maandag 16 mei 2016

Harold Nicolson -- 17 mei 1940

Harold Nicolson (1886-1968) was een Britse schrijver, diplomaat en politicus. Dagboekfragmenten van hem zijn gepubliceerd in o.m. Diaries and letters 1930-1964.

May 15, 1940 The Dutch have capitulated and the Italians may be in by this evening. We have breakfast out of doors in brilliant sunshine with butterflies flitring in and out. I feel physically sick with anxiety. All through it the cuckoos cluck at us with their silly reiterant note. In other days this would have caused pleasure. Today it causes pain,

[H.N. was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information in Churchill's Government, with Duff Cooper as his Minister. After Dunkirk, he was made responsible for coordinating Government advice to the public in case of invasion, and in many other directions was very active.]

May 17, 1940 I fear that it looks as if the Germans have broken the French line at Mezières and Sedan. This is very serious. These surely are the saddest moments of my life and I do not know how I could cope with it all were it not for Vita's serene and loving sympathy. *While we are at breakfast the telephone rings. It is a message from Sibyl. She says "I hear Harold is in the Government." I have heard nothing and shall believe nothing until it is confirmed.* At 12..40 the telephone rings again and Mac [Miss Macmillan, the secretary] in an awed voice says, "The Prime Minister's Private Secretary." I lift the receiver and wait without hearing anything. Then after about two minutes silence a voice says, "Mr Nicolson ?" I say "Yes". "Hold on please, Mr Asquith here." I teil Asquith that I was on to Downing Street and that would he mind ringing off. So on I get again and this time I hear the Private Secretary who says, "Please hold on. The Prime Minister wishes to speak to you." Another long pause and then Winston's voice. "Harold! I think it would be very nice if you joined the Government and helped Duff [Cooper] at the Ministry of Information." "There is nothing I should like better." "Well fall in tomorrow. The list will be out tonight. That all right?" "Very much all right." "O.K." says Winston and rings off. Of course I am pleased and what makes it better is that the 1 p.m. news is not as bad as we feared.

[brief] May 19, 1940 Ministry of Information
 Our War Room is perfectly thrilling. It is kept going night and day, and there are maps with pins and different coloured bits of wool. The chiefs meet in conference twice a day at 10.30 and 5.30, and the Press Conference is at 12.30.1 have to attend all these, and in addi-tion I shall be given specific branches of work to take over. I have a nice sunny little room, and if bombing starts, I shall sleep here. They say the shelter under our tower is proof even against a direct hit.

 May 20, 1940. We discuss the problem of wireless while an attack is on. If we remain on the air we definitely assist enemy bombers, but they are frightened that if we go off the air, the Germans will use our wave-length to issue false messages which will much alarm the public. A clever impersonator might imitate Winston's voice sufflciently well and give instructions that all troops are to lay down their arms. Duff will take this problem up in the Cabinet.

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