David Irving portrait

David Irving

[Photo by David Gamble for The Independent on Sunday]

The PQ.l7 Libel Action, 1970

Captain J E Broome, vs. Cassell & Co Ltd and David Irving

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PQ.17 bookCaptain J E Broome, DSO, RN, the escort commander in this 1942 North Russian convoy disaster, sued David Irving in libel after the publication by Cassell and Co. Ltd. of this book in October 1968. The case came to trial in February 1970; after seventeen days the Jury awarded Broome what was then one of the largest sums of damages, including punitive damages, in history.



 David Irving writes a Letter to his elderly defence counsel Colin Duncan, QC., consoling him on their Defeat in the Libel Action

22nd February 1970

Dear Mr Duncan,

I SAID I would write you a letter after the verdict and here it is. When I said it, I had intended to write it the same day, or at the latest on the day after; in the circumstances I hope you will forgive me for delaying.

I am sure the result will have come as much a surprise to you as to my wife and myself, for although we had feared that [David] Hirst [QC, Counsel for the Plaintiff Broome] might indeed succeed in swaying a British jury by an emotional appeal, and thereby marginally secure a victory, none of us had expected a judgment of such magnitude against us. Mr [Andrew] Pugh [Duncan's junior] suggested, I recall, a payment-in of a few hundred pounds. However, I am accepting the verdict philosophically, and I am trying not to balk at the injustice of an award of punitive damages with all that it implies.

The real damage was done in my view by the summing up on Tuesday morning. On Friday evening I was naive enough to hope your oratory might have vwn the day for us; on Monday at midday I put our chances at fifty-fifty; on Monday evening, after the first part of Mr. Justice Lawton's summing up I put my chances at only one-in-five, and by the time the Jury retired I knew there was no hope. So you will see that unlike a wartime leader, I am not going to blame my "generals" for the defeat; I must blame the weakness of my own cause, and the resolution with which it was attacked.

I have forced myself to believe that it was best not to give evidence, although it was a bitter pill for me to swallow when The Judge repeatedly referred to this, as though I had something criminal to hide. Altogether a most uncomfortable seventeen days, of which the only two


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days during which I felt able to sit still and listen without anguish were those when you, Sir, were speaking on my behalf.

We should very much like one evening to entertain you and Mrs Duncan to dinner, if it would be at all possible (and ethical?) so that we can repay in some way the benevolence you have shown, and understanding. I would like the four children to meet you, as I intend to tell them all about you when they are old enough to understand.

Hitherto the only name they have understood, and memorised, from this case is that of Mr Godfrey Winn.

Yours sincerely,

(David Irving)


Colin Duncan, Esqre., Q.C.,
1 Brick Court,
London E.C.4


[ Index to PQ.17 Libel Action ]
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