Obituary: Lord Hankey

The second Lord Hankey was a man of great style and energy who was present at some of the more extraordinary moments in history.

He was the eldest son of the arch-mandarin Maurice Hankey, Cabinet Secretary between 1916 and 1938, and there was no doubt that Robert was born to public service. His father, according to Arthur Balfour, was responsible for Britain's having won the First World War. The son had a lot to live up to.

He was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford, and he joined the Foreign Service in 1927. He had a talent for languages and became proficient in German, French, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Persian and Arabic. He began his career as Third Secretary in Berlin and later in Paris, but came back to England in 1936, when he was appointed Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden. His next posting was to Warsaw and Hankey was one of the first to learn of Hitler's invasion of Poland. As the German armies closed in, Hankey escaped to Romania.

From Europe he went to Tehran and was there in 1943 for the most significant Allied meeting that year, and arguably of the war, between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill. It was the first time Roosevelt and Stalin met and historians record this meeting as the moment the decision was made by the Allies to invade France.

By July 1945, Hankey was back in Warsaw where he became one of the first British officials to learn of the massacre of thousands of Polish army officers in the Katyn forest and he was given the report of the Polish Red Cross and knew of the culpability of the Russians. His next two postings were to Madrid and Budapest.

In May 1953 Hankey set out for Cairo, the ambassador having fallen sick. Hankey was a good choice. His father was a director of the Suez Canal Company. Indeed, the year of Hankey's appointment to Cairo his father predicted that the British were heading straight for disaster and that the Egyptians would take control of the canal.

A group of army officers had overthrown King Farouk and was demanding the evacuation of the British from the Suez Canal zone. Hankey was briefed by Winston Churchill that, if he did nothing else for six months, he should avoid giving anything away. Churchill also said that Hankey should see his role in Egypt as that of a "patient sulky pig". Hankey was to discover that Nasser was intelligent and a man who thought with his head rather than his heart. No better government for Egypt was in sight. But Hankey predicted that there would be a tendency for the Egyptians to make difficulties for the Suez Canal company once British troops were withdrawn. The Egyptians called him Churchill's stooge and a master of espionage.

Hankey's last posting was to Stockholm, and in 1960 he began a long and happy retirement and was appointed permanent UK representative to the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation.

"Robin" Hankey was much loved in Cowden, a small village in Kent where he spent a long and happy retirement. He was a member of the choir - the only tenor - in the 12th-century St Mary Magdalene Church. He was a fit and active man, played tennis well into his seventies and skied until his late eighties.

Robert Maurice Alers Hankey, diplomat: born 4 July 1905; CMG 1947, KCMG 1955; HM Ambassador at Stockholm 1954-60; KCVO 1956; Permanent UK Delegate to OEEC and OECD, and Chairman, Economic Policy Committee 1960-65; Vice- President, European Institute of Business Administration, Fontainebleau 1966-82; succeeded 1963 as second Baron Hankey; married 1930 Frances Stuart- Menteth (died 1957; two sons, two daughters), 1962 Joanna Wright (died 1991), 1992 Stephanie Langley (nee King); died 28 October 1996.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map