Page last updated at 22:59 GMT, Saturday, 30 August 2008 23:59 UK

Amateur diplomat sought Nazi pact

James Londsdale-Bryans
The Etonian had "unusual views" on how a peace deal would work

A British amateur diplomat tried to make a peace deal with Germany in World War II, National Archive files reveal.

Old Etonian James Lonsdale-Bryans travelled to Italy to meet German diplomat Ulrich von Hassell.

He proposed to him that Germany could have a "free hand" in Europe while Britain ran the rest of the world.

MI5 files released under the Freedom of Information Act show that security service officials knew of the Rome trip but did not try to stop it.

Bryans's story would make sensational reading in the Daily Mirror
MI5's TM Shelford

Mr Lonsdale-Bryans wrote to the then Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax with his plans.

The files reveal MI5 was unsure as to how much backing Mr Lonsdale-Bryans had from Lord Halifax.

However, the Foreign Office was aware of Mr Lonsdale-Bryans' activities, they show.

A handwritten note from the security service stated: "He went to Italy with the knowledge of the FO in order to develop his contacts. He greatly exceeded his instructions."

Mr Lonsdale-Bryans met Ulrich von Hassell because he considered him to be "sympathetic" to the possibility of a negotiated peace.

Mr von Hassell was opposed to Hitler's regime and was executed in the aftermath of a failed assassination plot.

A security service letter outlined Mr Lonsdale-Bryans's views, saying: "He is a man with somewhat unusual views about the terms on which peace should be made with Hitler.

"He thinks the world should be divided up into German and British spheres of influence - the Germans being given a more or less free hand in Europe."

Potential embarrassment

Mr Lonsdale-Bryans first came to MI5's attention in 1939 following pro-German comments he made in Singapore.

The security services were acutely aware of the embarrassment which could be caused by any government association with him.

A letter from 1941 said: “Although there seems to be a good deal to be said for locking him up to prevent him airing his views… if this is done it will inevitably involve his bringing up the question of his contacts with the Foreign Office.”

Another one from 1944 said: “Bryans's story would make sensational reading in the Daily Mirror if he were driven by financial necessity to sell it to the press.

“You will know better than I the 'daily workers'' reaction to such a story, having regard in particular to Lord Halifax.”


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