Sir Donald Logan: Civil servant who assisted the Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd during the Suez crisis
Tuesday 03 November 2009
Donald Logan's place in post-war political history is assured, as he was the only British representative present at the two secret meetings at Sèvres, near Paris, at the height of the 1956 Suez Crisis.
On 22 October of that year, as assistant private secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, Logan accompanied him in an RAF plane to Paris. Lloyd's mission was to consult French and Israeli leaders about the plan, proposed by the French government to the British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, for the Israelis to invade the canal zone, and then – with the casus belli established – for the British and the French to intervene "to separate the combatants", the Israelis and the Egyptians, and eventually wrest control of the canal from Egyptian hands. Lloyd brought Logan up to date with these secret plans – "The plan for which I did not care", as Lloyd called it – on the flight to Paris. Instructions were that nothing should be set down on paper. Thus was born "collusion", as the episode became known.
On the journey to the villa at Sèvres, a Resistance base during the war, Lloyd and Logan narrowly escaped death, a fact revealed at the Public Record Office on 2 January 1987 when the Suez archives were released. All engagements in Lloyd's appointments diary had been scored through and, in Logan's hand, the new entry read: "A day marked, among other things, by a nearly fatal car accident – for which my driving was not responsible."
The oblique reference was meant to serve as a bookmark, reminding Lloyd and Logan where they had been, while at the same time adhering to Eden's requirement that there should be no written record. Logan was somewhat discomfited when this diary entry was revealed. "I had no idea that this scrap of paper would get into the public archives," he later said. "I ought not to have been so flippant."
When they arrived at Sèvres, it was clear that the meeting between Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's Israeli delegation and that of the French one, led by Premier Guy Mollet, had been going on for some time – "collusion within collusion", as it was later called. Logan felt he was out of his league and offered to withdraw. "Shouldn't I wait outside?" he asked Lloyd. "No, no," replied the Foreign Secretary, anxious for support in this august gathering, "keep me company."
The details of the unfolding plan dismayed both men. During a break in the discussions Lloyd consulted Logan, who said that if the plan was going to happen it was important to get it over quickly, as then the Arabs might come to accept it and might secretly be pleased if Nasser, Egypt's president, was toppled. "I was not proud of my response," Logan admitted many years later, "but I was under no illusion that any other would have made any difference."
Two days later Logan was instructed to accompany Sir Patrick Dean, Deputy Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, to Sèvres. Their mission was to tell the French and Israelis that only significant Israeli action would justify any British involvement. To the surprise of both Dean and Logan, a three-page document in French outlining the plan was then produced, the "Sèvres Protocol" (Logan was to deposit a copy of this document in the National Archives after 30 years had elapsed), which the British were asked to sign. Dean said he had no such authority and only agreed to sign ad referendum. Returning to London with the British copy, they were instructed by Eden to return to Paris to retrieve, or ensure the destruction of, the French and Israeli copies. By this time Ben Gurion had returned to Tel Aviv with his copy, and the French refused to release theirs.
Donald Arthur Logan was born on 25 August 1917 in London, during a Zeppelin raid, the son of Arthur Alfred Logan and Loiuse Anne Bradley. His father worked for the Port of London Authority, but soon after his son's birth moved to the Midlands. Donald Logan was educated at Solihull School, from which his father withdrew him just before he was due to take Higher School Certificate, convinced of impending humilating failure. Logan – almost Kipps-like – began his working life as an office boy at ICI in Aston before moving to a position in insurance. Here, remembering his earlier scholastic failure, he worked hard for five years, becoming a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute. When war came, Logan was offered a commission, owing to his service as a cadet at Solihull, becoming a Major in the Royal Artillery. He was first posted to Shrivenham, where he worked on anti-aircraft searchlights. In 1942 he was transferred to Washington to advise on anti-aircraft operations developed during the Battle of Britain.
As the War neared its end, Logan thoughts turned towards a possible career in the Foreign Service. In January 1943, Eden had published a White Paper, Proposals for the Reform of the Foreign Service. One of its key recommendations was that non-graduates could be engaged. In December 1945 Logan was among the initial 20 recruits to enter the Foreign Office under these new arrangements. His first assignment, in the North American Department, concerned GI brides. He then spent four years as the Commercial Secretary in the British Embassy at Tehran. Two years followed in which he worked on the Middle East desk at the Foreign Office, before becoming the Assistant Political Agent in Kuwait, experience which Selwyn Lloyd found invaluable when Logan joined his team in 1956.
For Logan, the demanding routine work of his unfolding diplomatic career was overshadowed by Suez, which he described as like "leaving the Private Office for Wonderland". Constitutional historians have often wondered whether Logan should have resigned, for, on 20 December 1956 he was in the officials' box at the House of Commons when Eden denied there had been any foreknowledge of the Israeli attack. In an article in the New Statesman in February 1987, just after the release of the Suez papers at the Public Record Office, Logan said that "the idea that a civil servant should get up and say, 'the Minister is not telling you the truth' is a recipe for chaos and certainly disloyalty." Logan never regretted his silence. His view was that of Attlee, who once told a disaffected body of Foreign Officials, "You're civil servants. Go away and do as you're told."
Logan returned to Washington for two years in 1958 and was rewarded with his first mission, as Ambassador to Guinea from 1960-1962. He proceeded smoothly up the promotional ladder, serving in Paris as Information Counsellor from 1964-70. His Ambassadorship in Bulgaria from 1970-73 gave him a lifelong interest in Eastern Europe, confirmed in retirement by his energetic Chairmanship of the Great Britain/Eastern Europe Centre from 1980-87. His last post, from 1973-75, was as the Deputy Permanent United Kingdom representative to Nato.
His retirement coincided with renewed interest in Suez and Logan became one of the most important witnesses for historians. He deposited first-hand accounts in the Public Record Office and also helped Selwyn Lloyd to complete his account of Suez, published posthumously in 1978.
In 1957 Logan married Irène Jocelyne Angèle, née Everts, daughter of the Belgian Ambassador in Madrid. She survives him, with his son and two daughters.
D. R. Thorpe
Donald Arthur Logan, diplomat: born London 25 August 1917; Fellow, Chartered Insurance Institute, 1939; Major, Royal Artillery, 1939-42; British Army Staff, Washington, 1942; Germany, 1945; Foreign (later Diplomatic) Service, December 1945; Foreign Office, 1945-47; British Embassy, Tehran, 1947-51; Foreign Office, 1951-53; Asst Political Agent, Kuwait, 1953-55; Asst Private Secretary to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1956-58; British Embassy, Washington, 1958-60; Ambassador to Guinea, 1960-62; Foreign Office, 1962-64; Information Counsellor, British Embassy, Paris, 1964-70; Ambassador to Bulgaria, 1970-73; Deputy Permanent United Kingdon Represenative to Nato, 1973-75; Ambassador and Permanent Leader, UK Delegation to UN Conference on Law of the Sea, 1976-77; Leader, UK Delegation to Conference on Marine living Resources of Antarctica, Buenos Aires and Canberra, 1978-80; Director, Great Britain-Eastern Europe Centre, 1980-87; Governor, St. Clare's College, Oxford, 1982-2000, (Chairman, 1984-93); CMG, 1965; KCMG, 1977; married 1957 Irène Jocelyne Angèle (one son, two daughters); died London 23 October 2009.
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