BBC News At Ten on Tuesday (July 21), in its report on the 1943 Bengal famine, was blatantly biased, partial and misleading, in effect condemning Churchill as a deliberate mass murderer.

It should note the following, written by the eminent historian Professor Andrew Roberts, whose recent biography set the record straight:

“Churchill was not in any way responsible for the Bengal Famine which began after a terrible cyclone hit Bengal in October 1942, destroying the rice crop on which the inhabitants depended, as well as many of the roads and railways needed to bring in supplies. In earlier famines, rice had been shipped from Burma, Thailand and elsewhere in the Far East, but this was impossible because the Japanese had invaded those countries and their submarines were operating in the Bay of Bengal and their Navy had shelled East Indian cities.

"The British Raj based in New Delhi was slow and occasionally negligent in responding to the famine, but so were the provincial governments that were run by Indians, who allowed merchants to hoard grain when prices were rising rapidly, and on occasion refused to sell grain to the Calcutta government. When one goes to the original documents, one reads letter after letter from Churchill to the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India suggesting measures to alleviate the suffering, and asking for grain shipments from President Roosevelt.

"It was true that the food needs of the British and Indian armies in Burma were given priority, but a starving Army would not have been able to keep the advancing Japanese out of Assam and north-east India. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines they killed 17.8 per cent of the population there. Transferred onto the Indian sub-continent, that would have meant 50 million Indians killed, far worse than the admittedly truly awful death toll of between 1.5 and 3.5 million in Bengal.

"The distinguished American historian Arthur Herman is not alone among historians in believing that 'absent Churchill, India’s 1943 Famine would have been worse'.”

Incidentally, Herman also wrote The Scottish Enlightenment, the Scots’ Invention of the Modern World, compulsive reading for all Scots.

John Birkett, St Andrews.


ON receipt of my AA Motoring renewal I had occasion to query several benefits on offer. After 20 minutes of repetitive piano playing punctuated by comments such as "thank you for your patience ... please continue to hold ... your call will be answered shortly". My acknowledged patience was duly rewarded by the messages abruptly ceasing. I redialled. Same process. Same outcome.

Judged on this performance the biggest breakdown is the communication is between the AA and its customer. Perhaps the hint is to park the offer and just jog on.

Allan C Steele, Giffnock.


IT was nice to read of Syncopating Sandy (Letters, July 21).

In the 1950s as schoolboys in Kilmarnock my pals and I spent hours in the Savoy cinema watching Sandy and his marathon piano playing.

Not that we were interested in the music. What we wanted to know was his toilet arrangements.

After many hours all was revealed. A large screen was wheeled on to the stage and placed in front of the piano. After a suitable interval the screen was removed. During all of this he continued to play as before.

Alistair Mackie, Carluke.