Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yet another Macready

(The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 16, yet a further addendum)

and, for once, no cavils.

Repeatedly in these postings Malcolm recognises that he has failed to do anything like full justice to a subject. Since he's in this lark entirely for his own satisfaction, he himself unsatisfied and disappointed by his own inadequacies.

Yet, overnight, there came an email which both encouraged and depressed him. It read:
Enjoyed the Great Macready, my family being close friends of the next generation down, Sir Gordon and Elizabeth (Zab) Macready. This one was another true Macready. As Co-Chairman of the Bipartite Control Office, he was a sane administrator who helped, among other things, to create Die Welt. His wife, if memory serves, was a Princesse de Noailles, and at school with my mother. KB
If this was from whom Malcolm suspected it might be (as has since been confirmed), that is praise indeed. It would imply that a Professor Emeritus of Boston University, an author and editor of considerable distinction has passed this way. And sprinkled a little fairy dust on Malcolm and his, at best, 'prent
ice efforts.

Yet, it leaves Malcolm with unfinished business: the fourth generation of the Macreadys, and no small slouch himself:

Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Macready

To give some stature of the man, there he is at Potsdam, at the Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference, with (to his left) Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, and Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (the photograph comes from the Truman Presidential Library, no less).

Malcolm noticed a reference to Macready in Admiral Cunningham's published papers, at the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting, 28th August 1942. This was the outline planning for Operation Torch, the seizure of Tunisia.

General Marshall gave this, the United States' first major venture in the Atlantic/Western theatre of war, enormous importance.
Stalin was demanding the "second front", to relieve pressure on the Russian front. At first, this pricked the Americans into urging a gung-ho, cross-Channel offensive in 1943. The British were critical of what they saw as American over-confidence, while the Americans saw the British as too cautious. It took major efforts by the British, from Churchill down, to convince the Americans of a more staged approach. The British, as Cunningham argued, were also conscious that over-exuberance in North Africa might incite Franco to join the Axis, thus putting German forces into Spain, and so threatening Gibraltar, while Vichy France could commit up to 150,000 troops to defend Morocco. Macready at Cunningham's elbow, shrewdly identified weaknesses in the French military or that Casablanca was capable of supporting no more than seven divisions. Finding him at that table, with the likes of Marshall, Cunningham, Leahy, and King, is further testimony to his significance.

Cunningham's Papers foot-note Macready:
Lt Gen Sir Gordon Macready (1891-1956); of mil fam; W Front 1914-18; Versailles, Berlin. Poland 1919; Brevet Maj 1919; Ass S, CID 1926-32; IDC 1933; GSO 1, WO 1934-6; DDSD 1936-8; Asst CIGS 1940-2; Chief, Br Army Staff, Washington 1942; ret 1946; Reg Cmnr, Lrs Saxony 1946-7; Econ Advisr, Control Cmn, Germany 1947-51.
Malcolm admits he had some difficulty decoding those abbreviations. He found it instructive to do so. "DDSD" and "Ass CIGS 1940-2", for instance, expands to Deputy Director of Staff Duties 1936-38 and Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 1940-1942. In turn that means Macready had, along with
Liddell-Hart, to hold the hand of Leslie Hore-Belisha at the Ministry of War, forcing through army reform against crusty opposition from the top brass at the War Office, and of necessity ploughing a furrow similar to what Haldane had done in the pre-WWI Liberal government.

Macready turns up as more than a peripheral character in other aspects of the war.

In September 1941 -- before Pearl Harbor! -- Macready is on a discreet Anglo-American mission to Moscow, negotiating assistance to the Soviet Union. This time he shares the table with Averell Harriman, Beaverbrook, Hastings Ismay and Allan Brooke.

Then, posted to Washington, he was not only responsible for maintaining supplies to Britain's war machine, he was also a crucial information channel. This shows in Granatstein's account of command in the Canadian army in WW2. The Canadian forces suffered severe casualties in the the Italian and Normandy campaign. By November 1944, the Canadian government teetered on the brink over conscription, what the Canadian General Maurice Pope described as:
the most serious crisis since Confederation, one that might destroy the basis of Confederation itself.
Pope sought out Macready in Washington; and confided in him a message for the CIGS in London, begging that patience to be shown the Canadians.

In short, Macready was not merely in the higher circles of British military policy for o
ver three decades, he also had earned remarkable trust for his diplomatic expertise. In Washington, Macready and others of similar talent went a long way to compensate for the inadequacies of Halifax, the appeaser, as Ambassador: Churchill seems increasingly to have relied upon the military attaches as his agents. Macready, too, was central to forming the British government's assessment of the new President Truman: he suggested that Truman and his Secretary-of-State Byrnes were "to some extent limited by concern of the home scene in the United States".

Yet -- and Malcolm found this surprising -- Macready has no entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

And still more ...

That Cunningham footnote says Gordon Macready "ret 1946". On the contrary, he became one of the British Regional Commissioners in occupied Germany, running the Land of Niedersachsen, all the way from Emden and the Dutch border in the west to Braunschweig and the Elbe in the east, from Cuxhaven in the north to Osnabrück and Göttingen in the south. That includes Hanover, Hildesheim, Oldenburg ... and modern Wolfsburg, once Stadt des KdF-Wagens, and the dormitory for the makers of what we now know as the VW. Which means that one of Macready's subordinates was Major Ivan Hirst, who re-started manufacturing in 1945 (and gave the company its de-Nazified name.

By late 1947 the US and British military occupations were working towards creatin
g "Bizonia". Despite shrieks of horror from the French, a German Bizonal Economic Council took life from January 1948. This was, more than just in name, still an agency of the military government: Macready was joint Chairman, alongside the American Clarence Adcock. It was, though, the future West German administration in embryo. It had executive and legislative elements. Its Director of Economics was the social market economist, and future Chancellor, Ludwig Erhard. Macready seems repeatedly to have jousted with Erhard, who was anxious for speedier liberalisation. The full programme for the Council, in its original press-release form, is on-line; and has Macready as its featured "face" (right).

If there is some kind of moralistic lesson in all this, it involves the kind of commitment that is less in fashion than it once was.

Macready belonged to the late-Victorian generation who were brought up on Newbolt and Kipling. That ethic took many, far too many, to bloody sacrifice on the Somme. It also cultivated noble attitudes of unselfish and unstinting public service. In those rare individuals where morality and intelligence combine, that coincidence can be awesome.

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