Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Patriot Game

So who led Plaid Cymru's official delegation to Berlin in 1940?  J E Daniel?  Saunders Lewis perhaps?  And wasn't that young Gwynfor booking into the Hotel Kaiserhof; right next door to the mighty Reichskanzlei itself?  Soon our gallant band would be sitting down with Adolf and discussing the imminent downfall of the British Empire.

You might think my scenario is tripe, nonsense, poppycock, claptrap, balderdash?   No doubt you'd be right, but don't tell me, tell the readers of the well-regarded book Patriots, National Identity in Britain 1940-2000.  Here are some reviews:

Wide ranging, intelligent, sensible, and important - Sunday Telegraph
A major work - The Independent
A treasure trove - Daily Mail
Many perceptive thoughts - The Guardian
Marvellously rich - Financial Times
His research is formidable - Sunday Times

So the book went down well in the Metropolis then.  The Guardian did complain about a lack of footnotes but no reviewer thought to query one rather astounding claim:

"Plaid Cymru was less circumspect, sending an official delegation to Berlin in the summer of 1940 to convince Hitler that in return for some measure of Welsh independence they would support a Nazi regime elsewhere on the island."

You have to wonder how such a tall-tale ever got into the mainstream.  Perhaps it stems back to MI5's fantasy Welsh-nationalist Arthur Jenkins (Snow) and his imaginary pals.  Certainly one of their number, the British agent "Jack Brown" visited Germany in 1940 as a guest of the Abwehr.  The eisteddfodwr Leigh Vaughan Henry is also said to have had links with German Intelligence, but he was a member of the British Union of Fascists  and by the summer of 1940 was safely interned in one of His Majesty's establishments.

In an email the author of Patriots told me that the "official delegation" story came from a Welsh historical monograph on the early history of the party.  It's a monograph, unreferenced in the book, which is unknown to other academics versed in the history of Plaid Cymru.  The author's other Welsh researches do not inspire much confidence - for example he confuses MAC and the FWA, who seemingly sent a letter-bomb responsible for "blowing the hands off a small girl."  Once out into the mainstream, like black propaganda, such accusations fester and are reprinted in other books and taken-up by bloggers and tweeters. It soon becomes, as one English author of a subsequent re-telling informed me, "fairly well documented."  A documentation built on sand.

It says a lot about the relationship between England and Wales that none of the distinguished reviewers of the book thought a Plaid "official delegation" to Berlin in 1940 at all shocking or unbelievable.  It's also telling that such a visit was not worth the bother of any subsequent follow-up or investigation.  The Welsh are clearly untrustworthy but also unimportant.  Yes, they would have scuttled-off to Berlin - presumably in one of those mythical U-boats that used to call into Cardigan Bay for fresh eggs and a sing-song in the local pub - but who cares.

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