BBC at War – part 3: The Battle Front 

1 April 2022 tbs.pm/75201

Celebrating 100 years of our BBC

 

BBC at War cover

From ‘BBC at War’ by Antonia White, published in 1946

In peace-time the BBC had to talk. In war-time it has also to listen. Beside a mouth, it has had to develop ears – ears of extraordinary acuteness and intelligence – that can catch a significant whisper in the torrent of a million words poured out day and night in thirty different languages.

That mysterious word ‘Monitoring’ which originally merely meant listening ‘to check the technical quality or programme content of a wireless transmission’ has now acquired a dramatic new significance. It is the name of the service which keeps a continuous watch on radio news bulletins and broadcasts from all parts of the world.

The Monitoring Service is the listening post of the Battle Front. ‘In the war of 1914-18′ — says one of its former chief editors— ‘it was scraps of guttural conversation, the detonation of a shot, the unmistakable murmur of unit relieving unit which the soldier risked his life to hear and report from the listening posts set up against the enemy front-line trenches. In the short space of a generation, the naked ear of the soldier, applied close to the ground, has been replaced by the antennae of dozens of receiving sets tuned to the transmitters of the world.’

How does the monitor actually do his work? Imagine a room, somewhere in England, looking rather like a library fitted with wireless sets instead of bookshelves. At each set sits a man or woman with earphones, usually wearing the strained, concentrated expression you see on the faces of the deaf who are trying to catch the drift of a conversation. Suddenly a pencil poised over a pad will begin to scribble furiously. That means that the monitor is ‘on to’ something interesting, making lightning notes of the vital points.

Have you ever tried reporting an ordinary BBC news bulletin as you get it with perfect reception on your own set? You’ll find it a good deal harder than you think. Now, imagine yourself listening through earphones to a broadcast in a foreign language, often against a background of deliberate jamming. When reception is bad, the speaker can only be heard muttering away to a deafening accompaniment of shrieks, whistles and crackling. Picture yourself listening to that unintelligible din and reducing it to a clear and accurate précis for eight hours at a stretch and you know what the monitor is up against. The brightest brain develops a blind spot now and then: the quickest ear a deaf one. So it is obvious that an elaborate system of checking and counterchecking has had to be devised. The night shifts are the trickiest (monitoring goes on all round the clock) for the monitor usually comes to it after an exceedingly inadequate day-time sleep in his billet, broken by the telephone bells, crying babies, barking dogs and his landlady’s wireless. It was in the small hours that one monitor listening to one of Lord Haw-Haw’s colleagues broadcasting to the Empire was puzzled by the statement: ‘Mr. Hore-Belisha was praised by all of his family.’ Counterchecking revealed that what the German speaker said was: ‘Mr. Hore-Belisha was replaced by Oliver Stanley.’

Like other war-workers, monitors soon get used to sleeping by day, having their meals backwards, and bicycling to duty at 11 p.m. ‘by moonlight, starlight, bat-light or no-light.’ They even claim that there is something exhilarating in getting up with the nightingale and going to bed with the lark. But just before dawn, when vitality is lowest, the mind like the body is at its most vulnerable. That is the moment when the monitor, his brain and eardrums assaulted by the ceaseless hammering of German lies, feels his sanity slipping and hears a demon whisper: ‘Suppose … suppose after all … this is the truth?’ A cigarette, a cup of coffee, a joke with a colleague, and he can laugh at the demon. He is once more a sane man among sane men.

 

Two men listen intently to the radio on headphones

The monitor is on to something important. Ears and hands register at top speed. Colleagues tune in to the same station. The story will be rushed through to the editors.

 

For days or nights on end the monitor’s lot may be nothing but monotony, weariness and strain. Then something happens which makes it all worth while. The Graf Spee is scuttled, Roosevelt is reelected, Yugoslavia announces her intention to resist the German invasion. Then the monitor, clamping his headphones on more firmly, hushes interruptions, signals for help and scribbles frantically all at the same time. Colleagues tune in to the same station. The story is rushed to the editorial section, typewriters rattle and telephones ring. Within a few minutes the scoop is ‘flashed’ to the news section and all departments concerned.

Since the early days of the war, the Monitoring Service has expanded by leaps and bounds and is still expanding. It had grown from a staff of sixty or seventy to one of over 500. At this moment it is dealing with nearly 300 broadcasts a day in thirty different languages. About half of the monitoring staff are foreigners of proved loyalty to our cause — many of them refugees from Hitler’s persecution who are fighting back in this most effective way. The rest are British; men and women who are not only exceptional linguists but exceptionally intelligent. One of the best monitors is blind; he takes his notes on a braille machine and dictates to a typist. The director of the Monitoring Service says emphatically, ‘No one can be too good to be a monitor.’

Listening is a dramatic and important part of the Monitoring Service — but only a part. The other side is less picturesque but even more strenuous. Every twenty-four hours the notes the monitors take down in shorthand or in some personal form of ‘speedwriting,’ transcribe and translate, amount to something like a million words — the equivalent of ten full-length novels. It is the task of the editorial section of the service to condense that material to a clear and readable summary of from 50 to 60,000 words — about one-twentieth of the original. Think of précis-writing at school where you boiled down a thousand-word essay to a hundred words. Then think of ten long novels being boiled down to the length of one short one every twenty-four hours. That is the work of the thirty-odd sub-editors. During their twelve-hour shifts a continuous stream of closely typed pages blow down the tubes on to their desks and pile up in a mountain of paper. Redundant matter is deleted, long speeches are summarized, crossheads inserted, mistranslations queried, all at breakneck speed, and the corrected copy collated into one lucid document.

 

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How is this huge amount of material, amassed every day, used by the BBC? In many ways. Some is incorporated in its own news bulletins and commentaries. Some is used as the basis of counter-propaganda to enemy countries. Some is used to disseminate information in occupied countries. Some is used to warn our friends overseas about Goebbel’s methods. In an important feature, ‘Listening Post,’ James Fergusson analyses for overseas listeners various aspects of Nazi radio propaganda. Often he shows how Goebbels tells one story in German and very different stories in English, French and other languages. ‘Listening Post’ exposed to overseas listeners the cunning but unsuccessful Nazi attempt to divide us from our American friends by using the same technique as had been employed in 1940 to try and make us and the French mutually suspicious. Extracts from ‘Listening Post’ have been broadcast in some of the BBC European services so that occupied countries whose radio is under German control could hear what Germany was saying in other countries and contrast it with what they heard themselves — and with the truth.

W. A. Sinclair, who now broadcasts a fifteen-minute weekly analysis of German propaganda in ‘The Voice of the Nazi,’ also uses the monitoring summary. To produce 500 words for the microphone, he reads through its 50,000 words to get his raw material. Equipped with the Scot’s shrewd, logical and sceptical mind and trained in modern philosophy by Whitehead, he has a sixth sense for detecting lies and ambiguities. He once tried an interesting test. For three weeks he cut himself off from all news except those given out in German broadcasts. Later, checking up his impressions with the real news he found a close connection between his own deductions from reading between the lines of German suppressions and distortions and what had actually happened.

 

Four men amongst crowded desk; a chalkboard lists programme ideas

The BBC has had to develop ears as well as a mouth since the war. Every twenty-four hours a million words are taken down, transcribed, translated. Listening to what the rest of the world says is a vital war job, Every day the editors condense material which is the length of ten novels into a clear readable summary of fifty thousand words.

 

Side by side with the expansion of the Monitoring Service has gone the expansion of our own broadcasts in foreign languages. At the beginning of the war the BBC was broadcasting in nine languages: to-day its news bulletins go out in no less than thirty-nine. At the outbreak of war the European news service was broadcasting in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Almost immediately Polish and Czech were added. Since then N. F. Newsome, the editor, has had over and over again to recruit yet another language staff at short notice till now the schedule of his department includes twenty languages, and the daily transmission of 300,000 words in thirty-six hours of broadcasting. Working elbow to elbow in stuffy basement rooms by artificial light, the seventy-five editors and sub-editors deal with the incessant stream of news that pours in from typewriters, telephones and tape-machines. Each diverts part of the stream into the channels of the particular country for which he works, emphasizes the points most likely to interest its inhabitants and presents them in the way that appeals to their temperament and psychology. But though presentation and emphasis may vary, the basic facts are never tampered with. The essence of the work of the European Service — and this applies equally to neutral countries, enemy-occupied countries and enemy countries themselves —has always been to put out straight honest news from London.

The reputation for truth which British news built up long before the war is far too valuable to lose in any misguided attempt to outdo Goebbels at his own game. It is on this basis of reliability that our news bulletins and commentaries have built a permanent and ever-growing audience of listeners throughout Europe not only in enemy-occupied countries but in the Axis itself. News bulletins take ninety per cent of the broadcasting time of the service and they are the keystone both of our support to our friends and our attack on our enemies. All the time we are forcing the hand of the Germans. True news is going out from this country and the German news bulletins are perpetually being driven to attempt to explain it away and to admit facts they would prefer to suppress.

Throughout Europe we are aiming on a long-range target, in the firm and reasonable belief that, as Harold Nicolson says, ‘no permanent propaganda policy can in the modern world be based upon untruthfulness. The day will come when Herr Hitler will desire with all his soul to be believed by his own people and by the peoples of the world. He will then find that, having forged so many cheques, having issued so many fraudulent balance sheets, he is unable to borrow five pounds upon the market. Even in propaganda, honesty is the best policy every time.’

 

Mrs and rs Churchill shake hands with a group of young people

As a direct result of the BBC French broadcasts many young men have risked great dangers to get across to this country and join the Free French Forces. These five French boys, aged 16-20, crossed the channel one dark night in canoes. Nazi troops fired on them as they paddled off. For thirty-six hours they battled with the sea. Finally, cold, hungry and almost exhausted, they were tossed up on the English coast. Here you see Mr. and Mts. Churchill receiving them at Downing Street. Later they broadcast in the French Service.

 

At this point you are justified in saying, ‘That is all admirable. It is obviously both good ethics and good sense to follow this policy of telling the truth and telling it well in your news bulletins and news commentaries. But does the BBC do nothing more dynamic? Does it attempt to undermine the morale of the people of Germany and Italy? Does it launch a counter-offensive against German radio propaganda among the victim nations? And does it exert any influence on the opinion of neutral countries at critical moments?’

The answer is definitely ‘Yes’ to all three. Let me give some concrete instances, taking the questions in the order raised.

First, what line does the European Service take with the Axis countries themselves? Every day eleven transmissions, totalling 245 minutes of broadcasting, go out to Germany. In the news talks there are three main personality’5 commentators, Professor Lindley Fraser, R. H. Crossman and Sefton Delmer — all of whom not only speak German perfectly but have an almost uncanny insight into German mentality. Sefton Delmer’s speciality is to deliver brilliant and smashing replies to Fritzsche’s libels and deliberate misstatements within an hour or two of hearing them.

Special programmes, which include dramatic ‘features,’ monologues, dialogues and music, are aimed at specific sections of the German community—workers, soldiers, airmen, sailors, peasants, housewives and intellectuals. It is known that ‘Frau Wernicke,’ the character star of one of the programmes, has a large listening public in Germany. ‘Frau Wernicke,’ who first appeared in July 1940, is a Berlin housewife speaking the equivalent of German ‘cockney.’ Her politics are naturally strongly anti-Nazi and her indictments are all the more scathing for being cunningly concealed under a layer of homely humour and injured innocence. In her lively conversations with the Blockwart, the Nazi neighbour or the air-raid warden, she always contrives to confound them with their own arguments. Other telling characters are Kurt, the cynical Nazi propagandist, Willi, the simple, kindly schoolteacher and Lance-Corporal Hirnschal, the bewildered soldier who is kicked from one end of Europe to the other.

Lance-Corporal Hirnschal is by no means a mere product of the German section’s imagination. More than a year ago, on a railway truck in Poland these words were found scribbled in chalk by a real German soldier—words that obviously voice the feelings of thousands of his comrades:

Wir fahren immer hin und her,
Wir haben keine Heimat mehr–

which means: ‘We’re always travelling here and there; we haven’t got a home any more.’

When the German section of the BBC heard of this, a clever woman on the staff promptly wrote a whole song in German on those words. It was set to a catchy tune and ‘plugged’ by our radio to the German forces. Music is one of the most effective ways of getting under the enemy’s skin. If you hear a tune often enough, it will run through your head at the most unexpected moments. And the words it carries, especially if they echo your own repressed thoughts, stick in your mind.

No less than eight broadcasts go out daily to the Italian people. Besides the news bulletins which give plain honest facts, there are telling talks and discussion features. Colonel Stevens whose voice is well known from Rome to Naples gives the unhappy Italians provocative themes for argument … themes which are taken up with avid interest by his listeners for the friction between the Axis partners increases daily. ‘Sotto Voce,’ a series in which Leo and Paulo — Italians without strong political leanings — discuss current events with a firm Fascist, Rossi, drives home still further Italy’s humiliating and uncomfortable position as Hitler’s ‘tattered lackey.’ Leo and Paulo talk of the daily hardships and difficulties of the Italian people —rationing of bread, fear of increased bombardment, the German throttling of Italian industry, the trivialities given in the newspapers to a people hungry for real news. Even Rossi the Fascist wishes the R.A.F. would bomb the railways at Milan and so prevent the sending of Italian foodstuffs to Germany. In another feature ‘Axis Conversation,’ a German business man discusses the implications of the New Order with his opposite number in Italy. The Italian is hard to persuade that German-Italian co-operation is age-old and is not even convinced by the fact that Dante the poet and Theodoric the Hun are buried near each other in Ravenna. The German and the Italian always fall out violently when the argument touches the crucial sore subject of Italians giving their lives for German ambitions with no hope of reward.

 

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We now come to the second and perhaps the most important aspect of the BBC’s battle front — the encouragement of resistance in enemy-occupied countries. London is now the seat of government of Norway, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece. It is also the headquarters of General de Gaulle and the Free French Forces. Each of these nations uses the BBC as its mouthpiece to keep in touch with its own people. Were it not for British radio, seven countries of Nazi-occupied Europe would be completely cut off from any contact with their governments as well as from authentic and unbiassed news. And the vast numbers of the French people who are still opposing German control, not only in spirit but in deed, would be severed from their comrades here who are fighting for the Allied cause in the Free French Forces.

It is impossible in so short a space to go into the remarkable work of each foreign section the BBC has formed to co-operate with the governments concerned. Let us look at a representative one — the French. Of course, the French section differs from the others in one important matter. The French Government is at Vichy, and London is officially only the rallying point of the Free French who are still fighting on our side. But ‘Free France’ is a spiritual category and all over France, more especially in the occupied zones, there are millions of French men and women who are proud to belong to it. It was to encourage them, unite them, and keep the fire of confidence and hope burning in their minds that the French section of the BBC was formed after the fall of France.

A certain amount of its broadcasting time is allocated to General de Gaulle and the Free French Forces. This part of the programme, ‘Honneur et Patrie,’ includes de Gaulle’s own stirring messages to his compatriots. In the rest of the broadcasts, the BBC’s concern is to put out a programme essentially French in character (it is almost entirely designed by Frenchmen) which interprets the true relations between France and ourselves.

 

 

Those relations were cloudy and confused immediately after the disaster of 1940. Probably the main part of the population of both countries felt suspicious and resentful about each other. But Frenchmen who knew and loved England and Englishmen who knew and loved France both realized the tie between the two countries must not be broken. General de Gaulle’s broadcast call to France to rally to our common cause reminding her that ‘she had lost a battle; she had not lost the war’ was posted up in every French restaurant in London and read with sympathetic admiration by its English patrons. A group of Frenchmen who had fought side by side with our army during the retreat, banded together with Englishmen whose faith in France had never wavered, to keep in touch with their stricken country by radio. That was the nucleus of the BBC French Service.

 

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During the first months after France’s fall, this group had five objectives. To disseminate true news to German-controlled France; to clear up misunderstandings between our two countries; to make France realize that her misfortunes had not lowered her prestige with her allies; to let the French people know of the exploits of the Free French Forces, and lastly to tell them that our own determination to fight on was unshakable, to give them signs of hope such as our victory in the Battle of Britain and to promise, in Churchill’s words, to ‘restore them to their integrity and grandeur.’

By the end of 1940, the broadcasts had produced definite results. Britain had regained the confidence of every freedom-loving Frenchman. The London radio had become not only the recognized source of reliable news but to thousands of families living in the isolation and darkness of German oppression the voice of a friend and the voice of home. They were listening to Frenchmen like themselves, men whose wives and children were suffering in France at that moment, men who were longing for the day when they could return with honour to their beloved country.

The Frenchmen who work in this section of the BBC make up as lively and as vivid a group of people as you could meet in the wisest and wittiest circles of any civilized capital. London hostesses fight in vain to lure them to dinner parties for any one of them would make the dullest evening sparkle. Some of them are brilliant and acrid French journalists; others are distinguished painters, writers, lawyers, scientists and politicians. For obvious reasons they are known now in France and even over here by pseudonyms. Until the war is over, they are not interested in social life. They prefer to sit in a stuffy canteen or an obscure Soho restaurant — eating with one hand and dashing off new ideas and embryo scripts with the other — to lingering over a Mayfair dinner table. They pride themselves on being a first-class équipe, combining the comradeship and discipline of a ship’s crew with the readiness to play any part from lead to ‘noises off’ of a provincial repertory company. They make a little corner of Paris in the heart of London, an oasis of French clarity, French warmth and French gaiety — above all of passionate French love of country. For the équipe lives, thinks, works, eats, sleeps and dreams for one end only … the liberation of France.

 

Envelopes

A few of the hundreds of letters sent to the BBC from France.

 

Since the beginning of 1941 it has had a new task to perform — to help our French sympathizers in France in their struggle against oppression, to unite them in opposition to the Germans, and by linking up with the rest of the European Services of the BBC to marshal them side by side with the other victims of Hitler in one great army whose slogan is ‘Europe against the Nazis.’

Every day, between 6.15 a.m. and midnight, eight French news bulletins and two-and-a-quarter hours of programme material goes out from London. It reaches not only France but Syria and the Near East, the Far East, Africa, Canada, and central and western Europe. Pierre Bourdan and Jean Marin, the news commentators, are two of the most popular figures in France to-day and receive large packets of fan-mail, even from occupied France where it is highly dangerous to smuggle out letters to England. Jacques Duchesne, one of the leading spirits of the section, is famous for his nightly reflexions. Another favourite series is the weekly discussion by ‘Les Trois Amis.’ The three friends meet, talk out their witty conversation just as if they were sitting at a cafe table, work it into a script and broadcast it an hour or two later.

One of the most important features is the Courrier de France in which selections from the many letters received from all parts of France are read out on the wireless. You will realize how important this is if you try to imagine yourself in the same predicament as the French at this moment. Suppose that the north and the midlands were under German occupation, and that you lived in unoccupied Cornwall. You would be able to get no uncensored news (if you could get any news at all) of how your friends in Newcastle and Birmingham were faring. Your daily paper would be entirely under German control. And the Germans would, of course, have taken over the BBC and be bombarding you day and night with false news and propaganda designed to undermine your morale. Now suppose that, from Canada, for example, you could hear not only authentic British news about the progress of the war, but authentic letters which told you what was really going on in other parts of England. Could anything be more heartening? That is what the French news bulletin and the Courrier de France does for the French. Soldiers, sailors and airmen can also send messages back to their anxious families. Naturally, whether the letter comes from France or the message from England, the sender’s name is never mentioned for fear that a family should be victimized by the Gestapo.

Another way of keeping up the French people’s sense of unity is to broadcast ‘regional’ features in which each province is reminded of its heritage and its tradition. It means as much to Lorraine and Provence to hear over the British radio their own accents and their own folk-songs as it would mean in similar circumstances to a Yorkshireman to hear a real Yorkshire voice or to a Scot to hear the music of the pipes.

Music is used with great ingenuity in the French programmes. Topical words are over and over again set to nursery-rhyme tunes or popular songs and sung on the air. We know from many sources that these catch on like wildfire and that people of all kinds from schoolchildren to train drivers sing with glee amusing anti-German songs, made by France-in-England, to such innocent tunes as ‘Frére Jacques’ ‘Auprès de ma blonde’ and ‘La Cucaracha.’ Sometimes the French smuggle out the words of songs they have written themselves such as ‘La Chanson de la R.A.F.’ and they are sung back to them over the wireless. These continual pinpricks of satire often pierce the thick German hide of complacency more than a broadside of denunciation. When the situation became so tragic in France, many kindly people thought it might be cruel and tactless to broadcast jokes and comic songs. They were wrong. It has been proved over and over again from the evidence obtained by the European Intelligence Department that they are welcomed — and welcomed most of all in those parts of France where the Nazi iron heel treads hardest. The French are remarkably like the English: the worse things are, the more they like making fun of them.

 

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What has been said about the French section could be repeated, with slight variations, of the other European sections. But it is time to give one instance of the co-operation of the whole European Service — the V campaign — which gives you proof of the effectiveness of the broadcasts.

You probably know how all over Nazi-dominated Europe the V sign is chalked up, painted up, whitewashed up and scribbled up by the oppressed inhabitants, in spite of heavy penalties. You know that it was spread by the European broadcasts from London, using ‘Colonel Britton’ as the mouthpiece for all countries. But you may not know the problems behind the V campaign nor how it originated.

For a long time one particular problem had confronted all who were concerned in the BBC broadcasts to Europe … how to counteract the physical presence of Germans in occupied countries.

Remember that their inhabitants were exposed daily to total propaganda from the Nazis. Films and newspapers, as well as broadcasts, all dinned into them the anti-Ally story. Germans paraded their streets, filled their restaurants, were billeted in their homes. Add to that the horrible loneliness of oppression — the sense of isolation, the terror of the Gestapo, the fear that your neighbour may be an informer. It was not enough to listen in small groups all over the country to the forbidden British radio. What was needed was an outward expression — some image people could see, some gesture they could make to remind them that they were not alone, that millions of others shared their feelings and their hopes. Because national emblems were forbidden, an international emblem was needed.

 

Two men point at a map of Belgium

M. de Laveleye, the originator of the V sign, discuss its possibilities with M. Geersens.

 

The choice of the letter V, symbol of Victory in so many languages, was arrived at by a mixture of imagination, and experiment, and first launched in the BBC’s Belgian programme by Victor de Laveleye. From Belgium it spread to France and then ran like wildfire all over the occupied countries. In vain the Germans fulminated, whined and punished. In vain the police washed off the V’s from walls, pavements and hoardings. Fresh crops sprang up like mushrooms as soon as their backs were turned. Then some genius discovered that the morse signal for V (. . . —) had the same rhythm as the opening bars of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. German ears were assaulted everywhere by that rhythm. Motor horns tooted it. Schoolboys whistled it. Audiences applauded in it. The war of nerves was turned against the Nazis who inaugurated it. The V is the symbol of European solidarity and co-operation —an expression of the common will of the peoples of occupied territories to resist the Germans till the great day when they can rise up and throw them out. More than that even, it is the first move in a radio-directed war of vital strategic importance. Each new move in that war strikes two direct blows at the enemy. It builds up the resistance in occupied countries, thus forcing the Germans to keep large armies of occupation in them, and it contributes to the demoralization of those armies.

There is no space to quote the remarkable and moving letters which come from all parts of Europe testifying to the eagerness with which people listen to British radio and the risks they run to do so. Many have been shot, many more sent to concentration camps, whole towns have been penalized by fines and repressive measures for no other crime than listening to the news bulletins from London. Yet still the spate of listeners grows. In Poland to-day, no less than eighteen illegal newspapers are secretly circulated. To possess a radio set is a crime, yet those newspapers contain the London news bulletins transcribed verbatim. A girl who escaped from Czechoslovakia last March wrote to the BBC, ‘People who were almost too poor to buy bread have now a radio. They need it. A man told me, “The stomach is hungry but the soul still more so. London is the only thing to feed the soul.”’

Our broadcast campaign to boycott the Nazi-controlled papers in Czechoslovakia had a speedy and thorough success. It was launched on Sunday, 14th September; by Tuesday, the 16th, news was received in London of the progress of the boycott, and on the 17th M. Jan Masarvk spoke to Czechoslovakia thanking the boycotters for their help. Later reports showed that the campaign was so successful that it almost amounted to a hundred per cent plebiscite of the Czech people’s feelings against their ‘protectors.’

The story of the campaign reveals that during the week the circulation of the principal morning newspapers dropped by two-thirds, and the evening newspapers, which have no subscribers, almost disappeared. So poor were street sales that newsvendors went on holiday, though at the beginning of the week some people paid for their papers and then carefully refused to take them away. In tramcars and coffee-houses was seen the unfamiliar spectacle of people abandoning their newspapers and ostentatiously reading the Czech classics.

In France there was no need to run a boycotting campaign. It is now so universally recognized that there is no authentic news to be obtained from the German-controlled press that the circulation of even the best-known papers has dropped to practically nothing. France to-day relies on one source of news only — the radio bulletins from London.

Lastly, to deal very briefly with the third question of how far the BBC’s foreign broadcasts influence neutral opinion, here are two concrete examples. It was Mr. Amery’s broadcast to Yugoslavia on the eve of the German invasion that turned the scales and decided her to make her magnificent gallant resistance. And it was the Persian section of the BBC Near East Service — that exceedingly interesting service of which only this one instance of its valuable work can be quoted here — that played an acknowledged part in the abdication of the Shah of Persia. In the Spectator of 26th September 1941, Glorney Bolton concluded an article on ‘The BBC and Persia’ by saying, ‘The Indian would resent falsehood and misrepresentation as deeply as the Persian. He wants the truth; always the truth. The Persian announcers spoke simply, but they spoke the truth and won their victory.’

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the heaviest gun on this battle front is the truth. It is a long-range gun that week by week is finding more and more targets. Whether we are talking to our own people, to our Allies, to neutral countries or to the enemy himself we believe, as Harold Nicolson says, that ;truthfulness is more effective than untruthfulness and honesty more durable than cunning.’

Recently an advertisement appeared in the Portuguese press, headed:

GERMANY SPEAKS
AND THE WORLD HEARS HER.

The answer now spreading from country to country and continent to continent is:

LONDON SPEAKS
AND THE WORLD BELIEVES HER.

 

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Liverpool, Thursday 7 July 2022