In among the cuttings in the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home archive this week I found a complete newspaper from 13 June 1940. The battle for France was raging and the Germans were outside Paris. Dunkirk had been evacuated and it looked bleak for our continental allies. Italy had entered the war three days earlier and even neutral Switzerland got a taste of aerial bombing with many civilians killed, along with British Malta.
But there was nothing about the Battersea Dogs Home in the newspaper, so why was it retained?
Here’s some more of what it contained.
There are two stories about bells and together they sum up the state of the war. In Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury received a communication by the Home Secretary about “the use of church bells for the purposes of warning on the approach of parachutists or airborne troops”. Meanwhile, church bells in Germany, which were to be melted down for the war effort, got a partial reprieve. Bells weighing less than 55 pounds would be exempt. “The Reich authorities have also taken into consideration the desirability of leaving a certain number of church bells in place in order to proclaim victories in the traditional way...”
EFFECT of Italy and Great Britain being at war
Cecil Roth warns in a letter to the Times against interning all the Italians in this Britain as “many are fugitives from a Tyranny not dissimilar from that of Nazi Germany. In particular, Italian Jewry was placed upon the rack of antisemitism largely because of its sympathy with ... the Balfour declaration in Palestine, upon which the Duce’s eyes have long been fixed.”
In another story, we learn that the Jews and Arabs in Palestine are preparing for war with Italy. Throughout the country the blackout has been extended to include all the hours of darkness and air raid precautions, including the enlistment of volunteers, are being taken. The Times notes that “the accumulating evidence of Arab indignation [at Italy’s involvement] shows how useless was Italy’s large investment in propaganda among the Palestine Arabs by means of broadcasts and cash payments”. [Palestine was hit by Italian bombers later in the summer.]
And in a classic example of British diplomacy, the chief justice of Malta, Sir Arturo Mercieca, 61, was “invited to resign” by the Colonies secretary of state for his pro-Italian leanings and the existence of a state of war with Italy.
Among the diplomats leaving their posts or presenting their credentials to foreign offices are Marshal Petain, recalled as ambassador to Franco’s Spain, and Sir Stafford Cripps, the new British ambassador to the Soviet Union.
BRITISH ministers put a brave face on things
Mr Herbert Morrison, minister of supply, told an audience at the Dorchester: “France is a great heritage of European civilisation. She must and will be saved; she will save herself by her own efforts, for the country of 1789 can weather the storm of 1940, and she will be saved by every ounce and atom of help that we can bring to her aid.”
Mr Bevan, minister of labour and national service, was still without a seat in Parliament but told journalists he was expecting a vacancy to occur soon in a London constituency represented by a Labour member. [He went on to win in Wandsworth Central.]
ALIENS and the House of Lords
The ‘problem’ of aliens in Britain was discussed in the Lords in the same tone we hold our debates on immigration and welfare now. Following calls to intern all foreigners from Axis countries (and, according to Viscount Elbank, to lock up communists, peace pledgers and communists and give control of the BBC to the Government) the Bishop of Chichester ‘said the internment of aliens irrespective of their attitude to the Nazi regime and irrespective of their devotion to the cause of the Allies was not demanded in the interests of either national security or justice’. Lord Marchwood countered that the Bishop ‘did not seem to realise there was a war in progress, and that he (Lord Marchwood) favoured the policy of “intern the lot”. In a sentence reminicsent of the today's divisory debates he added that ‘at present woman internees were being far better treated that the wives of men who were fighting for us’.
WHOSE idea was that?
Before Fred the Shred there was Finnish traitor Captain Vidkun Quisling. In the Commons junior minister Rab Butler had to answer a question, designed to embarrass Labour, about Quisling’s knighthood. “Captain Vidkun Quisling was appointed as honorary Commander of the British Empire (laughter) on November 22, 1929 in recognition of services rendered to his Majesty’s Government in connexion with the protection of British interests in the Soviet Union while he was serving on the staff of the Norweigan legation in Moscow. He is no longer a member of the Order (cheers).”
ARTS and entertainment
A list of paintings sold at Sotherby’s includes Hyde Park, 1871 by Claude Monet (£640), a Sickert (£360), a William Nicholson (£115) and an Augustus John (£220). A Magdiliani realised £530, a Dufy changed hands for £110, a Gauguin for £170, a Matisse for £105 and a Picasso watercolour for £210. Director Alexander Korda*bought some of the European modernists.
At the cinema you could watch Gone with the Wind, Saps at Sea (a Laurel and Hardy), Gulliver’s Travels, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, John Wayne in The First Rebel, Everything Happens at Night with Ray Milland (better know for Dial M for Muder) and Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. Swan Lake was on at the Sadlers Wells Theatre, ‘the only performance this season”.
London children who were registered for evacuation began their travels on 13th June. About 25,000 alone were on their way to Cornwall, tens of thousands to other country counties. The children would not see their parents for a while as The Times also reported that “all the trains that were to have taken parents and others from London stations to visit evacuees on Sundays June 16 and 23 have been cancelled”. [The Blitz didn’t start until September and by then many children had returned.]
The late George Lansbury’s seat of Poplar (Bromley and Bow division) was won by Alderman Charles Key (Lab) with a 11,088 majority. The other candidate, Mrs Isabel Brown (Communist) got 506 votes. [The British communists were anti-war at this point as the Soviet Union had signed a pact with Nazi Germany, although not all members were in agreement with the policy.]
Although there was no mention of the Battersea Dogs Home, there is a story about dogs in Germany which turned out to be either untrue or, if true, unimplemented. Under ‘3,000,000 Dogs to Die in Germany’ the Times said: An order has been issued through the German press that all dogs not on war service shall be killed. According to an official explanation they need food which might be used for human consumption. [The dogs were reprieved but in 1942 a directive demanded that Jews hand in their pets for destruction or face serious consequences. See Victor Klemeper’s diaries, vol II.]
The Times announced that the Thakor Saheb of Rajkon, 30, had died on a hunting trip. A longer obituary paints him as a thorn in the side of both his locally ruling family and the British colonial regime. He'd come under a bad influence.
*The connection between Korda and the Battersea Dogs Home will be covered in a future post.