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David Irving

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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 Explains and Defends Interview Techniques
David Irving

23 January, 1970


Two Notes on my Techniques.

1. Allegations of "Foot-in-the-Door".

When deciding how to approach personal sources as an unknown author, I separated the rich and influential from the poor and humble. To the latter I first wrote or telephoned, to arrange an interview, in the knowledge from experience that they readily agreed to assist. The former -- Admirals, Ministers, Judges among them, could not easily be approached impersonally like this, as a letter or telephone approach might not get beyond a secretary, and would be too easily, and finally, refused. This would bar a probably indispensable source of infor-mation, a risk I could not take.

My technique was always to make a personal approach direct to these people: I would arrive in the early evening at their front door, unannounced, ring the bell, and ask the person who answered the door whether Mr --- could find time to grant me an interview "in a few days' time". I never asked to see them that same evening; the technique was simply designed to make it less easy for the person to refuse. It was a very polite and usually friendly introduction. It worked in every case, except Lord Justice Winn. Some found time, at their suggestion, to talk to me at length immediately (to which, of course, I was not averse); others, like Admiral Servaes, excused themselves for that evening and arranged for me to return at a pre-arranged date in the future. I felt it important to establish personal contact, so that subsequent letters or telephone conversations met with detailed answers.

At Adml. Denning's suggestion, I adopted this personal approach technique with Mr Justice Winn (as he was then). I called unannounced at his Kensington apart-ment at 8.55 p.m., and was shown by him into his drawing room, once I had explained who I was and asked whether he could find time to give me an interview in a few days' time. He had answered something like, "Well, I can give you half an hour now, if you like" and he had then invited me in. He was in a dinner jacket, I believe. We sat down in his drawing room, and I talked with him, without making notes, until 9.20 p.m., when he said he had a dinner party, to which he must now return. We parted on very cordial terms, and I mentally noted that now that personal contact had been established, I could approach him later either by telephone or in writing, and he would do his best to help. I wrote a note on the conversation fifteen minutes later. The rest of the story is known: when I telephoned him five days later (7 April l963) he was for no reason at all abusive, and rang off. Since then, he has circulated a very hostile account of my having gate-crashed his house.

2. My Tape-Recording of Telephone Conversations.

I consider it is irrelevant whether I tape-record my own telephone conversations, or take shorthand notes of them. In every case the recordings of the PQ.17 research conversations were destroyed as soon as I had typed a note based on them. The object of recording the conversations was clearly to obviate any slips or misunderstandings. The tape-recordings which I now take (about 5% of my conversations) are stored, as a defence in the event of any future actions; they are not intended for any public use whatsoever. This will not prevent the other side from making capital out of my technique, presumably.

(David Irving)

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