13th February 1942 - Operation Cerberus - The Channel Dash

A grim, unpleasant day, as Friday the 13th might be expected to be, although the sun shone brightly and the weather was remarkably spring-like. At lunch at Rose’s Hervey Benham was sitting at one table with a little dark man, and as the room was very crowded I had no choice but to join them. H.B. was in a worse mood than I have ever known him before, indeed he talked such conceited puerile rubbish about the war that I felt physically ill, and felt I was on the verge of doing some awful thing in front of everybody in the cafĂ©. As it was, I took advantage of the fact that lunch was late in being served to get up and walk out of the place, which I fear annoyed Rose. I had to make with a scrap lunch at Jacklin’s, which was also very crowded.

When I got back to the office, Joanna was there, rather upset about something she had accidentally overheard Nott say on the telephone about her Land Army job. I told her to ignore it, as there was nothing he could do to hurt her. He is of course very keen to get one of his lady friends into the position.

Meeting at 3 o’clock in the Grand Jury Room, both the Lexden & Winstree and the Tendring War Agricultural District Committees to hear Mansfield [a civil servant representing Robert Hudson, then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries] give a talk on future agricultural policy. Rather an air of constraint on our side, I thought – the Chairman sat on the back row, on a hard seat, and not on an upholstered front row seat with the other chairman. Col. Furneaux and Major Waller sat with him, and the District officers and Secretaries all sat in a bunch.

Old Mrs. Grubb was buried in the Friends Ground in Roman Road this afternoon, but I could not go.

It was only when I saw the evening paper tonight that I realised what a staggering victory had been won by the Germans yesterday, when they brought their three biggest warships up the Channel in the face of great opposition, which no doubt would have been greater but for the usual refusal on the part of the Navy and the RAF to co-operate. Forty two RAF planes were shot down. The audacity of the affair was amazing. [The German forces called this ‘Operation Cerberus’ and it is also known as the 'Channel Dash']. I hear several destroyers went out from Harwich, and one on returning landed a number of dead.

Almost all the German Navy is now in the North Sea, which looks more like a prelude to an invasion than anything I have seen yet.

Tonight about 9.30 Mrs Parrington ‘phoned to ask me over to lunch on Sunday. Penelope will be there. I was at once considerably cheered. Then Poulter came in to say that he had heard that both he and I were definitely omitted from the Corporation Staff Grading Scheme [for the Museum]. I do not know whether or not I ought to resign.


Robin King said...

How well he conveys the nervous strain in the air: on the larger scene, full expectation of an imminent German invasion, the local agricultural community under pressure, all overlaid with his personal irritations, frustrations and hopes.
I wonder how he "knew" about the lack of cooperation between the Royal Navy and the RAF, something that appears justified according to the text of the link you gave to the "Channel Dash" 70th anniversary celebrations?

E J Rudsdale said...

Many thanks, Robin - you've summed up this diary entry perfectly! I am often surprised at how much EJR 'knew' or surmised about what was actually happening in the war effort when news was so restricted but he rarely seems to have been taken in by the Government propaganda of the day. CP