29th October, 1925


(Due to arrive Melbourne-28.11.25)

My dear P.M.,

The Greek-Bulgar border incident [1] has been of interest in bringing out the welcome difference that exists between such a dispute now (with the League of Nations in existence) and before the War. I understand from the Central Department of the Foreign Office that on such an incident happening before the War, the Great Powers generally took a sympathetic side with one or other of the disputants, irrespective of the merits of the dispute.

Russia was a particular offender in this respect, especially in relation to any Balkan dispute. Certainly the position is simplified by the post-war elimination of Russia and Germany as side-takers, but there is, I think, quite a noticeable lack of partisanship amongst the European states. Pre-war the temptation for Serbia to have taken a hand in such an incident would have been irresistible. The present incident is, at least, a happy augury for the success of the policy of localisation of Balkan incidents and the putting into immediate force of measures of conciliation between the two parties under the aegis of the League.

I spent last week-end with Sir Arthur Lawley at his place in the country. He was Governor of Western Australia in 1901, Administrator of the Transvaal and Matabeleland, and Governor of Madras just prior to Lord Carmichael. One of his daughters married Geoffrey Dawson, Editor of the 'Times', who was also there for the week-end. The other daughter is Maid of Honour to the Queen.

Nothing very interesting came out of the week-end. Lawley is 65 and a spent force, and takes an interest now only in various companies of which he is a Director, amongst them being Dalgety's.

Geoffrey Dawson is rather wooden in my humble opinion. I find that I am far from being alone in this view. I can't quite understand how he comes to make such a success of the 'Times'. One of the few remarks of any interest that he made was that he knew that the 'Times' representation in Australia was not all it should be.

Sir Almeric Fitzroy's 'Memoirs' in two volumes were published recently. He was Clerk to the Privy Council before Hankey. [2] I haven't read it as one can't possibly keep up with all these books. I have dipped into it far enough to see that it is on lines which have become conventional for this type of publication. I don't think it necessarily shows a weakness in character to say that they are undoubtedly interesting, as we are all interested in 'people' and the sidelights on their characters and motives which such books show up by the questionable practice of revealing private conversations when people are off their guard. I believe this book is rather feminine in its gossip. He has been very much criticised for revealing incidents which became available to him by reason of his official position. I am told by someone well placed to know the truth that the Queen returned unopened the presentation copy that Fitzroy sent her.

The latter may have had some connection with the unfortunate Hyde Park incident in which Fitzroy was implicated some couple of years ago. [3]

In connection with this memoir writing, I am told that Lord Esher [4] intends to have his diaries and papers connected with the War period presented to the British Museum, with stipulations that they are not to be published until, I think, it is 60 years after his death, and, in the meantime, are to be made available to accredited students for legitimate historical purposes.

Hankey himself has a formidable and growing pile of notes which he intends, I believe, to publish after his retirement.

Miles Lampson [5] (Head of the Central Department, F.O.) has recently accompanied Mr. Chamberlain to Locarno and to the special (Greek-Bulgar) meeting of the League Council in Paris. [6] He also made quite a name for himself with the British Delegation to the Washington Disarmament Conference. He is a very large, genial person with a considerable number of the virtues that go to make up a successful diplomatist. He is not by any means the intellectual type (who usually lack many other things), but is a very commonsense, shrewd fellow, honest and straightforward. One often hears him spoken of as the eventual head of the F.O., which I think he would do uncommonly well. He gets on very well with all the foreign diplomatists in London and one always meets them at his house.

It has often occurred to me that it might be a politic move for H.M.G. to offer one or two of the Colonial Governorships to selected men in the Dominions from time to time. I mentioned the subject once to Hankey and he agreed that it would be all to the good, but he said that there was, even at present, great competition for them in the Colonial service and that, as there were not a great number of them available and the term of appointment was generally for five years, they could not, therefore, make sufficient available to Dominion people to make any great impression.

He went on to say that we had the appointments to the late German N.G. Territory Mandate, and to the Nauru Mandate, and that if the New Hebrides was partitioned and put under mandate, we would almost certainly get that.

If you thought the idea was worth following up, perhaps you would let me know, or mention it to Amery [7] when you write. The various appointments available are given in the Colonial Office List, with salaries, &c.

I enclose, as a matter of interest, the curiously worded form of summons to a Cabinet meeting that is still in use in this country.

I have mentioned before, in private letters to Henderson [8], the weakness of the Australian Press Association and the Australian Cable Service on the Foreign Affairs side. The basic source of public information on Foreign Affairs in this country is the News Department of the Foreign Office, where there are three permanent F.O. officials (Sir Arthur Willert [9], Mr. A. Yencken [10] and Mr. C. J. Norton [11]) whose primary duty is to give daily interviews to some 30 or 40 representatives of the Press, mainly British, but amongst whom are probably a dozen foreigners. These three officials of the News Department see all cables and despatches in and out of the F.O. and spend their mornings in getting themselves up-to-date from cables and print and by visiting all Departments of the F.O. Their afternoons are spent in 'releasing' such information as their experience tells them is legitimate for the Press to know. Each pressman is seen individually and is allowed to ask what questions he likes.

Naturally a pressman who has made himself conversant with Foreign Affairs will absorb more from a quarter of an hour's interview than a man previously ignorant of his subject.

I repeat the above prior to saying that it is only on very rare occasions that any Australian press representative ever visits the News Department. I have spoken to all three News Department officials and they say that between them they can only remember an Australian journalist visiting them for interview once in the last year, except as a messenger to collect printed 'released' matter such as the Text of the Pact.

As you may not have seen the private letter I wrote Henderson on this subject, I will risk baring you by quoting from it:-

The A.P.A. consists of journalists of general experience. None of them have specialised in or know anything about Foreign Affairs.

They come to a subject, such as the Protocol or the Pact, completely ignorant of what has led up to it or what it really means. They very seldom go to the F.O. News Department as do the British Press. They rely for their comment on clipping the London papers with which they have special arrangements-a most tin-pot method. They occasionally go and interview someone and get his comment on some incident of the moment-but they haven't the knowledge to know what his comment is worth. As regards anything more abstruse than a divorce case, their detailed knowledge is shaky. In an organisation that serves almost the whole of the Australian and N.Z. daily press, there might surely be room for a man who had some experience and knowledge of Foreign Affairs, so that Australia might be served with something better than re- warmed pap.

The only immediate remedy I can suggest is for leading Australian newspaper proprietors, whose voice would mean something in the A.P.A., to agitate for a Foreign Affairs specialist to be employed on the A.P.A. staff in London. Intelligent work on the part of such a man would go far to create a keener interest in Australia in Foreign Affairs.

If you think this subject worth your attention, a suggestion to the above effect to some of the leading controllers of the Press in Australia would, I think, be of value.

The Dominions Office a day or so ago asked me how I thought you would wish to be approached regarding the attitude of Australia to the Security Pact. [12] I said that, at all events, you would not want to be asked in such a way that you would have to reply before the elections, and, even so, I thought the best plan was to telegraph privately and 'ask you if you wanted to be asked'. I think this is the form their query will take.

When you have time to consider the matter, you will realise, I think, the very remarkable increase in the volume of information going to you officially on Foreign Affairs. On the Pact, Mosul [13], Chinese Tariff Conference [14], Greek-Bulgar incident, you have had almost daily telegrams, frequently of great length and detail-so much so that on all these important subjects there has been practically nothing left for me to say.

I have spoken of this before and the reasons-psychological and others-you know. What will be the effect of this shower of telegrams on the other Dominions? They will be forced, I think, to create some small department to deal with them-to read them intelligently at least. They may affect to pretend that they have no great interest in these matters but they will not like having the uncomfortable feeling that this country has, at any rate, done its part by supplying very full information, and they may have to answer questions in their parliaments as to how the information is dealt with and kept track of.

I expect you will have realised by now the general relations between members of the Cabinet. I gather that the P.M. [15] does not have much to do with Austen Chamberlain. [16] It may be that A.C. doesn't feel very drawn to S.B.; A.C. being older, more experienced and with greater mental attainments, doubtless did not like giving way to S.B. for the leadership of the Government, and the liaison and sympathy between them is weak in consequence. I believe S.B. never mentions A.C., nor calls him in for private consultation. Winston [17], on the other hand, living next door to the P.M., is constantly in and out of No. 10 and no doubt uses his considerable ability to influence the P.M., in his own way.

I am told that the men that the P.M. is in the habit of calling in to talk things over quietly with are Sir Douglas Hogg [18] and Neville Chamberlain. [19]

The P.M. shares the general distrust in Amery's judgment.

Birkenhead [20] and Winston run together generally. Birkenhead is against the Mosul business. He was absent (probably on purpose) from the Cabinet at which it was discussed and is, I understand, now in course of preparing a screed, damning H.M.G.'s attitude.

The text of the Pact has now been aired for ten days and, during that time, has received the public blessing of the heads of all parties. The P.M. and Austen Chamberlain for the Conservatives, Grey [21] and Asquith [22] for the Liberals and Ramsay MacDonald [23] for Labour have all been extravagant in their praise. The Press, with minor exceptions, have echoed it. Presumably the people accept rather blindly what their leaders tell them, without understanding very much what it is all about, in spite of the fact that the Pact and the Arbitration Treaties are all simple instruments. [24]

I am not yet able to send you the promised letter re British Liaison Officer in Australia, as Amery has been very busy lately and has not been able to give it attention.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

P.S. Hankey has just told me that the question of whether or not to ask the Dominions about their attitude to the Pact was discussed this morning and it was tentatively decided that it would be best to leave it over until the next Imperial Conference, when it could be explained in detail to the Dominion P.M.s and the subject thoroughly thrashed out. There is, however, no hint yet as to when this is likely to be. You will, I expect, get a cable or a despatch telling you the above.

1 On 20 October 1925 Greek forces crossed into Bulgarian territory to avenge the death of a Greek officer killed in a border skirmish. Bulgaria appealed to the League of Nations Council which ordered a ceasefire and withdrawal, sent in a commission of inquiry and, early in December, ordered a Greek financial indemnity to Bulgaria. The League Council was helped by the enthusiastic activity of France's Aristide Briand and the United Kingdom's Austen Chamberlain, both enjoying tremendous prestige after the announcement of the Locarno Pact on 16 October, by the low repute of the Greek dictator, General Pangalos, and by Anglo- French backroom discussion of sanctions and naval demonstrations.

2 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

3 A grandson of the third Duke of Grafton, and Clerk of the Privy Council 1898-1923, Fitzroy had been committed and tried in 1922 for allegedly having accosted women in Hyde Park but his appeal was upheld and costs were given against the police.

4 A member of the Committee of Imperial Defence 1905-18, and a prolific writer.

5 Appointed Minister to China in the following year.

6 See note 1 above.

7 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

8 Dr Walter Henderson, Head of the External Affairs Branch.

9 Formerly a correspondent for The Times.

10 Australian-born Second Secretary at the Foreign Office.

11 Second Secretary at the Foreign Office.

12 The Locarno Pact.

13 See note 3 to Letter 33 and note 18 to Letter 34.

14 A conference of twelve powers convened by China at Beijing (Peking) in October 1925, in pursuance of Article 2 of the Washington Treaty of February 1922, accepted a Chinese demand for tariff autonomy by 1929. Administrative instability in China, however, saw the conference peter out in mid-1926 with the tariff and other aspects of foreign powers' financial dealings with China still unresolved.

15 Stanley Baldwin.

16 Foreign Secretary.

17 Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

18 Attorney-General.

19 Minister of Health, half-brother of Austen Chamberlain.

20 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India.

21 Lord Grey, Foreign Secretary 1905-16.

22 Lord Oxford and Asquith. As Herbert Asquith he had been Prime Minister 1908-16.

23 Leader of the Labour Opposition. He had been Prime Minister for ten months in 1924 24 Five treaties were concluded at Locarno on 16 October 1925: (1) the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee whereby the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy guaranteed the existing Belgo-German and Franco-German borders and the demilitarisation of the Rhineland, and Germany, France and Belgium undertook not to employ physical force against each other; (2) four arbitration treaties between Germany and France, Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia. At the same time, but outside the Locator, framework, France signed alliance treaties with Czechoslovakia and Poland.