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David Irving

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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.


DRIVING FORCES  behind the 1970 Libel Action against David Irving were the brothers Rodger Winn, a High Court judge ("W."), and Godfrey Winn, a notorious Fleet-street journalist. According to Admiral Sir Norman Denning, ("D."), Rodger Winn as commander of the admiralty's Submarine Tracking Room in 1942, gave the fateful verbal appreciation to the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound which led to the naval disaster of July 4, 1942. This Winn was not an easy man therefore to approach.
19 Alyn Court,
Crescent Road,

MOUntview 0719       7th April 1963

Dear Sir,


Further to my two brief conversations with you about the fate of North Russian convoy PQ.17, about which I am writing a book: I am attaching for your inspection two transcripts of these interviews so that you may check from the first one to see whether I have misunderstood any of the information you imparted to me, and so as you may observe from the second one your surprisingly uncivilised manner towards an innocent telephone caller, trying to ask you straightforward questions about Naval affairs.

Yours faithfully,

David J. Irving


The Rt Hon. Mr. Justice Winn,
11 Groom Place,

Two years later David Irving writes to his friend, the editor of the new Sunday Telegraph:-



25 Elgin Mansions,
London W9

CUNningham 8426

17th December 1965

Dear Mr. McLachlan,

Confirming the conclusions reached during our talk yesterday evening, I have told Mr. Kimber what we discussed, and he agrees that

  1. I should send you (through him) some samples of the material in 'The Virus House" -- the book about our Intelligence attack on the wartime German atomic research programme; and
  2. I should also let you have through Mr. Kimber a sample chapter of "Disaster Convoy PQ.17", which is at present with my lawyers.

Book 1 is, I believe, scheduled for publication this coming Spring. Book 2 is probably coming out during the following Autumn. The sample "PQ.17" chapter will probably be the one describing how the Admiralty reached their fateful decisions on 4th July 1942.

On the subject of "PQ.17", I must say how sorry I am that after all these years my clash with Lord Justice W. still rankles. As it seems to be in danger of oppressing our future relations, I have looked up my dusty files on the "PQ.17" research project, and I think I should privately tell you exactly what happened:

I interviewed or corresponded with 250 -300 survivors of PQ.17, and suffered only one rejection: a Newcastle ship's Master -- who had abandoned ship leaving a naval party to founder aboard her -- initially refused my advance application for an interview. By April 1963, I had somehow learned (I believe from Vice-Admiral D.) that W.'s was a key role in the story; it was vital, said D., to interview him. Now, as an unknown author I could either write in for an interview and risk a point- blank, and irreversible, refusal (highly probable from W., in view of my subject); or I could arrive diplomatically on his Belgravia doorstep and ask in person whether an interview could be arranged in the near future. The latter approach had invariably worked without friction before -- for example Vice-Admiral D., whom I interviewed several times during that March, has never to my knowledge found my manner offensive. I accordingly humbly pressed W.'s doorbell at 8:55 pm on 2nd April 1963, and W. forthwith invited me into his drawing -- room; he did not mention either then or at any other time that this was an inconvenient hour. I discussed with him his general PQ.17 recollections -- he was hesitant rather than forthcoming -- until 9:20 pm., when I retired to a local restaurant to write the aide mémoire which now faces me on my file. So far so good; I anticipated that having established what seemed to me a normal and cordial relationship personally with W., I might press my more cogent questions upon him at a later instance. Unfortunately W. seemed to have anticipated the same sequel, for when I telephoned his home at 9:25 p.m. five nights later, solely to ascertain the correct wartime designation of his office, he rudely hung up within less than three minutes.

For me his unexpected rudeness was a turning-point.

I had made a detailed transcript of the conversation in my Telephone Log, which again confronts me now. It seemed to me that, excellent Intelligence officer that W. was, he would not communicate any further information to me unless I could contrive to penetrate the barrier he had now thrown up. I now realise how wrong this was of me, but at the time I considered that his (to me) unmannerly behaviour justified further drastic action:

I mailed to him a graphic transcript of his language the previous night, and said that none of the scores of naval officers I had had the pleasure of interviewing had treated me as discourteously as he. I hoped that he would lose sufficient of his self-composure in his reply to counter the information I imparted in my covering letter to him, and indeed in his outraged three-page reply to me he involuntarily gave me in one sentence, which I hope was genuine, the very information I needed* to confirm what the officers on his staff, of whom I had already interviewed some six or seven, had told me. I did not need to bother him further.

Three years after this ungentlemanly exchange, I realise, for my part, how unbecoming my methods were. The extraction of Intelligence has never been a gentlemanly pursuit, and when essaying to obtain facts from an officer of such outstanding Intelligence training as W., one is compelled -- once other approaches have failed -- to adopt a more unorthodox technique. If there is anything I could to rehabilitate myself in W.'s esteem, I would hasten to do so.

Yours faithfully,

(David Irving)


Donald McLachlan, Esq.
Sunday Telegraph,
Fleet Street,
London E.C.4


* The whole passage will be in the "PQ.17" manuscript which is eventually sent you.

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