Author: Harold Harington Balfour, 1st Baron Balfour of Inchrye
63 page typescript bound in red morocco backed cloth boards, lettered “Moscow Diary H.H.B. 1941” on spine.
An unpublished eyewitness account of the British delegation’s mission to Moscow in 1941 by Captain Harold Balfour, later 1st Baron Balfour of Inchrye. It would appear that the original copy of the Diary is held in the Parliamentary Achives as part of the collection of political papers 1874-1970, deposited by the first Beaverbrook Foundation. Another copy is listed at the Imperial War Museum. It seems likely that Balfour had a handful of typed copies made for distribution to his friends. This copy is inscribed warmly by Balfour to Henry “Chips” Channon, “My Dear Chips. This is for you - with real thanks for your friendship and companionship. Harold February 8 1942.”
Channon and Balfour had been close friends (lovers?) since May 1936. In his diary entry for May 8th he wrote, “I am much attracted to Harold Balfour, he is 39 and rather naval, but desperately charming with the face of a hard boy”. An entry on March 12th 1937 added “My friendship with Harold Balfour is causing a stir. Of course we are never separated.”
The First Moscow Conference of World War II lead by Lord Beaverbrook took place from September 29, 1941 to October 1, 1941. Balfour’s diary begins on September 21st and the first 20 pages deal with the journey to Moscow. The diary is chatty in tone and indeed Balfour himself acknowledges this on his entry for September 26th, “On reading this diary, already I am fully conscious of its deficiencies, the chief of which is that I have hardly said anything yet about the Mission and its purpose.”
He goes on, “We are sent to Russia to give the greatest amount of aid which the United Kingdom can offer at the present time without prejudicing the safety of our essential defences at home and overseas.”
The Mission was a joint enterprise with the USA, “We have our American colleagues under the leadership of Averell Harriman whom I first met in the United States and who, as time goes on, shows greater gifts, greater balance of mind and even greater charm to those who are privileged to associate with him. He has a splendid team”.
Having arrived in Moscow the diary intersperses details of the Mission with Balfour’s detailed account of Moscow itself and daily life there under wartime conditions. There are character sketches of Stalin and description of lavish banquets, air raids, visits to aircraft factories, and a trip to the Ballet, followed by an account of the journey home.
Balfour ends the diary on a serious note. “The Mission is over. We have done our best, and no one can do more. We have heartened the Russians. We have promised them aid. The news from the Russian Front is serious; but I still believe they will fight well and they will die well - in greater numbers than the Germans - and that they will repel this attack. If I am wrong and the Russian resistance is crushed, then this Mission has been a wonderful experience and something of a dream. If I am right, then our help is going to mean much to Russia, our Ally, in this struggle.
I hate communism: I love Liberty. I am appalled at their suppressions and thier system of terror. I am impressed with their efficiency in some directions; their determination; and their undoubted courage. I pray that we may have rendered them some help, for any one who kills Germans today is a good friend of mine.”
A fascinating eyewitness account of a ground-breaking event in the history of British, American and Russian collaboration against Nazi Germany.