The Duff Cooper Diaries, edited
by John Julius Norwich, Orion, £20.
Duff Cooper’s diaries did not get passed to
his wife or to his son. Instead, he instructed
that they go to his nephew who, on reading
the contents, was so shocked he nearly
destroyed them. If he had done so it would
have been a tragedy as they are a highly
entertaining and remarkably frank expose
of Cooper’s extraordinary life.
Statesman, soldier, MP, wit, poet,
diplomat, clubman and scholar – Duff
Cooper was well placed to provide an
insight into the social, literary and political
life of the time. He was married to Lady
Diana Manners, a famous and beautiful
actress, who shared his penchant for parties
and good company.
Indeed, through profession and social
class, they mixed in high society and his
diary reads like a Who’s Who of the first
half of the twentieth century. Winston
Churchill, Edward VII and Mrs Simpson,
Lloyd George and Lawrence Olivier are but
a few of the names that frequent these pages.
The diary opens as the First World War
begins and Duff Cooper is working in the
Foreign Office. Here we learn the
devastating effects of the First World War,
as all but a few of his school and university
friends survived. Duff himself was eventually
allowed to join up and saw action in France
during the final summer of the war.
His recollections of his engagements, one
of which was to win him the DSO, make
excellent reading. Even after the war, Duff
Cooper was never far way from the action
and his accounts as an MP during the
General Strike, the abdication of Edward
VII and the Munich Conference provide
the reader with an excellent insight. His
coverage of the Peace Conference and his
years at the Paris Embassy after the liberation
of the city in 1944 is equally fascinating.
While Duff Cooper was not alone in
being a witness to remarkable events, his
‘joi de vivre’ mark these diaries out. He was
a connoisseur of fine wine and food, but
most of all he unashamedly loved women
and it was these passages that so shocked
his nephew. His son and the editor of these
excellent diaries, John Julius Norwich,
question whether the reader will like his
father. I found it impossible not to. He was
a player but a thoroughly romantic, witty
and charming one who lived life to the full.
Awards of the George Cross 1940–2005
by John Frayn Turner, Pen & Sword
£19.99. ISBN 1844153517.|
The history of the Victoria Cross, and the
deeds of those men and women awarded
this medal, have been well publicised.
Remarkably little, however, has been
written about the George Cross, which
ranks alongside it.
This well-written book sets about
redressing this by describing each of the 156
acts of selfless courage that have earned this
most coveted accolade – of which roughly
one-third have been awarded to civilians.
Early in the Second World War, King
George VI was deeply impressed by heroic
deeds of servicemen out of the front line and
civilian non-combatants in acts connected
with the war, such as bomb disposal and
rescues after air raids.
The result was that in September 1940, he
instituted the George Cross ‘For Gallantry’
to be awarded to civilians and servicemen
and women away from the heat of actual
battle. Every account is both inspiring and
As the war progressed, the range of deeds
increased. In April 1942 the unprecedented
award of the George Cross was made to the
entire population of the Island of Malta ‘to
honour her brave people’. Awards were also
made for supreme gallantry to members of
the Special Operations Executive, including
Here one sees how blurred are the lines
between the Victoria Cross and the George
Cross, in that it could be argued that
members of the SOE were very much
combatants in battle and thus deserving
of the Victoria Cross.
The book goes on to describe awards
in the post-war years from the Korean
War right up the present day. The two
most recent were to the Royal Ulster
Constabulary as a whole in 1999, and to 18-
year old Trooper Christopher Finney who,
when serving in Iraq during 2003, showed
remarkable heroism rescuing comrades
under ‘friendly fire’ from American a10
aircraft, even after he was wounded.
Finney survived, but many GCs have
been awarded posthumously. All, however,
warranted those two words inscribed on the
silver cross – ‘For Gallantry’.
White Slave – The Autobiography by
Marco Pierre White, Orion, 320pp. £20.
Celebrity chefs are everywhere but in the
kitchen these days: in television studios
endlessly, on the bookstands regularly, not to
mention the gossip columns. One wonders
how they ever have time to boil an egg.
Marco Pierre White claims in the strap
line of this intriguing, but often distasteful
book, to be ‘The Godfather of Modern
Cooking’ but, to be sure, there will be a rattle
of Sabatier knives at that. He must be using
the term in the mafia sense, because Mr
White would not be an automatic choice
as a role model.
He appears to revel in being as unpleasant
a spoilt brat as he can manage. He boasts of
his maltreatment of unfortunate staff and his
disdain for those who chose to pay through
the nose to feed through the mouth at his
numerous eateries. He seems proud of the
fact that he once found time to seduce a
guest’s wife between courses.
Being a close friend of Marco Pierre seems
to be a short cut to a close encounter with
the legal system. Fallings-out with business
partners appear as certain as desserts following
main courses. One wishes Frankie Dettori,
his current partner, every good luck.
As autobiographies go, this is a pretty
competent attempt at character selfassassination.
Yet there is undoubtedly
another side to Mr White. His Christian
names are real in case you wonder and
thereby hangs a sad and, I suspect,
His mother, who was Italian, died of a
brain haemorrhage when he was six. His
father was a chef and undoubtedly was a
huge influence (they fell out later, naturally),
but the lack of maternal influence may well
have taken its toll.
This book is worth reading for White’s
account of his climb to the top. You do not
earn three Michelin stars without incredibly
hard work, drive and talent. Is it fame,
money or some deep psychological flaw
that makes him so seemingly impossible to
live with? To judge, brace yourself and read
one of the more revealing autobiographies
to be published recently – if you can be
bothered, that is.
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