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Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 1): 1918-38

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Channon, who then gives the reader a ringside seat at the abdication crisis, is delighted that Edward VIII is also rumoured to be a Nazi-sympathiser, and constantly ridicules doddering old Winston Churchill, Duff Cooper and others who could see what was coming. He is honest enough to accept that he is a coward, who desperately hopes he will be too old to fight in any coming war.

Hardly anyone one knows or meets has not had some bombing experience to tell. ‘Bomb-bores’ infect the body social. Visiting the Berlin Olympics in August 1936, Channon applauded “the famous, fantastic Goering.” He performed the Nazi salute when Germany won medals, and sang the Horst Wessel Song: “It had a gay lilt.” He thought the Führer was “determined but not grim. One felt one was in the presence of some semi-divine creature. I was more thrilled than when I met Mussolini in 1926 in Perugia.” Little of this appeared in Rhodes James’ 1967 edition, nor the description of Joachim von Ribbentrop as “a genial man” or that the Nazis were “masters of the art of party-giving.” An easy mark…

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Disgracefully, none of this appeared in Rhodes James, who seems to have been working from a bowdlerized, often redacted, and sometimes rewritten version given him by Channon’s last lover, Peter Coats. To have agreed to work under those circumstances was profoundly unprofessional. Carreño, Richard (2011). Lord of Hosts: The Life of Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon. Philadelphia, PA: WritersClearinghousPress. ISBN 978-1-257-02549-7. Channon, who was a naturalised British subject (as of 11 July 1933), [17] joined the Conservative Party. At the 1935 general election, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Southend, the seat previously held by his mother-in-law Gwendolen Guinness, Countess of Iveagh. After boundary changes in 1950, he was returned for the new Southend West constituency, holding the seat until his death in 1958. [4]

For cost savings, you can change your plan at any time online in the “Settings & Account” section. If you’d like to retain your premium access and save 20%, you can opt to pay annually at the end of the trial. At the Berlin Olympics Channon had been a ready dupe for Nazi propaganda and was entirely taken in by a visit to a labor camp, repeopled for the purpose with “smiling and clean” eighteen-year-olds, “fair, healthy and sunburned.” But the diaries make horribly clear that his excitement at Nazism also fed on his own anti-Semitism, expressed in a casual, lurking contempt for Jewish friends such as Philip Sassoon and the Liberal MP and war minister Leslie Hore-Belisha: a semi-sedated prejudice easily reawakened. He records grotesque fantasies of shouting “Heil Hitler!,” on one occasion at a Jewish businessmen’s dinner in his own constituency. To a reader amused by the social whirl of the diaries, such things make disturbing reading, but Heffer was right to leave these and other even more offensive things in, not only for the fullness of the portrait but because they help explain the widespread British reluctance to take Hitler’s genocidal program seriously.When the diaries of an obscure politician called Sir Henry “Chips” Channon were first published in 1967, they caused a sensation, and not only among those whose names appeared in their index (“vile & spiteful & silly,” announced the novelist Nancy Mitford, speaking for the walking wounded). Channon, an upstart Chicagoan who’d unaccountably managed to marry the daughter of an exceedingly rich Anglo-Irish Earl, moved in vertiginously high circles. As a friend of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, he had enjoyed a ringside seat during the abdication crisis; as the Conservative MP for Southend he had looked on with fawning admiration as Neville Chamberlain negotiated with Hitler, and abject horror as Winston Churchill succeeded him as prime minister (Channon was in favour of appeasement). Most eye-popping of all, during a visit to Berlin for the Olympics in 1936, he and various other of his smart English friends had partied wildly with leading Nazis, among them Hermann Göring, whose floodlit garden had been made over to look like a cross between a Coney Island funfair and the Petit Trianon in Versailles – a theatrical coup that seemingly drove both Joseph Goebbels and Joachim von Ribbentrop half mad with jealousy. Are there revelations to come in future volumes? “Oh, yes,” says Heffer, delightedly. “He has an affair with someone very famous in volume three.” To what degree was Channon open about his sexuality? He and his longtime companion, a landscape designer called Peter Coats, lived together, didn’t they? “You are jumping ahead, Miss Cooke, if I may say so. But no, they weren’t an out couple. Their friends knew, but there was a conspiracy of silence. After the war, attitudes became much stricter. During this period, don’t forget, Lord Montagu was sent to prison.” (In 1954, the peer was convicted for inciting homosexual acts.)

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