Allenby of Armageddon

I can't say I'm terribly familiar with Lord Allenby, either the man or his career (and when I visualise him, he always looks like Jack Hawkins). But in my experience, retired field marshals are more likely to call for national service than a world state, 1 so I was surprised when I came across Allenby's Last Message: World Police for World Peace, a pamphlet containing an address given by Allenby in his role as Rector of the University of Edinburgh on 28 April 1936. Sadly, he died only a few weeks later; in fact, the pamphlet contains a preface from Allenby dated 14 May 1936, the very day he died. It was published by the New Commonwealth, a society founded by Lord Davies to proselytise for an international police force (meaning an international air force, more or less, rather than something like Interpol), which would step in and stop wars, and hopefully deter them from starting in the first place. The speech is thin on practical details, being more of a call to (collective) arms directed at the rising generation.

First, Allenby outlined the danger:

There is danger in delay, for it seems likely that, unless an effort in the right direction -- a successful effort -- is made soon, the present social system will crumble in ruin; and many now alive may witness the hideous wreck. Then will loom the dreadful menace of the dark ages; returning, darker, black, universal in scope, long-lasting. 2

'Recent progress in Science has now given to the machine the mastery over man its maker', 3 Allenby claimed. Scientists everywhere were 'busily experimenting with new inventions for facilitating slaughter; [...] designing more monstrous methods of murdering their fellow men and women'. 3 There would be no hesitation in attacking civilians with these new weapons in the next war. But science (by which he really means, technology) also gave him hope, for it enlarged people's horizons:

Man is now able to navigate the atmosphere, plumb the deep seas, travel in three dimensions of space, move anywhere at a speed unimaginable to our fathers. Willingly or unwillingly, he has become a world-citizen; and the duties of that citizenship cannot be evaded; duties calling for the whole-hearted co-operation of every man and woman alive, joined in mind and purpose to promote the good and the advancement of all. 4

And his solution? A world state and an international police force.

Is it too much to believe that the human intellect is equal to the problem of designing a world state wherein neighbours can live without molestation; in collective security? It does not matter what the state is called; give it any name you please: -- League of Nations; Federated Nations; United States of the World. Why should there not be a world police; just as each nation has a national police force? 3

It's somehow reassuring that Allenby could retain some measure of faith in the future after fighting the Battle of Armageddon!

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://airminded.org/copyright/.

  1. Though for that matter, in 1930 Allenby did set up the British National Cadet Association in order to help preserve the public school cadet system after the Geddes axe. I'm sure Bobs would have approved.[]
  2. Allenby, Allenby's Last Message: World Police for World Peace (London: New Commonwealth, 1936), 8.[]
  3. Ibid.[][][]
  4. Ibid., 9.[]

9 thoughts on “Allenby of Armageddon

  1. Post author

    LOL, yes, that's worse! Lucky you went into early modern England and not France!

    It's funny how it works. Thanks to this photo, I'll never mistake Laurence Olivier for Stuffy Dowding, but I do always think Trevor Howard for Keith Park. Perhaps somebody should put up that statue to him ...

  2. Jame Dunkt

    Allenby was a hugely capable man of great integrity, and certainly not the duplicitous and manipulative English caricature so entertainingly portrayed by Jack Hawkins.

    Paradoxically, Allenby was an early master of strategic deception, a skill largely unpracticed by other military commanders during WW1. For Allenby, unlike almost every other general of the Great War, deception plans were a key element of every operational plan. As T.E Lawrence remarked, 'Deceptions, which for the ordinary general were just witty hors d'oeuvres before battle, had become for Allenby a main point in strategy.'

    Allenby's operations closely resembled the more complex schemes devised during the Second World War. Allenby's deception staff in WWI included General Archibald Wavell, who in WWII used Allenby's methods successfully against the Italians and Germans in the Western Desert, at one point defeating 250,000 of the enemy with a British force of only 50,000. General Wavell and his deception planner, Brigadier Dudley Clarke, recommended these methods, leading to establishment of the London Controlling Section (LCS), the "Allied D-day deceivers".

    Allenby has been called "the father of the 20th century grand military deception", although I think he would have preferred to have been remembered for other achievements.

    If ever you come across "Allenby of Arabia, Lawrence's General" (published in 1966 and long out of print) by Brian Gardner, have a browse. I think you'll find yourself reading the book.

  3. Post author

    Thanks, Jame, however the book you mention isn't in any libraries near me. Given that my interest in Allenby is not his generalship but his support for an international police force, do you think it would be worth my seeking it out?

  4. Jame Dunkt

    Possibly not, Brett, although Gardner's biography paints a vivid picture of Allenby the man. He hated war, as is born out by what you reproduced of "Allenby’s Last Message: World Police for World Peace". My interest in Allenby is not particularly about his qualities as a military leader.

    By the way, I'd very much like to read the whole of "Allenby's Last Message". I can't find it on the internet. Can you please point me in the right direction?

  5. Post author

    I read it in the British Library in London. It's a pretty obscure little pamphlet, it's going to be hard to find -- I don't think it's available in Australia and the only other copy I can find is at the University of Utrecht. But I can send you my notes if you like?

  6. Jame Dunkt

    Yes, please do email me your notes on Allenby's pamphlet, Brett, I'd be very interested to see them. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *