18th February, 1926


(Due to arrive Melbourne-20.3.26)

My dear P.M.,

Your telegram asking urgently for the date of Sir George Buchanan's [1] expulsion from the Institute of Civil Engineers arrived at 2 p.m. on Saturday last. I spent till 8 p.m. trying all conceivable means of getting the information -but failed completely. It was a fine weekend-and you know the habits of people in this country in fine weekends. I had got and checked the original story from a man in the India Office, another in the Office of the Crown Agents for the Colonies, and another who is a member of a leading firm of engineers. They were all three impossible to get hold of in the weekend. I tried a dozen other sources, including one that seldom fails-the Intelligence Department of the 'Times'. It appears that the matter was hushed up at the time and did not get into the Press. I had reluctantly to cable you on Saturday night that I couldn't get the information till Monday. [2]

However, the incident had its useful side as it threw me in touch with a man called Maundy Gregory [3], who promises to be most useful. He is nominally the Editor of a monthly periodical called 'The Whitehall Gazette', but is really a sort of subterranean Government Intelligence Agent, whose job is to know all about everybody and who carries out investigations of a confidential nature for the Government. I was personally introduced to him by Lord Southborough [4], who vouched for our respective respectability. I intend to cultivate him as he will be a good spare string to have to one's bow.

Lord Southborough is, I think, a first-class person. What the Americans call a 'hand-made' as opposed to a hereditary peer. Was Sir Francis Hopwood until 1917. A Civil Servant who has come right up to the top. I met him first at Lady Northcote's [5] house. She has, by the way, been particularly good to me and has provided means of my meeting a lot of people.

2. The bulk of the daily press and the weekly reviews (Spectator, New Statesman and the Nation) have come out with strong articles condemning Mussolini's Tyrol speech in the course of this last week. [6] As one of them says, the incident is an index of what he thinks of the Locarno spirit.

The press generally are also waking up to the many dangers inherent in the prospective enlarging of the League Council. The negotiations and intrigue in this direction are a good example of the back-scratching that goes on in the League. Everyone is afraid of hurting someone else's feelings in case it will prejudice his own lively sense of favours to come. Too many soft words and not enough common sense.

3. Whether or not you decide to attend the September Assembly at Geneva yourself, it would seem to me no less than essential that you try to ensure that at least as many as possible of the Dominion delegations are housed in the same hotel as the British Delegation. It is a simple measure making for ease of collaboration, which, if neglected, makes the exchange and co- ordination of views a burden. Last September was a nightmare in this connection as we were at the Metropole on one side of the Lake, and the British delegation were at the Beau Rivage on the other side. If you think well of it, it would be well worth telegraphing to Sir Joseph Cook [7] to make the necessary reservations at once in the same hotel as the British delegation.

4. One important result of the Colwyn Economy Committee's [8] recommendations was implemented at a full meeting of the C.I.D.

last week, when the rate of accumulation of oil reserves by the Navy for the next two years was very materially reduced. The Admiralty have been proceeding on a programme which would have meant the building up within 10 or 12 years of a full 12-months' supply for the Navy in active naval warfare' Of course, Beatty [9] and Bridgeman [10] had their disagreement with this reduction placed on record.

5. The Prime Minister [11] is at the moment attempting to put into effect the advice of the Colwyn Committee as regards economies in the Air Force. With regard to the constant struggle and friction between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, for control of the Naval Air Arm, he is trying to strike a bargain between the two on the basis of which they will be asked to sink their differences and get along together in some degree of harmony.

6. Cavan [12] has resigned (by effluxion of time) from being Chief of the Imperial General Staff and is replaced by Sir George Milne [13], who Hankey [14] says seems a first-rate man for the job.

7. I am arranging to be supplied daily from the F.O. with copies of the British Official Wireless messages, in order to see what Australia is receiving. It has been indicated to me that if there is any particular incident or item of information that I want included, it will be 'sympathetically considered'.

8. You may be interested to see from a letter which I send by this mail that Guido Baracchi [15] has resigned from the Communist Party of Australia-the reason given being its utter futility as a party. This seems to add point to the other indications that the Communists are not very happy in Australia. However, you have enough other trouble-making elements in the population (especially in Queensland), not to throw up your hat at this evidence of the slow demise of one of them.

9. One thing that I think I have learnt in London is how impossible it is for Dominions to keep in touch with the history and progress and underlying reasons for British Foreign Policy by relying solely on day-to-day telegraphic summaries and a few weekly despatches. Increasing the volume of telegrams and despatches makes the position a little clearer to them but cannot completely elucidate it, even if carried to extremes. You must have someone who can climb the F.O. stairs and talk to the man concerned, and who can send out to his Dominion as full and indiscreet a story as he pleases. And you must have at least a small organisation in the Dominion to file and closely follow what he sends.

I sometimes wonder whether they are not poulticing a broken leg by increasing the volume of cabled matter. A Dominion P.M. who is rather bored with remote Foreign Affairs may think he has the whole story when he has his file of F.O. telegrams. Information that is practically forced upon you is liable not to be appreciated.

I do not for a moment suggest this as a considered opinion-but what would be the effect of H.M.G. altering their procedure, ceasing to telegraph the Dominions on Foreign Affairs, and, instead, make the whole story available to Dominion representatives on personal application at the F.O.? It would mean creating a coordinating Department at the F.O. with a staff to whom Dominion representatives would apply instead of their going to individual Departments. They might even prepare daily bulletins to issue to Dominion representatives as a groundwork for their information and on which they could enlarge by conversation and the production of copies of actual detailed documents if required.

It would shift the burden of responsibility from H.M.G. to the Dominions, who would have to come into line and send a responsible person here if they wanted to keep in touch at all.

The only telegrams on Foreign Affairs that H.M.G. would then send would be queries as to Dominion opinions and suggestions.

10. Apart from thrashing out the means of improving communication and consultation, I don't see how you are going to take any steps to ensure this Diplomatic Unity of the Empire that is so much discussed and so little achieved.

11. Hankey was very pleased to get your personal note from Frankston last week.

12. What is probably a synthetic story of Coolidge. [16] He had been to Church without his wife. When he came back, she asked him what the sermon was about. He said 'Sin'. She asked him what the clergyman had to say about it. 'He was against it'.

13. The exclusion of Vera, Lady Cathcart [17] from U.S. has intrigued London, conveniently filled the press at a slack time, and made a good deal of work for the American Department of the F.O.

There are two theories. Firstly, that the Bradley-Martins (very wealthy New York people and relations of Lord Craven [18]) with whom Craven was staying, wanted to keep Lady Cathcart away from Craven with whom she had had a liaison, and 'managed' that the migration authorities should use the letter and not the spirit of the law. If this is so, it signally failed, as the eventual result was that Craven was obliged to deport himself. The other theory is that the immigration people carried out the law literally in order to show up its inherent stupidity. All the best dinner tables were divided between the two theories.

If this 'expose' has done nothing else, it has given the world the phrase 'moral turps', for which one should be grateful!

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

[Handwritten postscript]

I enclose extract from Cabinet Minutes of 18/2/26-dealing with additional seats on the League Council-for your personal information. [19]

1 Sir George Buchanan, an English consulting engineer specialising in habour works and transport, was author of two reports on development and transport in Australia.

2 It is not clear why Bruce was so concerned (perhaps friendship or perhaps because Buchanan or his firm were under consideration for projects in Australia-see Letter 123) but Bruce cabled Casey on 6 February 1926 seeking urgent confirmation or otherwise of rumours of Buchanan's expulsion. Casey reported by cable on 8 February that local engineers had questioned a report by Buchanan on harbour works to the Government of South Africa. Buchanan had questioned their competence, and they had appealed to the Institute of Civil Engineers. He also quoted a Times report that Buchanan was being blamed for the failure of a Bombay reclamation scheme. On 19 February, Casey cabled that Buchanan was 'under a cloud' and seemed to be 'universally unpopular in quarters in which I have inquired'. All these cables are on file AA:A1420 3 Like Lord Southborough and most other Whitehall men of the time, Casey was deceived by one of history's more notable confidence men. An Anglican clergyman's son, Arthur John Maundy Gregory left Oxford without a degree, entered the London theatrical world, moved into society journalism, apparently worked for British intelligence during the 1914-18 war and then enjoyed a prosperous career as an honours tout, initially under Lloyd George but also under succeeding administrations. Finally in 1933 he was prosecuted under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act of 1925, sentenced to jail for two months and subsequently packed off to France by ex-clients anxious to be rid of a potential embarrassment. He died an alcoholic in a German prison camp in France in 1941. The Whitehall Gazette, to which Casey refers, was a monthly launched in 1919, distributed mainly on a complimentary basis, artfully designed to seem to have official and royal patronage and used essentially to promote (for a fee) potential buyers of honours.

4 Permanent Secretary to the Board of Trade 1901-07, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office 1907-11 and a Civil Lord of the Admiralty 1912-17.

5 Widow of Lord Northcote, Governor-General of Australia 1904-08.

6 Mussolini was engaged in a war of abuse against German ministers offended by his harsh 'Italianification' of the German-speaking South Tyrol.

7 Australian High Commissioner.

8 A businessman, Lord Colwyn was chairman of the Fighting Services Economy Committee appointed in 1925 by the Treasury.

9 Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty, First Sea Lord.

10 William Bridgeman, First Lord of the Admiralty.

11 Stanley Baldwin.

12 General Lord Cavan, Chief of the Imperial General Staff 1922- 26.

13 Field Marshal Sir George Milne, Chief of the Imperial General Staff 1926-29.

14 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

15 Son of the Victorian Government Astronomer, Guido Baracchi was a near contemporary of Bruce at the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, studied at the University of Melbourne and the London School of Economics, converted to socialism and during the 1914-18 war espoused pacifist and anti-conscriptionist causes. He was a founder of the Communist Party in Australia in 1920, worked as a Communist journalist in Germany for the Comintern and soon after his return to Australia in 1925 left the Party because it was 'premature'. After further travel in Germany and the U.S.S.R.

he rejoined the Party in 1935 but was expelled for opposition to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. He died in 1976.

16 Calvin Coolidge, U.S. President.

17 South African former wife of the fifth Earl Cathcart.

18 The fifth Earl of Craven.

19 With Germany due shortly to join the League of Nations and take a seat on the League Council, Poland, Spain and Brazil announced that they too desired permanent League seats. The British and Australian governments were not keen to see the Council so enlarged, but the Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, insisted on a free hand. After an abortive special Assembly session in March 1926, Germany was admitted at the regular session later in the year and joined the Council as a permanent member.

Poland, Spain and Brazil were promised re-election to the Council as non-permanent members. Brazil found this unacceptable and left the League.