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LORD HALIFAX: From WWII APPEASER to BRITISH AMBASSADOR in WASHINGTON

The is a fairly ordinary censored Australian cover sent from Melbourne on 4 June 1942 with a 1d green KGVI stamp and a purple boxed 3/ PASSED/ BY/ CENSOR mark, addressed to Lord Halifax, The British Embassy, Washington, U.S.A., with the sender's manuscript "From/ Aldred F. Barker/ The University, Melbourne" (Figure 1).

Lord Halifax started life as Edward Wood, the fourth son of the second Viscount Halifax, when he was born on 16 April, 1881 in Powderham Castle, Devon, handicapped by an atrophied left arm bereft of a hand. His 3 elder brothers died before he reached the age of nine, leaving him the heir to the title and great estates in Yorkshire. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford and was elected to the House of Commons in 1910 as a member of the Conservative Party. He served in the cabinet as the President of the Board of Education (1922-24), Minister of Agriculture (1924-25) and in 1925 he was appointed Viceroy of India for six years. Time Magazine featured him on its cover as Viceroy on April 12, 1926 (Figure 2).

He gave up his parliamentary seat in 1934 when he succeeded his father as the third Viscount Halifax. In 1935, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin appointed him as War Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords; in 1936 he visited Nazi Germany for the first time. A friend (Henry Channon) reported: "He told me he liked all the Nazi leaders, even Goebbels, and he was much impressed, interested and amused by the visit. He thinks the regime absolutely fantastic." In November 1937, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, sent Halifax to meet Hitler, Goebbels and Hermann Goering in Germany, and Halifax supported Chamberlain's appeasement policy. The Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden was highly critical of this policy, and as a result he resigned in February 1938, and Halifax replaced him.

After the outbreak of WWII, Halifax remained on as Foreign Secretary, and even when Chamberlain resigned and Churchill succeeded him as Prime Minister, Churchill kept Halifax as Foreign Secretary, in order to give the impression that the British Government was united against Hitler. In December 1940, Halifax was replaced by Anthony Eden, and Halifax became the British Ambassador to the USA. Halifax was the British delegate to the San Francisco Conference in March 1945, and he attended the first session of the United Nations. He resigned as Ambassador in May 1946, and he wrote Fulness of Days (1957), in which he attempted to defend the policy of appeasement. He died at Garroby Hall near York on 23 December 1959.

Aldred Farrar Barker (1868-1964) may have been a visitor at the University of Melbourne in 1942 (for the University cannot confirm any academic status). He was Professor of Textiles at the University of Leeds from 1914-1933 and in 1944 he published a book Essays on China and the Chinese which described social and economic conditions in China. He had acquired during a visit to China in the 1930's an exquisite collection of 200 Qing dynasty embroideries and tapestries, dating mainly from the mid 19th to early 20th centuries. In May 1938 he delivered the seventh G. E. Morrison Lecture in Chinese Ethnology on The Impact of Western Industrialism on China in Canberra, his only documented link with Australia. I could find no connection between Lord Halifax and Professor Barker, even after a most intensive search.


 
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