Obituaries : Sir Arthur de la Mare

Arthur James de la Mare, diplomat: born 15 February 1914; HM Vice-Consul, Tokyo 1936-38, Seoul 1938-39, USA 1942-43; First Secretary, Foreign Service 1945; HM Consul, San Francisco 1947-50; HM Embassy, Tokyo 1951-53; Counsellor, HM Foreign Service 1953-63; Head of Security Department, Foreign Office 1953-56; Counsellor, HM Embassy, Washington 1956-60; CMG 1957, KCMG 1968; Ambassador to Afghanistan 1963-65; Head of Far Eastern Department, Foreign Office 1965-67; High Commissioner in Singapore 1968

-70; Ambassador to Thailand 1970-73; KCVO 1972; married 1940 Elisabeth Sherwood (died 1992; three daughters); died Jersey 15 December 1994.

Arthur de la Mare was one of a group of four young Jerseymen who entered the Diplomatic Service, as it in time became, just before or shortly after the Second World War and who all rose to become ambassadors with knighthoods. What distinguished de la Mare from the other three was that he was born into a family owning a smallholding in the north of the island, where he grew up taking his place in the family team and assuming that his life, like those of his father and ancestors, would be directed to continuing the traditional family practices in that most beautiful corner of the island.

Dis aliter visum. The headmaster of his local school spotted that his ability was above the average and put him in for a scholarship to Victoria College, the local grammar school. Here he won all the French prizes on offer, followed by an open scholarship to Cambridge, a First in Medieval and Modern French and an appointment as a probationer in the Consular Service.

In those days the Consular Service, which merged with the old Diplomatic Service to form the Foreign Service just after the war, attached great importance to assuring a regular supply of officers trained in "hard" foreign languages and new entrants were offered the choice of the language they should take. De la Mare opted to go to Tokyo, a choice which largely determined the pattern of his future career.

Before going up to Cambridge de la Mare followed what was then the common practice among candidates for the foreign services of attending language courses during the long vacation to improve their knowledge of modern languages. In 1935 de la Mare attended such a course in Santander, to sharpen up his Spanish. Among the others on his course was an American girl, to whom he became engaged. He was forbidden by the rules of his service from marrying until he had completed his probation. So when his probationary period was completed, while he was in Tokyo, his fiancee went out from California and they were married in the Embassy. I have heard her described by one who knew her well as "Betty Grable with brains". Certainly she took easily to diplo matic life and was a great support to him, particularly later in his career when he was Head of Mission.

De la Mare's career followed the usual pattern, alternating periods at home in the Foreign Office with periods abroad. He did not enjoy service in the FO, least of all his period as head of the Security Department, a job which threw him into frequent contact with the Secretary of State, George Brown, with whom, perhaps inevitably, he had frequent rows.

He was altogether happier in his last three foreign posts: Ambassador in Kabul, High Commissioner in Singapore, and finally Ambassador in Bangkok, where he was in his last year of service when the Queen paid a state visit.

De la Mare had never tired throughout his working life of expatiating on his love for Jersey and his regret (with tongue at least halfway in his cheek) that as a young man he had opted for the Consular Service rather than the family farm. So his friends assumed that once retired he would come back to his beloved island. It was therefore with real surprise that we learnt he had settled in the Thames Valley, and it was not till 1988 that he bought a home within a stone's throw of the family farm, now dilapidated and abandoned, and settled there with his wife Betty, who predeceased him.

Arthur de la Mare was really two personae in one person. The profound affection and pride which he felt in his Jersey ancestry led him at times to exaggerate the virtue and values of the system of which he was a product. He has recorded in his memoirs that when he found himself sent up as a young Vice-Consul from Tokyo to take temporary charge of the Consulate in Seoul he explained to visitors seeking advice that he had no consular experience whatever, "but that I was a Jerseyman and a farmer and that aJersey farmer was the best source of advice that you could get anywhere in the world."

It was, too, this same strain in his character that led him to be extravagantly and unreasonably critical of the British influence which was steadily - and inevitably - diluting the traditional culture of the island, and of the French and of all things French in general. But, while to the end of his life he liked to speculate, seriously or not, whether 60 years earlier he had chosen right in opting for the scholarship to Victoria College which opened to him the gates to the wider world, he gave every indication in his other persona of setting more store than many do on the trappings and titles which accompany high public office.

Some two years ago he suffered, by his own carelessness, a serious and most painful accident which left him crippled for the rest of his life. He bore this setback with outstanding fortitude and cheerfulness.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing