25th January, 1928


My Dear P.M.,

Hankey [1] and Tyrrell [2] lunched with me yesterday and an interesting talk followed-an hour's roaming after-lunch talk on no set lines.

Tyrrell said that next to the Americans we were the most unpopular people in the world-and rightly so-as we were the next biggest hypocrites to the Americans. He agreed that the Germans dislike us more than they dislike the French-why this was he didn't pretend to know, but he was convinced it was so. The French were realists compared to us-stark realists compared to the Americans. The Americans, and then the British, were the greatest idealists and romanticists in the world-our hearts try at least to dictate to our heads. With the French the head always rules the heart. He gave as an instance the Nurse Cavell [3] incident-the French said:

'She was obvious guilty of an action for which in war the penalty was death. Why do you complain?' They couldn't understand the point of view that even if guilty the Germans would lose more by shooting her than by not shooting her.

Tyrrell says, by the way, in this connection that they are at the moment trying to stop a British Film Company from producing a particularly exaggerated and spectacular 'Nurse Cavell' film-and he thinks without much hope of success. It will, he thinks, have a

bad effect on Anglo-German relations if it is produced.

As an example of French realism in international politics, he says that Poincare [4] has let himself be ruled by one consideration during his recent term of office as Prime Minister-that of stabilising the franc. All his natural tendencies were to do Germany down and to do everything to keep her down (as he did in his previous term of office), but he realised that by so acting he would inevitably depress the franc, so he has tempered his policy towards Germany accordingly.

With regard to China, Tyrrell expressed the opinion (which I don't suggest is a completely considered opinion or the Foreign Office opinion) that he thought a solution of the trouble would be found in a division of China into North China and South China-the boundary being the Yangtse or thereabouts. He did not think that either side would be able to 'defeat' the other. For one thing the climate and food of the North was unacceptable to Southern soldiers, and vice versa, and an invading force from one side is always in consequence uncomfortable and ill at ease in the other side's territory. The state of the railway tracks and rolling stock was constantly getting worse and this, added to the extreme length of the lines of communication, made a successful subjugation of the North by the South (or vice versa) almost an impossibility.

Kershaw [5], one of the two Australians in the League of Nations Secretariat at Geneva, came in to see me yesterday. He was a Rhodes Scholar, is aged about 28 or 30, speaks French and German, and has had three years' experience of international politics in the Minorities Section of the League. I asked him whether he had ever considered coming into our External Affairs Department and he said that he had and would like to be let know when there were vacancies. He has a good name at Geneva, is the student type rather than the diplomat, but I should think was a good fellow and certainly should be considered when any new posts are contemplated, or any existing posts fall vacant. He is getting about 750 a year now with prospects of 30 a year rise. He has a 7-14-21 years contract with the League but can break at three months' notice. He is quite happy where he is and even if he doesn't come into our External Affairs service in the next year or so, he would be available, I think, at any future time.

I have in the last few days reviewed what I have done in the six weeks since I have been back in London, and have been rather surprised to find that quite three-quarters of my time has been taken up by C.I.D. work. There happens to have been very little of importance going on at the Foreign Office and a great deal in the Committee of Imperial Defence. But it is an interesting sidelight on the work to be done here and one that I think was hardly foreseen when I first came over here three years ago.

A big job that I would like to see Hankey take on would be the coordination of all Intelligence under the Committee of Imperial Defence. I have suggested it to him but he is very loath to tackle it. The following collecting centres for Intelligence now exist- War Office, Admiralty, Air Ministry, Foreign Office, New Scotland Yard and the Secret Service. They all overlap to a certain extent, and conversely when anyone like myself wants to get the whole story about any one country, one has probably to go round them all. The simple scheme of co-ordination that I suggest would not mean any additional personnel or machinery other than another C.I.D. Sub-Committee on which the heads (or delegates) of all the Intelligence services would be represented. Their task would be to prepare joint intelligence reports on countries and problems in a certain order of priority that the Chiefs of Staff would lay down, and to keep these reports up to date. It would create a liaison between Intelligence services that really doesn't at present exist, and, in addition, would bring into existence a central Enquiry Office that would save me many a Cook's tour round London looking for information.

I had a long talk with Cunliffe-Lister lately on a personal matter. I am told by those who know about these things that he wants a peerage very much, which means really that he is willing to throw up the political sponge. [6] It seems a pity as he is an intelligent fellow (although I am told not of quite the first order) and the Lords would mean obscurity for him.

I organised a lunch yesterday at which were Sir Alan Anderson [7] and R. Garrett [8] (of Orient Company), Sir Charles Hipwood (Marine Department, Board of Trade) and O. C. Harvey [9] (Foreign Office) and myself. We lunched agreeably and subsequently discussed the position that the Italian Flag Discrimination negotiations have reached. [10] The Italians are dragging out the discussions interminably, and I have sent you a telegram asking for a telegram of indignation from you if you do not receive information from H.M.G. before the end of this month that the Italians are being more reasonable.

Canada is in course of having rather a stupid squabble with Mexico. Severe criticism of Mexican policy arose in Canada from Catholic quarters on the score of the 'persecution' of Catholics in Mexico. The Mexican Consul-General in Canada [11] I replied, apparently too icily and pungently. Inevitable backchat followed.

Mackenzie King [12] then took the extraordinary course of sending for the Mexican Consul-General and suggested to him that it would be politic for him to advise his (the Mexican) Government to recall him. The Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs [13] sent for the British Minister [14] in Mexico City and very rightly said that this was all nonsense and that he hadn't the slightest intention of recalling the Consul-General, but that if the Canadian Government insisted, the Mexican Government would at once set about certain reprisals, presumably of a commercial nature.

The British Minister in Mexico concludes a telegram to the Foreign Office on the subject in the following terms, which are of some interest:-

I informed him that if any trouble arose it could not, in view of independence of Dominions, who have their separate diplomatic representatives in certain countries, involve relations with Great Britain. I would of course ask you to communicate to Canadian Government unfortunate impression which insistence on the demand would cause, but that although I felt sure, speaking privately, that His Majesty's Government would use their good offices, they could not, as he evidently expected, bring pressure on Canada as regards her internal or external affairs.

Sir Austen [15] (I learn privately) has sent a most confidential and carefully worded telegram to Mackenzie King, telling him that Great Britain tried keeping the Mexicans in order by breaking off relations with them ten years ago, but that the result was calamitous both to our trading interests and to our nationals resident in Mexico. We had spent many difficult years in trying to get back to normal relations with them and then had only succeeded in doing so by losing face to a considerable extent. So Sir Austen, whilst recognising that this was essentially a matter for Mr. Mackenzie King's own decision, was hopeful that Canada would take advantage of our painful experience and end the trouble on some reasonable note.

You can see what Chamberlain means!

In this appointment one has a very great deal to read-newspapers, reviews, Foreign Office print, C.I.D. memoranda, etc. I send you only portion of what I read, as one aspect of the job is sifting the wheat from the chaff. This gets one insensibly into the frame of mind that when one starts to read a paper, one prays that it may have no interest or application to us, so that one may quickly cast it into the 'out' basket and get on to something else.

In this frame of mind I moodily started to skim through a voluminous despatch from H.M. Ambassador in Berlin [16] on 'unification' or 'centralisation' in the German Republic. It seemed at first to be all rather unnecessary and very much the result of his not having anything better to do. However, it was well written and tricked out with entertaining metaphors and similes, so I pursued it a little further. Then I became aware of a feeling that the subject was all rather familiar and I wondered with whom I had talked about it. Then the great light came to me that there was quite a striking parallel between the disabilities and struggles between the German Federal Central Government and the German States-and between the Australian Commonwealth Government and the Australian States. Their position under their Republican constitution was really a fancy-dress edition of our position. Their position is more muddled than ours but the same type of questions preoccupy both Dr. Wilhelm Marx [17] and yourself

I do not suggest that you should read this document, which goes to you by this mail (Germany, Section 1 of December 20th, Foreign Office print), as it is 18 pages long, but the parallel was an interesting one.

In conversation with Tyrrell lately, he said that he thought that Birkenhead [18] had the finest brain of any man he had met but that his lack of character was a tragedy. He said that he had once for a considerable bet kept off drink for a twelvemonth but had got very drunk the day after. A friend, whom he encountered afterwards and who knew him well enough to speak about it, asked him why, in heaven's name, he had let himself go back, to which Birkenhead replied that the past year had been complete misery to him and, moreover, he was distinctly of the impression that when devoid of drink he was a dull dog. His friend pointed out that it was the universal opinion that this was certainly not the case and that in his 'dry' year his brain had never been clearer or in better shape. Tyrrell himself never takes anything at all now as he has had the strength of mind to keep off it entirely, He used, as you probably know, to have great bouts and I am told has been in Homes on this account several times-but this apparently is now all behind him. The comment of the one man on the other had, therefore, some point.

I hear echoes over here, in personal letters from Henderson [19] and Officer [20], of the efforts of the External Affairs Department more fully to autonomise itself, with which, as you know, I am in complete sympathy. Without wishing to overrate our importance, it sometimes strikes me with great force that we have a very slender staff and are making but shadowy provision for the future. The material we are handling is really of very considerable and increasing importance, and we are not building up the expert staff that we will need to cope with the business in, say, ten or fifteen years' time. I should very much like to see the Department put on a much firmer basis than at present, and I feel sure that it is only extreme pressure of more immediate domestic affairs within the Commonwealth that has made it impossible for you to give more time to this forward-looking aspect of our work.


I enclose a handwritten letter of a secret nature.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

2 Sir William Tyrrell, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office.

3 Edith Cavell, the British matron of a Red Cross hospital in German-occupied Belgium in 1915, was court martialled and subsequently executed by the Germans for sheltering Allied soldiers trying to reach the Dutch border. The execution, for a charge other than espionage, damaged Germany's reputation among Allied and neutral countries.

4 Raymond Poincare had been French Prime Minister since July 1926.

5 Raymond Kershaw. In 1929 he joined the Bank of England as an adviser on Dominion and colonial questions.

6 Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the Board of Trade. He did not enter the peerage until 1935 (as Viscount Swinton) but, even so, his ministerial career continued until 1945.

7 Of Anderson Green & Co., managers of the Orient Line.

8 Ronald Garrett, Director of Anderson Green & Co.

9 First Secretary at the Foreign Office.

10 See note 5 to Letter 83.

11 Medina Barron, in fact Mexican Consul-General at Toronto.

12 William Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister.

13 Genaro Estrada, Mexican Acting Foreign Minister.

14 Esmond Ovey.

15 Sir Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.

16 Sir Ronald Lindsay.

17 German Chancellor.

18 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India. The names of Tyrrell and Birkenhead in this paragraph were handwritten.

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

20 F. K. Officer, a member of the External Affairs Branch.