The 96 year old feud between the Murdochs and The Guardian

Posted on July 7, 2011

The hatred between the Guardian and the Murdochs is a thing of legend, but I hadn’t realised until today quite how far back it goes. Via the ever-excellent Willard Foxton, I came across an intriguing article which incidentally sheds a bit of light on the history of the titanic struggle between the two.

The piece recounts the story of how Rupert Murdoch’s father Keith Murdoch, sent as a war correspondent to cover the disastrous Gallipoli campaign against Turkey in 1915, attempted to expose the military failings which were feeding thousands of British, Australian and Kiwi soldiers into a meatgrinder in the Dardanelles. His and other journalists’ reports were heavily censored by the military authorities on the ground, and eventually Murdoch decided to smuggle a letter to Prime Minister Asquith to bring the mess to light.

(It’s worth noting at this point that the normally excellent Willard Foxton referenced this story on the Huffington Post as an instance of the Murdochs “doing damage to the allied cause in WW1″, whereas I’d personally view it as an example of a journalist doing what they should – investigate and expose serious issues in the public interest, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.)

The bit that caught my eye was what happened to Murdoch while he was trying to smuggle the letter back to Britain:

He got as far as Marseilles, but there was detained by a British officer with an escort and warned that he would be kept in custody until he handed over the letter. He had been betrayed…by H. W. Nevinson, the correspondent for the Guardian.

And 96 years later, here we are again, watching the Guardian and a Murdoch kick lumps out of each other. I can’t imagine after this week’s events that there’s any chance that peace will be declared in the next 96 years, either.



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Categories: Opinion, Politics


20 Responses

  1. Peter Levick:

    Interesting information in the article. According to the highly respected historian Robert K. Massie the Australian journalist Keith Arthur Murdoch arrived at British Headquarters on September 2nd. and spoke to General Sir Ian Hamilton. After giving the general an ‘ elaborate explanation of why his duty to Australia was better done with pen than rifle’ he was permitted to visit Suvla and Anzac beaches for a few hours. He then, in a breach of a signed agreement pertaining to the behaviour of all war correspondents wrote a letter directly to Andrew Fisher the then prime minister of Australia. This letter praised the health, spirit, and bravery of the Australian forces but spoke contemptuously of the British soldiers as being child like without the strength to endure or the brains to improve their conditions. He also made the totally false accusation that British officers had been ordered to shoot down any British soldier who appeared laggardly or failed to advance.
    It is also of interest that Rupert Murdoch was a major financial backer of the 1981 film Gallipoli.
    The Guardian apart, Murdoch’s hatred of the British nation goes back many years and can be seen in his many attacks on what he perceives to be the ‘Establishment.’
    For some strange reason the British people keep on buying his newspapers and listening to his media outlets that are so obviously anti – british.

    08.07.2011 15:08 Reply

  2. Davieboy:

    That’s a great & valuable story, thanks for sharing.

    08.07.2011 15:42 Reply

  3. m wood:

    So the Vendetta goes on! In todays world, the unanswered question is ‘How did the Guardian obtain the detailed information about hacked phone numbers ?’ It is likely that it could only have come from the police . Did THEY pay for it? I read somewhere that they had it in April. If so they then sat on it until the best time to derail the Sky bid. Is that responsible journalism?

    09.07.2011 08:53 Reply

  4. Bonsai:

    Some feud: to avenge the ‘betrayal’ of his father, Rupert Murdoch decides to buy a popular trashy Sunday paper, corrupt the British Police, hack into terror victims phones and then sack hundreds of his own journalists. All to spite the Guardian. Is that what you are implying?

    09.07.2011 13:33 Reply

  5. Demetrius:

    Good story, but a big but, it was “The Manchester Guardian” and not quite the same as the Floggers of Faringdon Road.

    09.07.2011 13:46 Reply

    • gnothergnu:

      … but, but, but the “Floggers of Farringdon Road” are the direct descendants of “The Manchester Guardian”. In 1959 the paper dropped “Manchester” from its title, becoming simply The Guardian, and in 1964 it moved to London.

      10.07.2011 12:54 Reply

    • I.M. Golightly:

      Demetrius, the size of your ‘but’ implies that you think they are not the same newspaper – they are! The Manchester Guardian became The Guardian in 1959, and moved to London in 1964. Oh, and they moved out of Farringdon Road some time ago too. Apart from these points you’re spot on :-)

      10.07.2011 14:51 Reply

    • markwallace:

      As others point out, Demetrius, it is the same paper with a changed name. In the same way that P Diddy was once Puff Daddy…

      11.07.2011 11:43 Reply

  6. Matt:

    So, the Guardian were a bunch of sanctimonious humbugs from the start? My God!

    10.07.2011 11:54 Reply

    • Hadrien:

      They were indeed – and they still are! ‘Comment is free.’ (But facts are expensive.)

      10.07.2011 18:02 Reply

  7. Nigel S:

    i think if you look into this a bit more deeply you will find a good deal of myth making by Murdoch senior about Australians being sacrificed by British (or more likely English officers) that is responsible for much of the warped view of the real events. A look at the casualty lists and which units sufered most heavily is instructive for a start.

    10.07.2011 12:07 Reply

  8. Andy:

    The Guardian have always been a bunch of shits. Tell us something we don’t know.

    10.07.2011 19:21 Reply

  9. Sebastian Weetabix:

    I’m afraid this story is not correct. The journalist in question was Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett of the Daily Telegraph, not Keith Murdoch. See L.A. Carlyon’s Gallipoli for the full story. The exposure of the failures at Gallipoli was down to Ashmead-Bartlett & a staff officer called Dawnay (both were well connected socially and spoke directly with Asquith, inter alia). Murdoch was only in theatre for 4 days and had precious little to do with it, though he did claim significant credit after the fact.

    10.07.2011 19:51 Reply

    • markwallace:

      You’re right that Ashmead-Bartlett was the prime source of information and the instigator of the exposure of Gallipoli, Sebastian, but if you follow the link in the article you’ll see that Ashmead-Bartlett gave Murdoch the letter to carry to London.

      11.07.2011 11:45 Reply

  10. Andrew:

    Murdoch’s father is a bit of a hero in Australia for his role in stopping the slaughter at Gallipoli – Churchill was a villain for his role in planning this campaign and for his role 30 years later in suggesting that Australia shouldnt be defended againstthe Japanese until the war in Europe had been won – which pushed Australia into the “USA camp” – where it has remained ever since.

    10.07.2011 21:47 Reply

  11. Robert Edwards:

    Keith Murdoch was a well-known Anglophobe before this all kicked off. It must have been pointed out to him (as it was to several others) that to attempt to circumvent the blue pencil of the censor might do much harm, either in undermining the morale of Allied soldiers or giving useful information to the enemy. Either way, it could hardly have helped. But so grew up certain myths about Gallipoli, several of which have made it on to the screen, mainly that it was an Australian business. Note – not ANZAC, but Australian. In truth, more French colonial soldiers died than Australian ones. From what I have found out, the Kiwis are cool about it.

    My Grandfather was there, and when he discovered the attempts at media bias, he was disgusted, because, in truth, it was, a bit like Arnhem later on, basically a sound plan. Grandfather took a Turkish bullet and was invalided out with dystentery. The latter did more damage than the former. So for Murdoch to be grassed up by another correspondent seems fair enough to me and God knows, I am no apologist for The Guardian…

    11.07.2011 08:41 Reply

    • Nigel S:

      Agree, ironically the retreat was very well organized.

      11.07.2011 11:37 Reply

  12. Bouvs:

    Not sure when “smuggling a letter TO THE PRIME MINISTER” counts as doing damage to the allied cause. What was Asquith going to learn that the generals weren’t telling him?

    11.07.2011 09:04 Reply

  13. Nina:

    Old news. This was covered in depth during a radio 4 profile of Murdoch earlier this year. Doubt if the journos you mention have cited the Beeb as their source.

    11.07.2011 11:01 Reply

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