18 JANUARY 1975, Page 13

Having a ball I recently saw-again on the telly, The

Bridge on the River Kwai in which the prisoners come marching back whistling the tune of Colonel Bogey. It annoys me, as I invented the song about the Nazi leaders, to hear it misquoted.

I was woken at 7.30 on the morning of September 1, 1939, by somebody from the Foreign Office saying: "The balloon has gone up, they are bombing the Polish airfields. Could you come down to the Office as soon as maybe?" That summer in Berlin I had given dinner to Professor Dr Sauerbruch, who was Goering's doctor, and who in Hitler's last days succeeded Morell, the quack who finally ruined Hitler's health, as the Ftihrer's doctor. Sauerbruch told me how Goering had suffered this singular deprivation in a street fight in Hamburg some years before and that he had in fact carried out one of the first AID operations on the Reichs-Marschall and the actress, Emmy Sonnemann, when he eventually married her. The lines about Hitler and Himmler were intelligent guess-work and the last two lines about Goebbels were totally untrue.

At the end of the war the concentration camps were filled with the actor husbands of beautiful young actresses who had objected to the attentions • paid by the Minister for Enlightenment and Propaganda to their young and beautiful wives.

I sang it at lunchtime to the great James Bone, the London Editor of the then Manchester Guardian, to the late Charles Graves, and to Douglas MacDonald Hastings, who is still happily with us. All three paid tribute to my authorship. 'Mac' Hastings in fact made a broadcast about it telling how the authorship had been attributed not merely to native poets but to the Dominion troops who had arrived in England from overseas. He ended charmingly something like this: "But Toby need not despair. Such literary plagiarism is nothing

new. See Bacon and Shakespeare." Curiously enough the late A. P. Herbert told me that he was not, as I had always been led to believe, the author of the poem which begins: "The sexual life of the camel is filled with peculiar kinks."