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Diaries and Papers of Guy Liddell

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Guy Liddell 

The official diaries of Guy Liddell, 1940 - 1945 (typed excerpts)

Bottom right: Last page of the Liddell Diary,
May1945 (click image to enlarge)

Guy Liddell diary for 1940, transcribed extracts (490k)
Guy Liddell diary for 1941, transcribed extracts (380k)
Guy Liddell diary for 1942, transcribed extracts (244k)
Guy Liddell diary for 1943, transcribed extracts (450k)
Guy Liddell diary for 1944, transcribed extracts (300k)
Guy Liddell diary for 1945, transcribed extracts (215k)

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David Irving

David Irving explains

TWENTY years ago, while researching for my Churchill biography, I worked in archived old files of the former US Embassy in London (NA Record Group 84 at the Federal Records Center, Suitland, Maryland), a real treasure-trove of materials that were still held closed in the British archives. I came across letters on the printed letterhead "P.O. Box 500, Whitehall, London SW1" addressed to the ambassador Joseph P Kennedy -- one of my favourite characters in history -- or his successor John G Winant and his staff, or to First Secretary Herschel Johnson; the letters were often signed "Guy Liddell."

Liddell was a senior officer in the British security service, MI5. Some of the items he enclosed were of great historical interest, like censorship files on British morale, highly detailed instructions on how mail could be secretly opened for censorship, and the complete British MI5 file on American embassy code clerk Tyler Gatewood Kent (subsequently withdrawn from public view, but not before I had obtained a complete copy; I am glad to say I recently persuaded Boston University library to acquire the late Tyler Kent's papers).

Tyler_Kent_front  Tyler_Kent_profile

Tyler Kent mugshots: US National Archives, RG.59, 1940-44, Central Decimal File.

In 1939-1940 Tyler Kent, shocked at what was going on, copied the clandestine messages passing between Winston Churchill, then only a British Cabinet minister, and U.S. President Franklin D Roosevelt, and turned them over to anti-war factions in the Conservative Party in London, including Captain Ramsey and Anna Wolkoff. For his sins, he was arrested (with them) on Churchill's orders on about May 20, 1940, ten days after Churchill came to power, and put on trial at the Old Bailey -- after Roosevelt had helpfully stripped him of diplomatic immunity, thereby ensuring that the trial could be conducted on the far side of the Atlantic, under wartime British rules of secrecy.

Those P O Box 500 letters were obviously a front for a British secret agency, and as said most were signed by a "Guy Liddell" (although some were also signed by the later Lord Rothschild).


LIDDELL's own war diaries have now been deposited in the British national archives (the Public Record Office) and opened to the public domain. They are helpfully typewritten, day by day, and even more helpfully each binder has a typewritten name-index prepared perhaps by Liddell himself.

UK publishers Routledge Ltd will shortly publish in England a first volume of excerpts covering 1939-42, selected, edited, and annotated by Rupert Allason under his nom de plume Nigel West, and I can think of few British writers on Intelligence matters better suited for the task; a second volume is due out later in the summer of 2005. I have no idea what selection Nigel West has made.

During several months locked in a room with the diaries, one volume at a time, in the spring of 2003 I made my own selection for my third volume on Churchill, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream", and for subsequent revisions and additions to the earlier two volumes, and I will certainly have sliced the archival cake differently from Nigel West.

During those months I transcribed what seemed to me the most important threads of information in them -- i.e. those that interested me at the Cabinet level, while keeping an eye open on their "Himmler" and "Schellenberg" content as well. I make no apologies for omissions. Those keen to do their own research can download the entire Liddell Diaries off the PRO website, for a fee. But those are vast image-files, not machine-readable files.

Wilhelm Canaris, photo Walter FrentzThey are richly rewarding but also sometimes disappointing, as genuine diaries usually are. There are countless references to Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby and other Soviet agents. We will search in vain for revealing references to Hitler's own traitorous Intelligence chief Vice-Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, right; but there is one reference to suspicions that "Kanaris" is betraying Germany to the Soviet Union.

As a service to historians I post these selection here now, divided into six annual files, 1940 to 1945. Some years still need transcription work done on them. One entire section of my transcript is inexplicably missing, -- sorry -- and I shall have to re-do the work there. These things happen. These PDF files have the advantage that they are machine-searchable (to facilitate which I have not used ligatures and other typographical embellishments which might tend to thwart "search" functions).

As usual I welcome input from other researchers, and suggestions for annotations and corrections. I will also be grateful to researchers who can in the same communal spirit of Internet potlatch supply high- or low resolution scans of photographs of Guy Liddell or his staff and of the agents referred to in the diaries' pages, and I will post them to this website as I receive them. [Click to contact me: ]

Remember, these are my own typed copies; I have made some expansions of abbreviations, and I have no doubt also committed a number of copying errors of the kind that certain historians will pounce on as proof of deliberate distortions. But all in all these files should serve as a useful tool for other real historians -- and even for the lazy conformists who wish to sneak-peek at them too.


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© Focal Point 2005 David Irving