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Thursday, 5 June 2014

War hysteria

Monday, June 5th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

A Brigade Staff Captain, speaking of invasion last night, said the Germans were expected to try for it in August, and not before. He said they were waiting for a chance all last year. 3 Army Corps had been practised in landings for a very long time. The finest troops. But lately, one corps, or part of it, had been taken for Verdun. Asked how he knew all these things, he said: "Intelligence." He spoke of a marvellous intelligence man named ------ now at Harwich, with whom he had talked, and who had recently penetrated the German lines, disguised as a woman, etc. He said the German plan was to land 40,000 men in one mile of coast. Lighters containing 1,000 men each to be towed over by destroyers. Gas -shells. Monitors with 15 inch guns to destroy our coast positions first. He said we had done an enormous lot within the last few months, but that six months ago there was nothing, and the original British plan had been to let the Germans penetrate 20 miles or so before tackling them. Now the plan was to stop them from landing, and he thought we should do it. He said they would probably try two places at once - here and near Newcastle-on-Tyne. Nothing he said altered my view that they couldn't reach the coast at all. I told him this, and he said he was glad, but that all precautions had to be taken.

The Captain said the district was full of spies; which I thought exaggerated. He said tennis lawns were inspected as gun positions prepared, but they had never yet, in digging up a lawn, found any traces of preparation. I should imagine not. The buried gun and the prepared emplacement stories show the inability of staffs to distinguish between rumours probable and rumours grotesque. I suppose it is all a manifestation of a sort of hysteria.

Additionally for June 5th., see 'Watching from the wings'

"The Meistersingers", Covent Garden. From a side box on the top tier I could see all the furtive activities which in an opera performance are hidden from the bulk of the audience. Screened by his wooden hood, the prompter's head appears just above the level of the stage; he follows the score untiringly with his left hand while beating time, giving cues, gesticulating with his right hand; he is never for a moment at rest; he seems to know instinctively when an actor will be at fault, and his low clear voice is heard exactly at the second when its help is imperative, and not till then. Compared to the prompter the conductor seems almost insignificant. In the wings a couple of chorus masters, with book in hand, direct and inspire the sheep-like masses of men and women who cluster round the principals. Several other men, one in a straw hat, move mysteriously to and fro in the wings. A fireman and a footman stand guard over the curtain ropes. Right at the back of the stage dim shadows with lamps pass and repass. high up, even higher than the top tier, are men in their shirt sleeves moving amid a multitude of ropes, winches, and blocks ...

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