Graeme Bowman was born in 1961 in Greenock, Scotland. His Dad worked in a sugar refinery while his Mum raised the family. Following a brief naval career, Graeme spent a decade in academia, culminating in a Doctorate from King’s College, Cambridge. Graeme’s thesis analysed Black Studies in Californian Public Higher Education, 1963-74 but the Degree Committee refused to accept it under its original title (‘Up Against The Wall, Motherf***er) so Graeme submitted his work under a spectacularly boring title. Underwhelmed by Oxbridge, Graeme spent a decade in broadcast/interactive media where his colleagues’ delusional narcissism inspired his subsequent career in mental health. Graemes passion for writing and history illuminates Empire First.

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  • in 2002, Graeme read a book review in ‘Lobster’ magazine (Read here) which cited Basil Liddell Hart’s claim of secret Nazi-Soviet peace talks in Kirovograd (Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine) in June 1943. Did such talks really take place? Did Molotov meet Ribbentrop in the middle of WWII? If not, why would a respected historian make such a claim?
  • Graeme buys Liddell Hart’s History of the Second World War to investigate this claim which appears on p.623 (2014 edition). Liddell Hart’s claim is based on testimony from “German officers who attended [the talks] as technical advisers” but he doesn’t identify these officers, explain how he met them or provide other evidence to verify the meeting. Why would a respected historian make such a claim? Graeme’s curiosity is piqued!
  • Graeme visits the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King’s College, London to examine Liddell Hart’s personal papers. He discovered that Liddell Hart was employed to lecture German POWs on the virtues of democracy during 1945-46 and he met a German officer (Theodor Reitmeyer) who claimed to have attended the Molotov-Ribbentrop talks. Subsequent research revealed that the only German officer named ‘Theodor Reitmeyer’ was a staff officer based in Arras, northern France in mid-1943 so - if Ribbentrop met Molotov - Reitmeyer was unlikely to have attended. Graeme concludes that a bored or mischievous German POW told Liddell Hart a tall tale for amusement.
  • However, other papers in the Liddell Hart archive referenced secret Nazi-Soviet contacts in Stockholm in the first half of 1943 which appeared plausible as Sweden was neutral and both countries maintained embassies in Stockholm throughout WWII. But why - after two years of brutal warfare and mass murder - would Stalin contemplate any sort of peace deal with Hitler? By 1943, he was convinced that Britain and America were dragging their feet over the Second Front in the hope that Germany and Russia would engage in mutual destruction - he was unwilling to oblige them in this and began exploring other options.
  • This intrigued Graeme. At that point, he was unaware of any controversy surrounding the timing or location of the Second Front so he started investigating. Preliminary research revealed that America couldn’t be accused of foot-dragging as US planners had advocated north-western European operations from early 1942 onwards, but Churchill was openly hostile, advocating ongoing Mediterranean operations in preference to Overlord as the eastern Mediterranean and Suez Canal had always been Britain’s fast route to the Empire and oil from the Middle East. If this interpretation is correct, it shatters Churchill’s reputation as an icon of liberty and undercuts a foundation stone of British self-identity. Graeme wrote and researched Empire First to discover if this interpretation withstood rigorous scrutiny and - after two decades of forensic analysis - concluded that it does. On multiple occasions, Churchill - in his own words - confirmed his opposition to Overlord and strong preference for ongoing Mediterranean operations and these (along with similar comments from the Chiefs of Staff) are detailed throughout Empire First.

Do you endorse Graeme’s interpretation? Did Churchill really prioritise British oil and empire interests over the liberation of western Europe? Read Empire First and decide! And if you reject Graeme’s analysis, please tell him via the Contact Form as he’s always interested in new insights based on evidence.

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