British Sky Tours





***  WORLD NEWS  ***




Adrian's writing is found on the book shelves of discerning people on both sides of the Atlantic.

 Both Dick Nesbitt-Dufort and Adrian Hill are published authors. Dick's father wrote a book about his experiences as a special operations pilot flying agents into Occupied France. Dick wrote the historical background for the rare memoirs of an ordinary soldier during the Napoleonic Wars.

Adrian has written novels about espionage set in South Korea and Switzerland and remains the only British diplomat to have written part of the history of the US Department of State. When not organising sky tours he's working on a novel set during the height of the Vietnam War.

For those interested in the Vietnam War copies of  'Escape with Honor' written together by Ambassador Francis ' Terry ' McNamara and Adrian may be found via this link to the publisher - Potomac Books -


Vietnam book under way at this time. Although a novel the story draws on events and unfolds through much direct reportage. Feel welcome to step into the story about the secret war. Just click the time date link.



 1625 hours on 14 February 1971

North Vietnamese Base Area 615 B located in the Laos high country 87 kilometres west of the frontier with South Vietnam – at the heart of the Communist supply system known as the Ho Chi Minh Trails.



When Adrian Hill served as a diplomat one of his most rewarding jobs was Director of British Information Services across Canada. At one stage he gave Britain's messages across the United States as well. Apart from network and local television and radio broadcasts a key part of his job was to brief and often write editorials for the hundreds of newspapers across North America, concentrating on foreign news. Most newspapers in North America view the World from a continent which could get along comfortably without anyone else - and the US/Canadian border is a surprising obstacle. Henry Ginsberg of the New York Times once challenged Adrian to find any Canadian news in his own paper. At that time Henry was their correspondent in Ottawa - he returned to New York City as the Foreign Editor and the Canadians featured more often!

Adrian's editorial contributions with a British slant proved highly popular right across North America so alongside these touring and history pages we opened this editorial page. Here we try to bring some historical perspective to the latest political and military events around the World. Military experience as a paratrooper came in handy as a diplomat. Adrian knows Afghanistan, Pakistan and India from his very first overseas posting as a diplomat serving at the British Deputy High Commission in Lahore and subsequent return visits. His career took in Cyprus and the Near East, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea and Jamaica and most places along the flight path.

Apart from witnessing huge armoured and airmobile battles from the Near East to the Far East, Adrian studied campaigns and battlefields on four continents, has written three books and articles for the Royal United Services Institute Journal.

This news page has a complimentary purpose. Although this website is about our tours we also try to promote the heritage of the Atlantic Charter and the Special Relationship. The United Nations and NATO owe their existence to the Atlantic Charter, unique among treaties in that there were no signatures, just messages to their respective cabinets from Churchill and Roosevelt on board a battleship and a cruiser anchored off Newfoundland - plus mutual trust at a time of great danger for the democracies.

Updates will occur when the news makes one worthwhile. Articles on British defence matters are very much works in progress and frequently edited, improved, modified to reflect new conversations and fresh information. You can also find Adrian's writing on the Veterans for Britain website - and lots of wise comment from other supporters, many of whom are respected experts on defence and diplomacy. All views expressed by Adrian are personal reflections based on talking to people involved in events and over thirty years military and diplomatic service in the world's hot spots including three wars.



Adrian Hill









We are now being told by the opinion pollsters that Theresa has lost most of her huge lead and Jeremy Corbin is only five points behind. Since the start of May the Liberals have stayed around 9% and UKIP have sunk to 4% from about the same as the Liberals. The Conservatives have fallen from 49% on the 17 May to 43% on the 30 May. Labour has risen from 28% at the start of May to 38% on the 30 May. That implies that eight to nine million people have switched from the Conservatives to a Labour Party led by a bunch of salon revolutionaires.

I don't buy it. British voters are creatures of habit. They simply don't change their minds that fast. If I am wrong, start baking the humble pie. More likely the pollsters are wrong again. On election day 2015 they put Labour neck and neck with the Conservatives. The latter won with a 7% swing to the Conservatives.



I am now eating a huge dollop of humble pie. Why did I, like most of the opinion pollsters, get the election so wrong? Well, first of all Theresa mostly listened to her two personal political advisers - dangerous when she doesn't listen to others - and perhaps why she didn't let Cabinet colleagues loose on the media. Her USP is being a solid citizen, somebody just like us. She has a very good team, all are normal people who are solid citizens. She hardly used them. Her two advisers were even supplying the media with hostile leaks about the Chancellor, a steady pair of hands on the economy, thus a pretty stupid move during a crucial general election over the future of the country and economy.

All that didn't matter until her two advisers persuaded her to launch a plan to make house owners responsible for a chunk of their care in old age. This was immediately labelled as the dementia tax. Never mind that most people end up selling the family home to pay for their parents comfort and care. My brother, sister and I did it without a second thought. We were more concerned about whether the investments would bring in enough income. Now, the Tory party since centuries has been the voice of people who run businesses, who save, who buy houses, who fend for themselves. Mrs May and her two SPADs - special political advisers - a creepy crawly species found in the Westminster undergrowth - decided to launch a full scale attack on these supporters by suggesting that they would have to pay for their old age with the equity in their homes. This came across as an inheritance tax when the body is still alive. Most of us do sell the house already so we don't want the state involved to make a bad situation worse.

Then came the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, where children and young people had been viciously attacked. Only weeks before a would-be Muslim martyr had murdered people on Westminster Bridge by driving on the pavement. He was shot in the entrance to the House of Commons by the Defence Secretary's armed guards.

As the Home Secretary for the last six years Mrs May cannot escape responsibility for cutting police numbers. Nor can she escape the failure to install even modest security measures such as barricades on the London bridges after the Westminster Bridge attack.

Well, the troops have mutinied, her political advisers have resigned. This is a good moment for British politics. Cameron, Osborne, May's advisers, were all self promoted experts; none had been elected before reaching positions of influence. My hunch is that we are watching the extinction of the SPAD - special political adviser - and experiencing the rebirth of real people.

The Conservative election HQ, led by those same two advisers, made many mistakes. They declared a winning post - if I lose six seats I've lost. They didn't involve local MPs, nor the Cabinet until panic took over during the final week. They failed to stick to a single, simple message - we're the best team to negotiate Brexit. All the media anguish about the election fades into insignificance beside this simple fact.  Theresa was the last herald of the remainers. She will cling on but it will take only a disagreement over Brexit to bring about her topple from power. That won't be long in coming. She's replaced her advisers with another member of the remain camp. The EC's fifth column are already demanding another referendum while claiming that the first one was merely advisory. That's not what came out of the mouth of David Cameron.

Although Corbin talks as though he won the election, in fact Theresa May won over a million more votes than Labour, more than the number that gave Tony Blair a landslide in 1997. Where she failed, because it was her versus Corbin rather than Conservatives versus Labour, was repeating the same clichés until the voters felt their brains were being insulted. Momentum, the hard left Corbin fan club, were much better at exploiting the social media than the expensive American team used by Mrs May. There are questions still not answered about some tranches of messages. How much overseas management played a part in the three Muslim terror outrages? Of course the young were going to vote for free university education but it was Mrs May's U turn over paying for old age care that sowed distrust in the minds of many UKIP supporters and made them vote Labour. Even so, many educated young people bought the Labour line, don't worry, Jeremy won't win, just vote for your nice local MP.

The lesson for the next Tory leader is that modern young - which seems to be anyone under forty - don't learn from anything. There's also a question now over whether university students should vote in their home towns rather than inflict Labour MPs on the local populations of towns that vote for Conservatives or Liberals. Why should temporary residents have such a big say?

My hunch is that Boris, David Davies or Phillip Hammond will become Prime Minister by Christmas. Hammond is for a soft Brexit. That will give all the snags of EC membership but none of the advantages of leaving. Hammond is a good money man, he should stay in charge of the finances. Somebody who believes in quitting the EC entirely is needed and that means Boris Johnson or David Davies.

My conversations with diplomats from EC member countries is that they regard Boris as the toughest person to face, he has a track record going back years of exposing EC waste and corruption. Boris has been very supportive of Mrs May and warned his fellow MPs not to fall for the media's ( code for BBC and their sister outlet The Guardian ) mischief making and not to do Corbin's job for him. The voters are sick of elections, they don't want another one, get behind Theresa May - she scored more votes than Margaret Thatcher.

Mrs May doesn't help. She suddenly promoted Damian Green, another prominent remainer, effectively to deputy prime minister, which is really Phillip Hammond's job thus an interesting insight into his attitude towards the EC. She's beginning to look more like somebody saving her face and job rather than putting the country first and working with people she doesn't always agree with.



Let's face it, the self-proclaimed winner, Corbin, follows the KGB dezinformazia text book. Deploy the half-truth with the lies to back it up. Corbin lost though gained one more seat than Michael Foote in a previous disaster. His chirpy mood is because that single seat saved him from the sack.

Theresa May is pulling together a workable coalition with the Scots and Northern Irish and she should present it as exactly that. Ruth Davidson's fourteen Scottish Tory MPs have more influence over the next five years than the remaining thirty plus Scottish Nationalists. There is plenty of room for deals. Scotland's fishing fleets want the UK to reclaim its power to license fishing in our exclusive economic zone - under the UN Law of the Sea Convention all coastal states may claim the waters and sea bed out to two hundred miles from their shores. Our fishermen down in Sussex want exactly the same. Why let the French, Danes and Spanish catch all our fish?

In exchange the Scots may have give way on the single market and customs union. The UK only benefits from quitting the EC by leaving entirely. My hunch is that EC will make sure of that, judging from their hostility and over-confidence - their negotiators sound like the French nobles before they were wiped out at Crecy and then repeated the experience nearly seventy years later at Agincourt.

The Northern Irish are being painted as the political wing of the Protestant paramilitaries. They are not. They want a complete break with the EC but an open border. That's not impossible. Our worry is a new illegal immigration route, for Calais read Cork, but the Irish don't want that either. We should simply resume the common travel area which has existed since home rule and long before. The UK should not have customs controls at the border. The Irish may have to stand their ground with Brussels who may try to impose customs controls. The simple fact is that we and the Irish want the same result.   

Mrs May should ignore all the remain fifth column. Look at the general election votes. UKIP voted Conservative. She won their trust. Cameron, Osborne, Heseltine would send them all rushing back to Nigel Farage. If Dave, George and Heseltine were so clever, they would have negotiated a good deal with the EC and won the referendum. They didn't. They lost. 

As others have pointed out, if the EC really wanted us, they would offer a welcome carpet, not bills and threats.

The leaders and Sherpas of the EC have a vision - a super state that stands apart from the Anglo-Saxons ( that's us with the yanks and the Commonwealth ) and makes a deal with Russia which protects their energy supplies and safeguards all those car factories and other investments made in Russia. In other words, they just want to keep their winnings. What becomes of the unemployed youth of Southern Europe is not their problem. Nor is the freedom of the Scandinavians, Baltic States and Poland. These countries may decide to stick with NATO.


After an evening in the lovely gardens of the Luxembourg ambassador in Switzerland that was swimming in diplomats I may have to take Poland off that list. One lady from Poland thought that Britain and Switzerland wanted to stay out of the EC because we had no experience of war. Never mind her country's history. This is the EC myth that Brussels and not NATO has defended Europe and kept the peace. After a very pleasant evening my wife ( who is Swiss ) and I came away with the firm impression that the EC is not serious about the Brexit negotiations. The EC wants to humiliate the British people and then persuade them to vote for Corbin's Marxist Labour ( whom they are lobbying to double cross the voters and opt to stay in the EC ) because they will not allow Britain to leave the EC. We are back to the 1930s, the Rhineland, Sudetenland, Munich. No wonder so many of our Swiss friends worry about the lack of democracy within the EC. Their parents and grandparents remember the same fear during the 1930s only escaped when the RAF fighter pilots shot down the invincible Luftwaffe in droves.

We explained politely that 80% of British voters wanted to leave the EC and if the EC keep up their campaign, soon we'll reach 100% of British voters who want to leave the EC!








        Which Donald will take over the White House? All three? Lots more?

The Manchurian candidate?


Both still there!

For about forty years British diplomats including two recent ambassadors to Washington have preached that the special relationship is a myth. 




Donald surprised us all - he made his rebellious streak a virtue. I may be wrong but I doubt it, and suspect that plan three was to take out every Syrian airfield while the USA had complete surprise. Instead the US Navy took out bits of one airfield after giving the Russians - and thereby the Syrians - about ninety minutes warning. The next question is why didn't the Syrians make any attempt to shoot down the sixty cruise missiles coming in from the sea. I would love to listen to the voice traffic recordings made by the experts on Cyprus. Because if the Russians' latest surface to air area defences were proven to be, in fact, defenceless, then the message was more for Vlad than Assad.

Now, of course, the Russians will get in mad sweat to try and catch up but the warning is still written in the soft night sky over that sad land - don't mess with Uncle Sam, anywhere, we might come back without phoning first and armed with tactical nukes.

That's what I call deterrence and Donald passed the test.

Tubby Kim is tricky but less so than the ghastly Assad and pig-headed Putin. The Chinese may find him useful as part of their ring of pearls but he's become a liability they can no longer afford. He may be crafty but he's as stupid as a spoilt teenager. The simplest way to close down his government is for the Chinese to cross the Yalu River and provide some ' civil order ' by removing young Master Kim and his entire court. Obviously, that would give Beijing a splitting headache for months which they would rather do without. Equally they don't want Donald rocketing and bombing at leisure as though the Kim's famous wartime Chinese ally had changed sides.

The South Koreans are the most directly effected and will know which solution they would prefer. My hunch is that South Korea might find a Chinese police operation in North Korea a lot less scary that Donald trying to destroy Tubby Kim's nuclear programme from the air. Further, China might protest much less about a surgical removal of Tubby Kim's submarine base. I'm sure that an imaginative solution is possible if the USA and China keep working in tandem.

One day the whole North Korean state will implode and the South Koreans and Chinese will have to work together as NATO did with Russia over East Germany.


With Donald it's never a dull moment but somebody should supply him with political pampers. As a former Director of British Information Services in North America either his press spokesman should go on a crash course or make way for somebody smarter and tougher. Press chiefs play an important role in most decisions and often have to over-rule their boss. Trump has to learn to do as he is ' advised ' and the childish claim that Britain's GCHQ tapped his phone followed by an apology from his National Security Adviser followed by Trump repeating the accusation leaves the President looking foolish. Some of us remember the time when people working at GCHQ couldn't tell their family what they did all day.

The Russian connection won't go away and Trump would do better to get it over with and answer the questions. Stop making dumb accusations that give Theresa May unnecessary work when she's busy swatting wasps such as Osborne and Sturgeon.

He should also stop watching so much rubbish on TV. I don't know how he has the time to sit in front of the goggle box. He reminds me of the day a pal who was an aid to Jimmy Carter sat down white faced in my office. I asked what troubled him. There had been a dispute over playing on the White House tennis court and the President had sorted out the squabble by drawing up a new roster. This, on a busy morning with about about three crises on the boil.

Donald's words on the ' Greater Commonwealth ' and the economy and trade are very much in line with my own ideas. Stop saying things that devalue the good ideas of which there are quite a few. The NATO allies should spend more on defence. Britain should repair the damage done to the Royal Navy and the RAF by Blair and Cameron.





London suffered a terrorist attack this week and questions will be asked. The security at the side gate to Parliament had been relaxed at the request of its Members and the Police and Security Service are monitoring five-hundred potential threats involving four thousand potential suspects every day. More people and money are on the way but Adrian Elms alias whatever he called himself, managed to murder and maim holiday makers and a policeman. Our sympathies go to the victims.

One day the government will get the message and stop reducing police budgets. The same principal applies to a navy with only a quarter of the ships it needs and an air force with a third of the aircraft it needs.


 I watched parts of the Article 50 debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords. My view was that it would go through the Commons but face obstruction and attempts to delay particularly from the Liberals in the House of Lords. It did.

For once the Commons debate was better than the Lords - usually it's the reverse - and despite an attempt to amend the simple bill allowing the Government to trigger Article 50, the votes in favour were overwhelming. The Commons had the common sense to know that defying the peoples' vote to leave the EC would create a serious political crisis.

The Government has the power to over-rule the Lords - the latter may amend legislation but cannot reject legislation. There is a group of former senior diplomats from the Foreign Office who really believe that our country is in permanent decline and needs Auntie EC to nurse us along. Some of the claims of dear old John Kerr ( whom I find delightful company) which he presented as FACTS in a high pitched voice, were absolute nonsense. To quote only one - trade halves with distance. After hearing this pearl I looked up his career and discovered that he had never had a commercial posting, economic yes but that's not the same as the coal face.

With the help of the BBC and ITN we persuaded so many British companies to get on a plane and fly 10,000 miles to South Korea that over three years from 1986 to 1989 British exports doubled. We were helped by a visit from Margaret Thatcher in 1985 and an Olympic Games in 1988 but we didn't waste the moments.

And the reason has not changed in three thousand years. Mile for mile Germany and France have no advantage over us in distant markets. That's why the Dutch and the English built their empires around sea trade as did Venice and before them the Greeks in the known world of their times. China can sell a pair of jeans to Europe or the USA because sending them on a container ship adds 50 pence to the wholesale price. You can apply this principle to cheese, cars, chemicals, you name it. When I looked at the trade figures on arrival in South Korea I was horrified to see that apart from the Seoul Subway our biggest exports were fur skins and leather hides. We were trading with Korea as though we were the developing country. I soon discovered that the Koreans as well thought this was crazy. If you look elsewhere on this website you will find how we turned this around and how we could do the same with China.

But I have to warn businessmen all over the UK that our teamwork towards doubling the exports made me very unpopular with the high priests of the FCO. We made a mockery of the EC nonsense still preached by dear old John Kerr and his chums. If we could do it, surely other diplomatic posts in other distant markets could do the same?



The Prime Minister says that her priority is ' keeping our precious, precious union together ' although the English are so fed up with the Scottish Nationalists that a comfortable majority regard Brexit as more important for their future. The problem with a separate Scotland is that it would threaten a repeat of a thousand years of history - a third world state prone to offer a base for our enemies. Most people in Scotland don't want another referendum only two years after the last one and most Scots prefer union with England and Wales and Northern Ireland. So why the rush?

Thanks to the Green Party in the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Nationalists have a majority of one with the Labour, Conservative and Liberals forming their opposition. Most Scots don't think much of this government. The budget deficit is growing while the quality of healthcare and the standards in schools are falling. Scotland may not vote for a nationalist government next time. The SNP leader, Ms Sturgeon knows this. So does Mrs May.

There is a further risk for the nationalists. There has been no disaster after the referendum. Cameron and Osborne have been proved propagandists, at worst liars. There could be no disaster after Brexit. The pressure from the EC to break up its member nations into provinces of the new Roman empire will have been removed. My hunch is that the British Isles will take off fast, astonish the planet. The Scots will soon have far more global influence and trade, providing they stick with the rest of us.   





The referendum this summer was a gamble, the dice thrown by two professional politicians. Both seemed to have only a vague clue how ordinary people in this country live and even less how we think. They expected a fairly comfortable win although just to make sure deployed the government’s resources and the tax payers’ money, enrolled umpteen foreign big wigs from President Obama to Madame Lagarde, orchestrated threats from the governments of most EC member states and from the EC Commission, all playing their parts in a campaign against the British voters. Well guess what, the heirs of Blair – their label, not mine - lost. Voters don’t take kindly to such obviously absurd bully tactics. Close by the 1066 battlefield of Hastings down in East Sussex on the day before the vote it was hard to find even a handful of people who wanted to remain in the EC. On referendum night a remain poster bravely displayed by a friend on her front lawn was demolished towards midnight by the Westfield village lads on their merry way home from the pubs in Battle and Sedlescombe. Cameron and Osborne left their whole flock of fellow souls cast adrift on life’s ocean, sustained only by their staunch belief that ordinary peoples’ votes do not really count.  

Dismissing the possibility they could lose, they didn’t bother to make any plan for the eventual result. When they lost, the Prime Minister resigned in a huff, leaving the rump of his government and our capable civil servants to run the country. What about the economy? George Osborne behaved as though he had won, threatening an emergency budget although fewer and fewer people took any notice of him as the hours passed. To his great credit Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, effectively took charge of the economy for about three weeks while the Government sorted itself out and elected a new leader. Conservative MPs – with very few exceptions – deserve a pat on the back for the speed at which they opted for their new leader.

Mark Carney’s quick reaction was essential to maintain financial stability during several days while many sulked and more panicked. Mrs May settled into the job remarkably swiftly and sacked Osborne, replacing him with ‘ Spreadsheet Phil ’ who at least has run a business. I feel confident that if the previous woman Prime Minister is anything to go by – also a grammar school girl - Theresa May will prove a lot more effective than the last four men who lived at 10 Downing Street. She can’t do everything at once, nor should she try. All manner of decisions have been put off, from airport runways to frigates for the navy. She seems to be working through her list quite briskly.  

She also understands the value of our un-written constitution better than our high court judges. If our votes in a referendum can be cast aside because ‘ we are not capable of understanding the question and its implications ’ then does not the same principle apply to general elections? The court itself is an ambush laid by Tony Blair who perhaps still has day dreams about becoming President of Europe.  Certainly the Supreme Court judges are straying deeper into a political swamp and already others propose challenges that look borderline and possibly vexatious. Ultimately this foray may bring about radical changes in the way senior judges are chosen. I don’t want a lawyers’ written and therefore rigid constitution by stealth which is what this Supreme Court hearing is all about. We have no legacy from Napoleon other than victories remembered with Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Station.

Americans have elected their judges for almost a century after the American Bar Association voted to adopt the voting method introduced in California in 1934. Should our voters pick their judges? Personally, I prefer the time proven system where our judiciary elect their peers, though also where we have no supreme court but the Law Lords. The old system was less prone to political bias in one direction or another. Leaving aside the question of whether the Government needs bother with Article 50 at all, when the Vice President of the ‘ Supreme Court ’ has so little common sense that she speculates over the World Wide Web about a unique and highly political dispute she is about to judge, I begin to wonder who are these people and how on earth were they chosen. Lady Neuberger, wife of the Lord Chief Justice who will preside over the ‘ Supreme Court ’ when the appeal is heard, bombards the social media with slogans against Brexit. Should an ambassador’s wife allow herself similar liberties over foreign policy the couple would find themselves posted to the back of beyond. Lord Neuberger must fear that the court is fulfilling his own warnings before it was set up – there was a risk of the judges taking powers unto themselves.  

The referendum vote signals a sea change for Britain’s establishment. They are not enjoying the experience but let us ‘ ordinary ’ voters persevere. We might yet catch up with the Swiss. For in Europe’s oldest democracy all important matters have long ago been taken away from the politicians and instead decided by the people through popular votes. While our voting system has been reformed several times over three centuries, the last significant reform of Parliament itself was in 1912 when life peers were introduced by Asquith’s reforming Liberal government. Although the recent higher profile of Select Committees is welcome, the House of Commons has barely changed its role and procedures in three hundred years. Nor have its members changed their attitude towards the people who voted for them. Dozens of members were caught cheating the tax payers when claiming expenses. Over the last decades several times I’ve suffered MPs who’ve told me that the voters are too stupid to take decisions. One rather rashly did so at a fund raiser for himself! Several of us present decided that evening that instead of cash we would pay him out a bit more rope. Some months later the MP was caught in a seedy scandal and resigned.

We live in an electronic age of real time sound and pictures. We no longer need reporters to give us their version of politics. We can watch Parliament and its Select Committees live on the Internet, the White House press conferences, the Bank of England Governor giving his quarterly inflation reports. We don’t need a John Major or a Tony Blair to explain the tricky bits for us simpleton voters. Far from it - British voters inevitably will acquire an appetite for more raw information, inevitably demand a greater say through popular votes. And they should. For a start we ought to have one to decide whether the money for the Armed Forces, HM Diplomatic Service and the Intelligence Services together with the Overseas Aid budget is allocated in a common sense way. I have a hunch that the voters would prefer their navy to have enough warships armed with the latest weapons rather than politicians sending aid to China behind our backs. 

Watch this space....








Written during April 2016




In late August 1963 the Beetles were topping the record charts. I joined the Commonwealth Relations Office, on a Monday. On Wednesday I was rewarded with a pay rise for my birthday. ( We did that sort of thing in those days.) By Friday I had become part of the new Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service also known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Our PUS became the Permanent Under Secretary of the new Service but everyone concluded we were victims of a hostile take over by the Foreign Office.

Eight months earlier General de Gaulle had pronounced his ' Non ' regarding Britain's joining the original EC. This was another major blow for a strategic plan designed by the Foreign Office. Their record was pretty awful. Almost until the last moment, the FO had pursued a policy of appeasement with Hitler and the other dictators, a policy which led to the occupation of most of Europe and the loss of allies, markets, money, not to mention huge diplomatic and intelligence networks built up over five-hundred years. Churchill himself took over strategic foreign policy and nurtured the special relationship until Pearl Harbour enabled Roosevelt to cast aside isolation and lead the allied war effort. Next came the Suez Crisis where Eisenhower demanded that Britain and France cease their military action against Egypt. Caught like startled rabbits against a background of industrial strife and aging industrial plant the FO concluded that only membership of the new Common Market of European countries would force Britain's industry and unions to join the modern world. Never mind the belief in our country and the brains of its youth that led Winston Churchill to found a new college bearing his name at Cambridge and devoted to the sciences. The FO preached a strategy of tail between the legs retreat from our history as a world power. They believed their duty was to manage inevitable decline.

The CRO as it was known for short, steered our diplomatic relations with the Commonwealth, not only the great dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and finally India and Pakistan, many other newly independent nations but also all those countries which had not yet become independent. Our job was to keep our relationships close with the all the countries which had recently belonged to the British Empire. Since the war Britain's foreign policy had been dominated by three main themes - economic recovery from the cost of the war, massive rearmament including nuclear weapons since the Korean War, bringing our former colonies to independence with parliamentary democracies and independent judiciaries backed by a targeted aid budget. The Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, set the tone with his famous ' wind of change ' speech to the Parliament in Cape Town about Africa as nation after nation peacefully became self-governing. Our task was far from easy but the potentially spectacular rewards were worth the struggle. Our opponents were defeatist British politicians and diplomats, Soviet Russia and Communist China, the worst of British banking and industry, corrupt politicians and officials in the newly independent countries - and in that order. On the other hand, we were led by people who knew well the people and leaders of the countries where they served and our own leaders were uniquely experienced men and women. Straight from the Army and placed in the defence and intelligence department, my own boss was George Price, a retired Royal Engineers general who as a colonel had been the assistant to General Pug Ismay, Winston Churchill's Military Assistant throughout World War Two. George and Louis Mountbatten, Chief of the Defence Staff, had been friends for nearly twenty-five years. We young people had a sense of mission, that what we did counted, there was no doubt that we were changing the world for the better for the peoples of our former colonies and by doing so, helping nearly fifty new UN members to belong among the democracies.

The FO take over was justified by accusing the CRO of running a separate foreign policy. The lexicon soon became that the Commonwealth had turned its back on Britain and were importing manufactured goods from our rivals in America, Japan and Europe - no mention was made that perhaps the unreliability of British industry at that time had something to do with seeking alternative suppliers. During the 1950s we ran a surplus on manufactured goods worth 10% of GNP. That advantage was lost to the recovering industries of Europe and Japan through poor management coupled with poor labour relations and poor road infrastructure. The railways were extensive and reliable for freight - until Dr Beeching closed down all the small branch lines that allowed parcels to arrive within hours by train. Britain's first motorway was only completed in 1968.

A year later de Gaulle said ' non ' again. Five years later Prime Minister Ted Heath managed to join the Common Market but Harold Wilson took much of the credit. Heath had lost an election after sheer industrial chaos. None of them expected that within five years a woman would lead the Conservative Party, win the election, go on to win two more and drag the British economy into the modern age. They were all too wet as Margaret Thatcher would occasionally let slip.




Forget arrangements on the lines of the one the Swiss negotiated. The original agreement drawn up by Paul Jolles in 1972 was very good but Paul was one of the outstanding diplomats of the 1970s from any country. Paul also negotiated our exit from EFTA. Switzerland went on to negotiate a series of bilateral agreements with the EC member states of that time. Some 64% of Swiss trade is with the modern EC. About one third of Swiss trade is with Germany alone thus some kind of arrangement is important. Today the Swiss are constantly nagged by the EC Commission and threatened with dire consequences if they don't fall into line with EC rules on trade, taxes, refugees, you name it, in force within the Single Market by implementing rulings from the European Court of Justice. Most of the Swiss regard this idea as creeping colonisation by the EC. Today the EC Commission has a fan club among Switzerland's left of centre politicians and some of the senior diplomats and officials while most Swiss want to keep their direct democracy which allows even EC regulations to be questioned.

Swiss friends tell us that they were so worried about direction in which the EC was heading, becoming more rigid by the day, indeed almost totalitarian, that when they heard the news that we had voted for Brexit, they threw parties to celebrate.

Brexit will electrify the British people. Sudden release from the dead weight of the EC albatross around our necks will unleash all sorts of imaginative and inventive forces. We might even rediscover our old sense of community. Once again we can make our own rules. I would like to see a space industry strategy and a rejuvenation of shipping and shipbuilding through lower taxes and ultra modern designs and technology.

There is no point voting to leave the EU only to let Brussels sneak in through the back door. We should make a clean break. Let's stick to WTO rules and treat the EC as a single market from day one. Just as we do the United States. Should the EC seek tariff free trade with us, that's fine so long as there is no question of payments to the EC budget nor accepting EU regulations in our economy. Obviously any tariffs would apply throughout the Single Market and become reciprocal. Most WTO tariffs are low single figures but some products, luxury cars for example, face around 10% duty. Imports of cars alone would earn the Treasury several billions a year. 


 For a UK global diplomatic and export island lives and prospers on sea power.........just click the ships

With lower taxes on shipping the Merchant Navy grows - as owners recognise the increasing risks at sea and return to the red duster.

Photo Royal Navy






Flypast over Bayeux Cemetery

Two gatherings took place where the British and Canadians landed on D Day. One was entirely British Commonwealth and involved the Queen and Duke with Prince Charles, starting with a service in Bayeux Cathedral for all the veterans and their familes, this followed after a short walk through the city streets by another shorter service at the British Commonwealth Cemetery. Afterwards the Queen talked to all the veterans - very much a family occasion - apart from the veterans, the Queen and the Duke were the only people present who served in the war. The photo below was taken about three days before the men landed by parachute and glider during the first minutes of the 6 June.


Princess Elizabeth aged 18 with her mother, Queen Elizabeth, talking with soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division a few days before they landed in Normandy. Just behind her mother's hat is General Sir Richard ' Windy ' Gale commanding the 6 Airborne Division. Her father, King George VI is just out of the photo. The Queen with veterans of D Day at this year's ceremony in Bayeux.


That afternoon President Hollande took over the British Sword Beach for Euromania in the form of a rather tasteless TV promotion of the EC super state. Only President Obama went and talked to the veterans present - a handful on display in the hot sun while the Eurocrats sat in the shade - and the Queen chatted with the veterans for several minutes after she arrived from Bayeux.

 I'm sure the ceremony at Omaha Beach was very moving, as ever, but let's keep the 6 June for the survivors and their families in future. Thank heavens that's the last official ceremony on the beaches. 





The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh, Lord High Admiral, and Admiral Sir George Zambellas, admiring the Royal Navy's latest aircraft carrier - HMS Queen Elizabeth - up in Rosyth on the 4 July.

The previous Queen Elizabeth was also a trail blazer, built as a fast oil-fired battleship armed with eight fifteen inch guns, she set a new benchmark for big gun ships and was to serve in two world wars. During the first with the Grand Fleet as Admiral Beatty's flag ship and during the second in the Mediterranean and Far East.



The new HMS Queen Elizabeth weighs in at 72,100 short tons - 65,000 imperial tons - and will carry an air strike group with stealth fighters able to reach targets hundreds of miles away. Her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will take her place in the huge assembly dock now the Queen Elizabeth has taken to the water for her sea trials.


The ship yard crane is so big and powerful that it lifted one tug from the harbour, lifted it the length of QE and lowered it into the flooded dock, so the tug could nudge the newly floating carrier into the harbour.



The weather was much more cheerful than for her naming by the Queen!


' How big did you say? '



' The one bearing your name is the larger one, Maam.'


The Queen concentrates as the bottle of Islay single malt hits grey steel.



Alongside the new carrier is HMS Illustrious, last of the ' through deck cruisers ' known by the navy as ' see through carriers ' which kept alive carrier jet fighter operations with the Sea Harrier jump jets. Otherwise, John Nott's suicidal naval cuts would have reduced the Royal Navy to a third rate naval power. Harrier carriers made possible liberation of the Falkland Islands.

The jet fighter on the ski ramp of HMS Elizabeth is a mock up but gives a very clear idea of the size of the flight deck. The Royal Navy will fight to ensure that both new aircraft carriers join the fleet. I feel confident the RN and its many staunch fans will win that fight. Everyone who thinks we should have a much stronger navy needs to make their voice heard. This is a job for a single massive public voice. The coming political battle will involve public pressure to double the number of destroyers, frigates and submarines. Ideally the Royal Navy could find plenty of work for a third new carrier and a four-fold increase in surface ships and submarines but let's take things a step at a time. First the British public have to be educated that they live on an island that's becoming as over-crowded as Japan.

Then compare the size of their navy with ours.

All the same, truly, a great day for the Royal Navy ( not to mention Gordon Brown ) and all the ship yard workers, the thousands of skilled people who delivered her on time for the Queen.   







Oh dear, Mutti has bitten another partner but this time the victim survived. Dave has an easy decision but he'll make heavy weather of it - as usual. There is a landslide election victory staring him in the face. The Tories and UKIP have 35% and 10-15% of the vote together. The only negotiation with the EC that makes sense is British exit. That should give the ' conservative vote ' up to 55% of the voters, possibly 60% with the prospect of freedom from the EC shackles around our commercial ankles.

Far from facing ruin, freed from Europe's sheet anchor, Britain's economy will grow much faster. We should become a giant Hong Kong anchored off the Continent.

The price is worth paying - much larger armed forces, particularly the Royal Navy, and restoration of the FCO to its former strength.

Best get started, Dave, or we'll give your job to one of the ladies.









 ' Hey - I'm over here! '

Prince George on his mother's lap after Christening at the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace. Two future kings and one future queen. The secret of the Royal Family has always been to move with the times. I think they'll be around for a while longer.


  Her Majesty the Queen with three future kings and Prince George with Princess Charlotte

More than a century has passed since the last time such a photo was taken at the Christening of the future King Edward VIII. He, of course, abdicated to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson in 1937. His brother succeeded him as the much loved and respected King George VI, the Queen's father.

Charlotte takes her name from George the Third's much loved queen who named her eldest daughter Charlotte. 




DGG 1000 - USS Zumwalt takes to the water, stealthily at night. Why is it that despite the recent Congress chaos and threat of a Federal Government shut down, the US Department of Defence manages to organise a naval construction programme that runs so that America's shipyards stay open, whereas inexperienced British politicians combined with mediocre management and no competition for BAE clearly fail to do this every time?




Amanda Thatcher reads from Saint Paul's Epistles at her Grandmother's funeral in Saint Paul's Cathedral.

Margaret Thatcher's greatest legacy may prove her captivating and composed granddaughter.



Margaret Thatcher died peacefully on the 8 April. The most well educated of all British Prime Ministers, of all her many great achievements, she remained very proud of her days as a young research chemist on the team that created soft-frozen ice cream. That's what made her special. She kept her feet on the ground. She invariably found time for children and young people, no matter what the world was throwing at her.


I worked with her a couple of times at G 8 Summits and then over the Channel Tunnel. I worked with her Press Office in Downing Street when I was Director of the British Information Services across Canada and at one time the USA as well. I was on the phone with Bernard Inghams, her Press Secretary and his staff, Charles Anson and Liz Drummond, almost daily during the Falklands War. I even had wonderful support from her predecessor, former Labour Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, who went on CBC TV backing Margaret Thatcher and the Royal Navy - he'd been a sailor and had ordered a lot of the ships she sent south. A fact that he made sure I reminded the lady herself!
American friends have expressed shock at the bias against her in BBC radio and TV cover since she passed away. The BBC have their own axe to grind over Maggie. She didn't think much of their bloated pink bureaucracy. While putting Conservatives on air, they're careful to have only the pinker ones. Few of her real allies have been on BBC radio or TV. Instead, they've given plenty of air time to her most left wing opponents plus the IRA. The BBC regards itself as the holy temple for the spiritual flame of socialism and liberalism - progressive politics as Tony Blair loves to describe modern socialism that makes its politicians rich......


One has to remember the mess when she took office. We had been through Ted Heath's disaster of the three day week - when the Ministry of Defence resembled the Orlop Deck of HMS Victory lit by smoking candles. We had the IMF lending us money and the dead not buried because the hospital workers were on strike. The same people who would fight Margaret Thatcher sabotaged Jim Callaghan's Labour Government. Had they not done so, Jim would have delivered low inflation and low interest rates and economic growth without horrendous job losses. Margaret Thatcher would have led the Opposition for another five years.

Eleven years later, after winning three elections, when Margaret Thatcher was stabbed in the back by Heseltine and others, we had such a big budget surplus that we were paying back the National debt. She had it down to 26.7% of annual gnp and had she gone another five years we would have paid off the rest. Strikes fell from 29 million days lost per year to 2 millions during her premiership and last year were 250,000 days. She set the course for the new century. When her successor, John Major, won the next election, he scored 14 million votes, the most ever by a political party in Britain. When he lost to Tony Blair we were closing fast to overtake the gnp of reunited Germany. Look at what Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron have done with her legacy.

One of the blessings of a profession as a diplomat is that you get about socially. I have known nearly all the main political actors during this era from Arthur Scargill, the miners' leader to a friend in the Cabinet Office who masterminded his defeat. I liked them both although I didn't share Arthur Scargill's politics. I liked Dennis Thatcher. Everyone did who knew him. We often met and chatted when we collected our respective family photographs at the shop that used to occupy the corner of Whitehall and Northumberland Avenue.

I liked Margaret Thatcher. She was honest, straight dealing, very intelligent though very modest in her own funny way. Despite claims to the contrary, she had a sense of humour, very quick. Long after leaving Ottawa, I wrote her speech to the Canadian Parliament and had the remarkable pleasure of watching Maggie tell one of my jokes as her opening line. Somewhere I have a tape sent to me in Sussex by Don Newman of CBC on behalf of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

I shall remember her honesty, warmth, courage. She never forgot where she started in life, devoting herself to help others climb the ladder.

A great lady. I shall miss her.


Amanda and Michael Thatcher waiting to play their parts in their grandmother's funeral. What a splendid advert they made for America's youth. 



' I never read a newspaper.'

Hugh Grant, comic film actor, campaigning for government regulation of the British press for the first time since 1695.






Apologies to Chester Wilmot





All sorts of questions are raised by the Scottish Nationalist Party's ambition to break up the United Kingdom. Few answers are coming from the Scottish Nationalist Party. My hunch is that this obfuscation will backfire as the vote for ' independence ' draws closer - actually separation from England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands plus all the United Kingdom's dependent territories.

Scottish history is rarely taught in English schools and - here goes - requires a little cramming.

England and Scotland had shared the same king for more than a century - apart from a dozen years rule by Oliver Cromwell - by the time the 1707 Act of Union came to pass.

The last Tudor monarch of England, Elizabeth I, never married and when she died in 1603 her distant cousin, James VI of Scotland became James I of England as well. Since Wales and Ireland were part of Elizabeth's kingdom, he was the first ruler of the whole British Isles. The two countries remained separate with Parliaments in London and Edinburgh. James ruled through a personal union. His critics named him the wisest fool in Christendom but modern historians now regard him as an intelligent and thoughtful monarch. James became King of Scotland after his mother's execution by Elizabeth I - the grim culmination of nearly a century of civil wars and power struggles in Scotland, often with French interventions, indeed his grandmother, Mary of Guise, led an army and ruled as Queen Consort. Under his mother, Mary, the country was torn apart by squabbling nobles until edging towards what we would call a failed state today. Mary fled to England. Sadly, she became the focus of Catholic ambitions to destroy the Reformation and return England to the Papal flock.

The Scottish Nationalists skip this part of history and look back 600 years to Scotland's struggles to defy conquest by the hated English. Far more relevant to our times are the two hundred years from 1500 - 1707. The first century of chaos was recent memory when James set off for Whitehall and he regarded full union as the best way forward for both countries. And both flourished. Shakespeare wrote some of his finest work during this time. James had his faults - belief in the divine right of kings to rule under God was to lead to his son losing a civil war against Parliament - but the over-riding strategy created a sea trading nation that would become the greatest power on the planet.

The Civil War ended in 1648 with his son, Charles I, held prisoner by Parliament. Charles then made the same move as Mary Queen of Scots - secretly negotiated with France to invade the British Isles and secure his throne. Charles and his descendents were secret Catholics and that implied a double threat to the protestant kingdom that had beaten the Spanish Armada in the days of Elizabeth. Charles was executed in 1649 and his son fled to France. An attempt to regain the throne failed at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and the young Charles II hid in an oak tree during his escape. Nine years later, fed up with the Parliamentary and puritan rule, Cromwell dead, his son asked the king to return. There were still secret treaties with France - followed by wars - but the great struggle was for control of the narrow seas around our islands. Two powers threatened English trade - France and Holland. The most dangerous were the Dutch.

Now commenced a series of short wars with many naval battles in the Channel and the North Sea. Some with France, most with Holland. The Dutch even burned the English fleet in the River Medway including its flagship, the Royal Charles, named after the king. Despite brilliant leaders such as van Tromp and van Ruyter, the Dutch lost and England became the dominant sea power on the planet.

Charles II known as the Merry Monarch for his dissolute Court, died in 1685 and was succeeded by his brother, James II, who was clever though arrogant and thick-skinned. James was openly Catholic and appointed Catholics to key positions. Within three years the Government with the blessing of Parliament sent for the protestant Prince of Orange, ruler of Holland, who was married to Mary Stuart, also a protestant, daughter of James II. They were in fact first cousins. A peaceful invasion took place for the leading general, John Churchill, great ancestor of Winston, crossed over to William's camp the night before the expected battle to avoid needless bloodshed. There was no battle. James fled London for France.

The resulting settlement made William and Mary joint monarchs - the only ones in British history - and all state papers were signed by both. Parliament and the Monarchy drew up a treaty which agreed their respective powers. This was known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and laid the foundation of our modern democratic monarchy.

William had fought Louis XIV of France to keep Holland's freedom. He wasted no time involving English power on the Continent and John Churchill's eventual victories were to make him the greatest British general who has ever lived.

Not all Scots accepted the new monarchs. Some nobles stayed loyal to James ( VII of Scotland ) and this brought civil war north of the border. The Jacobite nobles had support among the Highlanders and won a victory at the Pass of Killicrankie in 1698 only to lose another battle within months, thus defeating their campaign.

Scotland already found itself at a disadvantage when trading with the growing economic power south of the border.

England paid for its wars from taxes on imports and trade. The Scots made it possible to avoid these taxes by landing goods in Scotland rather than English ports. A series of bad harvests didn't help either and thus was born the idea of rivalling the English by founding a Scottish colony - New Caledonia - not in the Pacific Ocean but on the coast of Central America in what is today, Panama, at a place called Darien. Scotland's government and bankers raised the money in Amsterdam and London. But the place chosen, Darien, belonged to Spain. England was at war with France and King William did not want to fight Spain as well. He was lukewarm to the idea. The East India Company had been given a monopoly on such trading ventures and were opposed. This opposition prevailed and the Dutch and English backers withdrew. The punters then raised £ 400,000 from all over Scotland and the scheme went ahead - but - those involved were poor planners and even worse judges of people. They appointed incompetents and adventurers to lead the expedition and the inevitable result was a double disaster. Two waves of colonists were lost from disease, before the Spanish attacked and the survivors surrendered. English ships were not sent as a rescue party - William had no desire to fight Spain as well as France. The loss of money represented 20% of Scotland's gnp at that time - please take note Germans as you make yourselves liable for 25% of yours by backing the Eurozone.

Economic catastrophe persuaded the Scottish leaders to approach the English and seek political and economic union. One need only read the Act of Union to realise the lack of trust between the two sides. The bulk of the Act is a list of the taxes  that the combined nation will impose on pretty well everything. Only towards the end does the Act confirm that £ 398,085 and ten shillings plus any other monies will be paid into the Scottish Exchequer to redeem all its debts. ( One wag has calculated that returning the capital with 300 years interest and inflation will cost Scotland £ 853 trillions because they are breaking the deal. ) The Act was passed separately by both Parliaments - no room for the slightest wriggle by the Scots - and reminds me of the level of trust between the FCO and the Quai d'Orsay when we drew up the modern Channel Tunnel Treaty.

The result for Scotland was membership of the most advanced economy in the world and within a generation. Indeed, while the 1715 rebellion against the King in London had some support, rapid economic growth denied Bonnie Prince Charlie any support from those who ran Scotland by 1745 and made his failure certain. Edinburgh became the Athens of the North. The home city of Adam Smith. The new United Kingdom became the world's first super power with no other in sight for two hundred years. Think about that - when the Scottish Nationalists want to turn back the clock three hundred years to the days of the Darien colony.

What happens after the Scottish Nationalists renege on the Act the Union?

Scottish Nationalists claim that Scotland will remain within the EC. This claim shows no understanding of EC politics. Neither Belgium nor Spain wants to signal Flanders or Catalonia that they can break away with impunity. Cyprus already complains that Scotland should not be allowed to jump the queue for EC membership - Cyprus has issues with breakaway parts of its own island.

My hunch is that whatever the lawyers say - and none have been consulted formally, if at all - Scotland will be forced to apply to join the EC. ( Since writing this passage a few weeks ago the EC Commission have confirmed that Scotland would have to apply as a new state.) That means joining the Euro because there is no way, given the present banking crisis, that the Bank of England can underwrite a foreign economy over which it has no control. Scotland will have to exit the pound at midnight on Alex Salmond day. Given the uncertainties at such a moment, Scotland's new currency would nose dive while inflation would soar. Moreover, this situation could become prolonged.

Scotland will be regarded with great suspicion by NATO allies who are also EC member states. Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, Holland, UK and USA don't want another Irish Republic. Don't want another neutral country in a strategic geographical position accepting NATO's de facto protection while claiming de jure that they need make no contribution to their own defence. Americans in particular are fed up with freeloaders. Everyone is Irish during an election in the USA but the other three years people say what they think. Scotland's neighbours may decide to block its EC membership until their security demands are met to NATO's satisfaction. The USA can stand back and let the Danes and Dutch, Germans and Norwegians give the nasty messages then step in as judge and jury.

England faces the same problem as 300 years ago. We'll have customs and passport controls along the Scottish border. We'll need much more patrol capacity along the coasts to stop smuggling of goods and people. After a near miss with Ireland which cost the taxpayer £ 8 billions - so far - the Scottish Nationalists expect us to tolerate a failed state on mainland Great Britain.

Scots have gone all over the World. Right here in Bern they built the main bridge over the River Aare. Standard Chartered Bank from Lahore to Saigon was managed by Scots. These are the true sons and daughters of the Darien dream, who went all over the world, secure in their support from a strong base in the United Kingdom. Why aren't these Scots allowed to vote in 2014? Why not all the Scots resident in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

And, if the Scottish Nationalists promote a return to the 13th century, why shouldn't the Orkney and Shetland Islanders vote for a return to the 15th century when they still were part of the Kingdom of Denmark? They'd escape joining the Euro. Perhaps the rest of the UK could negotiate an attractive deal with the Northern Islanders.....





One gains the strong impression that the Windsors and Obamas have struck up a friendship. Letters and phone calls were exchanged over the last year and the warmth of their welcome no secret. This good news reflects the original instant chemistry between Roosevelt and Churchill, Kennedy and Macmillan, Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

The Queen's first public reaction to her Grandson's wedding to Kate, ' It was amazing! ' - says a great deal about her own and the Duke's appetite for keeping up with the new generations' way of doing things. They are an example to all those of us with plenty of miles on the clock.

Equally, the Obamas' instinct to strike up a friendship with a rather special British couple old enough to be their grandparents, sends a message far and wide. Don't write off your seniors - we might know more than you think!



 Barack Obama became the first US President to address the British Parliament in Westminster Hall. Since 1945 only Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela, and Pope Benedict the XVI have addressed Parliament in this magnificent place. The photo does not convey its vastness, so add it to your list of sites. This is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, built in 1087 and given its splendid hammer beam roof in 1393. When first built it was the largest hall in Europe and the palace and abbey stood on Thorney Island beside the River Thames. Many great events, both tragic and joyful, have taken place in this splendid monument, including some of the most famous political trials in English history - also some of the most splendid banquets.

This was a special occasion and the President rose to the moment with the kind of poetry so lacking among his audience of plastic, parish pump politicians. Both they and the media present were struck silent - indeed, the President could be forgiven for going home thinking that the only part of his speech that struck a cord was when he reminded that his grandfather had been a British Army cook - such is the the eloquent shock of fine oratory. The two Speakers, Lords and Commons, however, gave excellent addresses in welcome and thanks although some of the UK media viewed this as fawning rather than normal good manners. Such is the ignorance of the modern fourth estate.

The President reminded the British who we are, how we are a people of noble ambitions, warned our alliance has plenty more work for mighty challenges lie ahead. Most of his message passed over the heads of those sitting in the hall. Fortunately we live in an age of instant communication and I think millions of British voters took the message on board. Whether this jolts Cameron's coalition into reversing their cuts to our diplomacy and defence services, before the democracies are overwhelmed by the forces of totalitarian and corrupt power, remains a question.

I'm grateful that the most intellectual President since Roosevelt used this special moment to remind us who we are.   


During summer 1956, fed up with critics and dire warnings, Anthony Eden sent for the greatest captain of them all - Sir Basil Liddell-Hart, defence correspondent, military historian, world respected master of tactical and strategic ideas. Eden wanted Basil Liddell-Hart to look at the plan, or shall we say endorse Eden's master plan.

Wearing a tropical light weight cream suit, one fine day, Liddell-Hart strolled up Downing Street and was ushered into the Prime Minister's office. Remember all readers less than seventy years old that in those days we still wrote with fountain pens filled from ink bottles. Basil Liddell-Hart told the Prime Minister that his plan would not work. The Prime Minister reached for the ink well on his desk and hurled it at his visitor. Basil Liddell-Hart reached the nearest weapon. Moments later the great historian was observed walking down Downing Street with his cream suit spattered with blue ink. The Prime Minister's muffled squawks led to his discovery under the waste paper bin rammed over his head.

Eden's career ended dismally. Basil Liddell-Hart died seven years before Eden yet despite the usual brigade of people revising the lives of the dead - who cannot answer back - remains admired and respected by those with any understanding of tactics and strategy.




' Double the effort and square the error.'

 The late Sir Robert Thompson, over a Chinese dinner in Saigon, describing to Adrian the worst form of strategy.


Trident II - no longer independent, no longer fire proof. The patrol aircraft - cost £ 4 billions - that make sure our nuclear submarines are not trailed, have been axed by David Cameron's laughable defence team. The Liberal policy of nuclear disarmament has sneaked through the back door and the voters remain blissfully ignorant.

Moreover, at present, lacking maritime and sigint patrol aircraft, we cannot send a major task force - safely - out from Portsmouth Harbour into our own coastal waters.

For some thoughts on Britain's nuclear deterrent - what it deters, what it ought to deter, what is required - click the photo above.


America's armed forces enjoy a fine tradition of openness towards new ideas from any quarter - including civilians - often from places beyond the United States. This continued throughout the Vietnam War. A few years after the Vietnam War the Commanding General of the 82 Airborne Division, Sandy Molloy, asked me to spend some time with the division and look at their methods of doing business from strategy to tactics. Several changes resulted. Some of the ideas eventually were published in the RUSI Journal. Tell me any other armed forces in the World that are so open to new ideas? General David Petraeus and many others continue this tradition.



Some of our generals have been making a lot of noise over the last year. Not all, but too many. Several have involved themselves in party politics behind the backs of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, not to mention a much larger number of Army officers, who, still serving or retired, do not share their opinions.


Sir David Richards - Chief of the Defence Staff - talks about a ' tanks for horses ' moment. He's four decades behind those of us who served in Vietnam although, regretfully, in the case of Britain's Army he is right.

Some forty years ago, on the 30 January 1971, American armoured reconnaissance troops advanced towards the abandoned airfield at Khe Sanh. Within hours a huge helicopter lift had delivered an infantry brigade onto the plateau and seized the airfield. The armoured reconnaissance force moved further along Route 9 and reached the Laos border. A few days later South Vietnam's three finest divisions crossed into Laos. Their task was to sit astride the Ho Chi Minh Trail system, disrupt and destroy the Communist base areas and supply routes east and west of Tchepone. Thus began, so far, the first and only huge conventional battle involving airmobile forces between seasoned, dangerous military powers.

This proved far more savage than airmobile warfare in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese had spent years improving their supply routes through Laos. By early 1971 the two main base areas, 604 and 611, were covered by the strongest layered flak defences anywhere on the planet other than those guarding Hanoi. No less than five strong NVA divisions and 50,000 other troops including tanks and superb artillery awaited the South Vietnamese. Reinforcements came from south and north, including SAMs once the battle intensified.

To give today's soldiers an idea of the scale, the Americans flew 90,000 helicopter sorties - 34,000 with gunships - and lost nearly 1000 helicopters downed or damaged over 6 weeks fighting. Some 10,000 fighter air strikes were flown, nearly 2000 by US Navy carrier aircraft, and 2000 sorties by B 52s dropped nearly 50,000 tons of bombs. The casualties on both sides were horrendous. American helicopter crews had been winding down a long war. Suddenly they fought for their lives, flying mission after mission onto landing zones swept by AAA and bombarded by mortars and long range guns. Over the south 1500 feet had been a safe height. Over Laos nothing below 6000 feet was safe. Their courage was formidable. After two weeks South Vietnam's airborne troops were losing a battalion a day. The North Vietnamese Army lost at least 20,000 men.

Apart from Colonel John Waddy, myself, and three rather courageous journalists - one of whom paid with his life - nobody British witnessed a second of the watershed in modern warfare. The British Army showed no interest in John's reports and remains in a mental time warp.


British generals always find change a struggle. During the nineteenth century they resisted the abolition of flogging. The generals staunchly opposed the great reforms that laid the foundations of Kitchener's citizen army during World War One. For much of the first half of the twentieth century they refused to give up their horses for tanks - to the despair of men like Fuller and Liddell-Hart, not to mention Winston Churchill who encouraged the invention of the tank. As Field Marshal Heinz Guderian remarked, we had the greatest tank strategists in the World though fortunately - for the German Army - no tank generals. For the last 40 years Britain's generals steadfastly refused to relinquish their heavy tanks for helicopters.

Modern airmobile tactics were proven and refined during the Vietnam War. Britain was not involved with the Vietnam War. Consequently the US Army - and the Australians and New Zealanders - spent a decade fighting another way. Vietnam demanded all the military and civilian expertise and sigint resources that Sir David Richards suggests are needed in future wars. His words reveal how insular our generals remain today. Vietnam was the crucible for airmobile warfare. Laos was the ultimate test.

The war also showed that a guerrilla campaign could not destroy a democratic government, no matter how weak and corrupt, but could pave the way for a conventional invasion once the victim was thoroughly weakened. American soldiers and Marines learnt all the lessons applied today in Afghanistan. The 173 Airborne provided security for the Binh Dinh local elections in 1970 - against a regular NVA division that was a lot tougher than the Taliban. The same duty was carried out by many other US combat formations the length of South Vietnam. Although the US Army needed a dangerous crisis in Iraq and General David Petraeus to prompt a revival of the political techniques they honed in Vietnam, the US Navy and USAAF built upon the military skills and lessons learned. Smart bombs were knocking out NVA tanks in spring 1972, long before Desert Storm. Some 40 years ago I remember the US Marines changing the codes between rifle companies every two hours because the Russian eavesdroppers beyond the DMZ in North Vietnam otherwise would crack their messages. That was long after cyber dawn. Perhaps more revealing for our purposes, General Abe Abrams, US Commander in Vietnam, told me that the great thing about the Australian/New Zealand Task Force was that he could stop worrying about the Province they looked after. Contrast his words with later concerns about Basra and Helmand. No matter how professional and courageous - and we do have some very good generals although they're the ones who don't go in for politics - our Army is too small for making a strategic impact, anywhere. Sending another few thousand troops into Afghanistan - or anywhere else on that scale - will make not the slightest difference. More SAS backed by naval cruise missiles might cross the Iranian border. Not conventional infantry - unless led by another Alexander the Great.

Colonel John Waddy - serving forty years ago as the first Colonel Special Forces in the British Army - despaired of the Army leadership over its Cold War tactics and equipment. Little has changed. British generals fought two Gulf Wars with conventional armoured and infantry tactics and attempted the same in Afghanistan. Demands for better armoured vehicles were the generals' solution, while the grateful enemy simply made more powerful mines. Over the last three years £ 3.5 billions have been spent on Urgent Operational Requirements, purchases of equipment, for Afghanistan. Nearly all that money went on heavier and heavier vehicles rather than grasping the nettle and ordering £ 3.5 billions worth of helicopters and out-flanking the mine layers overnight. The generals allowed the Taliban to keep calling the tactical shots.  The RAF still operate troop carrying helicopters that are regarded as normal for the TO&E of a US brigade. Between June 1940 and May 1943 the defeated and largely unarmed British Army went from not a single paratrooper to raise two airborne divisions with a third forming in India - proving that a completely new form of warfare can go from drawing board to drop zone at astonishing speed given a fair wind. I wonder how much cash modern generals requested for language training.

 The planners and operations staff took on a role in Afghanistan without accurate intelligence - I suspect almost without any intelligence. Now our small though redoubtable force, taking pointless casualties because it travels by ground, at least has been relieved by the US Marine Corps with many, many helicopters. British generals serving today were involved with the original stupid decision to insert an isolated brigade. The result was a rather dusty slow motion Dien Bien Phu. Some generals remain desperate to clear their reputations. Why should our troops risk their lives and limbs over a decade for salvaging reputations? If the senior generals cannot see the wood for the trees, nor it seems, does David Cameron.

Labour's original 1998 plan for the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force was a step in the right direction given that we are on the threshold of a series of conflicts between large and small nations. By that I do not mean world war, rather a period of history similar to the eighteenth century, when conflicts break out between combinations of major and minor states right across the globe for control and ownership of its natural resources. Argentina's latest confrontation over the Falkland Islands provides a good example of what is likely to become the norm for states in financial and political trouble. The 1998 plan left the Navy short of escorts and submarines, the Army without air-portable armour and artillery, the RAF short of strategic airlift but the plan laid solid foundations. The Army's troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan threw a huge spanner in the works. That problem should be solved without damaging the other two Services.

Can that be done - yes, it can.






' Or we could fill her up with UK politicians and scuttle her!

Now THAT would be a reasonable use of taxpayers money on defence as it would fall under the category of removing the greatest threat to our nations well being and security.'


A popular suggestion on the soldiers' website - ARRSE - about how to use the new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which David Cameron's government intends sending to sea for a decade without a single aircraft on board.



JCF  1


A government that lightly showers 40% more billions on international largesse can obviously afford a slightly increased defence budget. A government that slashes the diplomatic service by 25% while slashing defence by effectively 20% is strategically illiterate. There are arguments for a generous aid budget though as part of a package which includes more diplomats to exploit the political benefits - and a strong navy to back up our diplomats. No evidence has been produced by either of the Cameron governments to persuade me that the effectiveness and value of aid has been thoroughly examined.

This is also a government where the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary are either fools or wield little power. Slashing the Harriers and HMS Ark Royal saved about £ 200 millions a year. Slashing the STOVL version of the JCF 35 abandoned the ability to deploy anywhere, world wide. The cost of Cameron's ' cats and traps ' for the French conventional Rafale with no stealth technology nearly added a further £ 1.6 billions on the carrier programme. That's pound wise, billions foolish. No wonder the Queen chose to visit the ship's company of HMS Ark Royal on Guy Fawkes Day.


A picture is worth a thousand words - Her Majesty with the ship's company of HMS Ark Royal on the 5 November 2010

Photos courtesy the Royal Navy


Hostile briefing continues about the aircraft carriers, peddling the same old line - war between states is unlikely - despite Russia invading Ukraine although ironically the lexicon claims the American ' military ' say carriers soon would be sunk in a war against China given that country's new carrier-killer missile. Anyone starting a war against China would take out the supporting satellites and ground base at Shaoguan long before their own fleet quit harbour. This also raises how much damage the Chinese regime is willing for its people to suffer over preserving face. China today is not the peasant nation that Mao herded towards mass slaughter on the Korean peninsular. 

The US Navy provides their super carriers with powerful escort forces to protect them from missile and submarine attack from any country. The last time a missile was fired at a US carrier, off Iraq, the missile was shot down by an escorting British destroyer. Navies keep control of the sea by deploying balanced fleets. Frigates patrolling in potentially hostile waters need back up from more powerful destroyers, submarines, and sometimes carrier and land-based fighters, plus long range reconnaissance aircraft. Hostile media lines rely on press and public ignorance. There's a lot around. 




The new aircraft carriers will be the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy weighing in at 70,600 tons fully loaded and 930 feet long with a wide beam, much closer in size to the US Navy's strike carriers though with only 1300/1400 complement rather than nearly 5000 on a US carrier. They will be capable of 32 knots at best speed. The Royal Navy are purchasing 65% of the power enjoyed by a US Navy super carrier for about 35% of the latter's cost. The new ships can take an air group of at least 40 fighters and helicopters but given their size one suspects that this number could increase during an emergency. Close defence weapons reflect the lessons from the Falklands War.

The flight deck has two islands, one for steering the ship and a second for controlling its aircraft. The ski jump bow shown in the above photo allows STOVL fighters to use less fuel and take off while carrying a heavy load. No less than 340 STOVL versions of the JCF 35 fighter have been ordered for the US Marine Corps. All could fly off the new carriers. Moreover, STOVL versions allow the Royal Navy to operate the JC35F from other capable decks, thereby making possible not only cross-decking operations, but a pool of major warships, a reserve fleet with a reserve of fighters from the Royal Navy and the RAF. The US Marine Corps may offer squadrons for service on the new carriers. The US Navy have ordered 480 conventional naval versions of the fighter and these do need catapults.

Quite likely, by fitting catapults, the government hoped to make HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first carrier, attractive to France or India at a bargain basement price. Whatever the UK government's plan, France's shipyards were most unlikely to accept such a deal; the French government still fears and respects popular national pride.

 Over a lifetime of 50 years the ships may increase to 75,000 tons fully loaded as additions are made - such as armour plate on the flight deck and sides - and possibly further deck space added. France planned a single aircraft carrier along the same design though weighing 75,000 tons, presumably its armour and catapults given that the ship's design length and beam were the same. Apart from ensuring Britain's future as a global power the aircraft carrier programme provides 15,000 highly skilled engineering jobs and manufacturing the aircraft, soon many more.




She looks good but needs Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon missiles plus Phalanx AAA and torpedoes against submarines. There's plenty of room for the lot on a Daring Class destroyer. Only the Prime Minister forgot to cover all that before the House of Commons.



Winston Churchill's are born once in 200 years or so but we can still learn from them. Churchill would be hounding his generals until somebody came up with a plan to cut the bomb-makers' throats en masse or as near as makes no odds. And even the smartest, nastiest opponent makes simple though catostrophic mistakes. I recommend taking time to read a wonderful recent article in Der Spiegel which begins with a night in 1932 when Winston Churchill, then in the wilderness, took his family to Munich while researching for a new book, probably his best, Marlborough - His Life and Times. Curious to meet the rising politician busy destroying the Weimer Republic, Churchill invited Adolf Hitler to dinner at the Grand Hotel Continental in Munich. Somewhat windswept after a political rally, un-shaven and wearing a grubby trench coat, Hitler was in the hotel lobby, talking with a Nazi Party donor. Not far away in the hotel, his foreign press agent, Ernst Putzi Hanfstaengl, and the Churchill family already tucked into their desserts, waiting in hope for the main guest.

Eventually Hanfstaengl excused himself from the table and found a telephone cabin. Despite pleading over the telephone, that non-appearance risked an affront to a rather distinguished visitor, the future Fuhrer admonished, ' Hanfstaengl, you know perfectly well that I have a lot to do at the moment and that we want to make an early start tomorrow. So...good night.'

Churchill took it well - Hanfstaengl played the piano after dinner for Scottish songs while Hitler missed his only chance to meet the man who would bring him to his knees.

PS. Some time later Putzi fell from power, fled to Switzerland, then Britain. When the war broke out he was interned as an enemy alien and shipped to Canada. Around 1942 he was passed to the Americans whereupon he became a trusted adviser to President Roosevelt.





HMS Richmond, Type 23 Destroyer, firing a Harpoon missile.

Three Type 23s were sold to Chile, all three ships only six years old. No offence to the Chile's Navy - these ships should patrol Falklands waters today flying white ensigns. Their design incorporates all the lessons from the 1982 South Atlantic War. Harpoon missiles possess three times the range of the Exocets carried by Argentina's modern destroyers.


Former Prime Minister, Lord Callaghan, sipping coffee in an Ottawa hotel back in April 1982, told me that during the late 1970s when Argentina previously threatened the Falklands he was offered two naval options - send surface ships rather publicly or send nuclear submarines discreetly. With a canny smile, he added,' I sent both.' 

Jim Callaghan then added, ' When you're on the phone to Downing Street this morning, Adrian, remind the lady who ordered all those ships she's sending south.'

I conveyed his message, diplomatically....



When asked by the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration, the National Security Adviser couldn't explain what is meant by strategy, offering instead that of course he understood strategy - there was a box on his annual report that had to be ticked!

In fairness, neither could William Hague answer sensibly.



' Double the effort and square the error.'

Sir Robert Thompson describing the worst form of strategy - debating with Adrian over a Chinese meal in wartime Saigon.



None - under his watch the United States found Bin Laden. Who's next?


Personally, I think President Obama's staff should have stopped him returning Winston Churchill's bust to the British Embassy. This was seen as a churlish act by the British people, who expected bigger things from America's first black president. Their bench mark is Nelson Mandela. Perhaps, the President should have asked for a temporary exchange, a bust of Clement Atlee whose National Health Service remains an example to the world. Clem' would have been a daily inspiration for him, that - yes, we can.



The Special Relationship

USS Winston Churchill making an emergency break away from the USS Harry S Truman. She is the only ship in the US Navy permanently assigned a Royal Navy officer - she flies the Stars and Stripes and the White Ensign. Escorting astern of the carrier and her support ship is HMS Manchester. Clicking this photo leads straight to how the Special Relationship began.


HMS Daring - photo Royal Navy and BAE

    Ideas on future diplomacy and strategy found by clicking on the Canberra bomber and HMS Daring or links further below.











Anyone taking our Normandy sky tour finds it helpful to have an idea of the scale of Operation Overlord and our briefing pages are worth a glance to understand some of the events before America's entry into the Second World War. Many visitors to our website probably know much of what is explained on these pages. Please grant us your forbearance. We try to ensure that those less familiar with the background to D Day, particularly the young, start their tour with a sound conception of what was at stake thereby making their time with us all the more worthwhile and enjoyable.

Just click the Spitfire...





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