4

10th December, 1924

CONFIDENTIAL

My dear Prime Minister,

Further to my letter of to-day addressed to the Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department.

I spent the week-end with Sir Maurice Hankey [1] in the country. I write you this personal and confidential note mainly to tell you what transpired.

With regard to the League: Austen Chamberlain [2], as you know, decided to attend the Council Meeting at Rome himself although it was very inconvenient. The reason was two-fold. Firstly, the new Government wanted to make an early gesture indicating their great confidence in the League in an effort to increase its prestige;

secondly the Government had not been satisfied with the representation of Lord Robert Cecil. [3] As you know, he is regarded rather as a fanatic on the subject of the League and the position was arising that he was putting forward his own personal convictions and ideas at Council Meetings rather than proposals that were strictly representative of the Government's views.

Hankey expressed the opinion that from now on as far as the League went Cecil's star was on the wane.

I find that until the 8th inst. you had not been sent any information with regard to Persia. There has been considerable trouble brewing there for some little time and it has necessitated the greatest forbearance on the part of the Government to get over the necessity for a display of force in order to protect the property and interests of the Persian Oil Company. I need not go into detail here but will only say that the trouble has arisen through the conflicting ambitions of Reza Khan the Prime Minister of Persia and the Sheikh of Mohammerah, in whose district the Persian Oil Company's property lies. This Persian trouble has been kept entirely out of the Press in some miraculous fashion. From the telegrams that I have seen in the last day or so it looks as if the chance of an outbreak has been tided over.

The Egyptian and Sudanese trouble [4] followed by our declaration that we are going on with the Singapore base would not have been a good forerunner to our using the big stick in Persia and almost certainly at a little later date to our turning down the Protocol.

This combination of incidents would have given the new Government [5] altogether too much of an Imperialistic and high-handed flavour which might have made our relations with other countries a little strained.

I have been a good deal surprised and enlightened as to the very broad scope and important work being carried out by the Committee of Imperial Defence, which I had in my ignorance regarded as a politely constituted body to which rather academic questions were referred. I find that it is very live, uses actively the best technical brains in the country and is a very complete coordinating body for the purpose of ensuring that we are not caught unawares in any future war. Their Sub-Committees appear to embrace almost every condition under which the Empire might be involved in war and the personnel and equipment problems in their broad aspects and in detail to meet such a contingency. In my position in Hankey's Office I am in the way of seeing the Papers and obtaining their deliberations and I look forward to being able to send you some useful matter, which, even if not of interest to you in detail, will indicate how their minds are working.

With regard to the Protocol, I hear in the strictest confidence that at the Committee of Imperial Defence Meeting on this subject on the 4th instant, a broad proposal of great interest was made by Lord Curzon. [6] He pointed out that the Disarmament Protocol as now framed was a distinct movement away from the possibility of America going into the League. He threw out as a general suggestion that we should not adhere to the Protocol but on the contrary should come forward with some counter-proposal which would at the same time offer some security to France and also make it easier, and not harder, for America at some future date to come into the League. Thought on these lines will, of course, take a great deal of developing and it will no doubt be some time before anything materialises. I give you this merely to show how their minds are working. It is possible that they may invite you to come to London if this or any similar project reaches definite shape and looks as if it must involve close collaboration with the Prime Ministers. This was hinted at by Hankey and if anything more comes of it I will see that you are warned well in advance.

I had a short talk to Sir Cecil Hurst [7] a few days ago. He admitted that sentiment in this country was moving against the Protocol but said that he thought that even if the Protocol were rejected as now framed it would not have been time wasted as some very essential ground had been covered in the discussions and people's minds were clearer as to the possibilities of such agreements in extension of the Covenant. Owing to his large share in the drafting of the Protocol he has apparently not beet) consulted subsequently to any extent, on account, I expect, of his known bias in favour of it.

I have met and talked somewhat briefly to a number of people and am still doing so more with an idea of getting to know them rather than, as yet, seriously to tackle the job in hand. I am afraid, therefore, that my communications up to the present have not contained anything very important but I think you will realise that I have first got to make myself known to a number of people and then to make myself au fait with the subjects one has to deal with before being in a position to send you anything very much.

I think I can safely say that the outlook promises well for my being able to be of use to you. I have come across nothing up to the present that could be called a real difficulty in the way of my getting established.

With best wishes, I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Secretary to the Cabinet.

2 Foreign Secretary.

3 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He had been created Viscount Cecil of Chelwood in 1923 Perhaps the United Kingdom's leading League of Nations advocate, he had been a delegate at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and frequently at the League Assemblies (on occasion representing South Africa). He had played a key part in the writing at Geneva of the ill-fated Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1923, the rejection of which led to the MacDonald-Herriot initiative for what emerged as the Geneva Protocol.

4 After a year of nationalist agitation, the Governor-General of the Sudan and Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army, Sir Lee Stack, was assassinated in Cairo in November 1924. As Casey was writing, the High Commissioner in Egypt, Lord Allenby, was restoring British control with some severity.

5 The minority Labour Government of Ramsay MacDonald, which took office in January 1924, obtained a dissolution of Parliament in October 1924 and in the elections of 29 October 1924 the Conservatives under Stanley Baldwin were returned with an immense majority.

6 Lord President of the Council and Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence.

7 Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office.