Documents on the Fight for Real History

David Irving

[Photoby Michael Hentz, for
The New York Times]

Letter to the Editor of
This England

[Not yet published]

Post Box

This England

P O Box 52


Gloucs GL50 1YQ

London, October 28, 1997

I HAVE BEEN shown a copy of your summer 1997 issue, and must draw your attention to the fact that I consider your remarks about me on page 63 to be defamatory. You imply therein that I invented the interview with Norman Shelley, to which I referred in my biography Churchill's War, vol. i. I did not.
In the meantime of course other historians have borne out what I wrote. Allow me to give you a glimpse of the relevant passages drafted for Churchill's War, vol. ii:
To many it was unthinkable that Churchill himself had not delivered some of his famous wartime radio broadcasts, and that they had been delivered by Norman Shelley, the voice of BBC Children's Hour's 'Mayor of Toytown' and 'Winnie the Pooh'; a few years before his death Shelly himself revealed the harmless deceit to this author. The Times devoted an item to decrying this. Churchill's grandson imputed insanity to the author in newspaper interviews, while the other Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert found the idea was preposterous. We researched in the BBC sound archives, and found signed contracts for most of Churchill's other broadcasts - but not for those believed delivered by Shelley. Fortunately, a twelve-record set of the speeches had been issued by Decca (now EMI) in 1968, 'The Voice of Winston Churchill.'*

* Re-released by Decca in 1983 as 'Winston Churchill, a Selection of his Wartime Speeches, 1939 - 1945' and claiming them to be 'historic recordings, taken from radio transcriptions dating from 1939 to 1945.' (The BBC asked Decca to drop this claim.)

The voice patterns of twenty of these 'Churchill speeches' were subjected to digital analysis by the computers of Sensimetrics, a speech research group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, taking the five which had audience reactions as genuine Churchill, and as a basis for comparison. Its findings were published in May 1991, four years after our first volume.

Three of the remaining fifteen speech recordings, all first delivered to Parliament in 1940, showed different voice patterns - those broadcast on May 13, when he promised 'blood, toil, tears and sweat'; on June 4, after Dunkirk ('We shall fight on the beaches'); and June 18, predicting 'their finest hour'. Under overwhelming pressure to come clean, the BBC sound archives confirmed that the June 4 speech was recorded by the actor Norman Shelley at the old Transcription Service Studios near Regent's Park for the British Council to send to America. They had no comment on the others.

The question whether Churchill speeches were broadcast by Winston, or by Winnie the Pooh, was not a mere biographical gewgaw. The important underlying issue was whether the empire's first minister was in a state to deliver radio broadcasts in the evenings of 1940. Our first volume was the first biography to address, on the basis of unsanitised and deeply hidden records, letters, transcripts, and diaries, the matter of Mr Churchill's frequent intoxication. It was widely known, smiled on indulgently by his ministers, and yet seemingly a taboo to historians.

That the issue arises again in the current volume, will be no surprise. 'The Providence which is kind to drunken men and fools will in the end preserve us,' wrote P J Grigg in August 1941, 'but it [the war] is being so much more costly in every sense than it need.'

Yours faithfully,
David Irving

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