A Diary with Letters, 1931-1950

A Diary with Letters, 1931-1950

A Diary with Letters, 1931-1950

A Diary with Letters, 1931-1950

Excerpt

When Sir Maurice Powicke learned that I was to join the War Cabinet Secretariat on its formation in December 1916, and we met shortly afterwards at All Souls, he urged me to help the historians of the future by keeping a diary. I would, he stressed, have exceptional opportunities of watching at close quarters great persons taking counsel together, great policies in the making, and I would be able to observe the little things which are always mixed with the great.

Later, I found another justification for keeping a record. I was sometimes involved in confidential exchanges with opposed parties during labour and other disputes, or in secret conversations with Ministers. I then felt the need of written proof that I had faithfully interpreted the instructions of my principals. Yet I wrote furtively until I learnt, as I soon did, that my immediate Chief, Maurice (later Lord) Hankey, kept a diary in a stoutly bound locked book, the first I had ever seen. He could do no wrong.

It was at the mid-point of the First World War when I was given Professor Powicke's timely advice, and I regret now that I followed it so intermittently and imperfectly. My diary has many blanks and much that it contains is unimportant. No day was in fact blank and empty of all significance, but there were many days when the chronicler was blind or deaf or indolent or fatigued; nothing was put down and, so far as I am concerned, all that happened, or nearly all, when not recorded, was soon forgotten.

My first year, 1917, was one of tremendous happenings: bread-cards in England, the Russian Revolution, Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare, the entry of the United States into the war, the battles of Passchendaele and Caporetto. Going in and out of the Cabinet Room almost daily during the war I grew accustomed to the great men--statesmen, Field- Marshals, Admirals--almost familiar with them, and it was less . . .

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