Churchill's War, vol. ii

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THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD commissioned historian / journalist Andrew Roberts to write a first report this week on David Irving's Churchill's War, vol. ii; Roberts's job: to trash it.

Last week David Irving launched an Israeli-style pre-emptive strike

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London, Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Books edited by David Sexton


"According to this volume Churchill was a flasher who enjoyed exposing himself to foreign statesmen"

Churchill's WAR VOLUME 2:
by David Irving
(Focal Point Publications, £25)



HALLELUJAH! Admirers of Sir Winston Churchill can breathe a huge sigh of relief. For 14 years since the publication of David Irving's first volume on Churchill they have been waiting to see what foul conspiracies the extreme Right-wing historian might have managed to dig up in the hundreds of archives from which he has worked, but in this 1,063-page hymn of hate it is clear he has not managed to land one single significant blow on the reputation of Britain's wartime leader.

All the old accusations are trotted out, of course; that Churchill was a rude, lying alcoholic who concealed Japan's intention to attack Pearl Harbor from the Americans, was behind the murder of Britain's ally the Polish leader General Sikorski, wanted to flatten Rome and so on and so endlessly on.

There are even a few new equally groundless slurs: according to this volume Churchill was also a flasher who enjoyed exposing himself to foreign statesmen, was responsible for tipping off the Nazis to the fact that Britain had broken their codes, and asked MI6 to assassinate Britain's other ally, General de Gaulle.

I have counted a dozen new accusations in this volume, most of which would be laughable if they were not so foamingly presented, complete with 160 pages of notes that are intended to look as if they back them up. Yet when, for example, Irving claims that the then Queen Elizabeth (now the Queen Mother) supported Hitler's peace offer in 1940, and that the proof is to be found in Box Number 23 of Lord Monckton's papers at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, I recalled from my own work on Monckton that that particular box has never been open to historians [Website note: access to these items was restricted until Feb 2000]. Sure enough, the Bodleian has officially confirmed to me that David Irving has not so much as seen the box, let alone opened it.

Many of Irving's assertions are completely contradictory. If Churchill "invariably put the interests of the United States above those of his own country and its empire", why did he not warn the Americans of what was about to happen in Pearl Harbor? Or if Mr Irving's notorious views on Auschwitz are correct -- that Jews were not being systematically killed there -- why should Churchill be held to account for not ordering the RAF to bomb it? Mr Irving consistently wants it both ways, but consistently winds up getting neither.

Despite the book's (surely ironically meant) subtitle, Irving sees no redeeming features in the man who had the temerity to defeat Adolf Hitler.

Churchill's funniest jokes are dismissed as "jibes". The imperative need to meet President Roosevelt in early 1942 to co-ordinate a post-Pearl Harbor global military strategy against Germany and Japan is explained in terms of the Prime Minister's "desire to hobnob at the highest levels". He is accused of winning the war "in spite of himself". Yet whenever the evidence for Irving's claims is minutely examined by someone who has also visited the same archives and handled the same original documents, it utterly fails to justify the ludicrous claims he makes.

The selective quotation is legion. When Irving claims ChurchiIl wished to "eliminate" de Gaulle what Churchill in fact recommended to his Cabinet colleagues was that they should consider whether they should "eliminate de Gaulle as a political force and face Parliament and France upon the issue".


click to enlarge



From PRO file CAB.120/599, a newly released file of Chiefs of Staff correspondence

DID Churchill want Rome bombed flat or not? One of the facsimile documents from Churchill's War, vol. iii, from a file of which young Mr Roberts is evidently unaware

Irving's entire Pearl Harbor theory rests upon an obvious misreading of the diary of the permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Alec Cadogan.

If Mr Irving really has, as his publisher's blurb suggests, spent 27 years researching and writing this book, then he has wasted half a lifetime. For in its long series of silly, snide, unproven innuendoes he has ultimately produced only a rather pathetic piece of work. Instead of trying to rebuild his historical reputation which was so damaged by his defeat in the Irving v Lipstadt and Penguin Books libel trial last year, he has written something that will only convince the most extreme Right-wing conspiracy theorists.

When Irving writes that Churchill was of "partly Jewish blood, although safely diluted", he is simply being repulsive. When he claims that Churchill "was ambivalent about why he was really fighting this ruinous war", he is deliberately ignoring the evidence of dozens of the finest speeches ever delivered in the English tongue, which explained to Britain and the world between 1939 and 1945 in utterly uncompromising language precisely why Nazism had to be extirpated for human civilization to survive and prosper.

When he writes that the Duke of Windsor was forced to leave Portugal in August 1940 at British "pistol point" Irving is simply writing rubbish.

Irving's profession of "shock" that Churchill turned a blind eye to his daughter-in-law Pamela Harriman's affairs is based on a failure to appreciate the mores of Churchill's class and time. Churchill's supposed desire "to see Rome in flames" is utterly disproved by his message to Roosevelt that "we ought to instruct our pilots to observe all possible care in order to avoid hitting any of the Pope's buildings in the city of Rome".

This is the way the history of the Second World War would have been written if the wrong side had won.

If you have £20 to spend on a book on Churchill, buy Geoffrey Best's excellent work Churchill: A Study in Greatness, (reviewed on the facing page), not this tendentious collection of ostensibly politically motivated slurs on the memory of the man who preserved the right of freedom of speech in this country. It is a right that has never been more abused than by David Irving.

• Andrew Roberts is the author of Salisbury (Phoenix Press. £12.99).

© Evening Standard newspapers 2001
We know that thousands of Internet readers have already downloaded the book free on the Internet. Do you agree with young Andrew Roberts? Or disagree? Let the newspaper know. Remember, long letters don't get selected for publication. And they need your full name and address and daytime phone number.


© Focal Point 2001  e-mail:  write to David Irving