In response to:
The Ultra Ultra Secret from the February 19, 1976 issue
To the Editors:
Professor H. R. Trevor-Roper’s review of Bodyguard of Lies [NYR, February 19] is, as might be expected, accurate, fair and scholarly. Furthermore it is necessary, to correct a lot of journalistic nonsense.
I should like, however, to set the record straight on one detail. Trevor-Roper says, “Sir John Masterman, undeterred by the bumble of bureaucracy, published his account of the Double-Cross System.” This implies, first, that Sir John allowed his book to be published in defiance of official prohibition. He was sorely tempted to take this course over a period of years; but in point of fact the book was not published until official permission had been obtained from Her Majesty’s Government. Second, what might appear to have been bureaucratic bumble turned out to be no more, and no less, than a series of small points, largely concerned with strengthening the “cover” of agents still living; identification of agents may result in danger either from them or to them.
The few verbal changes in the text were agreed without difficulty within the space of ten days. The case may perhaps remain as an example of the advantage of consultation over confrontation.
H. R Trevor-Roper replies:
I am quite content that Mr. MacDonald should stand by his words, and that readers should judge between us. He offers no concrete evidence but thinks that he knows Sir Stewart Menzies and his work better at third hand than I did at first hand. Well, let him think so. But when he twists my words in order to accuse a friend of mine of “lying,” I must reply to that detail.
“It is of no real consequence,” he says, “whether a man was or was not a flyfisherman, except that either way he should not lie to Who’s Who.” As I quoted him, Mr. Montagu stated, correctly, in Who’s Who, that one of his recreations had been fly-fishing. On this evidence alone, Mr. Cave Brown states dogmatically that he is “one of the best fly-fishermen in England.” When Mr. Cave Brown’s exaggeration is pointed out, Mr. MacDonald replies by accusing Mr. Montagu, without any qualification, of “lying to Who’s Who.”
I agree that Mr. Montagu’s fishing is of no real consequence, but it is of some consequence whether historians know how to use evidence.
The answer to Mr. Mansbridge is simple. The bureaucracy bumbled, but when Sir John Masterman stood firm, it ultimately yielded on terms. If he had been deterred by the bumble, his book would not have been published. But I should not have implied that the ban was broken by him.
Incidentally, I made one slip. “Cicero” was not in the British Embassy in Istanbul, but in the British Embassy in Ankara.
April 1, 1976