David Irving

David Irving

[Photo by Jerry Bauer for The Viking Press]

The PQ.l7 Libel Action, 1970

Captain J E Broome, vs. Cassell & Co Ltd and David Irving

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PQ.17 bookCaptain J E Broome, DSO, RN, the escort commander in this 1942 North Russian convoy disaster, sued David Irving in libel after the publication by Cassell and Co. Ltd. of this book in October 1968. The case came to trial in February 1970; after seventeen days the Jury awarded Broome what was then one of the largest sums of damages, including punitive damages, in history.

In a 1968 letter to his friend Donald McLachlan, first editor of The Sunday Telegraph, David Irving relates some of the trial's background.
25 Elgin Mansions,
London W9

CUNningham 8426

16 April 1968

Dear Mr McLachlan,

Thank you for your letter of the 14th. I was very sorry indeed to hear that your wife's health is giving you cause for anxiety, and troubles in the region of the neck should always be taken most seriously of all, I fear. It all depends on starting a cure early enough, I believe.

It now looks as though [your] "Room 39" will beat "The Destruction of Convoy PQ. 17" by several weeks. It was to have been published on 8 April, but there are now three writs outstanding against it (none of them, I hasten to add, yet served) and in this uncertain climate even the brave Cassell & Co are proceeding cautiously, with my fullest blessing.

The picture that has been gleaned for us by our lawyers is that Mr Godfrey Winn, who was a guest in HMS Pozarica for the convoy's duration, is proceeding with one writ -- because of my book's slur on his captain, Captain Lawford, and because Cassell's described the book as the "first true account" of the convoy, implying the Winn's book was not true; Winn informed Cassell's directors in a personal interview that he could never forgive Cassell's "as Churchill's publishers, of all people" for publishing such a book, and that while he might have allowed Sir Newman Flower to get away with it, since Sir Newman was the first to give Godfrey encouragement as a writer, he will never allow Sir Desmond Flower to get away with it. He intends "to break Cassell's and to break Irving" for this, even if he loses and even if it costs him his entire life's savings.

I have pointed out that breaking me is no problem, but breaking the publishers seems quite a different one. Oddly enough, Godfrey Winn somehow got hold of a copy of the confidential report written by Captain Roskill on the first version of the manuscript, for Kimber's; Captain Roskill, to whom I wrote, says that he did not let Winn have it and he will ask him not to use it. (It does not refer to the book Cassell's are publishing).

Winn then approached his captain, and persuaded Captain Lawford to issue a writ as well (although all the material I have used comes securely from either officers' diaries, or the British and American records). I am sorry about that, since Lawford is not mentioned by name, and I understand that he is not in good health; some reproach is due to Godfrey Winn for dragging Lawford into this. Then, to complete the trio, Captain Broome is also in action, guns blazing, and quite ignoring the fact that he wrote to me at the beginning of this year that the new version (i.e. the one Cassell's also sent to you) is a vast improvement on the old, and making no further comment.

As for the Sunday Express item on Lord Justice Winn, I agree: the telephone conversation in which he was so rude to me, and after which I took the only counteraction open to me, was in April 1963! How's that for hot news! I have also written to the Express bitterly complaining to the journalist concerned that whereas I specifically stated to him that I had "reconstructed" the entire conversation down to the last Um and Ah, he stated in his story that "I tape recorded the conversation". As I told him, he has now properly put the cat among the pigeons.

Hitler's WarRIGHT: Hitler's War was first published 1977

Work on the Hitler book is proceeding methodically, but slowly, and there will be two or three books in the interim. My main work on Hitler at present is accumulating documents, and indexing them in a filing-card system now embracing about 15, 000 chronologically ordered filing cards. I have managed to get Hitler's entire medical records, which will end all the speculation about his condition, his psychiatric state, whether he had VD, etc. (at first the Americans would not let me or anybody see them, as it was against US Government policy to allow outsiders to see "medical records of personnel".

I have also obtained, from Ladislas Farago, with whom I have established a very good personal relationship while in USA last month, the only copies in existence of Eva Braun's diary for 1938--9, and the private journal/diary of Professor Morell (Hitler' s Moran). I may have to exploit some of this material separately from the main book to earn something in the interim (perhaps the Sunday Telegraph will be interested). I am going to offer a detailed article on Hitler's medical history, 1936--1945, to Der Spiegel, I think. The book itself will be very large (perhaps two volumes), and I am trying to get it into Cassell's, rather than Kimber s hands.

It is very distressing how writing books alone will not pay all the bills: this month or so, the Sunday Express are publishing three articles by me on the background of the Dams Raid (I got hold of Barnes Wallis' diary), but it is not the sort of stuff I like to write.

You suggested we might come down and see you one day. Why don't I pick up the material of mine you have, then? What about ten days time, or so? Perhaps you could suggest a firm date, though not a Tuesday or Thursday. We would certainly welcome the chance of a breath of fresh air.

Yours sincerely,

(David Irving)

Donald McLachlan, Esquire. ,

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