General among pacifists
by Sir Charles Petrie
Man of Valour: Field-Marshal Lord Gort, V.C. by J. R. Colville (Collins £3.50)
THE author of this book has most successfully combined an extremely readable biography of Lord Gort with a vivid account of the world, both civil and military, in which he moved. The FieldMarshal himself was not in the first rank as a soldier, though as commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force in the early days of the Second World War he proved himself an extremely competent one: he was not, in the light of what we are told in these pages, particularly attractive as an indi
Matter for meditation
Theological Investigations Volume Seven by Karl Rahner, (Darton, Longman & Todd £3.50)
THE author states in his foreword that this book is a collection of his writings spread over a wide period. He says, "It is designed to assemble individual pieces scattered fairly widely over the field of spirituality, so as to provide a contribution to the theology of the spiritual life." They arc intended to supply matter for meditation.
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 deals with such fundamental questions as the contrast between the Christian way of life in the past and today and intellectual honesty and Christian faith. There is an interesting essay on the significance of that aphorism beloved of Jesuits "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam."
The second part deals with "Mysteries of the life of Jesus." It comprises essays on Christmas and its significance. the Holy Spirit and the second. coming of Christ.
Part Three consists of two meditations on "Sunday. the Day of the Lord" and "The Eucharist and our daily lives." The final section treats of Christian virtues such as truthfulness. the works of mercy and the way of Christian dying. One can only give a brief outline of a hook like this. It contains a great deal of matter for thought and for prayer. as one would expect from the pen of its author. It is well worth careful study.
Maurice Nassau, S,J. vidual, for his Spartan mode of life and his addiction to pnictical jokes were not calculated to commend him to everybody: yet, when all is said and done he will always have a niche in twentieth century British history for his extraction of a British army from impending disaster and his heroic defence of Malta.
No better biographer than Mr. Colville could have been found. He knows what went on behind the scenes, and Gort's actions, particularly as C.I.G.S. in the months immediately before the war, were greatly affected by these backstairs goings-on. With Leslie HoseBelisha at the War Office, and Liddell-Hart as his finds Achates, he never quite knew what policy was likely to be advocated by his seniors in Whitehall, quite apart from the influence exercised by those redoubtable and somewhat peppery army reformers Fuller, Hobart, and Martel. Behind them, headed by Neville Chamberlain, was a Cabinet as unwarlike as any in the national history, horrified at even the idea of war, and responsible to an electorate even more pacifist than itself.
When war came admittedly some of these difficulties were diminished, but before long it became clear that equally insuperable ones had taken their place, not least being those involved in co-operation with the French and Belgians. It is one of the more important claims made by the present author that Gort, against the expressed wishes both of the British War Cabinet and the French High Command took on his own responsibility the decision which saved the B.E.F. from destruction.
Lord Gort never held an active command after the withdrawal from Dunkirk, but he was a successful governor of Gibraltar, where he was always on the best of terms with the Spaniards whom he much preferred to the French, and he was a gallant defender of Malta later in the war. Mr. Colville, however. tells us that quite unknown to Gort, he was seriously considered for the North African command when this was set up, but that Churchill was dissuaded from making the appointment by Alanbrooke, whose motives where Gort was concerned were never easy to fathom.
All his life Gort seems to have been an unhappy and rather lonely man: his family, with the exception of his daughter, were a disappointment, and it is doubtful if his one love affair was really a compensation, lasting though it was. What is not in doubt is that Mr. Colville has written a first-class biography, even if his subject can hardly be described as a great general.