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New Lord Mountbatten Biography Fuels “VIP Abuse” Claims

Sunday Times puff-piece ignores “Kincora” allegations in book; preview copy was provided to Carl Beech promoter Mark Watts

From the Sunday Mirror:

Lord Mountbatten’s ‘lust for young boys’ exposed in FBI files

The decorated war hero was under US surveillance for more than three decades

Lord Mountbatten was “a homosexual with a perversion for young boys”, according to newly released FBI files.

…In Mr [Andrew] Lownie’s book, Ron Perks, who was the Earl’s driver in Malta in 1948, breaks his silence to claim one of his favourite places was the Red House near Rabat, “an upmarket gay brothel used by naval officers”.

And Anthony Daly, a rent boy to the rich and famous in the 1970s, claims he was told “Mountbatten had something of a fetish for uniforms — handsome young men in ­military uniforms and beautiful boys in school uniform”.

The article is a derivative piece based on a longer account of the book by the Sunday Timess media and entertainment editor Grant Tucker (also syndicated under a different headline to the Australian). Alongside the details rehashed by the Sunday Mirror, Tucker also refers to “an interview with a man who was Mountbatten’s lover throughout the 1970s, an unnamed neighbour then in his 20s.” Note that the man’s status as “lover” is presented by Tucker here as if this were an established fact rather than a claim

The plain meaning of the Sunday Mirror headline and opener, and of others like it, is that the FBI was watching Mountbatten’s movements, and had discovered that he was a child sex offender. However, as the story in due course makes clear, the quote in fact merely refers to a piece of aristocratic gossip that the FBI had picked up:

…one file references a 1944 interview with Elizabeth de la Poer Beresford, Baroness Decies.

The memo says: “She states that in these circles Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife are considered persons of extremely low morals.

“She stated Lord Louis Mountbatten was known to be a homosexual with a perversion for young boys. In Lady Decies’ opinion he is an unfit man to direct any sort of military operations because of this condition. She stated further his wife was considered equally erratic.”

“Young boys” in this context is unlikely to mean “children”, and the Sunday Times chose to allay this impression by amending the quote in its headline to “young men”. But the larger point is that this is not something that the FBI had verified – it was just a bit of hearsay it had noted down. One other derivative article, in Malta Today, adds further confusion with a headline stating that the “Red House” detail comes from the FBI rather than from Perks (Lownie is so careless as to have amplified this headline on Twitter without correcting it).

In fact, the FBI note (and another like it) is nothing new – Mountbatten was dogged by rumours of homosexuality his whole adult life, fuelled by his naval career, his friendships with gay men such as Peter Murphy and Noël Coward, and the fact that his wife had numerous affairs. (1)

There is something irritating about an article that relies on a book without properly explaining the basis of its claims. How did the man who claims to have been Mountbatten’s lover in the 1970s substantiate his account? Why does Perks believe that the “Red House” was a gay brothel, and is there any supportive evidence? Was it just a gay brothel, or did it also have other functions?

The alleged hearsay gossip of Tom Driberg via Anthony Daly is an odd inclusion – Daly is the author of an alleged “VIP abuse” memoir originally titled Playland and now reissued as The Abuse of Power, and Tucker’s write-up describes him as someone “who had a close relationship with Driberg”. However, from what I can find in the book itself (which lacks an index), there is just one account of a meeting with Driberg, at Driberg’s flat in the Barbican.

According to Daly, Driberg quickly began boasting about his youthful association with Aleister Crowley, even though this was afterwards a source of embarrassment to him (2). There’s no apparent reference to Mountbatten, in which case it is fortunate that Daly has just happened to remember an extra quote which now means his name is back in the media. Lownie’s confidence in Daly is also expressed in a cover blurb he provided for the second edition of Daly’s book (“A brave, honest and shocking memoir which deserves to be widely read by those in authority” – visible on Amazon but not present on the Google Books image) (3).

[UPDATE: on Twitter, Bandini notes that Daly was asked in 2015 whether he had seen “definite evidence” that Mountbatten was “a paedo/who killed Dando”. The implication is that the television presenter Jill Dando had been murdered because she had discovered something about Mountbatten 20 years after his death. Daly replied with the statement “Speculation and inference – no evidence as such”, then adding that this was “The answer was in relation to a Q re Mountbatten and Dando”. Given the outlandish nature of the proposition, one wonders what “inference” Daly had in mind, and why, on the more general point, he didn’t refer to Driberg at that time.]

However, even more extraordinary is that the book apparently delves into claims that Mountbatten was involved in organised child abuse involving boys trafficked from the Kincora children’s home in Northern Ireland. This sensational angle is covered by Joseph de Burca in a left-wing conspiracy magazine and website called the The Village, and he complains that British articles have ignored this aspect of the work. Lownie has endorsed the Village article, commending it as “one of the only magazines which has bravely trodden where other papers will not go”. The question of course is why other papers “will not go” there – lack of “bravery”, or recognition that credulity would the strained by a full account of Lownie’s claims? Either way, Grant Tucker has some explaining to do.

According to the Village summary, Lownie’s book features the testimony of several individuals who say they were taken as boys to Mountbatten for sexual abuse. The article also refers to Richard Kerr, although it’s not clear whether he features in Lownie’s book. The difficulty here is that Kerr’s claims cannot be relied upon – for example, it turns out that he was on remand in prison in Northern Ireland at a time he says he was trafficked to London to be abused by VIPs. Kerr withdrew from the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland rather than account for difficulties such as these. The Village has since run several articles based on Kerr without acknowledging these problems, including one I discussed here after Kerr added Enoch Powell to his roster of perpetrators.

How did Lownie come into contact with these accusers? Perhaps the former Exaro journalist Mark Watts had something to do with it: Lownie provided Watts with an advance copy of his book, and Watts now writes that “In 2015, Exaro named Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles’s great-uncle and mentor, as being one of several establishment figures who helped to cover up a paedophile network of VIPs linked to Kincora boys’ home,” adding that “At the same time, Exaro also reported that Lord Mountbatten mixed with paedophiles who went to parties in the Republic of Ireland, and that he visited Kincora, although exactly why was unclear”.

The Exaro article can be seen here – the claim about the Republic of Ireland is attributed to “an intelligence source”, while the rest of it is based on Kerr, whose name Watts now avoids mentioning. Watts also writes that “there is more to come out about Dickie Mountbatten’s alleged appetite for young cadets, ratings and servicemen, either side of today’s age of consent – and on how it was covered up”. This particular Tweet has been RTed by Lownie, who appears to retain confidence in Watts despite Watts’s central role in the Carl Beech fiasco. (4)

The end of Tucker’s article quotes Lownie as saying “I am a serious historian rather than a tabloid journalist but in a full biography I had to deal with many of the allegations which have repeatedly been raised.”

Footnotes

1. Tucker notes that Mountbatten’s official biographer was dismissive of the rumours, although for some reason he fails to name him or to set out his reasoning. The biographer of course was the eminent historian Philip Ziegler, whose Mountbatten appeared in 1985, six years after Mountbatten’s assassination by the IRA. He writes on pages 52-53:

When he first met Peter Murphy and might have fallen victim to his charms, he was besottedly in love with a series of girls… for the first few years of his married life Mountbatten was preoccupied with his wife. All his naval contemporaries who have expressed an opinion on the subject – and some worked very close to him – state emphatically that they do not believe the stories to be true.

…Observing Mounbatten [when elderly] with his hand on the arm of an attractive young man, the less charitable observer leapt to an agreeably scandalous conclusion. The fact that the arm would more often belong to an attractive young woman was neither here nor there.

…In 1975 the Daily Mirror published article about a homosexual ring centredon the Life Guards’ barracks in London. Mountbatten was told that his name had been mentioned in this connection. “I refused to take this seriously,” he recorded in his diary, “and I said I might have been accused of many things in my life but hardly the act of homosexuality.”

Why would a man who was homosexual or even bisexual write such a thing in his diary?

The subject is also discussed in the more recent Mountbatten: The Private Story (2008), by Brian Hoey. A crudely written review of the book published in the Pakistan Daily Times claims that it exposes Mountbatten as voraciously bisexual, but this doesn’t seem to be supported by a browse of the text itself, in which gay interview subjects who knew Mountbatten state that he wasn’t of their persuasion, although he was tolerant and regarded it as none of his business.

2. The scholar Marco Pasi notes that Crowley’s biographer John Symonds waited until after Driberg’s death before adding a chapter about Driberg’s relationship with Crowley. This seems unduly cautious if Driberg was happy to blab about it to anyone who happened to call.

3. In May 2018, Private Eye magazine (1469, p. 35) ran a review of Playland under the heading “Fantasy Fiction”; the piece did not attempt to debunk Daly’s story, but implied in a sceptical tone that Mirror Books (associated with the newspaper group) had published an unlikely and unsubstantiated story. Daly – who says he was inspired to speak out after reading Anthony Gilberthorpe’s claims (discussed here) – Tweeted that he had offered to show evidence to Eye editor Ian Hislop but had been ignored.

4. Watts is of the view that Beech’s trial was “unsafe”, and as such he has not felt the need to engage with the overwhelming evidence of Beech’s guilt (and in a good example of projection, he accuses the media of “avoiding” the issue), or to apologise for the aspersions he cast on sceptical journalists and the victims of Beech’s malicious falsehoods.

Watts argues that the court did not have insight into how the effects of abuse might influence the nature of disclosure, which appears to imply that Beech’s lies, fabrication of evidence and use of email to create fake collaborative witnesses does not discredit him. Watts explained this in a recent audio interview with the fringe conspiracy theorist Tony Gosling.