Magazine article The Spectator

The Price of Admission

Magazine article The Spectator

The Price of Admission

Article excerpt

MINISTRIES OF DECEPTION by Tim Slessor Aurum, L16.99, pp. 303, ISBN 1854108778

I first met Tim Slessor when we were contemporary undergraduates at Cambridge, half a century ago. Etched into my memory are Slessor's pride in and sadness about his naval officer dad, whom he had adored, and whom he had lost as an eight-- year-old. Becoming a successful TV producer and journalist, Slessor worked in the United States and Britain, being for many years a senior editor of the BBC's documentary department.

In recent years, Slessor has used this considerable and relevant probing experience to try to ascertain the truth behind his father's death, on the carrier, HMS Glorious on 8 June 1940, during the evacuation from Norway. His devastating chapter, 'An accident of war', starts with three quotations.

The Admiralty has tried to suppress the truth for 40 years.

(Capt. Stephen Roskill DSC, author of the 1954 Official History of the Royal Navy in World War II, writing 26 years later in 1980.)

The loss of the Glorious and her destroyers is one of the three great RN tragedies of the War (Convoy PQ17, Prince of Wales and Repulse are the other two) which were due to incompetence and misjudgment. And it is the one which has been the least explained.

(Vice-Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly KBE, CB, Royal Navy 1932 to 1972.)

The Glorious had been detached to proceed home independently owing to a shortage of fuel and was now 200 miles ahead of the main convoy. This explanation is not convincing. The Glorious presumably had enough fuel to steam at the speed of the main convoy. All should have kept together.

(Sir Winston Churchill in the first volume of his war memoirs, The Gathering Storm.)

Slessor quite simply seeks the truth. Any reader of The Spectator with ties with the Royal Navy or an interest in naval affairs should most certainly read this disturbing chapter. From House of Commons Adjournment Debates, Parliamentary Questions, interviews and correspondence with ministers, Rt Hon. Alan Beith MP and I know that once Whitehall has pronounced on an issue, such as the circumstances of the loss of HMS Glorious, its verdict will be defended, whatever the cost to society in terms of truth and justice.

The way in which he was treated by the authorities over the circumstances of the death of his father and 1,518 other personnel, the biggest loss of the second world war - 1,415 went down with HMS Hood, and 840 with the Prince of Wales and Repulse - led Slessor in his retirement to look at other `similar cases'. In this meticulously researched book, he demonstrates the lengths to which officialdom is prepared to go in order to maintain the fiction that the emperors are fully clothed, when all too often there is obvious evidence to the contrary. …

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