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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 52563 is a file containing correspondence between admirals James Somerville and Andrew Cunningham.

SS-G notes: The letters are both handwritten and, towards the end, typewritten. Somerville's handwriting is very difficult to read and any dubious interpretations on SS-G's part should be checked by DI -- where SS-G has not been sure of something ? precedes the suspect word. The year date has not been included in the letters but has been added by, presumably, the binder or Cunningham himself. Nearly every letter ends in the same way with Somerville wishing Cunningham 'old Andrew' luck and support from everyone. The overall impression gained from all of the Cunningham papers is that Cunningham was highly respected and that he was a very genuine man whom very few people disliked. All abbreviations etc have been kept according to the original text.


4th October 1940?

'That was a pretty wet project that I was called home to discuss. I was down at Chequers when the remarks of the Cs in C Middle East arrived -- about 01:00. The P.M. gave an ? angry ? snort, thrust it into my hand & said, 'Read that Admiral & tell me what you think of it'. Read it & said 'There's a lot of sound horse sense in this & facts are being faced'. As it bore out nearly all the arguments I had been putting forward I was naturally in agreement. Alex & Steve, who both had their minds centred on what they'd do when they got to the promised land were most upset at my being so critical & urged me to be tactful . . .. There was a heated scene at the Defence Committee at No 10 when D.P. made a very clear ? statement so clear that the P.M. at once said 'Well that settles it' but added with a rasp 'Mind you I didn't prepare it -- it was the Chiefs of Staff who prepared it, not me'. And this was perfectly true. . . . A sad affair & a wicked waste of effort & time which could have been spent more profitably. Refers to the ship Prince of Wales either giving way or going somewhere, try as I might I couldn't get it ? Apparently the P.M. & Anthony Eden insisted though what it had to do with the latter I don't know and can't imagine'.


23 November 1941

'So far as I can judge from the B.B.C. the advance seems to be going according to plan but I long to know what is really happening & whether it is in fact coming out according to plan. The French situation in Tunisia is upsetting. I'm convinced we ought crossed through made a hash of our French policy during the last 6-9 months. Tough one week & all smarmy the next'.


8 December ?1940 or 1941

["After the Board of Inquiry into the Ark, I think"]

He Cork asked me not to be too hard on the Admiralty & said there were people inside & out of it (Tom P [P (Phillips) added in pencil in what looks like Cunningham's writing] & Winston!) ready to raise their voices without any knowledge of the facts'.


3 January 1941 binder

'In spite of my protests this bloody stupid 'Action' continues. I hoped Fred Collins would throw some light on the matter but he says everyone is dead against it in the Admiralty . . . Apparently Winston is now the complete dictator with Master R.K. at his elbow . . . R.K. is the only real leader the Navy has got and what the Navy suffers from is lack of guts! The idea of putting that ? vapourer in charge of Warships is fantastic. I learn D.P. is livid about it, If that's right then he ought to do something drastic. . . . Fred Collins tells me that a host of Flag Officers (including himself) asked to be considered as reliefs for me!! Just shows how a bad smell suggests that something is dead. I rather gather that Winston (who abbv for mainly? makes the appts) is anxious to heave could be leave me out but fears the public might not like it & start asking questions. A.V.A. is apparently rather disturbed over the Dudley North business & says the situation here is 'very difficult'. I reckon its time the old Navy was purged of politics & honest men left to ply their trade without interference. But seriously Andrew I fear the time is coming when we shall have joined the Dictator countries & the Great B.P. will wake up one morning, rub their eyes & ask what or who we are fighting for. Anyhow I hope to goodness they'll have more sense than to interfere with you. Let's start winning the war somewhere'.


12 June 1941 ['I think' -- in what appears to be Cunningham's hand]

'Mention of Alexandria After that has been achieved I am sure the whole Navy would welcome your relief so that you can return home to become C.N.S. We might then hope for someone who is not a yes man and who will see that important decisions are not usually relegated to the middle watch amidst the aroma of very old brandy and expensive cigars. I speak with some acidity because I've seen it all happening'.


7 September ? 1941

'As you may have heard I flew home with ? goit on the 20th in order to try & dispose of some of the wet ideas about Gibraltar. They were in active circulation & emanating chiefly from Chequers. . . . Winston handed out butter with both hands but as he treated us to a version of the war in the Western Med, which lasted till 03 00 I was able to give him my views on Oran & Dakar including the passage of the cruisers. I realise now I fell into a trap because he obviously wanted the other side of the picture in order to dispose of it in the 'second world crisis' which is passing through his head in draft. People at the Admiralty Yes man Alexander very pleased with himself & at being so familiar with the generals. D.P. not so tired as I expected & gave me some valuable tips about wild cat schemes Winston might broach at Chequers -- which he did. I expressed profound surprise & concern when they came out!'


20 October

're concern from Somerville about Max Horton's ? presence in the East and how Cunningham had the complete confidence of the fleet If an essential qualification for command is to be a yes man & refrain from speaking one's mind, then the Lord help us.'


21 December 1941

'I quite agree with your remarks about Tobruk. When I was at home the P.M ? blathered to me about the number of times Force H had been engaged on operations. I told him that [something unintelligible] we had an occasional run [something unintelligible] your ships were always in action & that there was no comparison between the strain on the two parties.'


27 October 1943 [section headed Directives]

'When I saw the Prime Minister just before leaving England; he was most insistent that the Admiralty rather than the S.C. should control such operations. Against the enemy fleet'


11 January 1944

'If the typing lady referred to in your letter is the same one who accompanied us to Washington, I can quite understand the sailors' remarks.'


27 March 1944

'3. We dealt with some rather extraordinary papers at the forenoon Commanders in Chief's meeting this morning; one paper suggested that the P.M. himself was engaged in making out a new CULVERIN plan & Dickie laid stress on the fact that in last night's broadcast the P.M. specifically stated that we should leave the Pacific to the Americans; he considered this was tantamount to an assurance that the British effort in this Theatre would be confined to the S.E.A.C.'


18 July 1944 [Handwritten note at the end of the letter:]

'I'm looking forward to my farewell party & hope it will go according to plan. It will certain [sic] do the boys good to get their guns off -- if you know what I mean'.


4 November 1944

'Nothing has occurred during the week that I have been here to change my opinion that this is a bloody awful job and Washington is a bloody awful place; needless to say this must be perfectly stale news to you though perhaps you may be surprised I should obtain confirmation so quickly.'


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