The Londonderry Herr

Ourselves and Germany

In the later 1930s, the 7th Marquess of Londonderry acquired the somewhat unkind nickname of the 'Londonderry Herr', a pun on the Londonderry Air (the tune to which 'Danny Boy' is usually set). This came about because he was thought to be rather too enthusiastic about the prospect of Anglo-German reconciliation. My impression is that he was a sincere but misguided philo-German, rather than a genuine fellow traveller of the right (although he was definitely too eager to excuse German anti-semitism).

But if Londonderry was somewhat misunderstood, he certainly didn't do himself any favours. Above is the cover of his defence of his activities and plea for appeasement of Nazi Germany, Ourselves and Germany (London: Robert Hale, 1938). Yes, that is the Nazi eagle dotted all over the cover, alongside the British lion:

Ourselves and Germany

The frontispiece photograph shows Londonderry with a couple of his mates:

Londonderry, Hitler and RIbbentrop

To be fair, Ourselves and Germany was well-received when it was published at the start of April 1938. It was well-timed, too: the Anschluss had taken place just three weeks earlier, putting the German problem firmly back on the national agenda. So the thoughts of a former cabinet minister (Secretary of State for Air, 1931-5) who had met with senior Nazi leaders were bound to be of interest. And if Londonderry's fondest hopes had come true, then Ourselves and Germany would have been remembered as his contribution to a lasting peace between the two countries, rather than a collection of hostages to fortune.

As an aside, my copy (technically a long-term loaner, thanks Paul!) came with this 'with compliments' slip in the back:

With compliments

The recipient, Sir Arthur Robinson KCMG, was an Australian politician, a conservative state and federal MP. I assume W. J. Robinson was a relative, perhaps a cousin or nephew. 95 Gresham Street is in the City, between the Bank of England and the Guildhall, a pretty upmarket address. Whoever he was, he popped a copy off to Melbourne post-haste, only a couple of weeks after publication. He must have assumed Sir Arthur was keen to read it.

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9 thoughts on “The Londonderry Herr

  1. Erik Lund

    I'm (probably mis-)remembering an early '30s publicity photo of the Secretary in _Flight_ showing the Secretary, his wife, and two daughters in flying togs, getting ready to, well, fly somewhere. The caption says something to the effect that Londonderry's third daughter didn't fly. So I'm visualising Milord retreating in confusion after broaching the subject of another flight to his teenaged daugher, as she just rolls her eyes.
    Imagine if he'd backed some other technology, and become the Secretary of State For Mobile Phone Development.
    Then he would have been cool.
    (Also, in spite of the Irish peerage, wasn't Swinton actually a Northumberland coal baron, of the breed that gave us the first (English) railways? Weird historical continuities and all that....

  2. Christopher

    Ian Kershaw's book 'Making Friends with Hitler" covers this relationship very well and is worth reading. It also deals with the above volume.

  3. I think Hyde's British Air Policy between the Wars has a copy of the photo Erik mentioned as one of the plates; sadly I had to return my copy to the library, so I can't check.

  4. Post author

    Making Friends With Hitler has a different photo of Londonderry and two of his daughters, the former in flying gear and in the cockpit of a biplane, the latter two evidently farewelling him. Seems they were useful publicity props for him.

    The above photo of Londonderry, Hitler and von Ribbentrop is the one that graces the cover of the Allen Lane edition of Kershaw's book, incidentally.

  5. George Shaner

    I've also read "Making Friends with Hitler" and "didn't do himself any favors" describes Londonderry rather well.

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  7. R E WIlson

    It's my gut feeling that Londonderry was right. Lets look at the facts: We must ask ourselves did the killing of an obscure Duke in Sarajevo have anything to do with the British, and wasn't our WW1 response to it rather ridiculous. Now add in to this equation that WW1 bankrupted the British economy and what wealth we had was sold, pledged and quietly taken over by America.

    What's not widely known is after WW1 the top-European-nations hated our guts for what was seen as 'our WW1 warmongering' and the physical property damage and loss of lives they had sustained. If the top 5 British WW1 Generals had been shot as War Criminals or fools it wouldn't have salvaged much but at least it was a Public Relations step in the right direction.

    In 1938, the same War mongering attitude prevailed. In 1939 we declared war on Germany and our preemptive strike, our glorious 'the war will be over by Xmas military move' turned into our most famous defeat ever - Dunkirk. And in 1945 after WW2 ended the Nations of Europe blamed us again for what had occurred. If you dispute this then visit France, visit Belgium, visit Holland and ask around. If you need further proof of what was really afoot in 1939-45, then name just one so European country which did NOT collaborate wholeheartedly with the Germans. If you like surprising facts then chew on this one: " From 1939 - 1943 only one German soldier was killed in Paris by the resistance? The Germans lost the war and knew it in 1943, and any official peace-overture to them would have been successful. And in my lifetime we have had at least ten wars and not one of them have done us a half-penny worth of good.

  8. Post author

    It's not widely known that 'after WW1 the top-European-nations hated [your] guts' for WWI because it's not true. There was no 'War mongering attitude' attitude in Britain in 1938, or 1939 for that matter. Britain declared war on Germany after the latter invaded Poland without a casus belli; there was no 'preemptive strike', actual or intended. Sorry, I can't name even one 'European country' which did 'collaborate wholeheartedly with the Germans'; some did to a greater or lesser extent, others were, you know, conquered by Germany and didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. Your assertion that 'any official peace-overture' to Germany in 1943 would have been successful is without basis in fact.

    I could go on, but I find xenophobia and nationalism quite tiresome.

  9. Chris Williams

    Wow, that's some twentieth century we've got there. Just one point:

    "did the killing of an obscure Duke in Sarajevo have anything to do with the British, and wasn't our WW1 response to it rather ridiculous. "

    The UK kicking off WW1 at the start of the July Crisis would indeed have been ridiculous, had it happened. Joining in because a great power's occupying Belgium, not so much (and I write this as one who thinks that on balance it was an evil imperialist war).

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