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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Andrew Cunningham papers in British Library, London

Great Russell St, WC1. Tel. 020 7636 1544 ext 367.

Add MS 52570 Correspondence 1942 - July 1943

This file contains miscellaneous correspondence from various people to Admiral A B Cunningham, who at this time was C in C Med.

SS-G notes: Extracts have been chosen either because they referred to Churchill or because they were very funny. All abbreviations, mistakes etc have been retained and anything that I was unsure about I have preceded with ? All my own comments are bounded in square brackets. Round brackets, therefore, appear in the text, apart from . . . which is my way of indicating that I have left something out before noting down the next point. Pencil notes are on the whole those made by Cunningham who obviously went through the correspondence before handing them over to the British Library for binding and conservation.


mailLetter from Alan Cunningham to Andrew Cunningham dated 1 January binder - 1942 'I got back here on 11th to hear on the wireless that night the PM's brutal statement on my removal; and to see the gutter press headlines 'Cunningham sacked'! I saw Brooky at once who was as usual very kind, though told me the PM was rampant & he could do nothing for me while he was in that mood. I cannot make out what he was told, so wrote enclosed to Brooky. I suspect O.L. [pencil note OLIVER LEESE] of embroidery. . . . I suppose everyone frightened of Winston'.


mailLetter dated 2nd February 1942 from 'your devoted Com' who is in fact Willis 'I'm afraid the Far Eastern situation fills me with gloom. . . . he wanted more air support under orders from the Navy fighters trained for sea work under our orders. I quite fail to see how we shall regain control of the sea out there until we get this vital requirement & until the PM recognizes this. I doubt if it's much good trying'.


mailLetter Walter Monckton to Cunningham 26 March 1942 Handwritten note on a typewritten letter 'I spare you my own handwriting, which is only convenient when I want to be ambiguous'.


mailTypewritten letter from Churchill to Cunningham 4 June 1942 'It is my intention, on the occasion of the forthcoming list of Birthday Honours, to submit your name to the King with a recommendation that His Majesty may be graciously pleased to approve that the dignity of a Baronetcy of the United Kingdom be conferred upon you. Before doing so however I should be glad to know that this would be agreeable to you and perhaps you will let me have your answer as soon as possible'.


mailLetter 'Com' Willis to Cunningham 22nd July 1942 'I am awfully sorry the Washington appointment is not what it was professed to be. I expect you shook up the PM over it!'


mailLetter from Bernard Rawlings 3 September 1942 [This person always wrote the most hilarious letters] 'How he survived the 'ponderous machine' moreover I find I can get in quite a lot of sleep during the after dinner meetings & the droning of long expositions acts like a soporific. As everyone is in the same state one can make any sort of wild answer (on being prodded awake) & no one realises it! . . . There are two principal types. Class A in which having been given a whole ream of papers to digest at six thirty & told the meeting begins at eight forty five, we start an hour late & discuss something entirely different. In Class B we are all hurriedly summoned & surprise is registered because it is found that no one except the two top men have received or studied any papers at all - as they've not been sent out. I prefer Class A as one can sleep more uninterruptedly - in Class B one has to stay awake until one has found out what we aren't discussing but would be discussing if anyone realised what it was all about'.


mailLetter 8 September 1942 Jock [Jack?] to Cunningham 'The PM's speech in the House was another masterpiece and deservedly he scored a great personal success. I was glad that he laid special stress on the importance of Malta. His account of the situation in Egypt was heartening'.


mailLetter Willis to Cunningham 14th September 1942 'Churchill says 'we are a sea animal & Russia is a land animal' but the neglect of the Sea by our 'Air' all these years is a madness which would have led to the destruction of any nation less well favoured by the Gods'.


mailLetter Jack C in C Home Fleet c/o G.P.O. London to Cunningham 23rd September 1942 're strategic control of the war To me it appears to have been based on expediency and bright ideas without any really sound governing policy behind it. W.C. as Prime Minister is magnificent and unique, but as a strategist and tactician he is liable to be most dangerous. He loves the dramatic and public acclamation. He has, to my knowledge, put up some wild schemes and, again without ? knowing details, I disliked intensely his original scheme for a second ? front and it was impossible not to feel uneasy when I heard a lightening shift had been made to a totally different locality.'


mailLetter Jock to Cunningham 16th November 1942 'This sudden strong dose of success Torch has gone rather too violently to people's heads, even amongst the high ups, and not least amongst those affected, is the PM. A weekend party was summoned to Chequers to make big decisions in regard to future planning, and seems to have become only an occasion for jubilation. Feet came off the ground and heads went into the clouds. Result no business done. A most outstanding poker player said that the secret of his success was 'Patience in adversity and calmness in prosperity'. . . . Re U-boat losses and prisoners taken and the official figures This arose during the jubilant weekend at Chequers. The PM wanted to announce these figures. D.P. demurred saying 7 certain and 6 probable. C.I.G.S. demurred saying that there were only 20,000 prisoners in the cage so far, but the PM preferred to take the more optimistic figures, hence the official announcement. In fact he has been properly kicking over the traces, and thoroughly enjoying doing so.'


mailLetter Bertie Ramsay to Cunningham 24th November 1942 'Re Torch: We've been trying to rub in on every occasion this very same truth capture the Axis out of Tunisia but the PM, and some others, have been inclined to think all is over bar the shouting and in consequence is impatient to get on with the next move by cutting the tail of Torch.' [Letter continues to refer to the PM being tackled by CNS and COS re responsibility for Training and material efficiency of the Landing ships, Craft and beach organisations].


mailLetter Rawlings to Cunningham 1 December 1942 'We sit up at night dealing with all sorts of subjects & then it goes to the COSs & then Winston & the Cabinet interfere & the Ministry of War Transport butts in & this Sub Committee & that - But that's that. We began one meeting at a quarter to midnight & finished just after three!'


mailLetter J C Dill to Cunningham 1 December 1942 'Marshall has just told me that Winston sent Eisenhower a helpful answer to the 'squeezed lemon' letter. I had not heard until today. . . . At any rate he [Bedell] Smith has had long and intimate talks with the PM and it has been arranged that he should dine alone with the President'.


mailCopy of a letter from Harwood to Godfroy 1st December 1942 'We, on the other hand, with a disorganised army and a battered Air Force were spurred forward to action by Winston Churchill with his grand speech of 'I can promise you nothing but blood, toil and sweat' followed by how we intended to defeat the Germans, come what may, or die fighting. [... Battle of Britain] but again the British people stood firm behind their Prime Minister. Another pledge given by the Prime Minister was that we would, when victory was achieved, re-establish the greatness and glory of France'.


mailLetter Bertie Ramsay to Cunningham 4th December 1942 'Incidentally I am very anxious when Brimstone is done to have these two for 'Round Up' which the PM insists is to be planned for next Summer!'


mailLetter from Bertie Ramsay to Cunningham 10th December 1942 'I think that CCO [Lord Mountbatten] is going to have his wings severely clipped by the Committee charged with the job of inquiring into it [the disaster at Dieppe, August1942]. But he is as slippery a customer as Rommel and with the PM behind him, he may 'Come again'!'


mailCopy of PM's personal minute to C in C Med dated 14th December 1942 'We cannot let this situation drag on indefinitely but there is no harm in awaiting the outcome of the immediate fighting in Tunisia. Meanwhile we should encourage the crews to join the Fighting French. We can then proceed against the malignants in due course. We certainly ought not to go on paying them out of British funds. Before they scuttle their ships in the harbour, Godfroy and his accomplices should be appraised of the fact that they will be held responsible in their own persons.
   The Pietri suggestion is of course ridiculous. He has always been a defeatist of the worst description'.


mailLetter Rawlings to Cunningham 21 January 1943 'I've just seen Cherwell . . . I explained that we here knew far more about the war than he did & that though we'd all be very polite we still did and that therefore he could go away till Monday if not Tuesday or Wednesday. So he's gone. But fancy thinking that the Adty is interested in other-than-paper on a Saturday! . . . I must say I grudge this maid-less existence womenfolk have to lead nowadays. Indeed it seems to me to be wrong that women with reasonable brains & organising ability should be tied to their cooking pots whilst the country is littered with young sluts in khaki or grey mainly waiting for the Germans to arrive. It strikes me as rather silly'.


mailLetter from Geoff Newman to Cunningham 1 February 1943 'Tripoli is an anxiety but after a very unpleasant complaint by the Army commander against the Navy - which reached the PM's ears incidentally - it is I think being shown that we haven't failed them in speed or supplies'.


mailLetter John Dill to Cunningham 25 May 1943 'You will hear all about the conference here from the PM, Brooke and Marshall. It has gone far better than any of us expected'.


mailLetter Jack to Cunningham 3rd June 1943 Whitworth in pencil 'Apropos of what you told me about Monty and the Americans, the PM summed him up the other day as 'unforgettable in defeat, and insufferable in victory'. Re the French negotiations have all the makings of a comic opera. Surely their leaders weren't all so temperamental as this in the last war? You must find them exasperating to an inordinate degree, but I suppose they will eventually achieve their object in their own incomprehensible manner'.


mailLetter to Cunningham from Pound 19th June 1943 'Re Howard Kelly's position vis-à-vis the Naval Attaché Kelly, on the other hand quotes the letter from Mr Winston Churchill offering him the appointment in Ankara. As this letter was written when he was First Lord of the Admiralty there is considerable doubt whether the letter, in default of FO backing, does in fact confer any official status upon Howard Kelly. . . . I rather think that the magic of the PM's name may have in fact provided this result Turks accepting Kelly's position owing to the actual date of the letter not having been noticed, or perhaps appreciated, by the Turkish authorities'.

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."

© Focal Point 2004 F Irving write to David Irving