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:

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


ROSE, Alison (b. 1961)
Civil servant and diplomat. Department of Employment: various management posts in employment operations, Manpower Services Commission (Jobcentres, training schemes for the long term unemployed), 1983–88; Deputy Team Leader: EU Training and Qualifications Policy, 1988–92; UK Health and Safety Policy, 1992–95; Team Leader: UK Health and Safety Finance and Operations, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, 1995–98; Greater London Authority Act team (Transport), Government Office for London, 1998–99; First Secretary (regional funds, health, culture, media and sport), UK Permanent Representation to EU, Brussels, 1999–2003; Deputy Director, European Secretariat, Cabinet Office, 2003–06; Deputy Director: Change Management, Department for Communities and Local Government, 2006–07; Equalities Strategy, Government Equalities Office, 2007–08; Head of Department, EU Issues, EU Act 2011, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2008–12; Counsellor (EU and Global Issues), Paris, 2012–13; Deputy Director, Heritage Policy, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2013; Ambassador to Belgium, 2014–19.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 227

Photograph of Alison Rose, sitting in a red armchair, wearing a blue dress and patterned scarf, and smiling at the camera

Alison Rose


BRYAN, Margaret, CMG (b. 1929)
Internment in Shanghai during Second World War; News Information Department, BBC, c. 1952-53; Assistant in HM Consulate, Douala, c. 1953-55; Journalist, Windhoek Advertiser, c 1957-61; Second, later First, Secretary, Information Research Department, FCO, 1962–80; Head of Chancery and Consul, Kinshasa, 1980–83; Counsellor, Havana, 1983–86; Ambassador to Panama, 1986–89; Research Department, FCO, 1989-94; Sensitivity Review Team, FCO, 1994-2009.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 225

Colour full length photograph of Margaret Bryan in a long cream dress, standing by a ship's rail at night

Margaret Bryan



LORD LEVY of Mill Hill (b. 1944)
Michael Levy’s career includes: Lubbock Fine (Chartered Accountants), 1961–66; Principal of M. Levy and Company, 1966–69; Partner, Wagner Prager Levy and Partners, 1969–73; Chairman: Magnet Group, 1973–88; D and J Securities Limited, 1988–92; M and G Records, 1992–97; Wireart Limited, 1992–2002; Chase Music (formerly M and G Music) Limited, 1992–2002; International Standard Asset Management, 2008–11; Vice Chairman: Phonographic Performance Limited, 1979–84; British Phonographic Industry Limited, 1984–87.

He was particularly involved in Jewish affairs, as: National Campaign Chairman, United Joint Israel Appeal, 1982–85 (Hon. Vice President, 1994–2000; Hon. President, 2000–); Chairman: Jewish Care, 1992–97 (President, 1998–2020; Life President, 2020); Jewish Care Community Foundation, 1995–2010; Vice Chairman, Central Council for Jewish Community Services (formerly Central Council for Jewish Social Services), 1994–99. Personal Envoy for Prime Minister (Tony Blair) and Adviser on Middle East, 1999–2007.
Interviewed 2023
DOHP 224

Colour head and shoulders portrait photograph of Lord Levy, wearing a grey suit and red and silver tie

Lord Levy


KEEFE, Denis, CMG (b. 1958)
Joined HM Diplomatic Service, 1982; FCO, 1982–84; Second Secretary, Prague, 1984–88; First Secretary: FCO, 1988–92; Nairobi, 1992–95; Deputy Head, South Asian Department, FCO, 1996–97; Head, Asia-Europe Meeting Unit, 1997–98; Deputy Head of Mission, Prague, 1998–2002; on secondment as Counter Terrorism Strategy Team Leader, Cabinet Office, 2002–03; Head, China Hong Kong Department, 2003–04, Far Eastern Group, 2004–06, FCO; Ambassador to Georgia, 2007–10; Deputy Head of Mission, Moscow, 2010–14; Ambassador to Serbia, 2014–19; Director, Faculty for National Security, Royal College of Defence Studies, 2019-22.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 223

Half length photograph of Denis Keefe, wearing a red jumper, looking straight at the camera

Denis Keefe


GOMERSALL, Sir Stephen John, KCMG (b. 1948)
Entered HM Diplomatic Service, 1970; Tokyo, 1972–77; Rhodesia Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1977–79; Private Secretary to Lord Privy Seal, 1979–82; Washington, 1982–85; Economic Counsellor, Tokyo, 1986–90; Head of Security Policy Department, FCO, 1990–94; Deputy Permanent Representative, UK Mission to UN, 1994–98; Director, International Security, FCO, 1998–99; Ambassador to Japan, 1999–2004.
Interviewed 2023.
DOHP 222

Colour half length photograph of Sir Stephen Gomersall, seated at a table

Sir Stephen Gomersall



Further reading

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

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.


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.


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.’


In memoriam

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.


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.


MARSHALL, Sir Peter Harold Reginald, KCMG CVO (1924-2023)

After serving in the RAFVR, 1943-46, Marshall joined the Foreign (later Diplomatic) Service in 1949, and in his diplomatic career served in the following posts: Foreign Office, 1949-52; 2nd Secretary and Private Secretary to Ambassador, Washington, 1952-56; Foreign Office, 1956-60; on staff of Civil Service Selection Board, 1960; 1st Secretary and Head of Chancery, Baghdad, 1961, and Bangkok, 1962-64; Assistant Director of Treasury Centre for Administrative Studies, 1965-66; Counsellor, UK Mission, Geneva, 1966-69, Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Paris, 1969-71; Head of Financial Policy and Aid Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1971-73; Assistant Under-Secretary of State, FCO, 1973-75; UK Representative on Economic and Social Council of United Nations, 1975-79; Ambassador and UK Permanent Representative to Office of United Nations and Other International Organisations at Geneva, 1979-83. He later served as Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General (Economic), 1983-88, and Chairman of the Joint Commonwealth Societies Council, 1993-2003.
Interviewed 2017.