Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to BBC Director General

Letter No.: 
March 9 [1941]

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,


I learn from the ‘Times’ of March 8 that the British Broadcasting Corporation has banned the musical compositions of Dr Alan Bush on account of his political opinions.
So far as I know Dr Bush’s political views I am strongly opposed to them.  Nevertheless I wish to protest against this victimization of private opinion in the only way possible to me.  You may remember that the British Broadcasting Corporation has lately done me the honour to commission from me a choral song.1 I now beg leave to withdraw my offer of this song to the British Broadcasting Corporation.
I return the fee which was paid me and ask you to give directions that all manuscript material of the song be returned to me.  I will, of course, be responsible for the expenses incurred in its production.
I am sending copies of this letter to Sir Adrian Boult and to the ‘Times’.
Yours faithfully

Ralph Vaughan Williams

1. England, My England (Catalogue of Works 1941/1).

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW composer
General notes: 

The letter was noted on receipt: ‘VERY URGENT B.M. D.S. will you pl. handle? F.C.O. 10/3’.
In the hand of AVW signed by VW.
The greater part of the letter is printed in R.V.W.: a biography, p.239. The letter was acknowledged by ‘MGF’ on 14th March: ‘It was with deep regret that we received your letter of 9th March and the cheque for £21 which accompanied it.  You will perhaps have seen in “The Times” today the B.B.C.’s statement on its attitude towards those who contribute to its programmes in war-time.’ The statement said that ‘no-one is invited to the microphone who has taken part in public agitation against the national war effort. Beyond this limit the Corporation is jealous to preserve British broadcasting as an instrument of freedom and democracy’. The statement ended with an undertaking that steps would be taken to ensure that ‘there shall be no withholding of engagements unless it is quite clear that the persons concerned come within the category stated’. Full statement at VWL1527.

Cobbe 356; R.V.W.: a biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, p.239.
Original database number: