Lunching yesterday with C.[1], editor of France. . .  To my surprise he was in good spirits and had no grievances.  I would have expected a French refugee to be grumbling endlessly about the food, etc.  However, C. knows England well and has lived here before.

He says there is much more resistance both in occupied and unoccupied France than people here realise.  The press is playing it down, no doubt because of our continued relations with Vichy.  He says that at the time of the French collapse no European looked on it as conceivable that England would go on fighting, and generally speaking Americans did not either.  He is evidently somewhat of an Anglophile and considers the monarchy a great advantage to England.  According to him it has been a main factor in preventing the establishment of Fascism here.  He considers that the abdication of Edward VIII was brought about because of Mrs S.’s [2] known Fascist connections. . .  It is a fact that, on the whole, anti-Fascist opinion in England was pro-Edward, but C. is evidently repeating what was current on the continent.

C. was head of the press department during Laval’s government.  Laval said to him in 1935 that England was now “only an appearance” and Italy was a really strong country, so that France must break with England and go in with Italy.  On returning from signing the Franco-Russian pact he said that Stalin was the most powerful man in Europe.  On the whole Laval’s prophecies seem to have been falsified, clever though he is.

Completely conflicting accounts, from eye witnesses, about the damage to Coventry[3].  It seems impossible to learn the truth about the bombing at a distance.  When we have a quiet night here, I find that many people are faintly uneasy, because feeling certain that they are getting it badly in the industrial towns.  What every one feels at the back of his mind is that we are now hardened to it and the morale elsewhere is less reliable.



[1] Pierre Comert, French journalist and former diplomat, went to England after the fall of France.

[2] Mrs. Wallis Simpson, by this time married to the Duke of Windsor; see 654, n. 3.

[3] Coventry was attacked during the night of 14 November 1940.  The Daily Herald headlines for 16 November read ‘Midlands City Is Now Like A Bombarded French Town,’ ‘Coventry Homeless Slept by Roadside This Morning,’ ‘Not a Mortal Blow – Work will Restart.’  It reported that 500 planes were involved, that the Germans claimed 30,000 fire bombs fell in a dusk-to-dawn raid, and that the Ministry of Home Security said there were a thousand casualties (War Papers, 1989). 2194 Days of War states that 449 German planes carried out ‘carpet bombing’ of the centre of Coventry, destroying many historic buildings, including the fourteenth-century cathedral.  There were 550 dead and many more wounded; 21 factories were destroyed, but the city’s productive capacity was not seriously affected.  It concludes: ‘After this the Germans coin the word Coventrisieren meaning “annihilate, raze to the ground”’ (78-79).  Churchill gives a figure of 400 killed and many more seriously injured and adds, ‘The German radio proclaimed that our other cities would be similarly “Conventrated”’ (The Second World War, II, 332; U.S.: Their Finest Hour, 377).  See also Tom Harrisson, Living Through the Blitz (1976), especially chap. VI, ‘Coventration.’

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10 Responses to 28.11.40

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 28.11.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE -- Topsy.com

  2. Of course the bombing of Coventry was widely reported and is a significant incident in itself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Blitz

    In addition to the Coventry cathedral being destroyed, there were allegations that Churchill knew, through messages decoded by Enigma, that the bombing would occur, but allowed it to go ahead to preserve the secret of Enigma.

    I visited Coventry in 1976, 36 years after the attack, and you could still see the damage, and the visit to the Coventry cathedral, left in its wrecked state, was very moving indeed.

  3. Stephen says:

    JL3: does your wormhole reveal how the esteemed Air and Information Ministers would cope with Wikileaks?

  4. Stephen~~
    Spontaneously, I would say that, hypothetically for this comment, there are three avenues of speculation:
    Subjectively, they would cope with a firing squad.
    Objectively, they would cope with a firing squad.
    Realistically, they would cope with anything but either of the above.

    I was wondering what Eric Blair’s reaction would be; would he consider Julian Assange and the disgruntled Private to be heroic figures or demented psychopaths?

    Did you see this recent Evening Standard cartoon by David Low?
    Have you been talking with him about the “Blimps?”

  5. It’s wonderful how Aunty (the BBC on the above link) brushes away yet another of the dubious activities of the former monarch “known as David” as “a controversial meeting with Adolf Hitler”. Some would say that people have been shot for less.

  6. Barry Larking says:

    “People” have been shot for nothing. The mention (by the tireless JL3rd) of the U.S. diplomatic traffic by Wikileaks and endless speculation of Churchill’s “sacrifice of Coventry” are interesting examples of how ‘facts’ based upon speculation and conjecture can be distorted ad infinitum and how the release of information to anyone and everyone is no gaurantee in itself of understanding.

  7. ‘The press is playing it down’—not the Times, at least. They’ve had two or three articles in the last couple of months reporting that resistance in France is growing rapidly. I thought that was just spin, but C suggests that their reporting is accurate.

  8. Barry Larking says:

    No, it’s wishful thinking. France was a safe place to be a German soldier in the war until after D-Day. Many integrated well into French society and fully four fifths of denunciations of ‘resistance’ activity to the German and Vichy authorities came from French citizens. The Resistance was penetrated by double agents a fact which was known in London and exploited.

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