense in the context.

  3. I get your point, but ‘always’ doesn’t make sense in the context of a singular event, such as ‘had forced the decision.’ Still, the ms should decide.

  4. It was ever thus.

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