During 1919, after the Armistice and as the Royal Navy did its work in securing Germany’s surrender to the Peace Treaty of Versailles, Lord Esher conducted an interesting correspondence with Lord Hankey. The two men had worked together in the Committee of Imperial Defence to plan the war against Germany and now the war had been won Hankey was being offered the job of first Secretary General of the League of Nations. Hankey sought Esher’s advice, as well as that of Lord Curzon, about whether this would be a good career move.
The answer to Hankey’s question, as the correspondence shows, revolved around whether the League of Nations would amount to anything. Or to put it more accurately would Britain allow it to amount to anything. If Britain thought it would amount to something and a new era was dawning then Hankey was the man for the job. He would give it real power and influence as it would be clear that Britain, the most powerful Empire in the world was backing it.
However, Lord Esher told Hankey to forget it. He urged Hankey to return to the Defence Committee and prepare his War Book for the conflict that would inevitably come. That is where he would be most needed by his country. As a result Hankey turned down the job, which went to Lord Drummand, a less influential figure, instead.
There is not the space here to go into this matter fully. A future publication will be needed for that. There are just too many issues to be dealt with in connection with it which are very interesting indeed.
What will have to suffice is one extract from one of the last letters Lord Esher sent to Hankey. This is a very important one – because to read it is to understand the British State’s attitude to the world.
In 1919 the world was in a terrible mess because of the Great War Britain had waged on Germany, and then Ottoman Turkey. It was such a mess that this mess is still far from being cleared, a century later. The mess came about because of the fraudulent way Liberal England fought its war. Britain made a Balkan war into a European war and through its own participation, made it into a world war. Because the original plan to defeat Germany did not come off England widened and extended the war in order to win it. It took in more and more of the world, through promises and treaties that were broken and peoples who were double crossed and cheated. And the U.S. participation complicated things immensely by raising expectations that came into conflict with Imperial power politics and which had a very bad effect when everything was revealed as a Great Fraud.
So here is Lord Esher’s estimation of it all, on November 29th 1919, to Lord Hankey. This is England speaking honestly and clearly about how its Great War was a great disillusion, even to itself – to all but the wisest and knowing. It was a Great Fraud perpetuated on the world. But cheer up, the world was won, for now:
“Promises and perforance: or the great disillusion. What a theme for Burke or Swift!
“Even a far humbler pen would be tempted to leave on record the fact that contemporaries of our eminent statesmen were not dupes of the Peace Conference, as nearly everyone but Byron and a few of the shrewder spirits were of Vienna and Metternich.
“A war to end all wars! Open Diplomacy! No Secret Treaties! A League of Nations! Self-determination! What has happened to all these fine phrases that not one of them has been translated into the faintest semblance of actuality. From the ashes of the holocaust of youths scattered over France and Flanders, Russia and Mesopotamia – the best blood and sinew of our race – others must hereafter arise destined to that same old Moloch of aimless war.
“But why gibe or complain? We have – that is to say the comfortable survivors – absorbed every German colony, we have annexed Northern Africa, we have realised Rhodes’ mighty dream, we have created or are about to create a subject Arab Empire, we may yet become the overlords of the Holy (!) City. This is a noble record and the boys who gave their lives on sea and land and in the air have not died in vain. The Archbishops and Bishops give glory to God; and Lord Robert Cecil is only as one crying in the wilderness.
“Let us settle down and we will have a Cabinet of twenty-three, and a Defence Committee, and a War Book, as in the good old days…”