22.8.42

D[avid] A[stor] very damping about the Dieppe raid, which he saw at more or less close quarters and which he says was an almost complete failure except for the very heavy destruction of German fighter planes, which was not part of the plan. He says that the affair was definitely misrepresented in the press [1] and is now being misrepresented in the reports to the P.M., and that the main facts were: – Something over 5000 men were engaged, of whom at least 2000 were killed or prisoners. It was not intended to stay longer on shore than was actually done (ie. till about 4pm), but the idea was to destroy all the defences of Dieppe, and the attempt to do this was an utter failure. In fact only comparatively trivial damage was done, a few batteries of guns knocked out etc., and only one of the three main parties really made its objective. The others did not get far and many were massacred on the beach by artillery fire. The defences were formidable and would have been difficult to deal with even if there had been artillery support, as the guns were sunk in the face of the cliffs or under enormous concrete coverings. More tank-landing craft were sunk then got ashore. About 20 or 30 tanks were landed but none got off again. The newspaper photos which showed tanks apparently being brought back to England were intentionally misleading. The general impression was that the Germans knew of the raid beforehand. [2] Almost as soon as it was begun they had a man broadcasting a spurious “eye-witness” account from somewhere further up the coast, and another man broadcasting false orders in English. On the other hand the Germans were evidently surprised by the strength of the air support. Whereas normally they have kept their fighters on the ground so as to conserve their strength, they sent them into the air as soon as they heard that tanks were landing, and lost a number of planes variously estimated, but considered by some RAF officers to be as high as 270. Owing to the British strength in the air the destroyers were able to lie outside Dieppe all day. One was sunk, by this was by a shore battery. When a request came to attack some objective on shore, the destroyers formed in line and raced inshore firing their guns while the fighter planes supported them overhead.

David Astor considers that this definitely proves that an invasion of Europe is impossible. [Of course we can’t feel sure that he hasn’t been planted to say this, considering who his parents are.] I can’t help feeling that to get ashore at all at such a strongly defended spot, without either bomber support, artillery support except for the guns of the destroyers (4.9 guns I suppose) or airborne troops, was a considerable achievement.

[1] The Dieppe raid proved, at last in the short term, a sad waste except in so far as it brought home to senior servicemen the lessons to be learned for future landings. More than 6,000 men, mainly Canadian, were involved and well over half were killed, wounded, or captured. Churchill states that of 5,000 Canadians, 18% were killed and nearly 2,000 were captured (The Second World War, IV, p. 459). All 27 tanks landed were almost immediately destroyed; the RAF lost 70 planes, and 34 ships were sunk. The Germans admitted losing 297 killed and 294 wounded or captured, and 48 planes. The newspapers claimed in headlines at the time ‘Big Hun Losses’ (Daily Mirror, 20 August 1942), but as The War Papers, 22 (1977) put it, ‘they might have added, “Even Bigger Allied Losses”.’ David Astor served in the Royal Marines, 1940-45, and was decorated with the Croix de Guerre.

[2] It was alleged that the Germans had cracked British codes and so had advance notice of the raid, but it seems that the first warning was given by German trawlers just as the Allied flotilla approached the coast. The failure of the raid was publicly put down to ‘careless talk’ or even to an advertisement for soap flakes which showed a woman pruning a tree dressed in what was headlined as ‘BEACH COAT from DIEPPE.’ A newspaper cutting of this advertisement, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, 15.8.42, was annotated by Orwell, ‘advert, popularly believed to have given the Germans advance warning of the Dieppe raid.’ (the cutting is in Box 39 of Orwell’s pamphlet collection in the British Library.) the film Next of Kin (1942), made to drive home the lesson that careless talk could endanger such enterprises, began its life as a shorter services training film. Churchill maintains, ‘Our postwar examination of their records shows that the Germans did not receive, through leakages of information, any special warning of our attention to attack’ (The Second World War, IV, p. 458).  

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19.8.42

Big Commando raid on Dieppe today. Raid was still continuing this evening. Just conceivably the first step in an invasion, or a try-out for the first step, though I don’t think so. The warning that was broadcast to the French people that this was only a raid and they were not to join in would in that case be a bluff.

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18.8.42

From George Kopp’s [1] last letter from Marseilles (after some rigmarole about the engineering work he has been doing): “…I am about to start production on an industrial scale. But I am not at all certain that I shall actually do so, because I have definite contracts with my firm, which has, I am afraid, developed lately connections which reduce considerably its independence and it is possible that another firm would eventually profit by my work, which I should hate since I have no arrangements at all with the latter and will not, for the time being, be prepared to sign any. If I am compelled to stop, I really don’t know what I am going to do; I wish some of my very dear friends to whom I have written repeatedly would not be as slow and as passive as they seem to be. If no prospects open in this field, I contemplate to make use of another process of mine, related to bridge-building [, which, you may remember, I have put into successful operation at San Mateo before the war.”]

Translated: “I am afraid France is going into full alliance with Germany. If the Second Front is not opened soon I shall do my best to escape to England”.

[1] Georges Kopp (1902-51), presented himself in many fictional forms but there is no doubt that he was Orwell’s commandant in Spain, a brave man who worked for the French secret service and then MI5. One remarkable irony was that one of those involved in recruiting him foe MI5 was the traitor, Anthony Blunt (1907-83). Orwell and he were friends and , despite Orwell’s perspicacity in seeing through those such as Peter Smollett, he went along with Kopp’s stories of himself. Bert Govaerts of Antwerp  has uncovered a great deal of Kopp’s life and fictions: see The Lost Orwell, pp. 83-91. 

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14.8.42

Horrabin was broadcasting today, and as always we introduced him as the man who drew maps for Well’s Outline of History and Nehru’s Glimpses of World History. [1] This had been extensively trailed and advertised beforehand, Horrabin’s connection with Nehru being naturally a draw for India. Today the reference to Nehru was cut out from the announcement – N. Being in prison and therefore having become bad.

[1] Properly, Glimpses of World History: Being Further Letters to His Daughter, written in Prison, and containing a Rambling Account of History for Young People (Allahabad, 1934); revised edition printed, with fifty maps by J. F. Horrabin in 1939 by Lindsay Drummond. According to Inez Holden, in a private communication, Orwell thought of asking Drummond to publish his and her war diaries. 

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12.8.42

Appalling policy handout this morning about affairs in India. The riots are of no significance – situation is well in hand – after all the number of deaths is not large etc., etc. As to the participation of students in the riots, this is explained along “boys will be boys” lines. “We all know that students everywhere are only too glad to join in any kind of rag”, etc., . Almost everyone utterly disgusted. Some of the Indians when they hear this kind of stuff turn quite pale, a strange sight.

Most of the press taking a tough line, the Rothermere press disgustingly so. If these repressive measures in India are seemingly successful for the time being, the effects in this country will be very bad. All seems set for a big come-back of the reactionaries, and it almost begins to appear as though leaving Russia in the lurch were part of the manoeuvre. [This afternoon shown in strict confidence by David Owen Amery’s statement [on] postwar policy towards Burma, based on Dorman-Smith’s [1] report. It envisages a return to “direct rule” for a period of 5-7 years, Burma’s reconstruction to be financed by Britain and the big British firms to be re-established on much the same terms as before. Please God no documents of this kind gets into enemy hands. I did however get from Owen and from the confidential document one useful piece of information – that, so far as it is known, the scorched earth policy was really carried out with extreme thoroughness.]

[1] Sir Reginald Hugh Dorman-Smith (1899-1977) was Governor of Burma in 1941 and during the British withdrawal in 1942. 

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10.8.42

Nehru, Gandhi, Azad [1] and many others in jail. Rioting over most of India, a number of deaths, countless arrests. Ghastly speech by Amery, [2] speaking of Nehru and Co. as “wicked men”, “saboteurs” etc. This of course broadcast on the Empire service and rebroadcast by AIR. [3] The best joke of all was that the Germans did their best to jam it, unfortunately without success.

Terrible feeling of depression among the Indians and everyone sympathetic to India. [Even Bokhari, a Moslem League [4] man, almost in tears and talking about resigning from the BBC.] It is strange, but quite truly the way the British Government is now behaving upsets me more than a military defeat.

[1] Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), Indian Nationalist Moslem leader, was spokesman for the Indian National Congress in the 1945 independence negotiations. His India Wins Freedom was published in 1959.

[2] Leo Amery, Conservative M.P., was Secretary of State for India, 1940-45; see Events, 2.7.39, n. 5.

[3] All-India Radio.

[4] The Moslem League was founded as a religious organisation to protect the interests of Moslems in British India. It supported the Indian National Congress until 1935, when Hindu interests dominated the Congress Party and the League was developed into a political organisation. It was led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah and demanded the partition of India. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the League secured control of its first Constituent Assembly. 

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9.8.42

Fired the Sten gun for the first time today. No kick, no vibration, very little noise, and reasonable accuracy. Out of about 2500 rounds fired, 2 stoppages, in each case due to a dud cartridge – treatment, simply to work the bolt by hand.

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