So, that is the end of the informal bibliography. Next to those books there is a similar number of extras: books, videotapes, DVDs and CDs. These are the works of genuine reference, too long and detailed to be read or studied as narratives, but endlessly consulted for details, dates, verification of facts. There are gems amongst them.
For instance, I have all of Hansard for Churchill’s greatest period, and that is complemented by a CD I picked up at Chartwell, of Churchill’s best-known speeches (including some of the ones known or thought to have been recorded by Norman Shelley, an actor who was a member of the BBC Repertory Company). We are all familiar with the recordings of Churchill’s broadcasts, but who actually spoke the words? It’s still difficult to be certain and the trail has long gone cold. Some of these recordings raise other questions: the ‘finest hour’ speech on 18th June 1940, for instance, begins with the words, ‘Mr Speaker’, as if Churchill were addressing the House, but this was many years before Parliament was recorded. There are edited gaps, audible on the recording, and several minor textual changes in some of the famous phrases. For instance, Churchill is quoted as saying in Hansard, ‘[If we fail] we will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more prolonged, by the lights of a perverted science.’ In the recording, ‘prolonged’ becomes ‘protracted’ and ‘a perverted science’ loses the indefinite article. Overall it sounds more like a politician’s technical speech than a broadcast to the public. A post-war revision, perhaps? The voice certainly sounds like Churchill’s, and he is speaking slowly and tiredly. Post-war, again? Churchill aged rapidly after the end of hostilities. Or is it a genuine recording of a man, as he sounds, at the end of his tether? I suppose we will never really know for certain.
On the same shelf there is John Keegan’s invaluable The Times Atlas of the Second World War: every campaign, battle or general theatre of war depicted in terms of specially drawn maps, supplemented by a mass of other information. Leni Riefenstahl’s films of the 1934 Nuremberg Rally and the 1936 Olympics are there on tape. I have a host of videotapes recorded off-air, a testament to the huge amount of interest that remains in WW2, even today, even nearly sixty years after the war ended. Vast biographies of Hitler, Goebbels, Speer, Himmler. My parents’ set of the Pictorial History. Martin Middlebrook’s encyclopaedic The Bomber Command War Diaries, a truly obsessive book, every single wartime RAF raid described in detail, supported by endless statistics and anecdotes from both the RAF and the authorities in the German cities which were bombed. Tim Kirk’s invaluable The Longman Companion to Nazi Germany, everything and more than everything you need to know about that dreadful period of German history. A collection of wartime newspapers. An anthology of extracts from Signal, a propaganda magazine that was published in Germany for almost the whole war. Rebecca West’s The Meaning of Treason, the famous book about Lord Haw-Haw. Videotapes of The Dam Busters, Appointment in London, Memphis Belle, Twelve O’clock High, many more. A fabulous mass of stuff, littering my office, taking up space. How can I go on leaving it there? How can I ever get round to clearing it up?