By Sir DESMOND MORTON
THE INNER CIRCLE, by Sir tvone Kirkpatrick (MacMillan & Co. Ltd., 25s.).
UNDERSTATEMENT is the IL-) hall-mark of a good British diplomat. At Suvla Ray, in 1915, 2nd Lieut. Kirkpatrick, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was hit. first through the shoulder and lung and then through the stomach and thigh.
Being still under lire he deemed it convenient to seek cover by dragging himself some two or three hundred yards uphill, after conscientiously hiding his equipment. He observes that " by the time I reached the top of the hill Was tired".
A year later, much less "tired-. he began to add to his story other qualifications for a future career in diplomacy, including the successful conduct of a widespread espionage and propaganda agency in German-occupied territory, and the carefree execution of a neutral citizen suspected of betraying his men to the enemy; thus foreshadowing wider incursions into such fields under the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C. during the second world war.
IN his all too brief description of these and other adventures, not normally the lot of ambassadors for the last hundred years or so. Sir Ivonc makes many pithy and illuminating remarks which betray an independent Irish spirit alive and kicking under the sombre garments of official international life.
Historically, the more important part of his book covers the rise of Hitler from 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, when Sir None was either a member of the Berlin Embassy or dealing with Germany from Whitehall. He was present at Godesberg and Munich when the then Prime Minister had his personal interviews with the Filhrer, and gives a freshly pointed account of these momentous conversations with a forceful commentary on the insupportable arrogance and downright knavery of the Nazi bandits in general.
Here is no understatement, but a vivid recollection of personal experience when reporting home to an apparently incredulous Government the rearmament of Germany and the consequences to be anticipated. These 80 pages tell the horrid story of Britain's betrayal' and squarely apportion blame.
THE people of England were not told the truth by successive Governments who knew it. The mad and selfish folly of a policy of "appeasement" was started by the political unwisdom -to put it mildly-of the Government's refusal to react forcefully when Germany reoccupied the Rhineland.
Thereafter the bargain sale of Britain's honour and life proceeded apace, with Hitler in the rostrum. "No consideration of expediency should have been allowed to dictate a shameful surrender of principals."
After war broke out, Sir Ivone found himself in charge of broadcast propaganda, by radio and other means, to enemy and enemyoccupied countries; an enterprise of note, too little recorded and insufficiently acknowledged. He was also mixed up in the unexpected airborne arrival of the mentally distraught Deputy Flihrer, Hess, looking for Dukes in Scotland and-surprisingly enough-finding one.
THEN came peace and, as was only fitting, preparation for the British Section on the Control Commission for Germany and later High Commissioner at Bonn and British negotiator of the treaty ending the occupation. Finally, the official head of the Foreign Service as Permanent Under-Secretary of State.
On each of these and other appointments he has held, Sir Ivone provides matter of interest and importance. His observations on the many political figures he has met are informative. His affection and admiration for Ernie Bevin will give pleasure to many. His talks with fallen Nazi leaders illuminate their characters.
Rightly be makes no comment on recent Government policy, but his general observations on the conduct of international relations bear close study; particularly his insistence that Parliament, press,and people should be told the truth, above all when that is unpleasant.
'High and dry'
AT the same time he politely endorses the judgment of earlier authorities on the British capacity for "self-deIusion" ancl the "fault too common to most of Our public men-that of seeing things in the light they wish them to be and not as they are".
He adds: " We are living in a harsh world and can only survive if we brutally tell the people the ugly facts of life. Otherwise at the decisive moment we risk being left high and dry without the degree of public support which is essential."
This book is far from being an average ambassadorial travelogue, though its author claims to have written it largely to amuse himself. Is it too much to hope that his amusement will. serve to instruct future generations?