Have a look at our newest interviews for the BDOHP, as well as some recent publications by our interviewees.  In this space we also include some older interviews with those who are sadly no longer with us.

Latest interviews:

Rankin, John James CMG (b. 1957)
Solicitor and Member, Law Society of Scotland. Lecturer in Public Law, University of Aberdeen, 1984–88; Assistant, then Senior Assistant Legal Adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1988–90; Legal Adviser, UKMIS and UKDIS, Geneva, 1991–94; Legal Counsellor, FCO, 1995; Deputy Head, OSCE Department, 1996–98; Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission, Dublin, 1999–2003; Consul General, Boston, 2003–07; Director, Americas, FCO, 2008–10; High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and (non-resident) to the Maldives, 2011–15; Chargé d’Affaires, Nepal, 2015; Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bermuda, 2016–20; Governor, British Virgin Islands, 2021–23.
Interviewed 2024
DOHP 234

Colour head and shoulders photo of John Rankin, wearing a grey jumper and glasses

John Rankin


ARTHUR, Sir Michael Anthony, KCMG (b. 1950)
Arthur entered the Diplomatic Service in 1972, and his diplomatic career included: UK Mission to United Nations, New York, 1972; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1973-74; 3rd, later 2nd Secretary, UK Permanent Representation to EU, 1974–76; 2nd Secretary, Kinshasa, 1976–78; European Community Department (Internal), FCO, 1978–81; Private Secretary to Lord Privy Seal, 1981; Private Secretary to Minister of State, FCO, 1982; 1st Secretary, Bonn, 1984–88; Head, EC Department (Internal), FCO, 1988–93; Senior Associate Member, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, 1993; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Paris, 1993–97; Director (Resources) and Chief Inspector, FCO, 1997–99; Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, Washington, 1999–2000; Economic Director, then Director-General, EU and Economic, FCO, 2001–03; High Commissioner, India, 2003–07; Ambassador to Germany, 2007–10.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 233

Black and white head and shoulders photo of Sir Michael Arthur

Sir Michael Arthur


COLLECOTT, Peter, CMG (b. 1950)
Royal Society Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics, Munich, 1976–77; joined Diplomatic Service, 1977: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1977–78; MECAS, Lebanon, later London, 1978–80; 1st Secretary: (Political), Khartoum, 1980–82; (Economic), Commercial, Agriculture), Canberra, 1982–86; Head, Iran/Iraq Section, Middle East Department, FCO, 1986–88; Assistant Head, EC Department (External), FCO, 1988–89; Counsellor, Head of Chancery and Consul General, later Deputy Head of Mission, Jakarta, 1989–93; Counsellor (EU and Economic), Bonn, 1994–98; Head, Administrative Restructuring Review Team, FCO, 1998–99; Director, Resources, FCO, 1999–2001; Deputy Under-Secretary of State and Chief Clerk, subsequently Director General, Corporate Affairs, FCO, 2001–03; Ambassador to Brazil, 2004–08.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 232

Head and shoulders photograph of Peter Collecott speaking, with his hands together

Peter Collecott




HEWITT, Gavin Wallace, CMG (b. 1944)
Ministry of Transport, 1967–70; on secondment from MoT as Third, later Second, Secretary to UK Delegation, EEC, Brussels, 1970–72; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1972–73; First Secretary, British High Commission, Canberra, 1973–78; FCO, 1978–81; First Secretary and Head of Chancery, HM Embassy, Belgrade, 1981–84; Member, Joint FCO/BBC Review Group, BBC External Services, 1984; Counsellor on loan to Home Civil Service, 1984–87; Counsellor, Head of Chancery and Deputy Permanent Representative, UK Mission to UN, Geneva, 1987–91; Head, South East Asia Department, FCO, 1992–94; Ambassador to Croatia, 1994–97; Ambassador to Finland, 1997–2000; Ambassador to Belgium, 2001–03.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 231

Head and shoulders photo of Gavin Hewitt, wearing a red and blue check shirt and glasses

Gavin Hewitt


LIFE, Vivien, CMG (b. 1957)

Civil Service Fast Stream, 1979–81; HM Treasury, 1981–88; entered FCO, 1988; EU External Department, FCO, 1988–91; First Secretary, Washington, 1992–96; Deputy Head: EU Department External, FCO, 1996–97; Latin America and Caribbean Department, FCO, 1997–99; Head: Consultancy Group, FCO Services, 1999–2003; Strategy Group, FCO, 2003–06; External Relations Group, Europe Directorate, FCO, 2006–08; Enlargement SE and Wider Europe Group, FCO, 2008–10; Climate Change and Energy Department, FCO, 2010–12; Ambassador to Denmark, 2012–16; Director, Free Trade Agreements, Department for International Trade, 2016; Director, Asia and Australasia Negotiations, Department for International Trade, 2020-22.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 230

Colour head and shoulders photo of Vivien Life, wearing a dark flowered top and purple necklace

Vivien Life


MARSH, Derek (b. 1946)
Civil servant and diplomat. Ministry of Defence, Assistant Principal, 1968–72; Assistant Private Secretary to Minister of State for Defence, 1973–74; Ministry of Defence, Principal, 1974–78; NATO Defense College, Rome, 1974; Administrative Secretary, Sovereign Base Areas, Cyprus, 1978–81; Ministry of Defence, Assistant Secretary, 1982–86; Royal College of Defence Studies, 1987; Department of Trade and Industry, Head of Air 1 and 2, 1988–91; Director, Companies House, 1991–93; Director, Projects Export Promotion, 1994–97; Deputy Head of Mission and Consul-General, Republic of Korea, 1997–2001; Director General, British Trade and Cultural Office, Taipei, 2002–05; Special Ambassador for Head of UK Trade and Investment, 2006.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 229

Head and shoulders photo of Derek Marsh, wearing glasses, navy suit and maroon tie, with garden wall in background

Derek Marsh


Further reading

The BDOHP recommends the following books which have been published recently by some of the subjects in the archive:

Juliet Campbell – Playing Britannia

Juliet Campbell was one of the first women to make a career in the British Diplomatic Service, and she is the first of the pioneering women Ambassadors to write a memoir. Specialising in European Affairs for much of her career, both in London and abroad, she also served in Thailand, Laos and Indonesia. On leaving the Diplomatic Service Juliet became Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, another new world to explore.   In Playing Britannia Juliet draws on diaries and letters to her parents, which are full of observation, analysis and colourful – often comic – detail.


Simon McDonald – Leadership:  Lessons in the Life of Diplomacy

In his first book, Simon reflects on the leaders he worked for, especially in the first half of his career, and how they affected his leadership style, especially in the second half of his career.  Role models were important, even when there was no formal mentoring relationship; it helped to work for strong leaders before working for weaker ones, but these too had important lessons.


Peter Ricketts – Hard Choices

In Hard Choices, Peter Ricketts draws on his experiences during forty years as a member of the British Diplomatic Service to explore how the country should define its future in an increasingly divided and unpredictable world. He charts the vital role played by Britain’s statesmen and diplomats in shaping the post-war international order, and argues that the surest way to future stability and prosperity is for the country to play a leading role in sustaining international cooperation and the rule of law.


Stephen Wall – “Reluctant European”

Stephen Wall, Reluctant European: Britain and the European Union from 1945 to
Brexit  (Oxford University Press, 2020)

In 2016, the voters of the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union. The majority for ‘Leave’ was small. Yet, in more than 40 years of EU membership, the British had never been wholeheartedly content. In the 1950s, governments preferred the Commonwealth to the Common Market. In the 1960s, successive Conservative and Labour administrations applied to join the European Community because it was a surprising success, whilst the UK’s post-war policies had failed. But the British were turned down by the French. When the UK did join, more than 10 years after first asking, it joined a club whose rules had been made by others and which it did not much like. At one time or another, Labour and Conservative were at war with each other and internally. In 1975, the Labour government held a referendum on whether the UK should stay in. Two thirds of voters decided to do so. But the wounds did not heal. Europe remained ‘them’, not ‘us’. The UK was on the front foot in proposing reform and modernisation and on the back foot as other EU members wanted to advance to ‘ever closer union’.

As a British diplomat from 1968, Stephen Wall observed and participated in these unfolding events and negotiations. He worked for many of the British politicians who wrestled to reconcile the UK’s national interest in making a success of our membership with the sceptical, even hostile, strands of opinion in parliament, the press and public opinion. This book tells the story of a relationship rooted in a thousand years of British history, and of our sense of national identity in conflict with our political and economic need for partnership with continental Europe.

From Andrew Rawnsley’s review in the Guardian, 20 September 2020:

‘Wall tells this sad tale with authority, expertise and a gift for lucid explanations of complex issues and convoluted negotiations.’


Peter Westmacott – “They Call It Diplomacy”

Sir Peter Westmacott’s forty-year career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office straddled the last decade of the Cold War and the age of globalization, included spells in pre-revolutionary Iran and the European Commission in Brussels, and culminated in prestigious ambassadorial postings in Ankara, Paris and Washington in the post-9/11 era.

As well as offering an engaging account of life in the upper echelons of the diplomatic and political worlds, and often revealing portraits of global leaders, They Call It Diplomacy mounts a vigorous defence of the continuing relevance of the diplomat in an age of instant communication, social media and special envoys; details what its author sees as some of the successes of recent British diplomacy; offers trenchant views on the Brexit referendum and its aftermath; and considers how Britain can continue to make a difference in the wider world now that it has left the European Union.




In memoriam

HENNESSY, Sir James, KBE CMG (1923-2024)

Appointed to Overseas Service, Basutoland, District Officer, 1948; Judicial Commissioner, 1953; District Commissioner, 1954–56; Joint Secretary, Constitutional Commission, 1957–59; Supervisor of Elections, 1959; Secretary to Executive Council, 1960; seconded to Office of High Commissioner, Cape Town/Pretoria, 1961–63; Permanent Secretary for local government, 1964; MLC, 1965; Secretary for External Affairs, Defence and Internal Security, 1967; Prime Minister’s Office, 1968. Retired, later appointed to Diplomatic Service: Foreign Office, 1968–70; Chargé d’Affaires, Montevideo, 1971–72; High Commissioner to Uganda and Ambassador (non-resident), Rwanda, 1973–76; Consul-General, Cape Town, 1977–80; Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Belize, 1980–81.
Interviewed 2018


PENFOLD, Peter Alfred, CMG OBE (1944-2023)

Diplomat. Joined Foreign Service (American Division and United Nations Division), 1963; Bonn, 1965-68; Registry Officer, Kaduna, 1968-70; Latin American Floater, 1970-72; Passport Officer, Canberra, 1972; Desk Officer, Pacific and Dependent Territories, FCO, 1972-75; Second Secretary: Addis Ababa, 1975-78; Port of Spain, 1978-81; First Secretary, FCO, 1981-84; Deputy High Commissioner and Head of Chancery, Kampala, 1984-87; First Secretary and Deputy Head of West Indian and Atlantic Department, FCO, 1987-91; Governor, British Virgin Islands, 1991-95; Special Drugs Adviser to the Caribbean, FCO, 1995-96; High Commissioner, Freetown, 1996-2000; Senior consultant and conflict adviser, DFID [Department for International Development], 2001-2.
Interviewed 2003.




BEAMISH, Sir Adrian John, KCMG (1939-2024)
Joined the Diplomatic Service in 1962: Third, later Second Secretary, Tehran, 1963–66; Foreign Office, 1966–69; First Secretary, UK Delegation, OECD, Paris, 1970–73; New Delhi, 1973–76; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1976–78; Counsellor, Personnel Operations Department, FCO, 1978–80; Counsellor (Economic), Bonn, 1981–85; Head, Falkland Islands Department, FCO, 1985–87; Ambassador to Peru, 1987–89; Assistant Under-Secretary of State (Americas), FCO, 1989–94; Ambassador to Mexico, 1994–99.
Interviewed 2019.


URE, Sir John Burns, KCMG LVO (1931-2023)

Joined Foreign Service, 1956; 3rd Secretary and Private Secretary to Ambassador, Moscow, 1957–59; Resident Clerk, FO, 1960–61; 2nd Secretary, Leopoldville, 1962–63; FO, 1964–66; 1st Secretary (Commercial), Santiago, 1967–70; FCO, 1971–72; Counsellor, and intermittently Chargé d’Affaires, Lisbon, 1972–77; Head of South America Department, FCO, 1977–79; Ambassador to Cuba, 1979–81; Assistant Under-Secretary of State for the Americas, FCO, 1981–84; Ambassador to Brazil, 1984–87, to Sweden, 1987–91.
Interviewed 2007.