Documents on the Fight for Real History

David Irving

[Photoby Michael Hentz, for
The New York Times]

Letter to the Editor of
The Sunday Telegraph

[Not published]

The Sunday Telegraph
The Letters Editor
1 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5AR

Withholding Public Records from Court Actions

London, October 19, 1997

NOTWITHSTANDING what Christopher Booker wrote (Oct. 26) there must be deep concern at the manner in which the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence withdrew half a dozen files of wartime documents from the Public Record Office (PRO) at the request of two or three former officials, already retired to private life. The removal of these records from the public domain had the clear effect of perverting the course of justice in the libel action brought by Lord Aldington against Count Nikolai Tolstoy over allegations concerning the British Army's delivery of tens of thousands of Cossack prisoners and Yugosav nationals to their enemies, with fatal consequences, in 1945.

As has now been proven by Ian Mitchell in The Cost of a Reputation , key files of the wartime Foreign and War Offices which upheld Tolstoy's historical arguments were withdrawn from public scrutiny at the PRO on dates between 1987 and 1989 and not replaced until the trial was over - the FO not restoring the most crucial item, FO.1020/42, to the public domain until November 1991. By that time Tolstoy had lost the action (in November 1989), being ordered to pay 2m damages and costs to the plaintiff, and had seen his appeals founder too.
I might add that my own experience was very different. In 1969, when I was forced to defend the libel action brought by Captain J E Broome, DSO, RN, against my publishers and myself (Broome v Cassell & Co Ltd., which now enlivens every law student's curriculum) the Admiralty disclosed many still-secret records equally and without favour to both myself and the plaintiff's lawyers, including even the products of signals Intelligence. (The "ultra" secret was not finally made public until 1974).

Historians are already at the mercy of government departments which arbitrarily decide which records shall be released and which retained ad infinitum (among the latter: wartime FO files on Japan, and the transcripts of Rudolf Hess's conversations and of Winston Churchill's wartime telephone consultations with Franklin Roosevelt).

It is quite wrong that when a writer like Tolstoy succeeds in painstakingly filling in the gaps from other sources, he should be at the mercy of a fickle old boys' network - whether it be of Masons or ministers, Old Wykehamists or Conservative Party officials or whatever - which conspires to hound him and his family to ruination.

In the Tolstoy case there was a lynching, a demonstrable interference with the course of justice, and there must be a criminal inquiry into who abetted it. The PRO keeps the most excellent computerised records of all who draw upon its resources, so it should not take too long to get to the bottom of this scandalous affair.

It must not be that the guilty parties, without a murmur of embarrassment or regret, merely shrug their shoulders, close ranks, cover their tracks, and get away with it.

Yours faithfully,
David Irving

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