How To Be an Internee with no Previous Experience by Colin Shindler

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BBC Radio 4, 16 December 2008
During the Second World War the author P.G.Wodehouse was interned by the British government on suspicion of high treason for having broadcast material on Berlin radio to American listeners that could be construed as "providing aid and comfort" to the enemy. Although escaping execution, he was censured for his activities and advised not to return to his own country. His exile only ended two decades later, when he was the subject of an extended tribute to celebate his eightieth birthday.
Colin Shindler's play explored the motives behind Wodehouse's broadcasts. As portrayed by Tim McInnerny, he was a classic silly ass; the victim of his own success as a popular writer. Having spent the bulk of his working life creating memorable duffers such as Bertie Wooster or Gussie Fink-Nottle, Wodehouse believed that his sole aim in life was to make people laugh, without considering the consequences of his actions. He did not intend to cause offence with his broadcasts, but failed to grasp how working on an enemy radio station might be interpreted as a provocative act. A lifelong pacifist, Wodehouse claimed that he did not care whether Britain won the Second World War or not; not because he was unpatriotic, but because he abhorred the idea of men fighting one another. The sheer naivété of this observation was breathtaking yet entirely appropriate for a man brought up to believe in the Edwardian ideals of fair play and good sportsmanship as propounded at Dulwich College, his public school.
Another example of Wodehouse's naivété could be seen in the way he and his wife Ethel stayed at the Hotel Bristol in France, in the belief that it provided the most comfortable place for accommodation during wartime. What they failed to realize was that the hotel was a notorious haunt for German informers who willingly passed secrets on to the enemy.
In the light of such blunders, it was not surprising that the investigating officer Cussen (Anton Lesser) found it difficult to decide whether Wodehouse was a genuine innocent or not. He eventually gave the author the benefit of the doubt, while suggesting that Wodehouse's decisions were dictated mostly by vanity rather than common-sense. As a celebrity he believed that he was in some way insulated from the day-to-day realities of wartime life - even if he did make a diplomatic mistake, he believed that his readers would immediately forgive him. Wodehouse's experiences of internment taught him that this was not the case: like everyone else celebrities had to work for the national interest. This Afternoon Play was directed by Peter Leslie Wild.