A gifted orator and debater, Duff Cooper sustained a steady rise through the parliamentary ranks having reached the ranks of First Lord of the Admiralty in Chamberlain's pre-war cabinet, though he was seen by many as something of an 'indiscreet and belligerent firebrand'.
It was Chamberlain's Peace with Honour acceptance of the Munich agreement, at the price of Czechoslovak disintegration, which brought matters to a head.
In Duff Cooper's eyes legitimate reasons for war had been lost and, having seen and been considerably alarmed by Hitler's Nuremberg rallies in the early 1930s, Cooper had been warning of the inevitability of war for some time. Sensing that war remained inevitable but would now be one declared with dishonour, Duff Cooper tendered his resignation in 1938, but returned to the Ministry of Information under Churchill's leadership in 1941.
More visits to my primary source and his veteran's point of view and the Tinker always says, 'you needed to be there and to be living it to know'. He concurs with the opinion that though Chamberlain may have been pilloried for the Munich agreement, he bought this war-thirsty country, predominantly eager though unprepared as it was for war, some very valuable time.
Duff Cooper seems well placed to write a book like this, though Max Arthur mentions in his afterword that the novel's post-war appearance caused some consternation in diplomatic circles, fearing that it might harm Anglo-Spanish relations, whilst even suggesting that perhaps the operation might need to be repeated one day. Cooper was having none of that (indiscretion and belligerence to the fore) pointing out that Operation Heartbreak was fiction and in any case it was one of Churchill's oft-recounted dinner party stories.
And how clearly I remember the film, The Man Who Never Was.
One of those dreary 1950s winter Sunday afternoons, soaking up something of a war of which I knew little except that we'd "won" and my dad had helped.
Am I right about that opening scene, a deserted beach, waves lapping on the shore and... I look back now on all that heroic post-war glory that we imbibed as children and when I see the films again now, with a little more knowledge and life under my belt, it's slightly embarrassing to think we would then go out and play wars and battleships and heaven knows what else.
I'd take my maroon, coach-built doll's pram with me because I was a girl and girls did then, but it made a brilliant tank and with my roller skates on I could certainly rev up a good charge down Queen Anne's Gardens where my best friend Ann and her sister Christine lived, plus it was a cul-de-sac and very few cars...I'd be wearing a smocked frock, just visualise that if you can.
Novel, real story, film, whatever I'm delighted to have finally read this book because when I took the Tinker's little memoir Bugle Boy down off the shelf, there it was, a picture of a young Tinker with the following caption.
'HMS King George V, June 1943 at the invasion of Sicily. This was taken just prior to closing up at Action Stations. We wore boiler suits as anti-flash protection and my action station was in the 14" gun turret behind me. We were about to bombard the port of Trapani, where a Herman Goering Panzer division was stationed to make them think there was a landing imminent to keep them away from the beachhead, we also bombarded the islands of Favignana and Marsala on the way through.'
I know about 14" guns now I've been to the Imperial War Museum but I can also guarantee that as we sat and watched the film and Sicily was mentioned, the Tinker would have said 'I've been there' and we'd all have groaned and said ' you always say that,' because he did, and we'd have laughed without really understanding that actually he had been and why.