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How the Nazis split Britain The diaries of two bisexual politicians reveal much about upper-class sympathies

Never the twain: Chamberlain and Hitler. Credit: ullstein bild via Getty Images

Never the twain: Chamberlain and Hitler. Credit: ullstein bild via Getty Images


April 30, 2021   6 mins

On 8 May 1945 – Victory in Europe Day – Harold Nicolson went to a party. Nicolson was a very famous man, one of the first BBC radio personalities, a successful author, an MP and, briefly, a junior minister.

Writing in his diary that night, he asked: “Why did I go to that party?…  I went and I loathed it
 There
 were gathered the Nurembergers and the Munichois celebrating our victory over their friend Herr von Ribbentrop. I left early and in haste, leaving my coat behind me.”

The party had been given by a Conservative MP, Henry “Chips” Channon, who was born in Chicago in 1897 and became ostentatiously and snobbishly more British than the British. Channon, along with many others at the party, had been enthusiastically pro-Nazi and anti-Churchill until deep into 1939 — hence Nicolson’s description of the “Nurembergers” and the “Munichois”.

The VE Day party is interesting for more than its startling hypocrisy. It is one of scores of occasions in which Channon and Nicolson – two of the three great British diarists of the 20th century — wander into one another’s pages.

For many years, I’ve been a great admirer and frequent re-reader of the diaries that Nicolson kept from 1930 to 1962. A writer, broadcaster, diplomat, politician, gardener and closet homosexual, he is, in my opinion, one of the greatest diarists of any century. Henry Channon’s diaries were first published in heavily expurgated form in 1967, and a first volume of the more complete diaries (covering 1918-1938) was published last month, brilliantly and painstakingly edited by Simon Heffer.

The enlarged Channon diaries have rightly attracted a great deal of attention. They do not have the breadth, wit or literary quality of the Nicolson diaries but they are more detailed and more frank, and maybe more honest, about the opinions and sexual escapades of some of the leading figures in British politics and high society in the years between the world wars. And reading the two diaries side by side is illuminating.

The two men were important, secondary figures in the opposing political tribes, the appeasers and anti-appeasers,  in the pivotal years from 1935 to 1939. They represented not just ephemeral political viewpoints but opposing philosophies of Britishness which survive, in somewhat different form, to this day.

Both Nicolson and Channon married wealthy, aristocratic women. Both were bisexual and had frequent homosexual affairs while other men, less powerful and less protected, were prosecuted for gross indecency.

They knew each other well, although not as lovers. Both were elected to parliament in 1935 — Channon as a Conservative, Nicolson as a follower of Ramsay McDonald’s National Labour, which supported the Tory-led government.

Nicolson’s diaries introduce you to an extraordinary cast of 1930s and 40s characters, from Winston Churchill to Charlie Chaplin, James Joyce to Virginia Woolf, Charles Lindbergh and Charles de Gaulle. Channon’s are acute, sometimes funny and startlingly frank but frequently tedious, snobbish and self-regarding. You meet Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, before she married the future King George VI. You meet the future Duke and Duchess of Windsor. You meet the leading politicians of the 1930s and hordes of uninteresting aristocrats and junior royals.

The early part of the Channon diaries read like an interminable Daily Mail gossip column, with a new name dropped every sentence and a price-tag for everything. The later part — when Channon becomes a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Foreign Office — give a compelling, and pro-Nazi, insider’s view of one of the most controversial periods in British politics, leading to the Munich crisis of 1938.

As political thinkers, there is no comparison between the two men. Nicolson (although close to Sir Oswald Mosley before he became a full-on fascist) understood clearly what was happening in Berlin and wrote and spoke and conspired against it. Channon’s diaries, in contrast, leave him very much marooned on the wrong side of history. Adolf Hitler, he writes in September 1938, is “always right, the greatest diplomat of modern times”. Winston Churchill, he writes in May that year, is a “fat, brilliant, unbalanced, illogical, porcine orator
 All his life he has preached against (the Germans) and thus done much to poison our relations with Germany.”

The extent of Nazi fellow-travelling among a part of the British upper and governing classes in the 1930s has been well-documented but is seldom mentioned these days. A new biography of the novelist Barbara Pym reveals that she — the archetype of a certain kind of British decency and good sense — was also an enthusiast for the Nazis and had an affair with an SS officer.

The excuse usually given — and a reasonable one up to a point — is that we have the leisure of reading history from back to front. We know how the story ended. For many upper-class Britons in the 1930s, the Soviet Union appeared a greater threat than the Nazis, who might be a bulwark against Communism and its threatened destruction of wealth and tradition.

But Channon goes even further, praising the “virile” ideology of Mussolini, Franco and Hitler compared to a “tired” and “declining” Britain. “Germany and Italy are seething with vigour and life,” he writes: “Democracy is absurd.”

On 20 September 1936, Channon and Harold Nicolson were at the same house — or more strictly “castle” — party at Schloss St Martin in Austria. Their respective diary entries for that day are telling.

Channon and his wife Honor Guinness, daughter of the Guinness family grand patriarch, Lord Iveagh, had been to the Olympic Games in Berlin. They had been invited as personal guests of Joachim von Ribbentrop, former champagne salesman and Hitler’s ambassador in Britain from 1936 to 1938, and later the German foreign minister.

Nicolson wrote in his diary that night: “The Channons have fallen under the champagne-like influence of Ribbentrop
 They think
 that we should let gallant little Germany glut her fill of the reds in the East and keep decadent France quiet while she does so.”

“I say that this may be expedient but it is wrong
 We stand for tolerance, truth, liberty and good humour… [The Nazis] stand for violence, oppression, untruthfulness and bitterness.”

Channon’s diary entry that day is both generous and patronising. “Harold Nicolson arrived, dear sentimental, hard-working, gentle Harold, who is always a victim of his loyalties. He refused to go through Germany because of Nazi rule
 I am worn out with Nazi discussions.”

While in London, Von Ribbentrop (and through him Adolf Hitler) was originally courted by a wide section of British high society and the Conservative Party. But he made himself a laughing stock with a series of gaffes, including giving the Hitler salute to King George VI, earning the nickname “brickendrop”.

Channon was among the few who defended him to the end (while also mocking him). He describes Von Ribbentrop’s eighteen months in London as a “missed opportunity” for an Anglo-German alliance (implicitly against France). In 1946, Joachim Von Ribbentrop was convicted of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials, and became the first Nazi leader to be hanged.

In the period from 1936 to the Munich crisis in 1938, Nicolson was a frequent parliamentary speaker and a member of a group of dissident, strongly anti-Nazi MPs surrounding Anthony Eden. Meanwhile Channon became parliamentary private secretary to the junior foreign office minister Rab Butler (a keen appeaser).

The two diarists evidently fell out. Channon says of Nicolson in March 1938 that he is “a bit mad, but all old women have a change of life.” He uses the word “wet” or “wets” or “moist” to describe Nicolson and all supposedly pro-government MP’s who were anti-Hitler.

The situation deteriorated and on 28 September a war over Czechoslovakia appeared imminent. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (“the greatest ever Englishman” to Channon; a man with “no conception of world politics” to Nicolson) addressed the House of Commons. In mid-speech, however, a message arrived from Hitler inviting Chamberlain to further peace talks in Munich. Tory MPs stood on their seats and waved their order papers.

Both men recorded the event in their diaries. Channon wrote: “There was born in many, in me at least, a gratitude, an admiration, for the PM, which will be eternal. I felt sick with enthusiasm, longed to clutch him.”

“I remained seated,” Nicolson recorded: “Liddall (the Conservative Member for Lincoln) behind me, hisses out: ‘Stand up. You brute.’”

Of the “peace for our time” surrender to Nazi demands two days later, Channon wrote: “The whole world rejoices while a few malcontents jeer
 Chamberlain gave in on a few minor points but he saved the world which does not want to go to war over a timetable.”

In his diary, Nicolson described the Chamberlain government’s position: “This is the greatest diplomatic achievement in our history: therefore we must redouble our armaments in order never again to be exposed to such a humiliation.”

Two further volumes of Channon’s diaries are to be published. He appears seldom in the two later volumes of the Nicolson diaries but the two men seemed to have become friends again — of a kind — hence the brief visit to the VE Day party. But Nicolson does mock the grandiosity of Channon’s post-war lifestyle. When he receives pocket handkerchiefs for his birthday one year he writes: “(They) will be preserved for those occasions when I dine with Emperors and Princes or Queen Mothers or Mr Henry Channon.”

For all his political views, Channon comes across as a self-absorbed, shallow but in many ways likeable man. He was a contradictory figure, American-born but detesting the United States (while living partly off American money). Living in an aristocratic world which no longer exists, he thought the rise of American power was a threat to the royalist-aristocratic-high Christian-traditional values that he professed to cherish (while living a somewhat untraditional private life of brothels and bisexual affairs).

All the same, his voice is recognisable 80 years on. He represents a kind of inward-looking glorification of Britishness which can still be heard today. Paradoxically his successors often dwell simplistically on Britain’s part in the defeat of the Nazis whom Channon so admired.

Nicolson – the idealistic “wet” — had simplifications and contradictions of his own. He was a devotee of the League of Nations and international cooperation; he believed in Britain’s vocation as a model for decency, law, freedom and truth-telling. And yet, by contemporary terms, he is certainly racist and at least mildly anti-Semitic.

Eight decades on, the two have almost switched positions in popular memory. To be anti-Hitler is to be “wet” no longer. Nicolson, the “sentimental old woman”, represents with Churchill and Eden the far-sighted defence of Britain’s freedom and values against violent, bullying dictators. Channon, in contrast, the supposed champion of “virility”, now embodies a failed policy of short-sighted vacillation and appeasement.


John Lichfield was Paris correspondent of The Independent for 20 years. Half-English and half-Belgian, he was born in Stoke-on-Trent and lives in Normandy.

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

The understatement of Communist crime – “destruction of wealth and tradition” – is an appalling instance of sly, fellow-traveller’s mendacity. They destroyed people – millions of people – in circumstances every bit as brutal and barbaric as anything inflicted by their opposite numbers in Berlin. They also invaded and subjugated seven small countries – just like their German counterparts. And no, this was not “defensive”, for it involved sadistic sovietisation – which meant deportation in cattle trucks among other unspeakable things. Until and unless the established commentariat has the guts to face up to the blood-soaked history of left wing violence, I don’t see why any of the rest of us should give them the time of day.

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

He used that phrase to describe how the Soviet Union appeared to many upper-class Britons in the 1930s. So most of the stuff you refer to either hadn’t happened yet or was not yet known to the outside world.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

Bilge. It had happened since the Bolsheviks seized power – War Communism, so-called, was a dry run for full Stalinism; not to mention the forced reunification of the Tsarist empire under red colours. Do you really imagine that ignorant apologetic dodges such as yours cut any ice on a site such as this?

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I am no apologist for the Soviet regime. In any case there is no need to be uncivil. The author was making a narrow point about what was widely known in the 30s, and you objected by pointing out a bunch of stuff that happened in the 40s.

Last edited 3 years ago by M Spahn
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

In the first place, “War communism” was implemented under Lenin. Sheer economic hardship forced him to back track with the “New Economic Policy”. Stalin’s renewed drive towards full communism began from 1928, bringing immediate hardship and horror in its wake. In the second place, the author’s point was couched in apologetic euphemism. And in the third, the horrors of Bolshevism were widely known to the public from the start – hence the effect of the Zinoviev letter, spurious though it was. And finally, it is the author’s “narrowness” in the way he makes his point which is part of the problem. Post scriptum: the invasions of Poland and the Baltic states took place in the fall of 39, not the 40s as you seem to imagine. You may not intend to apologise for the Soviet regime – good – but your inaccuracies do the job for you.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon Denis
M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

There was nothing inaccurate in my post. The fact that one of the few things you refer to took place at the very end of the 30s and not 40s is a ridiculous nitpick and has no bearing whatsoever on my point about what was known in the 30s. NO ONE is trying to excuse the Soviet Communists’ many attrocities.
In fact, the whole point of the paragraph that you ripped that phrase from is that to many upper class Britons in the 30s the Soviet Union looked SO BAD that they preferred Germany. He was talking about what worried THEM about the Soviet Union, not what was objectively worst about it. The exact opposite of minimizing their crimes. The fact that you took it as such is a remarkable instance of reading miscomprehension.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

You dodge the point about Lenin; about war communism; about the start of the collectivisation in 28 and the public knowledge of Bolshevik horror evident from reaction to the Zinoviev letter, long before the forties, not to mention public awareness – especially in upper class circles – of Ukrainian famines. The word “inaccurate” applied to your post was far too polite.

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

You obviously did not comprehend anything I just wrote.

Sam McLean
Sam McLean
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Simon but you have completely overreacted to the author’s perception of how he believes a certain section of British people viewed the Soviets, as M has politely pointed out. To call it “sly, fellow-traveller’s mendacity” is a massive leap and frankly insulting to the author. You appear to have read the article with prejudice and thought that was the evidence you were looking for. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, eh?
“Do you really imagine that ignorant apologetic dodges such as yours cut any ice on a site such as this?” It was nothing of the sort, and who the hell do you think you are?
Have a word with yourself, man.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam McLean

Not so. Nor has he been any more polite or impolite than me. To characterise vigorous rejection as a social faux pas is nothing but another debating dodge. A fairly slimy one, too. Who am I? Who are you to offer odious, Mr Slope-like preaching in place of facts and figures? Or to offer support to an obviously disingenuous attempt to minimise the crimes of a poisonous, communist regime? I repeat – since it appears necessary – to call Soviet brutality the mere “destruction of wealth and tradition” is a euphemism; it cannot be excused and to do so must and shall be condemned in the strongest possible terms. One should take exactly the same attitude to suggesting that German policy in these years amounted to no more than “harassment” and “discrimination”, which is an exact parallel to the author’s language with regard to Russian atrocity. PS, since you’re so keen on manners, how dare you use my first name? It’s Mr Denis to you. Assuming rights of intimacy is a well known form of bullying.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon Denis
David Parsons
David Parsons
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam McLean

Well said, hibbysam74.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Parsons
Richard Powell
Richard Powell
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Actually the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States took place in June 1940.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

It WAS… but ignored see ”Mr Jones” 2020 film starring James,Norton,Ken Cranham….1934..Famine in Ukraine 10 million dead ignored by Large Parts of British Press, and” Left” intellectuals like Malcolm Muggeridge, sidney &beatrice webb ,George Orwell(Until his BBC experiences in 1945) Victor Gollancz Publisher

Last edited 3 years ago by Robin Lambert
mwebb851
mwebb851
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Lest we forget. Is why.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago

A while ago I read Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson, which seemed to me to be a thorough treatment of the pre-war appeasement period. Images of Pythons’ Upper Class Twit of the Year are intermingled with wise and carefully considered premonitions of doom.
Mr. Lichfield acknowledges the toffs’ admiration for AH and their belief the Soviets were the bigger threat but then moves on just a bit too quickly. They clearly envied the power of the new Germany even if the leader was someone they would never allow ‘upstairs’ unless he was carrying a tray.
In 2018, our PM and former drama teacher Justin Trudeau, carried on a family tradition of admiration for communist dictators (his father and former PM Pierre was openly friendly with Castro) when he opined ‘There is a level of admiration I actually have for China, Ahh, because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime’ Translation: Think of all the great progressive work we could do unencumbered by the democratic process.
Another point that doesn’t, in my view at least, get much attention is how much the pre-war attitudes of Britain’s politicians and aristos were influenced by the slaughter of the Great War less than a generation past. Chamberlain is often portrayed as a spineless dullard, easily outwitted by the crafty Adolf, but Olson’s book left me with the impression of a man haunted by the ghosts of the Glorious Dead to the point of being resolute and steadfast that Britain would never do Great War v2.0 under any circumstances. Understandable but regrettable since Adolf knew that as well and was able to pick up half of Europe free of charge. It’s easy to take liberties with an armed opponent that you know will never use his weapon anyway.
‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’ was a widely held view that was very instrumental in keeping the Americans out of the war until ’41.
Channon and the rest of the Great and the Good must also have been aware that after the Armistice party was over in 1918 and the Germans relegated in 1919 there was strong public opinion and even an expectation that Downton Abbey should and would also be cancelled. Had there been such a class re-set in the post-war years it’s likely there wouldn’t have been an Adolf Admiration Society around in the ’30s.
Then again, what would the world map look like now if 1930’s world events were shaped by Socialist Britain and Bolshevik Russia? Would there ever have been an Adolf? Would the entire catastrophe have been averted entirely or even worse than it was?
A bit of a ramble I admit but the more I read of 20th century history the more difficult I find it to separate the participants into two neat piles of Saints and Sinners. Apart from the obvious ones of course there are so many that are neither.

Last edited 3 years ago by Walter Lantz
David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

A wish to avoid a renewal of the Great War is an important point. Another is the economic situation of the 1930s and a surpicion that muddling on in the way of the past would not be sufficient. Hitler could have seemed then to have given Germany a New Deal and the full extent of his anti-Jewishness was not apparent even though the Kristallnacht gave a chilling preview of what was to come. Sir Oswald Mosley who had been in touch with Roosevelt in the ’20s and had produced his own programme for combatting unemployment before he went Fascist, was propelled by both elements since he had fought in the War and was convinced that must never be another one.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Platzer
Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Because, as Lichfield says, we have the luxury of reading history back to front we know that Hitler’s pre-war political position was by no means secure and that the German attack dog was mostly all bark and no bite. Hitler’s own generals have been clear that a modest but spirited effort by Britain and France in 1938 would have quickly blown away the pile of straw that was the foundation of the Thousand Year Reich.
Churchill, Nicolson and friends seem to have figured it out so does that make them smarter than Chamberlain and Channon or perhaps the latter were more realistic? Certainly selling a pre-emptive strike would have been politically difficult. “Just a quick in and out to give Adolph a quick thrashing and then home for tea and medals? Oh I see – just like ‘it’ll be over by Christmas’?”
I’m no economist but it seems to be an accepted and documented observation that the end of WW2 marked the point when a bankrupt Britain stepped aside in favour of the new star America, but I wonder if the end of WW1 wasn’t really when Britannia’s star began to fade (actual historians may have already addressed that) and perhaps the appeasers weren’t motivated so much by delusional admiration of Hitler’s inspiring vitality as they were by a quiet acceptance that Britain was, as Channon writes, “tired and declining” and probably not up to pulling off a big performance. Maybe better to admit your past it, be happy with smaller roles rather than insist on playing the diva and risk getting laughed off the stage.
So at that time were the appeasers self-serving fools or realists? Were the anti-appeasers astute observers or high-stakes gamblers?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Most of the ”Young Left” were in Peace pledge Union Until 1940,Some 2.4Million,So as AJP Taylor noted,Chamberlain Can’t be blamed Alone for Appeasement most of the Country didn’t support Czechoslovakia,..Famous daily Express headline in 1939? ”No War this Year” used in 1942 Film ”In Which we serve”.. Lord Londonderry Wanted a peace pact with hitler, disguised as Lord Darlington in 1993 film, ”The Remains of the day”.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

I got a similar impression from Tim Bouverie’s “Appeasing Hitler”. Appeasement was a defensible policy at first – it was just persisted in too long!

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

Neville Chamberlain was a peacenik.

Mistakenly, yes – but in view of the carnage of the world war that he remembered and of the world war during which he died, he deserves a far better press than the one he has had.

Is “Peace in Our Time” such an unworthy slogan ?

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

It’s worth remembering also that at this point Hitler was one of many nasty militaristic and dictatorial thugs, and of course Britain had had to work with many over the years – and indeed Stalin himself fitted this mould. None posed the strategic threat Hitler did, of course, but still on a moral level it wasn’t so clear at this point… remember the great turning points of kristallnacht and the annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia took place in the future, this was before Munich.
In a church in the village I grew up in there was a plaque. People had paid to celebrate the announcement of peace and the profound relief they had in that by contributing to the electrification of the church.
A historian needs to be able to see through the eyes of the era in which events took place and the dreadful moral complexity that all of us, then and now, have to face in our decisions.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

He was also a pragmatist who didn’t enter Parliament until he was 50!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

Who financed Adolph, who purchased those Bonds that allowed him to get the 6 million back to work building Autobahns etc?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

JP Morgan ,Martin secker &Warburg, Rothschilds &Similar banks through Switzerland?..

Friedrich Tellberg
Friedrich Tellberg
3 years ago

Interesting contrasting figures and eye-witnesses. They show how hard it is to see history when you are in it. Balances shift as events proceed. Thank you.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago

Or indeed, after it. Human history is a maddenly complicated affair.

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
3 years ago

Couldn’t agree more, I am reading “The men who lost America” by Andrew Jackson and it’s all too easy to judge with hindsight, but if we were in those times, would we be any different, who knows

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago

Dishonest dig, too, at the upper class and upper middle class for not being prosecuted for homosexual practices when it is known they were if they were caught.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago

I have always admired Harold Nicolson and liked what I know about him tho’ he declined and died before I was aware of him and so I am believed to see this essay. Duff Cooper should be included with Churchill. Eden and Nicolson in the group of early and stalwart anti-appeasers. i don’t think it is wise to draw parellels with current figures or concerns since it is impossible to be certain how figures of early generations would have viewed matters like Brexit.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Platzer
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Having lost his ‘seat’ in 1945 he astonishingly joined the Labour Party.
One possible explanation was he wanted an Hereditary Peerage, but Clement Attlee would, quite rightly, have none of it.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
3 years ago

Channon reputedly saw the parallels between the Flytes and the Lygons, but did he ever see himself as Rex Mottram, rather than Beaverbrook, etc?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

That’s an interesting question. I’ve always understood that he was the inspiration for Mottram.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Said to be rather Brendan Bracken. Channon is thought to have inspired Maugham/s Elliot Templeton in The Razor’s Edge.

David Parsons
David Parsons
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Yes, that seems to be the informed consensus view. Waugh’s depiction of Mottram very much reflects his ambivalent view of Bracken, whom he knew well. Waugh’s friend and first full biographer Christopher Sykes, who moved in the same circles as Waugh, is unequivocal in his view that Bracken was the model for Mottram, and recounts Waugh privately admitting as much to him. Martin Stannard also refers to Bracken as the model for Mottram.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago

Very interesting article
I have recently become interested in the politics and afairs of the second world war after realising (all to late) that most of what I had been taught about it in school was essentially propaganda.
The complexities and extent of compeating world views in the 1920’s and 30’s goes much further and deeper than the simplistic “(Nazi’s are bad therefore anyone who helped defeat them are good” view that we (still) push as a national narative.
This article has revealed to me two new characters I had not heard of before, and highlights how close Britain came to siding with Germany in 1930’s rather than against her.

Last edited 3 years ago by Bertie B
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Britain didn’t come close to ‘siding with’ Germany at all. That would have been unimaginable, even in spite of the anti-Soviet feeling in Conservative government and backbenches. Aristos in British society may have admired him but a full scale military alliance would have been quite absurd given the balance of British interests.
The real question was whether the UK (and France who was hanging on to Britain’s coattails) would remain neutral as they had over Abyssinia and the Spanish Civil War or not. Certainly Hitler thought they would – indeed if he had not annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia before trying to claim the Polish corridor (and not trying to invade the whole country) he probably would have got away with it. Though Hitler himself was dreaming of lebensraum, so it was never going to happen.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

A few weeks ago, I read a 4-page review of Channon’s diaries in the New Statesman, written by Andrew Marr. Interestingly, the review didn’t really focus on the politics, more of the socialite side of Channon’s life. Marr ended by saying that he would recommend the diary to anyone – but the review seemed to show that he (Channon) was a very shallow and boring man. I will not bother.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So you’re the one who still reads the New Statesman!

Warren Hill
Warren Hill
3 years ago

“I say that this may be expedient but it is wrong
 We stand for tolerance, truth, liberty and good humour
 [The Nazis] stand for violence, oppression, untruthfulness and bitterness.”
Brings to mind an increasing visible contrast between certain groups here on the western side of the Atlantic these days.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago
Reply to  Warren Hill

Today’s American liberals are very intolerant, fanatical and humourless – illiberal, in fact.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

To my mind, it just goes to reinforce my favourite phrase, ‘nobody knows anything’.

History can turn on a sixpence.

The world would undoubtedly be a very different place today had Hitler not been a complete meglomaniacal ‘eedjut’, bided his time and had listened to his generals.

Opening up a war on two fronts was his ultimate undoing.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago

What the two diarists have in common, is that they belong to a vanished species that lived in a vanished Britain.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tony Buck
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
3 years ago

“Channon and Nicolson – two of the three great British diarists of the 20th century”
Contrary to appearances, the article does a ripping impersonation of someone giving Chips the rounds of the kitchen. The article doesn’t do much to elevate him to the podium.
PS: who’s the third contender? Winston?

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Surely the third one is James Lees-Milne.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

The most entertaining of them all; though we await the unedited versions still

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

The later ones, edited by Michael Bloch after JL-M’s death, are less restrained than they might have been had JL-M edited them himself.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

For a very funny account of the trials and humiliations of life as an MP and Junior Minister you can do a lot worse than Giles Brandreth’s diaries, which cover his time as a Tory MP in the 1990s. At one point I was laughing uncontrollably.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Alan Clark still takes some beating! Particularly in view of his pseudo military posing coupled with his recently revealed Draft Dodging to avoid National Service.
Even John Prescott served in the Merchant Navy for his.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Chris Mullins good too.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago

Yes indeed & even W -Benn if one is honest.

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Surely Alan Clark? (assuming we are referring to political diaries.)

Sam Cel Roman
Sam Cel Roman
3 years ago

What, no mention of all the pro-Nazi British ROYALS? Or how they stuffed Edward 8 onto a ship to keep him from giving the Nazi salute DURING the friggin’ war?
Sheesh…

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

Too close to the funeral of HRH Prince Philip perhaps?

boroka
boroka
3 years ago

Nicholson to me is the wish for Hungarians to “go back to Asia.” Expressed early and often.

Nigel SPRINGHALL
Nigel SPRINGHALL
3 years ago

Interesting about chips channon being PPS to R A Butler, was Butler more than just an appeaser and is that why he did not become leader of the Conservative party? It has certainly been hinted at in a couple of history books. It would be interesting to follow the fortunes of the appeasers in post war Britain

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago

He lacked MacMillan’s aristocratic ease (albeit one bought with the money of pulpy sub-literature that his publishing firm pumped out) and range of connections.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

RA Butler, I suspect like Lord Halifax favoured Giving in to Hitler’s demands of carving up the British Empire In return for Non-Invasion..

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago

As an American, and from that perspective, all I know is: It’s a good thing that Oswald Mosley was unable to sway the British Establishment in his direction.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

I think perhaps the best that can be said for him is that Mosley was always more interested in Mosley than fascism per se.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit