Congressional Trip II: London
On Nov 20th we arrived in London and stayed at the Ritz Hotel.
Ronald and Nancy Tree gave a reception at the Savoy Hotel. Ronnie was a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secy to the Minister of Information. There were some 150 guests, including Churchill and his wife, the Anthony Edens and many top officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force and social and literary figures.
Then the Trees gave a dinner for us. Lord Beaverbrook (owner of a major chain of newspapers) was in charge of Britain's War Production and Supplies. He invited us to his office at 11:45 PM on Nov 26th. He was a dictator type and most unappealing as a person. Perhaps because of national pride or because of his own egotism, after hearing Pres Roosevelt's comment said, "We have everything under control and the entry of Japan into the war would not affect us." The meeting went on until 1:15 a.m.
I have been told a story about Lord Beaverbrook that I am inclined to believe after our session with him. Beaverbrook told his secretary to get Lord Belisha on the phone. When the call came, Belisha's secretary told him that his Lordship was engaged, could they call him back (Lord Belisha was on the toilet). Beaverbrook roared and said, "I wanted to speak to him now! Didn't you hear me?" Belisha's secretary went to speak to him in the bathroom and Belisha instructed his secretary: "Tell his Lordship that I can take care of only one shit at a time!"
We toured bombed out areas and interviewed air raid wardens, Red Cross workers, etc. They told us that at one point they had been very worried about a possible revolution. Hitler had ordered his planes to destroy the dock area in London's harbor. Well most of the poor people lived there and were devastated by the raids. A rumor spread like wildfire that the rich in England had made a pact with Hitler so that he would not bomb the rich people on the West End. Fortunately, as it turned out, a bomb did fall on Buckingham Palace and the rumor died out immediately.
Another major observation was the remarkable job the women were doing - so much so that the Congressmen asked me to get up a report on how many women were involved and where and so I did. As a result, when I did get on active duty in the army, my first assignment was with a small group of officers for Pre-Planning the WAC (Women's Army Corps).
We visited King Haakon of Norway who asked where my family came from. I could answer only sketchily at the time as I knew only vaguely. Crown Prince Harold was there also. I had met him in NY as Mrs. Vanderbilt had given a recep tion for him and his charming bride, Princess Martha. The then Crown Prince is now King of Norway.
Queen Whilhelmina of the Netherlands invited us to tea and she was fascinated by my having gone to Rutgers. The Dutch and the Royal family have great interest in Rutgers as it was founded by the Dutch Reformed Church. Ambassador Tony Biddle teased me about stealing the limelight at both these Royal meetings.
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