LONDON – An amateur diplomat alarmed British officials during World War II by proposing that Germany and Britain divide the world between them, according to records released Sunday.
James Lonsdale-Bryans, a fascist sympathizer, traveled to Italy early in the war to meet the German ambassador, Ulrich von Hassell.
"It would appear that Bryans may be taking part in unofficial discussions," said a Secret Service memo released by the National Archives.
"Bryans' idea is that the world ought to be divided into two parts. That Germany should be given a free hand in Europe and that the British Empire should run the rest of the world.
"I am not sure that this is a very desirable point of view to publish at the present time."
The records show that Bryans had been in touch with Britain's Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, and the Secret Service was unsure how much backing Lonsdale-Bryans may have had from the Foreign Office.
"Bryans is a talkative and indiscreet fellow who is in possession of a story which he delights in telling and which if told publicly would be likely to cause embarrassment to the Foreign Office," one memo said.
Lonsdale-Bryans also tried to discuss his plans with American officials including Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, prompting British officials to tell the Americans that Lonsdale-Bryans was "unreliable though not disloyal."
Despite whatever embarrassment Lonsdale-Bryans may have caused, British officials did not move against him.
"Although there seems to be a good deal to be said for locking him up to prevent him airing his views to all and sundry, I understand that if this is done it will inevitably involve his bringing up the question of his contacts with the Foreign Office and the facilities afforded him to go to Italy," said a letter from an official in the Foreign Office.
Other previously secret records released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that British spies considered using carrier pigeons to spread misinformation among the Germans before the D-Day landings in 1944.
The Secret Service devised a plan to drop pigeons behind enemy lines in France carrying false information about the location of the landings.
The files show that the Allies dropped thousands of homing pigeons into occupied France by parachute during the war, carrying questionnaires to be filled with information that could help the Allied cause. Only 10 percent of the birds returned, leading officials to conclude many had fallen into German hands.
"It occurs to me that this is a possible means of putting deception over to the enemy by the careful framing of the questionnaires, as presumably the Germans must, if they capture some of these birds, take notice of the type of question which is being asked," wrote an official identified as Lt. Col. Robertson in a letter to intelligence staff.
Christopher Andrew, the official historian of the Security Service, said the D-Day pigeon plan was considered but never carried out.