Skip to main content

Historical documents

382 Heydon to Burton

Letter, LONDON, 22 September 1949


I think I ought to let you know a few things about Shedden's visit for your own personal information.

I was anxious to find out as early as I could what he was doing but except for casual meetings socially I was unable to get an appointment until the last day before I went to Rome, which was the week before he sailed for home. We then talked for an hour and did not touch on anything very controversial or spectacular. He was pleasant - though rather wistful when he contemplated (without mentioning it) the influence which has been gathered by neophyte Departments like the Department of External Affairs since the War.

There may be deep mysteries about his visit, personally I don't think there were - and if there were I suppose you know them.

I understand the purpose of his visit to North America was mainly the problem of secret information. No doubt he followed this up here and in doing so talked a lot about security. Otherwise he dealt with a number of current problems, such as rocket range, Australia - New Zealand - U.K. talks and the like, but generally speaking spent his time in renewing old contacts, making new ones with opposite numbers, and studying the Defence organisation here.

[matter omitted]

I gather that he did advocate when opportunity offered, and in a discreet way, his own special conceptions of 'differing levels of defence consultation', and that he did chide the U.K. Chiefs of Staff with doing too much at 'the government level' and not using their opportunities at the 'staff level'.[1] He obviously felt that certain of the political telegrams in recent years should not have been sent without full and formal consultation with Defence authorities. But I don't think, if he did discuss this directly with the U.K. people, he would have got much support, except perhaps from some of his opposite numbers.

[matter omitted]

[1] Burton replied on 14 October 1949 commenting: 'These ideas [preliminary talks at staff level] can be very dangerous because talks at staff levels - if carried far enough - can go a long way to committing governments, or if governments repudiate such talks, can cause serious confusion in the event of an emergency.'

[AA : A1068, DL47/5/1A]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top