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Churchill's Traitors

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As America’s sailors were burning alive in the boiling oil of Pearl Harbor, and British prisoners were being bayoneted to death on the shores of Malaya a shocking truth about the attacks remained a secret. From the aircraft carriers that sunk the US Pacific fleet, to the intelligence that enabled the catastrophic capture of Singapore, many of the minds behind these devastating blows to the West were not Japanese at all…

Whilst British and American servicemen struggled against appalling odds in Hawaii, Malaya, Singapore and in the Pacific Ocean Theatre (along with Australian, Indian, Malayan, Singaporean, French and Canadian troops) little did they know they had been betrayed by people from their own side.

A network of British aristocrats and servicemen – some from the pinnacle of the British establishment – were spying for the Japanese. Most shocking of all the key player was a peer of the realm from the inner circle of the Prime Minister himself: Sir Winston Churchill. 

The price of their treachery was enormous:  Pearl Harbor marked the end of America’s military invulnerability to foreign attack; the fall of Singapore, the end of the British Empire.

This sensational story will be told for the first time in a landmark world exclusive documentary.

Newly declassified intelligence documents in Britain’s National Archives are unraveling an almost unbelievable story hidden for 70 years: that British officers armed, trained and provided the intelligence for Japan’s lightning Pacific victories of 1941-42. The attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out by Mitsubishi zero planes launched from aircraft carriers. Yet incredibly just 19 years earlier, Japan didn’t have a single one of these state-of-the-art warships: the first could only be completed with the help of an elite British design team and the first landing on its deck was made in a Mitsubihsi plane…flown by a British pilot.

Britain and Japan had been allies throughout the First World War and some British officers were unwilling to break the bonds they had forged, even if it meant treason. The intelligence services were on to them almost as soon as they returned home from the Orient, only to be thwarted time and again by a government which feared a public trial of key members of its own establishment. This conspiracy reached its vortex just weeks before Pearl Harbor when MI5 presented the results of a secret surveillance operation to Winston Churchill. The Prime Minister wrote in a secret document secured for the film:

‘At any moment we may be at war with Japan, and here are all these Englishmen, many of them respectable, two of whom I know personally, moving around collecting information and sending it to the Japanese. I cannot believe they have any idea of what their position would be on the moment of a Japanese declaration of war. Immediate internment would be the least of their troubles.’

The intercepted letters, transcribed phone taps, and even photographed Japanese pay cheques of the MI5 investigation have been hidden in the archives for 70 years…until now: it is this 18 year investigation that provides the natural narrative of this gripping story.


Credit Line

Brave New Media for BBC2, UK

Producer(s)

Paul Elston

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