Inimical: episode two
Pope had information to add. “I wouldn’t say the French can be dismissed as so many ardent Socialist brethren. France’s position regarding her neighbor is far too precarious. You understand. All participants and observers create intelligence. Choose the right men, and you have expert intelligence—a sizing-up of the enemy that may put you a move ahead on the board. Would the French ignore opportunity…not work it to their advantage?
“I will also note,” he added, “we’ve counted no small number of Irish volunteers among the insurgents. They may return to Ireland when the conflict ends. Or they may make their way to America.”
“And return to Ireland at some future date?” asked the Under-Secretary. “Does the Foreign Office feel, then”—again he addressed Ogilvie-Collins—“that Britain can reconcile herself to Franco?”
“We must, taking into account our special interests in the area, consider the possibility of a Franco regime as preferable to a Communist beachhead in Spain. And the insurgents have at least defended the Church, making them a sounder species of totalitarian than the National Socialists, with their persecution of Christians.”
“Spain,” the Under-Secretary said, summarizing, “appears to be progressing with a degree of inevitability towards an end to her conflict. Should the non-intervening nations hold steadily to their course, we may expect natural pressures to bear more on Valencia than on General Franco’s insurgents. The Russians may surprise us, but if we have read Mr. Ogilvie-Collins’s tea leaves correctly, he anticipates that the fascists will war-monger over a trend towards Communism. Questions? Then I will ask Mr. Fitzgerald to share any concerns of the Home Office.”
“We have concerns.” Fitzgerald felt he had been made an object. It rankled. He had happened to comment on France; he didn’t care about France. “The air raid precautions program. I don’t think anyone fully appreciates the complications, the issues that have been raised. The barrage of questions that want answering…these things can’t be solved merely by providing an allowance of money. The public feel ill-treated.
“Now the Air Ministry has been given a role to play. I would be grateful if they took over the whole job. Far more likely we’ll muddle each other’s efforts, neither knowing what the other is doing.”
Baines said, “I might have pointed that out; however, your own analysis appears flawless.”
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)