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Monday, 3 September 2012

Writing for victory

Thursday, September 3rd., London

London absolutely as usual in summer, except the 'call to arms' on the taxis. Atkins lunched with me at Reform. A few days ago there was a rumour in Essex that 160,000 Russians were being landed in Britain to be taken to France. I almost believed it myself at first, but after an hour I became quite sceptical. Atkins believed in this preposterous story, but had not much inside news. Belloc said it was a question of whether Germans would break through Allies' lines yesterday or today. Spender told me a lot of useful stuff for articles.

John Alfred Spender (23 December 1862 – 21 June 1942) was a British journalist, newspaper editor, and author. Under Spender's direction, the Westminster Gazette never had a wide circulation, nor did it make a profit. Nonetheless it was the most influential evening newspaper in Britain, for which Spender received the credit. The veteran editor Frederick Greenwood regarded the Westminster Gazette under Spender as "the best edited paper in London," and his leaders became essential reading for politicians on both sides of the political aisle. In them his priority was Liberal unity. He balanced ideological expression in the pages of his paper, avoiding the polemical heights attained by his counterparts in other Liberal publications. Though this occasionally earned him the ire of both Liberal factions in a debate, his loyalty to the Liberal leadership was rewarded with their confidences, which provided him with invaluable insight into the inner workings of contemporary politics.

He also said that Kitch. had 150,000 recruits before he would admit 100,000, and that he now actually had over 200,000 while still advertising for them. Recruiting organisation had broken down and the recruiting campaign was off.

For a century, British governmental policy and public opinion was against conscription for foreign wars. At the start of World War I, the British Army consisted of six divisions and one cavalry division in the United Kingdom, and four divisions overseas. 14 Territorial Army divisions also existed, and 300,000 in theReserve Army. Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, considered the Territorial Army untrained and useless. He believed that the regular army must not be wasted in immediate battle, but instead used to help train a new army with 70 divisions—the size of the French and German armies—that he foresaw would be needed to fight a war lasting many years. The traditional image of recruitment in 1914 is of an initial wave of enthusiasm and volunteering greeting the outbreak of war. At the beginning of August 1914,Parliament issued a call for an extra 100,000 soldiers. Recruitment in the first few weeks of war was high, but the real 'recruiting boom' began in the last week of August, when news of the British retreat following the Battle of Mons reached the UK. Recruiting peaked in the first week of September. By the end of September, over 750,000 men had enlisted; by January 1915, a million. The reasons for their enlistment cannot be pinned down to a single factor; enthusiasm and a war spirit certainly drove some, while for others unemployment prompted enlistment. Some employers forced men to join up, while occasionally Poor Law Guardians would also refuse to pay support for fit military-aged men. The timing of the recruiting boom in the wake of the news from Mons, though, suggests that men joined knowing that the war was dangerous and indeed many joined precisely because it seemed to be a threat to their home, district and country.

Conference at Wellington House of 'eminent authors'. Hall Caine, Zangwill, Parker among them. Masterman in chair.

Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman PC (24 October 1873 – 17 November 1927) was a British Liberal Party politician and journalist. When the First World War began, he served as head of the British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB), set up at Wellington House, London, whose sole aim was to provide support for Britain through the manipulation of information about the Central Powers. In this role, he recruited writers (such as John Buchan, H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and Arthur Conan Doyle) and painters (e.g., Francis Dodd, Paul Nash) to support the war effort.
CFG Masterman

The main objective of this department was to encourage the United States to enter the war on the British and French side. Lecture tours and exhibitions of paintings were organised in the U.S. Drawing on an extensive network of the most important and influential figures in the London arts scene, Masterman devised the most comprehensive arts patronage schemes ever to be supported in the country. Eventually subsumed into John Buchan’s Department of Information, and in 1918, Lord Beaverbrook’s even grander Ministry of Information.

Zangwill talked a great deal too much. The sense was talked by Wells and Chesterton. Rather disappointed in Gilbert Murray, but I liked the look of R.H.Benson. Masterman directed pretty well, and Claud Schuster and the Foreign Office representative were not bad. Thomas Hardy was all right.
Barrie introduced himself to me. Scoth accent; sardonic canniness. Afterwards I went with Wells to his flat; all alone there (unusually!). A young Vowles came in with his own recruiting story, which I arranged to turn into an article. I was much pleased with the serious, confident and kind demeanour of everyone. But Spender told me that the Military Clubs were full of old officers in a panic. I had such a fearful headache after the conference that I had to dine alone at the Club. I bought "The Riddle of the Sands" - very annoying style.

Robert Erskine Childers was shot by an Irish Free State firing squad Nov. 24, 1922, after being convicted of having a small pistol. He had been one of the leaders, with Eamon de Valera, of the Irish Republican Army rebellion against the Free State leadership of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith. His son, Erskine Hamilton Childers, was president of Ireland in 1973-4.

Childers, shown here in a photo around the time of the Boer War, was a cousin of Hugh Childers, who served Gladstone as First Lord of the Admiralty and Minister of War. As a clerk in the House of Commons, Erskine Childers had free time to sail on his 30-foot cutter Vixen (which must have been the prototype for Dulcibella) including to the Baltic and Friesland Islands. After a tour in his larger yacht, Sunbeam, Childers wrote The Riddle of the Sands, in 1903. Although the book was not published until 1915 in the United States, Childers in 1903 traveled to the United States, where he met and married Mollie Osgood, daughter of a Boston physician. They had a 50-foot ketch, Asgard, built for them and sailed it regularly to the North Sea and Baltic.
Childers became an advocate of Irish Home Rule and he and his wife used their sailboat to smuggle to the Irish rebels in July, 1914, arms which served as the basis for the Easter uprising of 1916.
As soon as World War I started, Childers volunteered in the Royal Navy and served in Naval Intelligence, raiding Cuxhaven and flying in a seaplane to the North Sea coast of Germany. He received a Distinguished Service Cross. After the Irish partition Childers served the cause of Irish independence until his execution. The book has become famous as one of the first spy stories. Several Englishmen were arrested for espionage in Germany in 1910--they evidently followed the novel religiously. Their trials publicized not only the book but also anti-German feeling in the years before the Great War. Winston Churchill said of Childers after his capture and in support of his execution: "No man has done more harm or done more genuine malice or endeavoured to bring a greater curse upon the common people of Ireland than this strange being, actuated by a deadly and malignant hatred for the land of his birth."

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