Yugoslavia: Churchill Hoodwinked

Writer and TV producer Peter Batty was recently interviewed by the Slovenian weekly news magazine Democracija. The results are posted in English on their website. He is asked about his book Hoodwinking Churchill (2011) in which he explained how English soldiers and diplomats Fitzroy Maclean, William Deakin and James Klugmann filtered information to Churchill in WWii to secure his decision to switch support from the royalist Chetniks led by Mihailovic to the communist Partisans led by Tito. He also explained that before writing the book he worked as a TV documentary producer at the BBC and prepared a two-part documentary program on the same subject. When it finally aired, the BBC had made edits without his knowledge to exhonorate the very people Batty had identified as the hoodwinkers. This experience lead him to write the book.

In the course of the interview, Evelyn Waugh’s role in WWii Yugoslavia comes up:

Q. Some British emmisaries praised the Partisans, others, like Evelyn Waugh, sent detailed reports on communist atrocities. Yet Waugh’s reports were suppressed by the British cabinet. Why?

A. John Henniker-Major, a British liaison-officer sent out to Titos’s HQ, says in his memoirs Painful Extractions that Evelyn Waugh was thought a crashing snob and that he loathed the Partisans because they were anti-catholic. He says that Waugh and Randolph Churchill, Winston’s only son, and Lord Birkenhead, were tolerated only because their presence gave the Tito mission prestige and a higher profile back home, and added to the impression that Fitzroy Maclean had a lot of people on his side. They were what he described as »markers on the board«. Few took notice of what they said. Fitzroy [Maclean] made sure of that. Eventualy Fitzroy saw to it that Waugh was expelled from Yugoslavia,

Q. Because of Waugh’s reports the British government could anticipate that communists will murder anti-communists, so why did British forces hand over anti-communists to Tito?

A. For the reasons explained in my previous answer, Waugh’s reports were never taken seriously in London

Waugh never gave up on his fight against the UK’s support of Tito, even after the latter broke with the Soviet Union. Waugh became particularly vociferous in a letter-writing campaign when Tito was invited on a state visit to the UK in the 1953. This also comes up in the interview, but Waugh’s role is not mentioned:

Q. Churchill invited Tito on a state visit in the 1950s. It was Tito’s first visit outside communist block, in fact, it opened his door on world stage. So why did Churchill do Tito such favour, if he was doublecrossed by him, as he claimed in first post war years?

A. It was more of a Cold War manoeuvre than anything personal. After Tito’s ‘break’ with Stalin, the West sought to befriend him so as to annoy the Soviets. There were anti-Tito demonstrations while he was in London.

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