Prime Minister to General Ismay of Chiefs of Staff Committee, January 18, 1942.
Please report what is being done to emulate the exploits of the Italians in Alexandria Harbour and similar methods of this kind.
At the beginning of the War Colonel Jeffris had a number of bright ideas on this subject, which received very little encouragement. Is there any reason why we should be incapable of the same kind of scientific aggression that the Italians have shown? One would have thought we should have been in the lead.
Please state the exact position.
Now the British should have known better than to go following the Italians anywhere, but the matter in question here was those whackos who whizzed about enemy harbours in midget submarines or riding human torpedoes to sink moored battleships. C. E. T. Warren was one of those whackos and told us how they sank the German raider Tirpitz in the remarkable book Above Us the Waves, made into a no less remarkable film starring John Mills. Second only to the Kamikazes as suicide missions go, they lost only 39 men (16 in operations and the rest in training and experimentation) while accounting for over 100,000 tons of enemy shipping. Exceedingly brave, exceptionally foolish, but I couldn’t quite shake off the idea that it was all just a little bit underhand.
It developed into the most outstanding black eye. The line was straight from my eyebrow to cheekbone, the lid bulbous and closed for days, and the whole side of my face turned a spectacular purple shade, fringed with yellow. My nose frequently bleed at unexpected moments for years afterward. At home I told them I fell and hit a locker door. My mother and Rosely were sympathetic but Horrie only shook his head in dismay.