26 JANUARY 1945, Page 12




SIR,—I should normally hesitate to enter into disputation with my friend, Mr. Harold Nicolson, on a question of Foreign Policy, because he is an expert in the subject and I am not. But I am astonished that he should have stated recently in your columns :—" Sir Edward Grey . . . must always remain one of the most unassailable figures in the history of British Foreign Policy." All of us who were in the Cabinet, as I was for a short time, in the years immediately preceding this war, must take our share of responsibility for the state of British armaments on September 2nd, 1939. But many seem to forget how close we were in September, 1914, to the disaster which overtook France and ourselves in May, 1940, and for the same reason.

From 1908 onwards we, of all the small Conservative Parliamentary Opposition, in debates on Foreign Affairs, urged two points—I may add in parenthesis, amid constant and malignant interruption by the huge Liberal majority:

I. An overt alliance with France and Russia to meet the growing German menace instead of the Entente Cordiale ;—it will be remembered in this connection that in August, 1914, more than one Member of the Cabinet protested that he had never been informed by Sir Edward Grey what the extent of our commitments were or the real meaning of the Entente.

2. A great increase in our armaments—I, for one, pressed for National Service.

Sir Edward Grey treated these proposals with courtesy, as might be expected from him, but never with any real show of sympathy. Never did he appear to accept the indubitable fact that, in an era of European crisis, British Foreign Policy can only be fructuous if it is backed by sufficient military force to Intervene successfully should war break out.

No one who knew him would attack him as a man ; but as a historical figure I consider him to be very vulnerable rather than unassailable.—