Previously I have posted on the muddled chronology of Churchill's account. As a witness statement it is valueless:
Churchill has described the successful Ark Royal attack and goes on to describe Vian's torpedo attacks in the early hours of the 27th long before he talks of the signal. Then only after this he describes his movements, arriving at the War Room and talking to Bruce Fraser. He says he was there for four hours. Then he quotes Lutjens' final message concluding "Long live the Fuehrer!" and even the despatch of German bombers which happens on the 27th and U-boats to the rescue and includes the toothless U-556's encounter with Ark Royal many hours before the successful T/B attack. Then he retrospectively refers to Tovey's message planning the abandonment of the chase at midnight and then at last gets around to his intervention and the supposed signal.
Nowhere is the signature phrase "Shores of France" mentioned. The towing home element is present in the real 11:37B as well as the apocryphal signal. Many things Churchill "suggested" were not acted upon.
And lastly, Winston's alcohol consumption at evening dinner was notorious, suggestions that appear sensible to those who have taken drink are ignored by those who are sober. Alcohol can affect memory too you know
He is not a witness to "Shores of France" on the 26th and his ambiguous writings can refer accurately to the 11:37B.
a signal log, that can be easily "censored"
We have already discussed the difficulty/impossibility of doing this. We have not identified a motive.
either Tovey was a very sophisticated liar
I have seen no indication that anyone in this affair was a liar. The nearest thing to manipulation of the truth is Roskill with his deliberately imprecise description of the signal in Churchill and the Admirals. Motivated as he is to highlight every malevolent intervention of the Great Man/Monster, even he cannot ignore probity and owns up in the footnote 36 that the signal is actually 11:37B/27 and not the imaginary signal misremembered by Tovey nine years after the event and about which he pestered for another decade.
The above statement about veracity is true except for Pound and Alexander, who pretended to Churchill that an investigation of certain aspects had taken place when there is little indication of any analysis other than the Hood Boards of Inquiry which were not concerned with tactical matters. Since Churchill's diletantte interference in matters of naval detail were uninformed, unrealistic and unwelcome this is not surprising. As both PM and Minister of Defence he had more important matters he should be thinking about.
Pound's "own papers" may refer to private correspondence, but in his role as First Sea Lord, the idea that professional matters of record were dispensed with in this summary way is incorrect. We have access to plenty of material. Brodhurst records Cunningham and Blake's pyromania causing the "fury of subsequent historians" but still manages to complete a comprehensive biography without uncovering skulduggery, such as a Conspiracy Theorist might allege. Theorists who always allege that lack of supporting evidence for their suppositions means it must have been destroyed.
From the May 27th Hansard record of Parliamentary proceedings the following- Winston addresses the House:
Mr. Lees-Smith May I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the course of the war?
The Prime Minister Yes, Sir. The battle in Crete has now lasted for a week. During the whole of this time our troops have been subjected to an intense and continuous scale of air attack, to which, owing to the geographical conditions, our Air Forces have been able to make only a very limited, though very gallant, counterblast. The fighting has been most bitter and severe, and the enemy's losses up to the present have been much heavier than ours. We have not, however, been able to prevent further descents of airborne German reinforcements, and the enemy's attack and the weight of this attack has grown from day to day. The battle has swayed backwards and forwards with indescribable fury at Canea and equally fiercely, though on a smaller scale, at Retimo and Heraklion. Reinforcements of men and supplies have reached and are reaching General Freyberg's Forces, and at the moment at which I am speaking the issue of their magnificent resistance hangs in the balance............... however, that we have lost the cruisers "Gloucester" and "Fiji" and the destroyers "Juno," "Greyhound," "Kelly" and "Kashmir," by far the greater part of their crews having been saved. Two battleships and several other cruisers have been damaged, though not seriously, either by hits or near misses, but all will soon be in action again, and some are already at sea..................
Etc Etc Etc Bad news from Crete takes priority over Bismarck.
...........This morning, at daylight or shortly after daylight, the "Bismarck" was attacked by the British pursuing battleships. I do not know what were the results of the bombardment; it appears, however, that the "Bismarck" was not sunk by gunfire, and she will now be dispatched by torpedo. It is thought that this is now proceeding, and it is also thought that there cannot be any lengthy delay in disposing of this vessel................
Mr. Garro Jones May I ask the Prime Minister whether he can say what was the weight of the projectiles which were thrown on the "Bismark" prior to the abandonment of the gun attack for torpedo attacks?
The Prime Minister I naturally cannot. I only heard about five minutes before I came into the Chamber the latest information to reach the Admiralty, and, as I have said, I have no doubt we shall get further information in the course of the day.
Mr. Woodburn Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the dropping of weeping gas bombs on the "Bismarck" to see whether she could not be captured?
So Winston was aware that Tovey's guns had failed to sink Bismarck, before
he started speaking on the morning of the 27th, and undoubtedly pestered Pound with the "tow home" twaddle he had thought up the previous night
, resulting in the 11:37B actually being sent. Pressured by the PM moments before he was to address the House of Commons with unrelentingly bad news from Crete, Pound is instructed to send a "fairly stupid" signal to Tovey.
All the best