HL Deb 10 March 1948 vol 154 cc620-36

2.58 p.m.

VISCOUNT TRENCHARD rose to move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, the views of the Government of the United States of America should be sought on the question whether arrangements should be made for the compilation of a joint Anglo-American history of the Second World War. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it may be that your Lordships will not consider the matter which I am about to raise of sufficient moment to warrant your attention at this time when the world situation is fraught with so many difficulties, and when everyone in Government service is so fully occupied. I hope and think, however, that I can persuade your Lordships that this question is of such vast long-term importance that it warrants your sympathetic consideration. Further, the amount of work devolving on Government executives if this Motion is adopted will be negligible.

Before I move it I would like to read it to your Lordships: That in the opinion of this House, the views of the Government of the United States of America should be sought on the question whether arrangements should be made for the compilation of a joint Anglo-American history of the Second World War. I would like to explain briefly, and without wearying your Lordships, what originally made me decide to put forward this idea. I make bold to say that the 1914–1918 war, which was so disastrous to the world, may prove to have been the beginning of a correct understanding between America and England. Relations between the two nations at the start of that war grew slowly. The background was bad. The bad old histories of the War of Independence were on the shelves of every school and library in both countries, and patriotic young men who joined the Forces, both in America and this country, had read those histories. Then, when the Americans and the British met in the field, some of the old sharp edges became rounded off, and sometimes even obliterated. It was the start of a change of relations. I sometimes like to think that the coming of air power helped towards the improvement of relations between the Americans and ourselves.

It was my privilege to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of what was called in those days the Inter-Allied Independent Air Force, in which American squadrons worked with ours. In those days, as some of your Lordships will know, there was a great deal of controversy as to whether the Air Force should be formed. There was just as much controversy in America as there was in England. It was my privilege to work with a very great American, General Mitchell, who commanded the American Air Force. We saw much of each other and of our respective staffs and our pilots, and it may be that this controversy in both our countries brought us, and all Americans into such close touch with each other—indeed, not only close touch but really friendly relations. We all had the same common ideal. In the same way, the armies and navies were brought into close touch with each other through the common ideal of defeating the German menace. And so it happened, when I first went to America—now a good many years ago—that I found many of my 1914–18 friends. We renewed our friendship and talked over many things, including the necessity of bringing and keeping together our two great nations, and of wiping out all the old bitterness that existed as a legacy from the War of Independence. From these meetings in America was born the feeling that something must be done to make permanent the good will between the two nations.

During the 1939–45 war, by the kindness of the Americans and the Government of this country, I was again allowed to visit freely all my friends in the American Army; and air units in England and all over the world. I went to as many American units as to our own, and I found there the same good will. I met airmen of all ranks, from senior and junior officers to the rank and file; and I saw the relations between our two Services growing closer and closer. I went to America in 1944, and when I happened to be grounded in bad weather at a place called Lake Charles, a little town in the South, I had nothing better to do for two days than to pick up a book which had just been published. It was Lend Lease, by Stettinius. It had a dull title, but I soon found that it contained a thrilling account of what the British Empire and the American nation had done together in providing munitions of war not in competition but together. They had worked together to make a success of producing war material for the two nations. The book was written, I believe, with the aid of records provided by the authorities on both sides, and when I read it I realised that it was no mere account of war-time statistics; it was history. And, most important of all, it showed to present readers and to posterity what a great achievement had crowned our joint efforts.

This, I thought, was the answer to the question which had been at the back 01: my mind for so long—how to supplant the distorted histories of the War of Independence, which had done so much damage to the relationship between our two countries. At different times it has been suggested that the histories of that period should be rewritten, I am one of those who do not believe that an old history of 200 years ago can ever be rewritten. The only chance of readjusting the balance is when some event of still greater importance occurs. The Second World War, in which England and America fought side by side in the closest collaboration, was such an event. It saved the world and this country. I felt, as I read Lend Lease, and I feel still, that if a-joint history of the War, embracing all aspects—political, geographical, military, economic and industrial—could be written, it would bring home to every man and woman, boy and girl, what the two countries did together. It would be found on the shelves of everybody who had a library and of every school, college and university, available for all to see.

I suggested to one or two American friends that a joint history should be written by two historians, an American and an Englishman, men of great reputation, showing what America and the British Commonwealth did in all phases of the 1939–1945 War. My friends seemed to think well of it. Then, at the end of 1946, I wrote my first letter to the Press putting forward this suggestion. I was gratified and surprised at the favourable response it brought forth. A history like this would be interesting to-day; but in fifty or a hundred years' time, if it were well prepared and well written, as we should want it to be, it would be not only interesting but of the utmost value. During all the years when petty little frictions grew up, people would take down this joint war history from the shelves and would read what our two nations had done together; and they would realise that with united efforts difficulties can be smoothed away and great effects achieved.

In March, 1947, on the Motion for the adjournment in another place, Mr. Keeling put the case for opening negotiations with the United States for a joint history of British-American co-operation during the war. It is reported in Hansard of March 24 (columns 1,000 onwards). Mr. Chuter Ede, in his reply for the Government, said: I hope that some joint book may be published without undue delay. The exact time when this should be done is a matter that must become one for joint arrangements between the two countries whose achievements it is proposed to recall and record. He went on to say: As soon as an opportunity occurs, we shall be very pleased to co-operate with any distinguished historian whom the American Government may feel able to appoint to do this work, or ask to do this work, in an endeavour to see that this joint effort shall be suitably recorded, so that not only our generation, but succeeding generations shall understand the magnitude of this achievement in diplomacy, in the furnishing of munitions, and in the successful conduct of operations by sea, land and air.

I went to America in 1947. I spoke, not publicly but at private dinners and lunches, to hundreds of my old friends on this subject. I talked to Service men, including senior Service men, to politicians, statesmen, to people in New York and Los Angeles, to journalists, commentators and others, in the West, in the East and in the North; and I was amazed and pleased at the amount of interest taken by everybody. I also saw some of the senior members of the American universities, and many others, and I felt that there was no man who showed more that he had at heart the good feeling between us than General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander in the invasion of Africa and Europe. No man worked harder than he did to bring together the efforts of the two nations. I mentioned it and he was enthusiastic. I am certain that he would give every support. I mentioned it wherever I went, and since returning I have had numerous letters on the idea from people of all stations of life in America. If I showed the letters that I have had, your Lordships would see how interested the people are. Several thought that it would have a greater effect on our relations than any other project which they could conceive.

In my opinion there are four essential features which must be incorporated, both in the book itself and in the methods of producing it. The public must be prepared to accept the final product as authoritative and unbiased. To achieve this, both the American and British Governments must show public approval of the project and must make it clear in the preface of the book that they have allowed the writers access to the necessary documents connected with the war. In my opinion, the Government must not take part in appointing the writers, since this would savour of bias. I suggest that in our two countries two representative committees, consisting of men of high distinction (such as the heads of some of the universities in both countries), presided over by a chairman, who must be a man of great national distinction, should be appointed to choose the two historians and the assistant historians, and also to keep a fatherly eye on the whole project. Secondly, the final product must be a readable story, and not a textbook for colleges. Equally it must not be platitudinous. It must contain all the facts concerning what each country achieved, and how it did it, but these facts should not be written in such a way as to emphasise the comparison between both countries, but should show merely how each result was achieved by both countries. The facts must be there, and they must be used in a way to show the joint ends and the joint results.

The two historians must be determined to work together and must be assisted by adequate staffs. In this respect, liaison must take place not only between the principals, but all the way down the line. If it were possible, I would like the two Governments to grant the money free to cover the costs. This may be in the neighbourhood of £200,000 each. For political or economic reasons, that may not be practicable, and in that case I would like the Governments to advance the money in the belief that over the years a great deal of it would come back from the sales of the book. That is the suggestion I make.

If I am not wearying your Lordships, may I detain you for a few minutes longer in countering some of the objections which are likely to be raised against starting on this work at the present time? It may be that we are short of historians. The Home Secretary, while expressing the British Government's approval of the scheme, said that the professional historians in both countries are already engaged on the official histories of their country's war effort, and the material they have cannot at present be taken away from them. But there is, surely, one useful step which the Government can take now. Surely, a direction could be given that the historians who are going to work on this project, and who are now working on the departmental and governmental histories, should have power to mark any documents or records which have a bearing on Anglo-American cooperation, so that they are readily accessible when the writing of the joint history begins.

If we are going to wait until the national histories are finished before proceeding with the joint history, I hope we shall not have to wait so long as we have had to wait for the Army Official Histories of the 1914–18 war. As your Lordships know, the final volumes—I think there are to be three of them—have still to be published, thirty years afterwards. If it takes another thirty years to produce the record of the 1939–45 war, the production of a joint history after that will be quite useless. Remember, memories are very short, and if only the many individual histories that are now being written, or have been written, exist, before two generations have lived it will be forgotten what our two countries accomplished together, and a bond of great feeling will be lost.

Of course, there are difficulties, but these are not difficulties which should concern the Governments at all. They will be problems for the chief historian on either side, aided by the two committees which I have suggested. I believe there are many historians in each country who would come forward and consider it a wonderful chance and almost a duty to help in this great work of bringing together for all time the two nations. I feel that the two committees I have indicated would soon find good historians. As I say, it is not the duty of the Governments to find them. I like to think that all the American and British soldiers, sailors and airmen of the 1914–18 war, and the 1939–45 war, who fought together, besides winning the war, really-helped towards making the friendship between the two countries unbreakable. I would have liked to see this project supported by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Viscount the Leader of the Liberal Party, and also the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, who was our Ambassador in Washington for so long. They are all men who have Anglo-American friendship at heart, and who could put this scheme into much more worthy language than I can hope to do.

To my mind, the matter is urgent. The national histories are now in course of preparation on both sides of the Atlantic and it would be almost unnatural if some slight bias did not creep in here and there, which might do untold harm in the future. If it were possible for the joint history to be started early, and finished in as short a time as possible having regard to the high standard required, it would obviate the spread of false impressions. Nevertheless, in the light of present-day conditions I appreciate that it may be that we must limit our activities to matters affecting our immediate future, in which case perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to assure me only that the project has the Government's sympathy and approval in principle, and that it will be proceeded with at the earliest possible date contingent upon the economic situation. Meanwhile, I should have thought it possible to appoint a committee of the heads of universities, so that they could be turning over in their minds the best prospective appointment to the position of Chief Historian. I am sure that whatever action we are prepared to take in this matter, America will be prepared to make a parallel move. I believe that if this matter is taken up now by all Parties, we shall have sown a seed that will bring forth fruit for many hundred years to come. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, the views of the Government of the United States of America should be sought on the question whether arrangements should be made for the compilation of a Joint Anglo-American history of the Second World War.—(Viscount Trenchard.)

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, though I think we should all agree that the subject of this debate has already been most fully and movingly covered by the speech to which we have just listened, I should like, if I may, briefly but most wholeheartedly to support what has been so well said by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. The noble Viscount, if he will allow me to say so in his presence, enjoys to a rare degree not only the affection but also the respect of the members of this House, to whatever Party they belong. I think one of the main reasons for that is that he has a wide, imaginative outlook, and the points on which he concentrates on the occasions when he addresses your Lordships are always big ones, untainted by any considerations of a Party or sectional character. The question which the noble Viscount has raised to-day is, in that respect, extremely characteristic of him.

He has looked, as always, far into the future, and he has recognised, what perhaps we do not all of us recognise— namely, the danger which might be caused to Anglo-American relations (on which, after all, the future peace of the world so largely depends) by biased accounts of the events of the late war, either from the angle of the British Commonwealth or from that of the United States. He has seen clearly, as we should see clearly, that the time to avert that danger is not in the future, but now, when the memories of those events are still fresh in the minds of those who took part in them. I know—and the noble Viscount referred to it this afternoon—that there is a view, fairly widely held, that it is essential first to get the official histories of the war written, both here and in the United States, so that the material may be available for the future joint history. That is an understandable point of view. However, I do not altogether share it. For one thing, as I think has already been said, a detailed history of all the military, naval and air campaigns in every theatre of war during the last six years will take years to complete.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, told your Lordships just now that the official British history of the 1914–18 war is not yet completed. This means that the writers of the joint Anglo-American history of this war may not be able to get down to work for another thirty or forty years, by which time nearly all those who took the main part in the events, and upon whose personal experiences they will have to draw, will be dead; and the spirit which animated them in a moment of great international elevation may have been almost forgotten. That is not necessarily true of a short narrative history; that is a different proposition. Indeed, I have been told this afternoon that a narrative account of that kind, showing the contribution of Canada in the late war, has already been produced by the Canadian Government. That shows how rapidly such a history may be completed, once it is undertaken.

Perhaps I may make one further point to your Lordships. I believe that it might well be argued that to attempt this task by bringing out the official histories first, would be to put the cart before the horse, since the British and American official histories will inevitably be written to give special emphasis to the British or American contribution, according to which country produces the history. If those histories appear first, the later task of striking a true balance as between the parts played by the British Commonwealth and the United States may well be seriously increased. Surely there is a great deal to be said for beginning by painting the whole picture in a joint history, filling in the details later in the official history.

I gather from what he has said that the intention of the noble and gallant Viscount—who is, after all, the author of this scheme—is not to make the joint history a governmental production, but to form two working parties of eminent authorities in the British Commonwealth and in the United States, and to entrust them with the task of choosing the historians to write the book. That seems to me, and I am sure to your Lordships, an eminently sensible way of proceeding. No doubt there will be—there always are—considerable practical difficulties to be surmounted. As the noble Viscount explained, considerable expenditure will be involved, and I should have thought it would be well worth while, if such a thing were possible, for the Government to defray either the whole or a very great part of that expenditure. Surely they might expect to get back a large part of the cost from the sales of this extremely authoritative book; it would not be a great speculation. In any case, I would have thought, as a believer in Anglo-American relations, that if there were any outstanding expenditure it would be well justified by the good will which would be earned by two Powers, whose close relationship is so necessary, not only now but in the future.

No doubt there is also the problem of getting the right men to write such a history and of making available to them, as the noble Viscount said, the necessary information. One would hope that there would not be too much red tape about that. It is evidently vital, too, to ensure that the history, when written, should not be too technical, should not be merely a military textbook but should be suitable for reading by the ordinary man. Indeed its readability—if I may use such a word—would be the most essential part of it. These are all problems of machinery; and problems of machinery are made to be surmounted. I believe that this is a great project in every sense of the word, and its effects for good might be incalculable. From what I have been told—and I think the noble Viscount said this this afternoon —I gather that this proposition already has influential support in the United States, and I very much hope that when the Lord Chancellor replies for the Government he will be able to give it a cordial blessing.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, we are all well aware that the news which appears in the Press is not invariably meticulously accurate, yet it is the case that news quickly hardens into history. Unless the records are carefully revised and corrected there is always danger that posterity may be misled by the incorrect reports of events by contemporaries. Even when the formal histories come to be written, there is sometimes—indeed, probably always—some danger of a bias, however unconscious that bias may be. There is a tendency to exalt the achievement and the successes of one's own side and to lessen the importance of the mistakes, whether political or military, of one's own country. It has been shrewdly said that the further we are from our bad deeds the smaller they appear, and the further we are from our good deeds the larger they appear. There is always the risk of that happening when history of events in which our own country is concerned is being written. If a combined history, such as that proposed by the noble and gallant Viscount, were to be written and these events were to be seen through two eyes and not only through one eye we should have a stereoscopic view, an Anglo-American view; and probably it: would more resemble reality than any history written from only a single standpoint.

Last night, at the Mansion House, there was a great dinner held in support of the objects of the English Speaking Union, and among the speakers was the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax. He said—and I think his audience approved the declaration—that, surveying the present state and fortunes of mankind, there is nothing of deeper importance than the maintenance of the effective unity in thought and action of the English-speaking peoples, including not only the Dominions, but this country and especially the United States. I would add to that view a further suggestion. In recent history there has been no event so momentous as the ending of American isolationism and the participation of the United States in the affairs of the whole world, including Europe. American isolationism having ended, they participated closely with the British, in the campaigns on land, on sea, and in the air. That participation surely should require some joint history of those events; the joint campaigns should be followed by a joint record.

As to the practical feasibility of the machinery which the noble and gallant Viscount suggested, I can form no opinion. It seems prima facie to be a good plan. There may be hidden difficulties which might appear if it were put into operation, but we have all been accustomed to find that when the noble Viscount initiates some plan—and he has initiated many during the last thirty years—in the end it is found that he has been right, that his scheme has a good aim and has been devised with care and with practical wisdom. So, prima facie, one would be prepared to accept the noble Viscount's view, he having taken great pains with its elaboration and consulted a great many people in the United States, and to support it as being feasible. Of course this is not a plan which we here would wish to press upon the Americans. If it is to come about it must be through their willing co-operation from the beginning; otherwise we may find ourselves in the invidious position of a suitor, who, not having ascertained adequately beforehand how the land lies, receives a rebuff, comes away discomfited and has to return the ring to the jeweller, or lay it aside for use on some future occasion. I trust that before anything is done, soundings will be taken most carefully in the United States. In the Motion before us to-day the noble and gallant Viscount asks for no more than that the Government should seek the views of our friends in America on this project, and I trust that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will be able to go at least as far as that—and, I hope, somewhat further.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, I think the idea put before the House today by the noble and gallant Viscount will meet with general approval. I do not consider it necessary to add to what has already been said about the desirability of that idea, but I should like to say a few words about the practical side and the urgency of it. If it is to be of any value at all, a joint history of the war as conducted from both sides of the Atlantic must be available at an early date, before too many books of an irresponsible or a too patriotic character have been published. If we proceed on the lines of the 1914–18 War we have a long way to go: reference has been made to the time that has been taken—thirty years—over the history of that war; and the book is not yet completed. I believe that no fewer than fifty volumes have already been published. Another three or four volumes have yet to appear, and the principal historian is already approaching his eighty-sixth birthday. In regard to the Boer War we were content with five respectably large volumes, and they were completed in six years. If we go back to the 1914 parallel, we shall all be in some other pleasant or unpleasant place long before the work is finished; and the historians, to use an Irishism, will probably all have died on their way. I believe, however, that the present Government have a better plan in mind. I am told that they intend to limit the number of volumes to ten, one of which will be ready this year. Six of the volumes will be devoted to the Army, two to the Navy and—the noble and gallant Viscount in front of me will be interested to know—two to the Air Force. It is proposed that the time to be taken shall be six to seven years.

I would suggest that a joint history is of such international importance that it would be well, and I think practicable, to put aside, for the time being, these departmental histories and push on with the greater idea. It may be that it will be awkward—all these literary jobs are awkward—but I am quite sure that, either by dovetailing the work or by some other means, it is practicable and can be done. I have some knowledge of a book which is being prepared at the present time. The noble Marquess said that we do not want so much an "historical" history as a practical and readable book. The book to which I refer is being written by a gentleman whose name is well known to your Lordships, whose time is limited, and who is occasionally preoccupied with the nefarious deeds of the Party opposite. He has set out to write the work, which will run to perhaps 1,250,000 words. It is only two-and-a-half years since the war ended, but in that time he has managed to perform half his task. Two volumes will probably appear in twelve months from now and the others will follow on in what I suppose he would call "respecable sequence." I suggest that, with a knowledge of what one man can do, we ought to look rather askance at any idea that a work of this sort could not be performed within a reasonable and practicable time.

The noble and gallant Viscount, in introducing the Motion, suggested that the Government were very busy. Probably some of us think they are far too busy. But, be that as it may, this is not a Government matter; it is not a matter for civil servants, but for historians. I de-cline to believe that it is not possible to procure sufficient historians to carry out this work. It is a matter to which the Americans will have to give their approval and I hope that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will be able to tell us to-day that His Majesty's Government will make an early request to the American authorities for their agreement.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, at the opening of his speech the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, apologised for raising a matter which he said might not seem of sufficient importance in view of all the difficulties and dangers impending. There was surely no need for any such statement. As the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition said, we all have a profound regard for the noble and gallant Viscount and we know that when he moves a Motion it is because he feels the matter to be important in the public interest; and it is manifestly in the public interest that we should carry through this great idea which the noble Viscount has put forward today. I have been asked to express sympathy and support on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and I readily do so; and I am very ready to accept on behalf of His Majesty's Government the Motion which has been moved by the noble and gallant Viscount.

We share, and I should imagine that all thinking men must share, his belief that the memory of their common exertions and achievements in the Second World War will remain an enduring inspiration and a firm basis for future friendship between the people of this country and the people of the United States; and we must surely all of us agree that that friendship and co-operation are fundamental to the well-being of the world. The noble and gallant Viscount has himself called attention to the fact that the Government have already declared their sympathy with the project of a joint history of the War and their readiness to collaborate in due course with any distinguished historian who may be nominated on the American side in connection with this work. I can assure the noble and gallant Viscount that it is our intention to consult fully with the United States Government in (his matter. Indeed, I may tell him, in case he does not already know it, that his proposals have already been brought to the attention of that Government. It has been agreed that at the appropriate time consultations shall take place as to the best method of giving effect to these proposals.

Of course, there are difficulties, and I will discuss those difficulties. As the noble and gallant Viscount lightly said, the difficulties are there only to be surmounted. I should be lacking in candour if I did not say that, in the provisional view of both the United States Government and the United Kingdom Government, it would be premature to attempt to make a start with the writing of a joint history for some time to come. The noble Viscount said—and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, stressed the point too—that beyond everything else this history must be a readable book Of course, the adjective "readable" is a relative term and I should be sorry to say that all official histories are not readable. They are not read by everybody, of course; they are certainty not in everybody's library. The; noble Viscount has made it plain that he does not contemplate a, book of that nature, but something much more like Professor Crutwell's book on the First World War than the Official History of the First World War, in its sixty-odd volumes when it comes to be completed. However, at the same time it must be an authoritative work, as the noble Viscount rightly said, and it must be unbiased.

I am not an historian, but I can readily understand that it is probably difficult to combine the two qualities of readability and authoritativeness. Only yesterday I was speaking to one of the Parliamentary Counsel who assist us in giving answers to questions. I said: "I wish you would make your answers so much shorter." He said: "It takes so much longer to think out a shorter answer." I should imagine that, in order to write a readable and a short history, one must know what to select and what to leave out—a task calling for the highest skill and competence. Of course, to achieve that end there must be thorough preliminary research into a vast mass of documentary material. As has been said, we are progressing in preliminary research for the purposes of our two national official histories, and the first step there is the collection of material. Although much has been done in that direction, a great deal remains to be done. I think that to attempt to embark on a joint history at this stage would result either in duplication of effort on preliminary research or in the production of an inadequate and inexact historical work which would destroy all the good effects which we hope to introduce into this joint history.

However, that is not to say that it is necessary that one should finish an official history before one starts on the joint history, but I think it is necessary to collect a great deal of the material before one starts on that joint history. As the noble Viscount, Lord Camrose, said, and as I understand, the history of the Second World War is going to be written on a different basis from the history of the First World War. The instructions given to the historian were for a broad survey on an inter-Service basis or from an inter-Service point of view, or words to that effect. That should not take anything like the length of time that was occupied upon the still uncompleted history of the First World War. However, it will certainly take some time: The Government have formed no view on this question at all; it is obviously a matter for the historian. I do not say that we shall not be able to do anything until this history is finished, but while the material is being collected and worked upon, and although we are going to consult with the American Government, our provisional view is that the present is not the appropriate time.

However, I should like to say this with regard to the national histories and the co-operation needed there, because it is rather consoling. I think it is probable that Anglo-American co-operation will not be lost sight of in the national official histories, either in our own or in that of the United States. There is close contact between the American official historians and the British official historians, both in the United Kingdom and in the Dominions. At a recent meeting of military historians in Washington, it was proposed that, subject to the agreement of the Government concerned, draft histories should be exchanged before publication, so that each should have an opportunity of making its point of view known to the other. I think that that is something which your Lordships ought to know. I discussed this matter only this morning with the distinguished historian who is undertaking the supervision of our official history.

That, then, is the position. I accept this Motion readily and without hesitation. We will consult with the Government of the United States about this matter. We feel that if we can produce an authoritative and, at the same time, a readable book, which will stress the wonderful co-operation which we had with the United States in the Second World War, it will be of the greatest value to the continuance of good relations between our two countries. Therefore, we will consult with the United States Government as to the method, means and timing for undertaking this important work.


My Lords, I wish first of all to thank the noble Lords who supported this Motion. It will have a great effect on those in America who are equally keen on this matter. I should also like to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for accepting this Motion in his reply. I have little to say, except that I would stress the importance of the word "official." I hope that when this history is written, even though it is supported by the Government in every way, it will not be a history requiring the approval of the Government. The first step is to set up a committee who will select the historians to write the histories. And the histories must be such as to be regarded as authoritative. That is quite different, if I may say so, from being "official." I want to stress that point in particular—the histories will not be looked upon as biased, or as a compromise, if we have two great historians who are keen to undertake the work.

On Question, Motion agreed to.