Posted Sunday, May 6, 2001

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Sunday, May 6, 2001 (London)

I GOT a handwritten letter a few days ago from Andrew Roberts, to whom I had tut-tutted about his reference in last week's Sunday Telegraph to my forthcoming work on Churchill (i.e., Churchill's War, vol. ii.) as a hatchet job. I wrote him that he will find I am far tougher on Eden, Mountbatten, et al., than I am on Winston.

"Of course you are entitled to opinions, but I do hope you will read it before reviewing it, if and when that time comes . . ."

In his reply he states he has in fact read the volume from cover to cover, and

"I thought it was a shame that you did not allow him a single redeeming feature. I accept that you are just as tough on Eden, Mountbatten, and especially that weird, near-lunatic rambling of Mackenzie-King's!"

(The Canadian prime minister is one of the few statesman whose integrity and incorruptibility I praise in the volume). As we shall see from his review, he says, "I did not like the book at all."

For a few nanoseconds this deeply upsets me (the book has taken nearly thirty years to produce); but the same mail brings a letter from Professor John Erickson, of Edinburgh University, the world's leading authority on the Soviets in the war, and he writes that he finds Churchill's War, vol. ii

"a vivid portrait accompanied by much striking and original analysis. It is certainly no mere repeat of the usual hagiography."

(Is that an unconscious allusion to Roberts's works?) "Once again." says Erickson, I have shown myself "a master of documentation." That is way up there with what Judge Gray said [in his Judgment] about my knowledge of World War II being "unparallelled."

A phone call from The Evening Standard reveals that they are publishing Andrew Roberts's article early next week (which badly jumps the gun, as the book is not now out until June).


I HAVE a long talk with [a London barrister friend] to 11:35 AM. and he tells me all he knows of Roberts, and his family's failed aspirations to aristocracy (he was an exact contemporary of the journalist's at Cambridge University); Roberts's father made his fortune from Kentucky Fried Father in HMS MarlboroughChicken and Unigate Dairies concessions (mine -- right -- perhaps unfortunately was uninterested in money, and spent his life fighting as a gunnery officer of the Royal Navy for Britain and our empire); so the Roberts family are very wealthy in consequence -- what is called nouveau riche by the polite.

Andrew Roberts failed the entrance examination to Eton, much to his own dismay, and was expelled from his public school for a prank when he painted the Founder's statue white (I respond that this rather elevates him in my view: I myself hung a twelve-foot square Communist hammer-and-sickle banner over the main entrance to my public school at dead of night in 1955, for which deed I was merely given six-of-the-best as punishment when found out).

My barrister friend knew him well at Cambridge, and while at university young Roberts's own views on the Jews and Nazis, rather like those of the late Alan Clark, were well to the right of Adolf Hitler's; but in public he has sublimated these views well, seeking to perpetuate the "ghastly wartime myth" of Churchill's greatness and to establish his own impeccable credentials by such cunning acts as trampling on David Irving's face in print -- as my barrister friend puts it; in other words his ambition now is so all-consuming that he is prepared to prostitute his own previous beliefs in order to succeed in the snakepit of the print media.

Sounds like really nice fellow. I remember how two years ago he claimed, in a letter published by his newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, that I was lying when I said in print that at the outset of his career he had sought and received full assistance from me in the documentation of his first book, a biography of Lord Halifax (The Holy Fox). A quick check of my private diaries confirmed my own recollection, that he had borrowed the Halifax diaries from me and other papers for many months, and had to be pressed several times to return them.

Oh well; I wish him well, but he will have to amend his ways if he wants to succeed in the long run. The Lord watches over His own, but so does the Devil.

[previous diary]

Related items on this website

Roberts claims Britain was "ready to betray Poland in 1939"
David Irving writes to The Sunday Telegraph, Jan 16, 2000: "Being the fellow who supplied to Andrew Roberts the Lord Halifax diaries which he used to write his own definitive biography, I found his sneering article on my current libel action meagre recompense indeed."

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