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Wickham Steed Looks Back On His Broadcasts

WICKHAM STEED, ex-editor of The Times, one of the most distinguished authorities now living on the course of international affairs, has broadcast to a worldwide audience each week throughout the war. Here he gives a personal background to his broadcasts. This is not supposed to be an age of privilege. Yet since 1938, and certainly since September, 1939, I have felt myself to be a very privileged person. Week after week— with only two interruptions of three weeks each in 1940 and 1941—1 have been allowed to talk on "World Affairs" to the British Commonwealth and Empire, to the U.S.A., and in fact to all who speak English throughout the world. I have thus been able to build up an almost personal relationship with a great many listeners in Africa, India, both Americas, Australia and New Zea-\ land, not to mention ships at sea, that has made me feel very near to them. How this came about I shall try to tell. It was in 1938, if I remember rightly, that the late Mrs. Ormond Wilson, better known by her maiden name, Margery Wace, asked me to talk regularly on "World Affairs" in the Empire service of the 8.8.C. In the years just before the war this service had reached an important stage in its development. From its earliest I days in 1932 it had made a vivid appeal to the imagination and to the sense of unity throughout the Commonwealth. By 1938, however, the horizon was growing dark. Broadcasts from Great Britain began to take on urgent and topical significance. A commentary on the tangled web of international affairs was needed to play a part in forming a mutually shared view of what was really taking place. This part I was asked to play, and I am glad to recall that in trying to play it I soon- earned several hard names from Dr. Goebbels. Ha actually classed me with Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden as an "international assassin." A Whopping Big Lie From the standpoint of German aggression, contemplated and actual, I was an "assassin." My victim was German propaganda. Once, I remember, Ribbentrop accused Neville Chamberlain of having deliberately worked up a war situation with the intention of attacking Germany. This was, of course, a whopping big lie. As I had opposed Ribbentrop publicly while he was Nazi Ambassador in London, and had also criticised Neville Chamberlain for "appeasement,l was able to give Ribbentrop the lie direct an hour or two after he had spoken. I said in so many words: "Ribbentrop is a liar. He kncws he is a liar; and he knows that I know that he is a liar." We heard no more of that particular German argument. We were then battling against the full tide of German propaganda. Our potential audience included not only influential and well - informed opinion, but many listeners whom distance from Europe prevented from understanding the quality and the extent of German falsehoods. It was not long before "fan mail" began to show that my simple stuff had gone home in a good many parts of the world. Won Staff's Admiration With the war came the blackout, and presently the "blitz" and the anti-aircraft guns. It "wasn't always easy to get to Broadcasting House; nor in 1940 and 1941 was it quite safe. Special talks had sometimes : to be given late at night or in the : early hours of the morning. So I : had to drive through the dark streets : in my car, and trust to luck. Miss , Wace was always there, sometimes , weary, ever imperturbable. She won ; the admiration of all who worked with her; and she used to "pull my , leg" by saying that if I should fail to . turn up with a cheerful script, however dark the outlook might be, she ; would think we had lost the war. There was no particular merit in ] being cheerful. What I said merely 1 reflected the temper of our people. ] So I was on safe ground, even during the worst of the blitz period, in tell- . ing listeners'overseas .that the people , of Britain were not only able to .

"take it," but meant to repay the Germans a hundredfold. Once, in 1940, I said: "In course of time we shall sally forth from our fortress in ways and in a strength that will give Hitler and Mussolini food for reflec-

tion. We are not going to be beaten: and in their heart of hearts they know we are not."

Luck the Right Way

I may have been lucky in not having my forecasts, or the confidence I really felt, upset by the course of events. So my listeners got a notion that what I might say would probably turn out to be right, and gave me credit for knowing a good deal more than I really knew.

| Physically, too, I was very lucky. INo bomb or shell splinter touched me, though several bombs did rock my house, and one of them blew me into bed and shook me out again. More than once I put on an old tin hat, gathered at the front in the last great war, and turned up in it at Broadcasting House.

At length, as was to be expected, Broadcasting House itself was hit. The spacious and comfortable studios on the upper floors were knocked out, and one had to, sit before an improvised microphone, in a kind of cubby-hole, well below the level of the street and to imagine that what one said was realjy being heard in the uttermost parts of theearth. Then came a migration to other underground dungeons, still lower down, "somewhere in London."

The work itself was always interesting, and the echoes of it that came in made it seem more and more worth while. It wat, pleasant to hear from faithful listeners in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, the West Indies, the United States, Peru, the Argentine, and from the captains and crews of ships at sea that one had helped them not to lose faith in final victory. Hardly less pleasant was it to be cursed as a malefactor by Dr. Goebbels and his henchmen.

They honoured me with a fine selection of epithets, such as "One of the worst British warmongers," "A poisoner of the public mind about Germany," "A first-class intellectual escapist," "A tight-rope walker," "A miserable hireling, bribed and bought/' and "The old fox of British journalism." I .felt that I had really got under the hides of those villains.

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Bibliographic details

Wickham Steed Looks Back On His Broadcasts, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 168, 18 July 1945

Word Count

Wickham Steed Looks Back On His Broadcasts Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 168, 18 July 1945

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