Can the fiasco of the Dieppe Raid really be excused?

In my mother’s final days we had a long conversation about the second world war. I asked if she’d ever thought we might lose. ‘No,’ she snapped. ‘I knew we were too clever for them.’ The chief of the imperial general staff, Sir Alan Brooke, had been less sanguine. On 31 March 1942 he confided to his diary: ‘During the last fortnight I have had, for the first time since the war started, a growing conviction that we are going to lose.’ His concern, besides the army not fighting very well — witness Hong Kong and Singapore — was that Britain’s new allies, the Soviet Union and the United States,

Sinn Fein’s hollow ‘apology’ for Mountbatten’s murder

Prince Philip’s death presented Sinn Fein with a particular challenge, given that the IRA murdered his beloved uncle. ‘I am sorry that happened. Of course, that is heartbreaking,’ said the party’s leader Mary Lou McDonald this weekend. But if the words sounded sincere, don’t be fooled. Sinn Fein learnt a difficult lesson back in 2011, when the Queen and Prince Philip visited, the first time for a century that a British monarch set foot in Dublin. Back then, they completely misjudged Irish public opinion and refused to participate, ending up looking like kids outside a sweet shop with noses pressed to the window. The Queen got an approval rating in

The Crown makes difficult viewing for IRA apologists

Series four of The Crown begins with the murder of Lord Mountbatten at Mullaghmore in August 1979. Mountbatten was killed with three others, on the same day 18 British soldiers were ambushed at Warrenpoint. It was a devastating blow for the British establishment. But it held a more intimate horror too. If you listen carefully to the scene in The Crown, you can hear Mountbatten speak to a ‘Paul’ as they prepare his boat, Shadow V, for its fateful journey out of the harbour before being blown to pieces by the IRA. ‘Paul’ is 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, who along with Mountbatten’s grandson, 14-year-old Nicholas Knatchbull, was one of two children

Lambs to the slaughter: the fiasco of the Dieppe Raid, August 1942

In carefree days which now seem so distant we used occasionally to take the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry. Docking after a long lunch, I would try to imagine the port during the infamous Dieppe Raid of August 1942. It is so clearly a natural defensive position that I could never work out how they expected to take it or, more importantly, why. This book sets out to answer both questions and, thanks to the release of previously classified wartime files, largely succeeds. It also throws new light on Ian Fleming, who was there. Dieppe in those days was intensively fortified by the Germans, flanked by heavy guns on the cliffs. Just about