Today marks the 75th anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany. Up to then the two countries had been allies, and the invasion ended up converting the Soviets into allies of the Western forces, at that point in time limited to Britain and its Empire. In the Conservative History Journal, an article is posted about the political impact of this invasion:
…the date did turn out to be the first real turning point of the war, the second and more important one being December 7, 1941. It was also a turning point in European history though that did not become obvious except to a few individuals like Evelyn Waugh until much later.
The author of the article (indentified as “Helen”) may be right to attribute this foresighted recognition to Waugh, but she may be confusing the timing of Waugh’s reaction with that of Guy Crouchback, the hero of his War Trilogy. In v. 2, Officers and Gentleman (1955), Guy learns of the invasion after recovering from loss of memory during his evacuation from Crete to Egypt a few weeks earlier on a small boat :
It was just such a sunny, breezy Mediterranean day like this two years before when he read of the Russo-German alliance, when a decade of shame seemed to be ending in light and reason, when the Enemy was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off; the modern age in arms.
Now that hallucination was dissolved, like the whales and turtles on the voyage from Crete, and he was back after two years’ pilgrimage in a Holy Land of illusion in the old ambiguous world, where priests were spies and gallant friends proved traitors and his country was led blundering into dishonour. (Penguin, 1977, p. 240)
Waugh’s diaries and letters in late June 1941 are rather sparse, and it is hard to know what he thought at that particular moment. But he was not slow in coming to realize that an alliance with the Soviets would have unhappy consequences, as soon became apparent in the case of Yugoslavia where the alliance was expanded to include the anti-religious Partisans and where he was sent in 1944 as part of a mission to support the new allies.