Page 6, 1st January 1982

1st January 1982
Page 6
Page 6, 1st January 1982 — Brother Bertie's diary

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Brother Bertie's diary

The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lochart, edited by Kenneth Young (Macmillan, £30).

I HAVE pondered the propriety of a much younger sister reviewing the diaries of her brother and come to the conclusion that the unusual time spacing of my family could, give a useful perspective. Of five brothers and one sister, the eldest brother, author of the diaries, was 23 years older and even the youngest brother ten years older than his sister.

All one family — no steps — amounting to a built-in generation gap. I had both affection and admiration for Bertie — or "B" as he was to the family. He was a colourful even glamorous figure, especially after he had been taken prisoner by the Bolsheviks in 1918, incarcerated in the Lubyanka for a month and condemned to death but then exchanged for Litvinov; and again after his book "Memoirs of a British Agent" came out in 1932 and as Kenneth Young says in his introduction to these diaries, proved a best seller all over the world.

I. was never perhaps as overawed by Bertie as his younger brothers and male cousins whom he terrorised by the vehement zeal of his coaching at rugger or the nets. I remember him as the life and soul of holiday festivities, of naughty Biblical charades and limericks (as Salome, with the schoolroom bust of Shakespeare as the head ofJohn the Baptist on a lordly dish, or with grey wool for a wig lying on a sofa as our sometimes rich grandmother making her will among her competitively greedy grandchildren).

Across the gulf of years we had some bonds. We both, in different degrees had an instinct for writing and a taste for languages. When he visited a new country he bought the Bible in that language, so acquiring a paradoxically encyclopaedic knowledge of the Bible. In this second volume of his diaries he says that the war years with which it deals were the first five years since he was 17 that he had not been abroad. I admitted the facility of his writing and its intense readability.

We both had a passionate love of fishing, inherited and learned from our Mother, though Bertie's fishing meant stretches of expensive salmon water lent by richer friends or uncles, while I wai always happiest with a worm trytng for trout in a barn. Belie's tin/ book on the subject -1•My Rod, My Comfort" is one of his best and was his own favourite, condensing almost as much of his life: and works as do the eight hundred pages of these diaries.

Both of us again loved travel and foreign countries. Only his international love affair was, as Kenneth Young says, with Czechoslovakia whereas I fell in love with Poland. As British rePresentative to the wartime Czech government in exile, one of :Bertie's tasks was to try to build a Czech Polish federation; and the passages about this and fora Graeco Yugoslav or larger Balkan federation are a poignant reminder of all those early plans the Allies had for a united Europe — long before the EEC, plans which had to be dropped like redhot bricks as soon as Russia was forced into the war on the Allied side by Hitler's treacherous invasion.

After the Czech appointment Bertie was persuaded against his inclinations to become Director General of P.W.E. (Political Warfare Executive) in charge of all British propaganda to the enemy. The build-up and daily running of P.W.E. is really the substance of these diaries and the endless wrangling and conflicts of interests over it, among the underlings employed by it and the bosses, the ministers and other leading lights who dictated its policies.

Much of the story is told as it were at second hand through the exchanges in the high-level con versations the diarist records. "Lunched with Anthony (Eden)", "Dined with Max (Beaver brook)", "Gave Brendan (Bracken) lunch" and the impres sions of the people and issues discussed. From such high level gossip we get a running com mentary on the war from the blitz to the fall of France, to de Gaulle and on to the desert victory, then the Italian campaign, learning which American generals refused to work with Montgomery, who lobbied to have General Alexander made Eisenhower's deputy, which officials resented Churchill's interference in other departments. such as the Foreign Office, and which recognised his unique stature.

To me this is fascinating. For meanwhile through what seemed the usual channels. I had got a job in the lowliest department of the BBC's European Service (as a news sub-editor in the Scandinavian section) at Bush House, where I hardly realised Bertie was busy at the rooftop literally and metaphorically.

I loved the work but hated the policy and it is illuminating to find that many of the things I found most irksome — the bullying demagogy of Noel Newsom at his editorial conference and the frenzied pro Russian celebration of such occasions as Red Army Day were just as controversial, not to say suspect to the upper floor as to me. Bertie didn't like propaganda — who does?

Towards the end, lamenting that he had been promised to be Minister of the Czech Govern ment he writes of being "thrust into this wretched political warfare job". But he recognised the reality that propaganda is useless without military success.

For broadcasting he insisted on the indispensable value of truth on which the BBC's European Service was founded.

Under the twin management of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information the direction of P.W.E. was an appalling strain, people drank too much and slept too little. There seem inconsistencies: usually we have the impression of liking and loyalty for Anthony Eden, yet at the same time the diarist seems to recognise a vain weak and vacillating man.

Crossman is once or twice called the best brain in the department after Sefton Delmer, yet is clearly held to be the most disliked person as suggested by his nickname "Double Crossman". Even the diarist explodes more than once against the Foreign Office, and calls the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) "a very bogus and incompetent concern".

In the context of today's troubles, it is worth recalling an entry for August 20, 1944: "The PM was furious that Roosevelt had turned down his Central European strategy based on Alexander's Army and insisted on landing in Southern France. If the PM's strategy had been adopted we might have struck at the heart of Germany and finished the war very quickly".

It always seemed to me that it must be very galling for a man of brain and liberty to have always to subdue his judgment either as a civil servant to government policy, or as a writer to that of' a tycoon newspaper proprietor, however benevolent. Bertie was always trying to escape this servitude. Twice at least he tried to leave Fleet Street to make his living writing books. And he finally refused the temptation of embassies or other top jobs offered by the Foreign Office choosing to be his own man.

It would be absurd to suggest that any professional author writes not for publication, but I have always felt the diaries may have been intended primarily for the record as material for his books. They may well serve the same purpose for future historians.

Another bond with Bertie was that we both became Catholics, as has another brother. It was Bertie who learned from the publication of the inn at Tomintoul, our Mother's ancestral village, that the last Mass there early last century was said in the house of' our great grandparents, suggesting that the McGregors kept the faith until their distillery, Balmenach, obtained the first whisky license in the Highlands.

Young's Introduction. says: "Nobody could call him a good Catholic". He certainly wouldn't have claimed to be one. But I think I could vouch for his conviction however lax his practical commitment to the Church.

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