Dear Mr Masefield
I am writing this letter on behalf of the Prime Minister. It relates to your book, “Twenty-five Days”.
The book was recently considered by my predecessor, Mr Eden, and the Army Council, who decided that the book gave an incomplete picture of the operations leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation, and that it was liable to be misinterpreted by many readers.
The vivid diary form which you use has made it seem like the army’s operations in France were disjointed and without plan. The diary form makes it impossible to describe the army’s foresight in anticipating enemy action, and how they sent troops in advance. Yet that is the essence of the military feat performed by the leaders of the BEF. The general effect of your book is therefore to deprive the Army leaders of the credit and confidence which were due to them, and to transfer that credit to the Navy and the Air Force.
The Prime Minister considers it most unfortunate that it should be possible for conclusions finding fault with the High Command to be drawn from your book. He therefore, with great reluctance, directs that the book be withdrawn…
Dear Mr Masefield
I am writing this letter by direction of the Prime Minister. It relates to your book, “Twenty-five Days”.
The book was recently considered by my predecessor, Mr Eden, and the Army Council, who decided that the subject matter gave a picture of the operations leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation which was incomplete in itself and, moreover, liable to be misinterpreted by many readers.
The vivid diary form in which you have cast the narrative has made it seem that the operations which resulted in the withdrawal of the B.E.F. were disjointed and without plan, since it is impossible for a narrative in that form to describe the foresight which was shown in anticipating enemy action and disposing troops to meet it before it occurred. Yet that is the essence of the military feat performed by the leaders of the B.E.F., which would have been annihilated but for their grip of a rapidly changing situation and skilled resourcefulness in dealing with it. The general effect of the narrative is therefore to deprive the Army leader[s] of the credit and confidence which were due to them, and to transfer that credit to the Navy and the Air Force. Both these Services co-operated splendidly, but they would be the first to say that the success of the retreat to Dunkirk was due in the main to the military qualities of the Commander and of his subordinates and staff in all formations.
The Prime Minister considers it most unfortunate that it should be possible for conclusions disparaging to the High Command to be drawn from the writings of such a high authority as yourself, at a time like this, when our Libyan successes have done so much t[o] establish the confidence of the Army in itself and its leaders. He therefore, with great reluctance, directs that the book be withdrawn. This he is entitled to do, since you asked for, and were granted special facilities.
This is a letter from David Margesson (who by this time had replaced Anthony Eden as Secretary of State for War) to John Masefield, Poet Laureate, on the 1 January 1941. The letter informs Masefield that his book on the French campaign and Dunkirk cannot be published.
This letter concerns ‘Twenty-Five Days’, the account of the Dunkirk campaign written by Poet Laureate John Masefield.
At the time of this letter, Britain was still very vulnerable to forthcoming attacks by the Germans. Although Hitler was forced to delay his plans to invade Britain in September 1940, the threat was still very real. From September 1940 until May 1941, Germany began air raids in which they bombed many British cities at night-time (the ‘Blitz’), with the aim of forcing Britain to surrender. The British government realised this and knew that morale had to be kept up. One way was to control information. Journalists had to submit articles to be approved by the censors before they could be published; books and films were also censored. The government believed controlling the message was key in keeping up morale.
John Masefield was the Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate is appointed by the monarch (on the advice of the British government) and is a member of the Royal Household. The Poet Laureate is expected to write verses to commemorate significant national occasions.
Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating whether the Dunkirk evacuation was a triumph or a disaster. Sources usually help historians in two ways:
Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?
|On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?||Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?|
|Margesson says that Masefield’s book offers a completely inaccurate picture of the retreat to Dunkirk.|
|Masefield’s book suggests that it was easy for the BEF to get through France to Dunkirk.|
|Masefield’s book gives the impression that the evacuation itself was successful.|
|Margesson believes that John Masefield has responsibilities to the British Government.|
|Churchill was concerned about the impact of the book on the public opinion of the Army’s leadership and organisation.|
|This source shows us that Dunkirk was a disaster.|