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Comments on "Churchill's War", vol. ii: "Triumph in Adversity":
I'VE just finished reading your Churchill's War and simply cannot find the right words to express all my gratitude for the first-class job of yours. Absolutely magnificent. That wartime British prime minister appears alive. And extracts from diaries, documents It all sounds so vivid and real. The form of narrative is so brilliant; it captured me and I spent long hours at the computer screen, being fascinated with the text. Thank you once again for the generous gift.
Sir, I consider myself an amateur historian and do some research work in aviation history, mainly of WWII period. I would kindly ask you to allow me to make a few minor notes concerning the facts contained in the second volume (unfortunately I did not see the first and it is my understanding the third is not ready yet) . There are so few of them but I think it's important to suggest some corrections, so as not to give our opponents any chance to protest.
a) p.6. "Cruiser tanks" spelled with a capital letter makes an impression as though it was a mark rather than a type adopted in the British tank classification at that time.
b) p.7. It appears that June 27, 1941 was actually Friday, not Saturday. I caught it because as long ago as I remember myself Soviet propaganda always stressed that "German Fascists (sic.) " invaded our Motherland on Sunday when people were especially peaceful.
c) p.295. Voroshilov and Timoshenko were both Marshals at the time of Anthony Eden's visit to Moscow in December 1941, but not Generals. I suppose Anthony did not distinguish Russian insignia. By the way, it's not clear from your book why he was on de Gaulle's side all the time. Maybe they divided between themselves some HM Government's funds that went to keep the Free French spirit alive?
d) p.299. Darlan is called "the Vichy French prime minister". Was it so in fact?
e) p.318. Certainly, regions west of the Urals, but not "east". It's a misprint.
f) p.411. Why 1930 had been chosen as the year of purges? Beginning from November 1917 all our life here is one Big Purge. Jewish circles usually emphasize 1937-1938 years when some of them were also affected.
g) p.426. It seemed that Hitler opposed any large scale airborne operations since Crete. And, in addition, as Correlli Barnett pointed out, it would have been "a liability" rather than asset to have the island in German hands. The clearance of Cyrenaica with its airfields was undoubtedly more important for Brtish.
h) p.476. Whose headquarters did Hitler visit in Poltava? His own was near the town of Vinnitsa, in the Ukraine too. (Now it's very close to the city and one can see concrete blocks that remained on land surface. Back in 1985 I was impressed by pieces of reinforcement bars which looked like rails) .
i) p.606. At the page bottom it should be "and" instead of "an" in the sentence concerning Hitler's armies. Misprint.
k) p.659. Darlan a "dead head of state". Was he?
AND here we come to the main point (in my opinion, of course). Beginning from page 752 you write about "the elite and cream" of the Polish officers who had been executed in the Katyn forest. No one would say that there was nothing of the sort but it must be made quite clear that those ill-fated men were for the most part police and security officers, frontier guards, gendarmes and instructors from military schools. Many Polish Army training centers were located in the East due to comparatively scarce population, convenient spots for firing ranges, etc.
It was a kind of Polish Siberia, I would say. The elite and cream had been killed or gone to German PoW camps while, for one, airmen flew, or drove to Romania and then to Britain (through France in most cases) . Seamen went out using their own ways.
That part of pre-war Poland was inhabited by non-Poles in the main, hence the abundance of police and security forces there. Stalin certainly did not need them in his planned war against Germany. So, such kind of people comprised the bulk of the "cream" you write about. As for rank and file, they were mostly Ukrainian and Belorussian peasants called up under Polish banners to fight the war for Warsaw. Stalin set them all free by the end of 1939.He intended to make use of them later. I happen to know Mrs. Lebedeva. In 2001 I translated the report she made on deportation of "hostile elements" from Baltic states at an international conference held in the city of Riga (Latvia) . She knows the subject well enough.
Then on page 753 you refer to Beria and Merkulov. They held different posts during the war but I'd like to note that MGB stands for Ministry of State Security (later, under Khrushchev, it was renamed into Committee (hence KGB) . In any case there were no ministries at that time. Corresponding bodies were called commissariats. NKVD stands for People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs and Beria was the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs. The commissariats had been renamed into ministries in 1946.
On page 758 there is a reference to the biggest tank battle in history. It may be of some interest to you that some unorthodox historians here are inclined to reckon that the biggest one took place late in June, 1941 when the "Butcher" Zhukov threw a lot more tanks against Kleist in the Western Ukraine.
Then on page 808. It is not clear how it could be that the mail of Germans sent from home to their dear on the front-line had been captured in Algiers.
And the last remark pertaining to page 833. Without going deeper into the actual composition of German tank forces I permit myself to note that Hornet (Hummel) was not a tank but assault gun (or self-propelled gun, whatever you like) .
I think, Mr.Irving, you will understand that I was motivated only by the one and only thing be both share: search for truth.
Remaining your obedient servant
("former military person") .
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David Irving replies:
I WELCOME all letters with corrections and commetns on my books; when new editions are published, we will endeavour to incorporate these, although it will usually take some time before the corresponding pdf file is updated in our "free download" section.