Douglas Jerrold again

Douglas Jerrold is a writer who interests me greatly. I’m increasingly convinced that he is definitely the author of  A Few Things you can do with One Arm, though I’ve no clinching evidence yet.
I’ve taken a look at his 1927 history of the Royal Naval Division, and it’s an odd mixture of styles. Parts of it are written in the euphemistic language of the military communiqué:

While consolidating their objective they experienced rather heavy losses, and they had also suffered severely from the enemy’s barrage before the attack began. The result was that two companies of Hood Battalion had to go up to reinforce them. Nevertheless they consolidated their objective, and the difficulties which had arisen on the 3rd in safeguarding the left flank were on this occasion avoided.

Those flat phrases – ‘consolidating their objectives’, ‘heavy losses’, ‘difficulties’ disguise more than they reveal, and sanitise the whole enterprise of  the War.
On the other hand there are passages of terrific writing. Here, Jerrold is describing the scene at Gallipoli, just before the final retreat:

[O]n the very edge of those indifferent waters there remained to the end the wreckage of boats and stores; the once green slopes of the gully which closed the view were scarred with trenches and shell holes, and worn to the colour of dust by the ceaseless passage of men. Here and there were gathered in pitiful heaps rifles and equipment from the wounded and the dead, and amid this wreckage, across the sand still strewn here and there with rusted entanglements, men moved about with that brisk solemnity which one meets but seldom beyond range of the guns, which contrasts so markedly with the lackadaisical formalism of the base.

What strikes me as really effective here is not just the evocative imagery of dust, rust and wreckage which seems to sum up the whole doomed enterprise, so much as that phrase ‘brisk solemnity’ describing the unique serious efficiency of a professional in a life-and-death situation. And of course, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to get in a dig at the base, where mere appearances can pass for the real thing.
There is a pen-portrait of Jerrold later life in Anthony Powell’s  autobiography, Faces in My Time. Powell knew him when he was director of Eyre and Spottiswoode, and presents him as immensely argumentative, and given to writing  letters of verbose criticism to colleagues whose work displeased him. Hugh Kingsmill sometimes came in for these when literary editor of the New English Review. Powell records his response to them:

‘Douglas gets as much pleasure from writing me a pompous letter,’ Kingsmill once cried aloud in his exasperation. ‘as other people do from having a good fuck.’

3 Comments

  1. Richard RePass
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    In the mid 1950’s I was Import Manager for the Macmillan Company in New York. One of our British suppliers was Eyre & Spottiswoode, with whose director, Douglas Jerrold, I lunched when he visited NY. I would like to find out more about his role in helping to charter the plane that flew Franco from the Canary Islands to Morocco in 1936.

  2. Posted January 5, 2011 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Here is an extract from an article by Michael Alpert (Emeritus Professor of Spanish history at Westminster University) in BBC History Magazine, April 2002:

    New evidence has emerged showing that a Briton who helped fly General Franco to launch the uprising that became the Spanish Civil War was an MI6 agent. The evidence indicates that Britain’s intelligence services played a covert vital role in helping the dictator to power.
    …..Recently de-classified documents on Spain at the Public Record Office, Kew, show that Major Hugh Pollard, who travelled on the plane that brought Franco to take command of the rebel Army of Africa, was an experienced Intelligence operative, who later, in 1940, was stationed in Madrid working for M16.
    …..Franco was in internal exile commanding the Canary Islands garrison when the right-wing military coup against the Spanish republic was launched in July 1936 (see ‘Flying for Franco’, by Paul Preston, BBC History Magazine July 2001). He was ferried to take command of the military revolt in Spanish Morocco by a British plane and pilot organised by Luis Bolín, a Spanish journalist in London who later became Franco’s Press Chief. Bolín had contacted Douglas Jerrold, editor of a right-wing Catholic journal, The English Review, and over lunch at Simpson’s in the Strand they decided to charter a De Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft and a pilot, Captain Cecil Bebb, from Olley Air Services at Croydon aerodrome, London’s air terminal.
    …..Jerrold brought a fellow Catholic, Major Hugh Pollard, into the plot and arranged for him to travel on the plane to Spain, along with Pollard’s daughter, Diana, and another young woman, Dorothy Watson, as ‘cover’. In his published account of the plot, Bolín portrays Pollard as a bluff huntin’ and fishin’ officer type who spoke no Spanish, but the PRO documents show that he was a Spanish-speaking, experienced military intelligence officer and firearms expert who had served in wars and revolutions in Ireland, Mexico and Morocco, ostensibly as a journalist, but almost certainly as a British secret service agent. Pollard, not Bolín, took charge of the successful operation to spirit Franco from the Canaries to North Africa.
    …..The new evidence suggests that Pollard’s Intelligence superiors knew of the true purpose behind the flight from Croydon to the Canaries, and that Special Branch at Croydon, who monitored all international flights, allowed Pollard to proceed with an operation that ultimately helped to overthrow a democratically elected Government, and replace it with Franco’s dictatorship, which lasted from his Civil War victory in April 1939 until his death in November 1975.

    I wonder if the recent history of MI6 reveals more about the operation.

  3. AJ
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Douglas Jerrold’s role in the Spanish Civil War is detailed in the book ‘Franco’s International Brigades’ by Christopher Othen.

    People got very excited about the MI6 link when news about Pollard’s background first came out but there has been nothing since to support the conspiracy theories. Who knows?


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