Darby, Henry Clifford, 1909-1992

by Michael Williams

17 Apr 2016
0-19-726162-0 hbk
Number of pages

Extract relating to military intelligence work:

Clifford’s intellectual reputation and knowledge of Europe, and his record for meticulous and rigorous organisation and editing came to the fore during the Second World War when he was first commissioned into the Intelligence Corps, and then, in 1941, became the civilian head of the Admiralty’s Geographical Handbook Centre in Cambridge as Editor-in-Chief, Kenneth Mason being his counterpart in Oxford. In all a total of about fifty geographers were employed in both Centres. In many ways, it was a geographer’s dream. The remit was to produce information for the Navy about the countries caught up in the war, from Germany to the Pacific Islands, from Morocco to Finland. ‘Handbook’ was a misnomer; in nearly every case what might have been a bald compilation became a sophisticated regional geography (with much historical geography) of the countries concerned, liberally illustrated with maps, photographs and statistical appendices – France, for example, running into four volumes and 1000 pages. Although now dated, all volumes are still an excellent source of information, synthesis and interpretation. Between 1941 and 1945, thirty volumes were produced in Cambridge with a team of about twenty-five geographers, which sounded like a roll call of British post-war geography. Besides his overall editorial duties Clifford wrote sections of France, vols 2 and 3; Belgium; The Netherlands; Germany, vols 1 and 2; Jugoslavia, vol. 2; and Greece, vols 1 and 3, of which portions of those on France, Greece and Jugoslavia were revised after the War as parts of ‘a short history’ of those countries. The war-time experience reinforced and perfected his already formidable editorial and organisational skills, put him in touch with promising geographers, and taught him how a large department should be supported and run. For his war-time service he was made an OBE.

(See: List of humanities scholars who worked in military intelligence in the Second World War)

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