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:

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



WHITTING, Ian Robert, OBE (b. 1953)
Joined FCO, 1972; Attaché, Moscow, 1975–76; Third Secretary, Tunis, 1976–79; Third Secretary, Cairo, 1979; Press Attaché, Athens, 1980–83; Eastern European and Soviet Department, FCO, 1983–85; Second Secretary, Moscow, 1985–88; Southern Africa Department, FCO, 1988–90 and joint organiser, NATO Summit, 1990; First Secretary, Dublin, 1990–94; Deputy Head of Mission, Abidjan, 1994–97; Conference media coordinator, Information Department, 1997-98; Deputy Head, Africa Department (Equatorial), and Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Great Lakes, 1998–2002; Head, EU Department (Bilateral), FCO, 2002–03; Director, EU and Economic Affairs, Athens, 2003–04; Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission and HM Consul-General, Athens, 2005–08; Ambassador to Iceland, 2008–12; Ambassador to Montenegro, 2013–17; Deputy High Commissioner to Cyprus, 2017–20; Head, Cyprus Settlement Unit, FCDO, 2020-22.
Interviewed 2022
DOHP 221

Colour head and shoulders photograph of Ian Whitting, with the sea behind him

Ian Whitting


BARRIE, (Charles) David Ogilvy, CBE (b. 1953)
HM Diplomatic Service, 1975; Central and Southern Africa Department, FCO, 1975–76; Dublin, 1976–80; seconded to Cabinet Office Assessments Staff, 1980–81; North America Department, FCO, 1982–83; Republic of Ireland Department, FCO, 1983-87; transferred to Cabinet Office, 1988; seconded to Japan Festival 1991, as Executive Director, 1989–92; resigned from Cabinet Office, 1992.
Interviewed 2022
DOHP 220 1 file

Colour head and shoulders photograph of David Barrie, in front of a stretch of water

David Barrie


BOWDEN, James Nicholas Geoffrey, CMG OBE MVO (b. 1960)
Served Army, 1979–86; entered HM Diplomatic Service, 1986; 2nd Secretary, Republic of Ireland Department, FCO, 1986–88; Arabic language training, SOAS and Cairo, 1988-90; Deputy then Acting Consul General, Aden, 1990–91; 2nd Secretary, Khartoum, 1991–93; Head of Political Section, UN Department, FCO, 1993–96; 1st Secretary, Washington, 1996–99; 1st Secretary, Riyadh, 1999–2000; GCHQ, 2000-03, and Deputy Head, Afghanistan Emergency Unit, FCO and Deputy Head of Mission, Kabul, 2001-02; Deputy Head of Mission, Kuwait, 2003–04 and 2005–06; Deputy Head of Mission, Baghdad, 2004–05; Ambassador to Bahrain, 2006–11; Ambassador to Oman, 2011–14; Deputy Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, 2014–17; Ambassador to Chile, 2018–20.
Interviewed 2022
DOHP 219 1 file

Colour head and shoulders photograph of James Bowden

James Bowden



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

BAKER-BATES, Merrick Stuart, CMG (1939-2023)

Journalist, Brussels, 1962–63; entered HM Diplomatic Service, 1963; 3rd, later 2nd Secretary, Tokyo, 1963–68; 1st Secretary: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1968–73; (Information), Washington, 1973–76; (Commercial), Tokyo, 1976–79; Counsellor (Commercial), Tokyo, 1979–82. Director, Cornes and Co., Tokyo, 1982–85; Representative Director, Gestetner Ltd (Japan), 1982–85; Deputy High Commissioner and Counsellor (Commercial/Economic), Kuala Lumpur, 1986–89; Head of South Atlantic and Antarctic Department, FCO, and Commissioner, British Antarctic Territory, 1989–92; Consul-General, Los Angeles, 1992–97.
Interviewed 2019.


ALLINSON, Sir Walter Leonard, KCVO CMG (1926-2022)

Diplomat. Assistant Principal, Ministry of Fuel and Power (Petroleum Division), 1947–48; Assistant Principal, later Principal, Ministry of Education, 1948–58 (Assistant Private Secretary to Minister, 1953–54); transferred to Commonwealth Relations Office, 1958; First Secretary in Lahore and Karachi, 1960–62, Madras and New Delhi, 1963–66; Counsellor and Head of Political Affairs Department, March 1968; Deputy Head, later Head, of Permanent Under Secretary’s Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1968–70; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, subsequently Deputy High Commissioner, Nairobi, 1970–73; Royal College of Defence Studies, 1974; Diplomatic Service Inspectorate, 1975; Deputy High Commissioner and Minister, New Delhi, 1975–77; High Commissioner, Lusaka, 1978–80; Assistant Under-Secretary of State (Africa), 1980–82; High Commissioner in Kenya and Ambassador to UN Environment Programme, 1982–86.
Interviewed 1996.




MEYER, Sir Christopher John Rome, KCMG (1944-2022)

Diplomat. 3rd Secretary, Foreign Office, 1966-67; Army School of Education, 1967-68; 3rd, later 2nd, Secretary, Moscow, 1968-70; 2nd Secretary, Madrid, 1970-73; 1st Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1973-78; 1st Secretary, UK Permanent Representative to European Communities, 1978-82; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Moscow, 1982-84; Head of News Department, FCO, 1984-88; Fellow, Center for International Affairs, Harvard, 1988-89; Minister (Commercial), 1989-92, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, 1992-93, Washington; on secondment to the Cabinet Office, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, 1994- 96; Ambassador to Germany, 1997; Ambassador to United States, 1997-2003; Chairman, Press Complaints Commission, 2003-.
Interviewed 2004.


McBAIN, (David) Malcolm, LVO (1928-2022)

Diplomat. Ministry of Civil Aviation appointments in Tripoli, Libya, 1949-51, New Delhi, 1953-54; Diplomatic Service: New Delhi, 1958-61; Kenya, 1963-67; Thailand, 1968-75; Brunei, 1978-81; Texas, 1981-84; Ambassador to Madagascar, 1984-87.
Interviewed 2000.

Also includes a chapter from Malcolm McBain’s memoirs relating to his time as Ambassador to Madagascar.


MALLABY, Sir Christopher Leslie George, GCMG GCVO (1936-2022)

Diplomat. First Secretary, Berlin, 1966-9; Deputy Director, British Trade Development Office, New York, 1971-4; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Soviet Union, 1975-7; Head, Arms Control and Disarmament Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1977-9; Head, East European and Soviet Department, 1979-80; Minister, Bonn, 1982-5; Deputy Secretary, Cabinet Office, 1985-8; Ambassador to West Germany, 1988-92, and to France, 1993-6.
Interviewed 1997.