Notes From Winston Churchill's Whitehall Bunker To Be Released





Historians seeking an accurate record of how Winston Churchill governed Britain from his Whitehall bunker in the darkest days of the blitz will from next January be able to read the contemporary notes taken by the cabinet secretary at the time, breaking a tradition which has protected these documents for more than 60 years. The decision to release the notebooks follows pressure from Lord Phillips, the new lord chief justice, to publish the notebooks under the Freedom of Information Act.

Historians seeking an accurate record of how Winston Churchill governed Britain from his Whitehall bunker in the darkest days of the blitz will from next January be able to read the contemporary notes taken by the cabinet secretary at the time, breaking a tradition which has protected these documents for more than 60 years. The decision to release the notebooks follows pressure from Lord Phillips, the new lord chief justice, to publish the notebooks under the Freedom of Information Act.

Until now the government has resisted their release on the grounds that it would break the collective responsibility of cabinet government. The first tranche of the notebooks - from 1942 to 1947 - will cover the Churchill and Attlee governments. They are expected to reveal the gloomy reports of Britain under the blitz, the victory at El Alamein, the preparations for the D-Day landings, plus plans for the welfare state and the Butler plans to reform education.

The Attlee government's discussions should cover the nationalisation programme and establishment of the NHS and answer the vexed question of whether the cabinet was ever told Britain had the atom bomb - and what happened when ministers found out.

Unlike cabinet minutes which generally record briefly the decisions taken in a bland, non-committal way, the notebooks record in vivid detail the disputes and fears of the people who governed Britain. But unlike politicians' memoirs, their views will have been recorded in an impartial way, with no political agenda to embellish success or run down rivals.

Until 1942, custom and practice meant that the government of the day destroyed these accounts at the end of the year. But in 1942 a decision was taken to preserve the notes for posterity.


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