In 1946, Nicholas Macaskie KC, a successful London barrister, was appointed the British Chief of the Legal Directorate of the quadripartite (US-Russian-British-French) “Control Commission” that the Allies had set up to run Germany after Hitler’s defeat.   His job, along with his American, French and Soviet counterparts, was to denazify the German legal system.


   His wife Jane went with him, as did their two teenage daughters, Nicola and Claudia (“the twins”). The senior Western personnel were accommodated mainly in large houses which had previously belonged to rich Germans. They were expected to employ two shifts of servants to give maximum employment to the Germans, so the Macaskies had two cooks, parlourmaids etc., each doing half a day. Members of the occupying powers managed a full social life, constantly entertaining each other in a downmarket version of the Congress of Vienna. Entertaining developed a strong competitive edge, and for the wives like Jane it clearly occupied a major part of their lives.


   Jane wrote regularly to her eldest daughter Florence, a young mother living in London. Jane’s letters were mainly about practical things like sending supplies from London, as there was every sort of shortage in Berlin. But many of the letters were about social events and the stream of official and unofficial visitors to Berlin who needed to be entertained, and relevant extracts of these are reproduced in for their portrayal of a strange and forgotten period in history.


   The letters were written against the backdrop of the beginning of the Cold War, with the Western Allies and the Soviet Union jockeying for the dominant position within various European countries (such as Greece and Austria) which had been occupied by the Nazis.  Germany itself had been divided into four “zones”, each administered by one of the four wartime allies. (The Soviet zone subsequently became communist East Germany, while the three zones occupied by the Western allies become the Federal Republic of (West) Germany.) Berlin was entirely within the Soviet zone. But because it was the capital, the allies had agreed a special quadripartite status for the city, and it was divided into four “sectors”, each controlled by one of the four Allies. It had been agreed that allied personnel could move freely between the “sectors” and between Berlin and the Western occupied “zones”. But the Soviet Union’s undeclared aim was to evict the Western allies from Berlin and to incorporate the city fully into the Eastern zone. There was constant minor harassment of Western personnel travelling between Berlin and the Western zones, and between the Soviet and Western sectors of Berlin.



Nicholas Macaskie in Berlin



Letter 1. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to her daughter Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 23 October 1946


My darling Florence,

   Now I am endlich feeling very like Christopher Sly in a very lux, expensively built house and I should indeed be much more of a fool than I am if I don’t succeed in settling down very happily here. I think Daddy’s Rhinemaidens [his secretarial staff] were picked by the local C.B. Cochrane [producer of theatrical reviews]; they really are very pretty. He also seems to have a heavily stocked cellar - 37 bottles of beer! as well as wine, spirits and liqueurs. The NCO who runs the rations called during breakfast and said he wouldn’t send in any more beer until that was finished. I believe we have as a house-guest or rather mess inmate Sir Edward Bellingham¹, who I take it is the brother of Lady Bute. If he is anything like the rest of the family, he won’t know any of the answers. However, I shall know at dinner.

   I had a very comfortable journey, but as long as in the Middle Ages. The Golden Arrow [boat train from Victoria to the Continent] part was super, including a very good and very graciously served lunch where I foregathered with a very woolly-headed, bespectacled young highbrow who proved to be most intelligent, and we had a very pleasant conversation. Arrived at Calais, one spent a solid hour going through customs. They opened nothing anywhere as, when they saw my military pass, I quite suddenly ceased to exist. I reported to the R.T.O. [Railway Transport Officer, liaising between the Army and the railways]. I was told my warrant was in order, and the R.T.O. would produce it when the train departed at twenty to seven. It was then about twenty to three. They were unable to offer me the hospitality of any rest camp, but I was told I might leave my luggage in the office until the train went.

   The whole vast Calais Station has gone, including the magnificent buffet, and only sheds and huts remain. I found the only bar, a small little place frequented by the porters, where they most obligingly made me a cup of tea and protested that 1/6d. (as I had no French money) was ‘beaucoup trop’, and the bar man kindly woke me up when the Golden Arrow boat was leaving, thinking I was waiting to go home. Can you imagine anyone in an English railway bar today making one a pot of tea when it wasn’t on the agenda, and letting me sit and sleep over it for four hours, and being exceedingly polite for a tip of 5d? I think the BBC ought to lose no time in teaching England its lost manners. Before the war, if one gave a French porter 5/- tip, he glared at it and snarled at you. Defeat certainly has its victories.


   Daddy arrived with the red hats [military police] and a few women in uniform by a very mere grim-looking little boat and after that I began to have some slight raison d’être. He was given my warrant and we were given a very adequate tea with cake and delicious sandwiches, and then sailed away in the Rhine Army Express, where I was quite unique. It was obviously made up of second class coaches, sleeping and dining, not luxurious, nor particularly clean, but the French staff were very attentive and meals were included. Daddy didn’t fancy climbing into the upper berth and there was no stepladder, but I swung into it like Tarzan’s mate – you should have seen me! Nobody boggled at our twelve pieces of luggage and your towel was a godsend. We reached Germany in downpours of rain and finally got off at Bad Oeynhausen [headquarters of the British Military Government which ran the British zone] at 10 o’clock.  It is a charming place on the Baden-Baden line. We were met by an officer and a car and went to Herford, which is also very nice, and spent the day with one of Daddy’s deputies, a very intelligent New Zealander, Brigadier Inglis², with a very nice wife and G.T. [the meaning of these initials is unknown] daughter. They have a very comfortable, small and entirely modern house – the sort of house people try to build or pay to build at Esher, only what a difference in the layout and the finish compared to, say, Arbourne [a house in Esher in which the Macaskies lived during the Blitz]. It had really spacious rooms and large light windows and superb unobtrusive central heating.

   We went to tea with the Argyle Robertsons [unidentified] – another of Daddy’s people. They had a much larger and most expensively built house, all panelled with walnut – in fact lined rather than panelled. It looked a little like the inside of a Pullman [railway carriage], but it must have cost a small fortune.  Beautiful flooring too in both these houses and built-in wirelesses and electric clocks. Most of the houses looked of the same type. Herford is a small manufacturing town, though it looks much more like a prosperous spa, and one wonders why these Germans, who have so much solid comfort, so much more really than the corresponding Englishman though he may have been richer, why did they have to wreck the world with two wars. What more could they have got? Uncle Frank³ spent a lot of money on Battle Abbey, but it was not equipped anything like as well as these houses.

   We dined our hosts the Ingles at the officers’ club at Bad Oeynhausen – a very good dinner, the bread is heaven. There was dancing and the women were plain and common for the most part – not a good advertisement. We left at 10.30 last night on another non-lux train and again I went aloft, though this time there was a stepladder. It was very cold, which kept me awake as I couldn’t get my hot water bottle filled. …


¹ Sir Edward Bellingham, Bt (1879-1956). From a family with estates in Ireland. Served in the Boer and First World Wars, and from 1925-1936 was a Senator of the Irish Free State. He joined the RAF during the Second World War and was briefly a member of the Control Commission in Berlin 1945-6. His sister married the 4th Marquess of Bute.


² Major-General Lindsay Merritt Inglis (1894-1966) was a New Zealand lawyer who had served with distinction in the armed forces in both world wars. In 1945, New Zealand agreed to contribute personnel to the Allied Control Commission in Germany and he was appointed president of a court in the British Zone of Germany that dealt with cases brought by Germans involving the Allied occupying powers. In February 1947 he became chief judge of the Control Commission’s Supreme Court, a post he retained until 1950.


³  Francis Cunningham (Frank) Macaskie (1862-1933) was a first cousin of Nick Macaskie, the son of his uncle George Edward Macaskie. He was a newspaper proprietor in Yorkshire. His second wife was née Battle. They lived at Berwick Grange in Harrogate, nicknamed Battle Abbey by Nick Macaskie after Frank’s mother-in-law Mrs Battle, who lived with them there. He is not to be confused with another cousin of the same name who was a hero of the Greek resistance – see note to letter 14.




When Nick Macaskie arrived in Berlin, he was put into a large but not very attractive house in Wernherstrasse in the leafy Grünewald suburb, where the No 2. in the French Legal Section, Marie-Philippe Herschenroder, was already living (the Macaskies gained certain financial advantages from having an official lodger, as it meant that their house counted as a military “Mess”). His daughter Nicola recalls that the German couple from whom it had been requisitioned were still living in the basement. When houses were requisitioned, the furniture was requisitioned with them, and quite often got moved to other properties and in some cases was then surreptitiously assimilated into the property of the Allied family living in the house and returned with them to Britain. The couple who owned the Wernherstrasse house complained to Jane that the grand piano and some rugs from the house had been removed. Jane was successful in getting them returned.


When Jane arrived, she quickly established that most people of equivalent rank had far better houses and she devoted much time to getting them moved to a better one. She finally succeeded, and they moved into Martin Bormann’s old house, also in the Grünewald area.


Grünewald had hardly been damaged and Jane’s initial impressions were that the Berliners were not suffering as much as she had been led to expect. The centre of the city had been very thoroughly destroyed, however, as she later discovered, and there was real want, with people camping in appalling conditions in the cellars of houses that had been reduced to heaps of rubble.  Her daughter Claudia recalls the children of Berlin as pale and waif-like and pretty subdued, unlike Jane’s impression as reported in this letter.



Letter 2. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 26 October 1946


   … We are very fortunate in having two very good crops and the double rations make all the difference to having enough for one’s friends without anxiety or sacrifice of someone else’s ration. … I really wish I could have you and all the over-worked women, young and old, out here to stay for a month at a time. It is unbelievably leisured and peaceful, like stepping back into another world.

   Last night we dined at the Strangs¹ – he is the Ambassador here – and we all agreed that it is the rest that makes this life so desirable. Even the women who work here in the Control Commission and are very often far from comfortably housed do appreciate not having to cook and clean and scrounge and queue for themselves in their off-time. The younger and more attractive ones – and the others too, I think – have a very gay life in a limited way, but many of them have been victims just as much as the Germans of being pushed out of tolerable accommodation to make way for idle wives, which of course causes bitterness. On the other hand, no one can grudge the wives their idleness; they have mostly earned it.

   It was a very pleasant dinner party last night with many more men than women, in an unbelievably vulgar palace of a house of a sort in which this quarter abounds. The rooms were vast, and they and the furniture were in the worst possible taste. When in full blast, the heating consumes a ton of coke a day. Lady Strang’s bathroom was as big as our dining-room at home, I should say, and entirely white marble or grey. It has rows of contraptions and one could hardly think of a use for most of them. The fittings were gilded, not brass. Lady Strang said she had to be very careful at first until she knew her way around, because a jet of water would shoot out or lift you in the air. This monstrous place was built in 1922! by some down-and-out German ground to earth by the iniquitous Treaty of Versailles. It is only one of hundreds in this quarter, which was mainly laid out between the two wars. The walls of the drawing-room were rough like Stonehenge, and there was a huge inglenook fireplace. The furniture is on the same giant scale. All hideous and utterly valueless. The ground was well prepared in this land of hardy heroes for the excesses of Göring and the rest to surround themselves in luxury. What more they thought they could possibly gain through having another war it is impossible to guess, except that the first one, defeat or not, seems to have paid hand over fist. We are told it was American money, but it was money all the same, and the Germans succeeded in charming it out of the pockets of their ex-enemies by some method which we haven’t lit upon with our double allies. All very strange, and I must say it inclines one to agree more than ever with Lord Vansittart [British diplomat who took the line that the Germans were intrinsically aggressive].

   The weather is absolutely perfect and wonderfully clear and bracing, and every morning I wander out on my own and investigate this ex-paradise of German nouveaux riches. There is road after road like Hamilton Terrace [grand street in St John’s Wood] except that the largest houses there are like the smallest here. The Strangs assured me that theirs is a modest little cot compared with some. He had a house at Lübbecke [near the HQ of the British Military Government in the immediate aftermath of the war] in which everything was round or curved – not an angle throughout – and a girl at the table said she had a flat in the former Manchukuo Embassy [Manchukuo was the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria], and the walls were glass and the ceilings gold. It looks like gold leaf to her and she is longing to be able to get at it and have a scrape. Ask Michael whether this sort of domestic architecture abounds in the U.S.A. … If there should be another war, the English should really arrange to lose it this time. …

   I haven’t been into Berlin at all really except coming from the railway station; we are as far away as Hampstead Heath and I don’t know my way. … I have not seen many Germans yet, but I cannot say the ones I have seen look any more undernourished than at home, except the quite elderly men and women who walk slowly and have complexions like putty. The children certainly are not, Deo gratias. There are lots of them around, as there is a big school not far away. They are not nearly so pasty as the pre-war German child and seem full of life and spirits and are warmly and sensibly dressed, if not in brand new utilities [basic clothing made to a Government-set standard] like our children at home. The young women are just as brisk and healthy-looking as any of you and I have never yet seen anyone without stockings! … There are very few young men to be seen at all, but lots of youths who look well and strong. The first thing that struck me at the railway station was that all the porters were either 16 or 60, and the old ones do look frail. …


¹ Sir William Strang, later 1st Baron Strang of Stonesfield (1893-1978). British diplomat who was political adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces of Occcupation in Germany 1945-47 (“Ambassador” was therefore strictly a misnomer). He subsequently rose to become Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office.




Letter 3. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 30 October 1946


My darling Florence,

   … Last night we went to a really pretty awful quadripartite party, a ghastly name, but no more ghastly than the thing itself. I had the American Chief [of the Legal Directorate] and his wife and the Russian Chief at my table and two interpreters. We all addressed questions and remarks to the Russian and never left him out of the conversation. He answered almost always yes or no, but never initiated a single remark nor asked a single question. Is it that they are forbidden to, or that they are simply not interested in anything but keeping themselves out of the latest purge? Anyway, it makes for a very boring kind of party, this unilateral conversation, and I do think the interpreters ought to be paid overtime. Daddy says he is a nice little man and he likes him. He had only just touched down from Moscow, where he had been recovering from heart attacks! He was a desperately ugly little creature, like some kind of little animal looking out of a trap. In fact the Russian contingent are no easier to look at than they are to talk to.

   The French men were tout ce qu’il y a de petit bourgeois. The French Legal Chief Lebegue is a common awful little person detested by all in his own section as well as outside. Daddy says he hasn’t even brains but great influence. All of them wear uniform, and so do the Russians. They look like down-at-heel commissionaires. The Americans were in lounge suits. I met one really nice young American and intelligent too. Daddy in his undecorated dinner jacket really looked like Lord Castlereagh at the Congress of Vienna. Civilisation is perishing as it is, and I am all for the English going around dressed up. …

Much love to you all,





Letter 4. Nick Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 30 October 1946


   … One of our shorthand typists, a Miss Bunn, is going on leave on Monday next and will call on you with a hat box to collect your mother’s two hats. Could you purchase for me a couple of pounds of coffee [coffee beans were widely used as currency in trade with the local population], in the bean but roasted, and hand it to her; also a couple or three pounds of best Cox’s Orange Pippins to carry in the hat box.

   Your poor mother is revelling in her unwonted freedom from work, servants, rations, queues etc., and the enjoyment of the four freedoms. She seems very satisfied with the house and servants, but is no doubt lying in wait to issue forth and descend upon someone about something. She went to a French quadripartite party last night. It took us over an hour to get there and back and we lost ourselves going and coming in the Russian Sector. We have dined with the Ambassador (Sir W. Strang) and also with Tim Sprigg [unidentified] whom you met at the Devaux¹ that last Saturday or Sunday. Tomorrow and Sunday night we go to cocktail parties, so that soon the old trout will become properly pickled and initiated into the Congress of Vienna life of Berlin. Still, unless her trunks arrive soon, she will be unable to issue forth because, although she brought with her about 70lbs Handgepäck [hand luggage], she has only one or two evening gowns to appear in.

   If you are put to any cost in looking to the commissions I have entrusted to you, in which please fail not, I will most certainly refund you on demand.

   I must return to my moutons, so good-bye my sweet. All my love and thanks go with this letter to you and chaste kisses for my Sophia and Caelia. Michael has no need of them, I presume.

Your loving father,

Nick Macaskie.

¹ Ernest and Irmgard Devaux were old friends of the Macaskie family. They lived in London but had connections in Berlin.




This next letter describes a Soviet reception in the Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam, a palace built between 1914 and 1917 for the then Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern of Germany and his wife Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, in a mock English Tudor style. The Hohenzollerns were deposed in 1918. In July-August 1945, the Cecilienhof was the venue for the Potsdam Conference, at which the victorious Allies (UK, US and USSR) decided (in the “Potsdam Treaty”) how to administer the defeated Germany. Potsdam was just outside the boundaries of Berlin, and therefore in the Soviet-controlled zone of Germany.

Letter 5. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert, 25 Kensington Place, London, 9 November 1946


   … I am still leading a gay life – last night we dined with General Erskine¹, Sir Brian Robertson’s² deputy. It was a fairly intelligent evening. We had the headmaster of Charterhouse, and one O’Neill of the Times, a cold, unhumorous young highbrow who was the German Correspondent of the Times before the war. Also Albu³ and wife. He is large and inclined to be hearty, very ambitious, I should say. …  Like all good Labourites, they are managing to take their schoolboy sons to do winter sports in Switzerland for the Christmas holidays instead of just bringing them here like the rest of us.

   I am still wondering whether I really went to the Soviet party on Thursday at Potsdam, or whether I only saw it on the Newsreel. It was so absolutely fantastic that I can’t believe I took part. It was a cocktail party from 5-7 given to celebrate the Russian Revolution in the Crown Princess’s house in Potsdam. I should certainly have told them to try again.

   We started off and joined a long cortège of cars which went in an endless stream to Potsdam. It became dark on the way, but the Autobahn was lit up all the way. Occasionally we had to wave passes and things at Russian troops, all heavily armed, who stopped us on bridges and things. At last we got into Potsdam. It has been bombed but not very badly. The whole town was decorated with flags and occasional enormous pictures of Stalin and Molotov [Soviet Foreign Minister], and of course everywhere Russian soldiers. The whole park inside the gates was more heavily adorned than ever – brightly illuminated, too, and in the middle was a vast fair. It must have been after closing time, because no one was on the merry-go-rounds.

   The house itself is an early Tudor affair, a sort of copy, only in stone inside the courtyard and the façade heavily timbered, of the first courtyard of Hampton Court. The front was plastered with electric bulbs. Never have I seen such bright light, but only until we reached the Presence Chamber, which was absolutely blinding with arc lamps. However, we were not nearly there yet. There was a long wait in a queue before our car could draw up, and then Daddy had to produce his invitation and be vetted by an Amazon before we could get out of the car. Then, past the masses of troops at the entrance, hostility seemed to end and hospitality to begin. We were ushered through long, draughty, freezing passages into the Hall where the Treaty was signed. Under an array of lamps stood Sokolovsky [the Soviet Commander-in-Chief] and his braves, each one flanked by one of the ugliest, coarsest-looking females I have ever seen. I shook hands with everyone I could reach and said how d’you do and smiled in the toothiest way at them without eliciting much response. It was all being filmed all the time and, once through the barrage, the guests shrank up against the walls with faces averted from the terrible glare.

   The costumes were various. Nearly all the men in uniform except a few English in lounge suits and Daddy adding the last touch of fantasy in his grey tails. The Englishwomen were in short dresses like one wears at a cocktail party. The French were hardly in grande tenue and many wore hats. The Americans, on the other hand, were in full evening dress – the women I mean, the men in uniform.

   We edged into the reception rooms and there were enormous tables and buffets absolutely stacked with food – all cold – sucking pigs, geese, chickens, roasts of every kind, dishes of rich salads, dishes of caviar and smoked salmon, all manner of sausage and other delicatessen, great plates of the largest, creamiest cakes imaginable, and enormous pears and apples. Tons of bread and butter and plates of small, apparently raw, turnips – long-shaped ones like one only gets in springtime at home costing about 3d. each [probably the Russian delicacy called petrushka]. These seemed to be in great demand.  For drink, there was vodka and Russian champagne – not very good straight. The Russians registered lively distress if they saw one’s plate or glass empty for a moment – and this was a cocktail party! Some of them were drinking healths and some got a little tight while I was there, but there was none of the endless vodka drinking in which you may not leave any behind that goes on at the all-male parties. This was the first time foreign ladies had been included.

   We staggered out at about 7.30, having been invited only till 7, but some of the people who stayed on said there was dancing and singing and much more drinking, and the tables were strewn with empty bottles and piled up plates and dishes and every sign of an orgy. Soviet democracy didn’t run to offering any hospitality at all to the Allied drivers, who had a long and exceedingly cold wait outside and then a long and challenging drive home again. It was, besides being a novel experience, quite good fun because I knew so many of the people. I was interested too in the house. It looked so new, as if it had never been lived in, and it probably hadn’t much, because the Crown Prince only started it about 1912 and it was finished by English prisoners of war in 1917. All his books with his book-plates were in the library, many of them English. …


¹ General Sir George Erskine (1899-1965) had been a senior British commander on a number of fronts during the Second World War.


² General Sir Brian Robertson, 1st Baron Robertson of Oakridge (1896-1974) the British Deputy Military Governor of Germany 1945-47.  He subsequently succeeded Sir Sholto Douglas (see letter …as Governor.


³ Austen Albu (1903-1994), a member of the Control Commission and later a Labour MP and Minister.




All the Allies set up clubs in their sectors for rest and recreation. Entry was restricted to military personnel and their families, and Nick Macaskie was given the rank of Major-General to allow him and Jane to go to the clubs in the British sector (he used to boast that he had had the fastest promotion since Napoleon, as his last military rank, in the First World War, had been Lance-Bombardier). The western Allied personnel used to invite each other to their clubs. Nicola recalls that invitations to the American club were much sought after for the ready availability of eggs and ice-cream; and the French club for a variety of culinary delicacies, including fresh chicken. The British clubs were allowed to provide only food that could be obtained on the ration in Britain.


Letter 6. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 24 November 1946


… I was taken to lunch on Friday to the American lakeside club at Wannsee [lake on the edge of Berlin] – a most vulgar house in the loveliest position. It was built by a man called Mayer, I believe, who made and owned Bayer’s Aspirin [the drug aspirin was first manufactured by the German firm Bayer]. Our “Embassy Club”, just down the road from here, and much the nicest of our clubs, used to be the Croatian Embassy in the old days and is really a very fine house with much more distinction in the décor than most. The Yugoslavs have now demanded it back for their Military Mission on the grounds that it was a personal gift to the Yugoslavs from the King of Croatia. As he was alleged to be an Axis puppet and he certainly got his never occupied kingdom from the Axis, it seems odd that he should give away any of his property to Tito¹ and his gang. Needless to say, their claim is not being considered for a moment. …


¹Marshall Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980) was the leader of the Partisans, the main opposition movement fighting the Nazis in Yogoslavia. He went on to run Yugoslavia as a unified communist state until his death. 




Letter 7. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 27 November 1946


… At lunch time, I had an interesting and nice Canadian A.D.C. to the Canadian General Pope¹ here. He told me that during the war one of the excursions of Berliners was to an enormous internment camp near here where they used to watch 40,000 internees parading for three or four hours, sometimes in the nude, according to the whim of the Camp Commandant. Yet these innocent people didn’t even know there were concentration camps! It makes one sick to see all the nauseating whitewash being taken out of store at home again, as it was after the last War. We got ourselves into the attitude that we were to blame for ever having believed that the Germans ever committed an atrocity. Let us try and help the Germans. Let us try and forgive them. But for heaven’s sake, don’t let us try and whitewash them. Their very politeness and servility now entirely disarms the English, who cannot believe that they haven’t the same straightforward simple character that we have. Yet Englishmen are ready to condemn everything about the French and to forgive very little. I cannot and never could understand it. It was just the same after the last war.

Next Saturday, there is a terrible choice before us. It is St Andrew’s night and the Berlin Scottish, headed by Sir Sholto², are having a dinner-dance, reeling will be the word. At the same moment, our Russian chums of the Legal Division arte giving a quadripartite party on the ending of their month in the chair. Daddy doesn’t think he can possibly evade this or even some of it. I feel that to attend both parties is almost a death sentence. I don’t know if I have made it clear that there is too much to drink in Berlin as it is. …


¹ General Maurice Arthur Pope (1889-1978) was head of the Canadian Military Mission in Berlin 1945-1950. The countries on the winning side in the war had established military missions in Berlin, in lieu of Embassies.


² Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside (1893-1969), British Military Governor in Germany from May 1946 to October 1947, i.e. the senior British commander in Germany and the British Member of the Quadripartite Control Commission. Nicola recalls that his house was full of wonderful paintings. He was widely rumoured to have acquired in somewhat dubious circumstances many works of art in the possession of local Germans (who had themselves often seized them in equally if not more  dubious circumstances from the pre-War Jewish population of Berlin).




Letter 8. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 30 November 1946


   … Yesterday we went to the Yugoslav party. It was a tremendous affair in a kind of glaringly over-lit marble palace in the midst of the most ruined bit of Berlin I have seen so far. It appeared to be only vast heaps of rubble on every side. ...

   I had a three-sided conversation with Marshal Sokolovsky [Soviet Commander-in-Chief] through a fairly human-looking young Russian A.D.C. Anyway, they both smiled a lot. Sokolovsky has a face too, unlike his robot compatriots, long nose and chin and very deep-set twinkling eyes, and he really smiles instead of grinning. He said that he had heard that Daddy hadn’t drunk anything at the Russian party. I hastened to disabuse him, but I suppose there was disappointment that all the English Heads of Division walked out on their feet, which was not the case with all the French or Americans. There was not very much food and drink among the Yugos, and not at all the same quality as at Potsdam. There must have been hundreds of people there, all the Allied nations were represented. I spoke with Danes, Greeks, S. Americans, Dominions [Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders], Americans, French, Belgians and ourselves of course.

   Most of the English went on to Lady Strang’s farewell party for Alison David who has been P.A. to Sir William almost since the beginning. She seems to have fallen for the nice-looking A.D.C. to the Canadian General Pope and is obviously very sorry to leave now that it has come to it. The same thing I believe happened to Daddy’s late little P.A. Helen Pemberton. She was very anxious to get settled in life and felt there was nothing doing here, but in the last fortnight of her stay here a nice young man fell for her in a big way and she for him, and she would have given anything to stay on, but it was too late. With Alison David, I don’t quite see how she could have refused the summons of our Ernie [Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary], and anyway she may be years older than her Canadian beau.

   There was a very interesting man dining with us last night called Paton Walsh¹, the head of the Penal Section. He said all the most terrible evidence of unspeakable horrors was never used in the Nuremberg trials – only enough to convict them. It was decided that the “horrific” element should be kept out. I don’t believe this is really a good idea, because these things must be quite widely known in Germany in any case, as so many thousands, even millions, of people were involved in wholesale murder and torments.


   He was very disgusted at the efforts to build up a purely fictitious left-wing political party here and expect the Germans to get anything or make anything out of it. He said the Germans don’t care about political parties in any case – they will join anything they think we want them to, but that when we first arrived, there were two bodies and two only who had withstood and attacked the Nazis all through and thereby gained the respect and confidence of the absolutely shattered German people – the old Evangelical Church and the Catholic Church. We should have used them and backed them, but we were not allowed to do so on the grounds that the churches were bound to the National Socialists. Curiously enough, some of the other confessional churches had played ball with the Nazis and even Pastor Niemöller² has by no means the shining reputation among his own countrymen that he has abroad. Otto John³ hinted the same thing to me, and Niemöller is known to have been very well treated in his concentration camp. But these slightly Quisling churches managed to attract the attention of various travelling English Bishops and got a certain amount of kudos as resisters while the old Evangelical Church got no backing – and of course the Catholic Church is always suspect. This has puzzled the Germans who know after all where the only real resistance was, and now none of them trust us. The Americans, with their passion for statistics and who have the most Catholics in their Zone, have published that only two per cent of the Catholic clergy paid even lip-service to Nazi teaching. Paton Walsh seems to think it a great tragedy that we ignore the only sound elements on which a better Germany could possibly be built.

Lots of love,



¹ Brigadier Edmund James Paton Walsh (1897-1985), a career soldier. He served in the Allied Control Commission in Germany 1945-47, part of the time in the section charged with identifying war criminals.


²Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German clergyman and theologian who originally supported Hiler’s rise to power, but then turned against him and was the leader of a group of  anti-Nazi clergy. Hitler confined him to a concentration camp from which he was released by the Allies. Author of a well-known poem on the dangers of political apathy.


³Otto John (1909-1997). A German lawyer who was involved in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and who, after the War, advised the Allies on the degree of Nazi ideology of the German wartime leaders. In 1950 he was appointed head of the West German security service, but then defected to East Germany and subsequently redefected to West Germany.




British personnel were forbidden to buy food in German shops so as to ensure that such food as was available went to the local population. British personnel were expected to buy their food at the NAAFI (British Forces shop), which, like the British clubs, was allowed to provide only food that could be obtained on the ration in Britain, still at that time very limited (although a lot better than what was available to the German civilian population of Berlin). At Christmas everybody was allowed an extra ration of one pound of sausages, a bottle of gin and 200 cigarettes. Otherwise, not even fresh milk was available at the NAAFI, whereas the Americans had no scruples about flying in milk from Denmark.


The Allies had each introduced into their zone a special currency of monopoly notes and plastic tokens which their personnel were required to use in their clubs and military shops.  The currency used in the British sector was called BAFs. The German population still officially used marks as their currency. However, these had lost almost all of their value and the usual currency was cigarettes, and to a lesser extent coffee beans, tea and rice.  


Letter 9. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 8 December 1946


   … Daddy has gone off to the Zone for a week and I am here with Herschenroder. He is an absurd creature for a man with so much brains, so sensitive, so afraid of everything, so idiotically scrupulous. For instance, a law has just been promulgated that nobody may have English notes in their possession. As everyone is allowed to take £5 out of England, they might have had the intelligence to say over £5 worth, but very typically they didn’t. I shouldn’t think anyone except Herschenroder has given the matter a thought. The currency black marketers certainly ignore it and the rest of us who have a few pounds so that we don’t arrive back in England late at night without an English sixpence ignore it too. Herschenroder told me yesterday, sweating with agitation, that he had kept £3 for his return journey and on hearing of this law tried to change them into BAFS or Marks, only to be told this was illegal! There I am, says he, a criminal, what do I do?

   We are absolutely forbidden to buy anything in German shops except luxuries and we get constant exhortations to give a children’s party for German children and to try and provide some small treat for them for Christmas. At the same time, it is strictly prohibited to let them have anything that is issued to us. I am a criminal, I suppose, every time I have given a bar of chocolate to a German child or a few cigarettes to the miserable-looking man who does the garden and stokes the boiler so effectively. Only rationed food may be sent from England, and it is not very likely that anyone who has lived in England recently will ask their friends or relations at home to cut themselves down still further to make a happy Christmas for the Germans. At the same time, another order came round two or three weeks ago that any family or mess wishing to give a children’s party for Germans should start saving every week out of their rations, in fact not only saving but authorising a certain portion of their rations should be kept back every week. The married families here, especially if they have children of their own, cannot possibly save on their rations, in fact all of them find they are obliged to have some meals out at one or other of the clubs every week in order to make the rations last. I suppose the German servants help themselves to a little, but it can’t amount to very much. I sent a message to the cook that we would be having a children’s party and would she send something up, which I have no doubt she is doing – we always have enough in this house. But Daddy gets extras for entertaining. I remember you always used to assure me there was plenty to eat at the Square, but here I never have any qualms if Daddy tells the servants suddenly someone extra is dining or lunching with us; all they say is schőn [fine]. It certainly makes entertaining much easier.  …





Letter 10. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 18 December 1946


   … I was captured by the Russians yesterday, or rather Tuesday afternoon, and spent the best part of three hours trying to extricate myself from their clutches. The idiot driver we have drove me into the Russian Zone [i.e.outside the city boundary of Berlin] by mistake – not really a very excusable mistake, and I can take a lot of that sort of thing and speak some German too. But we had to get rid of him, as we would have been terrified to let him drive the twins anywhere. He was rather a lamb, but that isn’t good enough out here. Fortunately, I got myself out before Daddy knew I was missing, because he would have been in a state. Quite unnecessary really, because I was in such a temper I think they were glad to see the last of me – I mean the Russians. I will write it all in a letter to Awken [Jane’s sister; the letter has unfortunately not survived].




Letter 11. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 7 January 1947


   … Our dance was according to everyone a great success. All the top people came and, as this always means a retinue of A.D.C.s  and P.A.s and various attachments, it comes to quite a lot. We really had a very good band and a very good buffet supper considering it was all local. Daddy doesn’t have an A.D.C. or more than one car at his disposal, so he is not in a position to send someone by either air or road to Denmark, Holland or Belgium to bring back turkeys and salmon and chickens and lobsters and many other delicacies like the Army people do when they are giving a really big party.

   There are so many divisions here – Transport, Economic, Political, F.O., Manpower, P. of W. [Prisoners of War], Trade, Agriculture, Public Relations, Reparations and many more, besides the Military Missions of all the Empire and all the Allies – that we could have had twice as many people if our house had been twice as large. The twins had the time of their lives. When everyone had gone, as I thought, at about a quarter to two, I discovered that the band had agreed to play Gold and Silver [waltz by Franz Lehar] by special request and that they had retained two of their partners to dance it with them. I danced it with Jimmy [her son, who was visiting], who waltzes very well, though somewhat giddy-making. …

   The German children’s party went off all right. They were the children or relations or friends of our staff. Twenty turned up and we had a Punch and Judy show and a Christmas tree with quite good toys, either brought by the twins from Brussels or made by prisoners in the Zone. They also had each a packet of sweets and a very good tea and lots of caps and squeakers. They were all frightfully good and polite and ranged from 11 to 3, mixed boys and girls. We had no need of interpreters as the servants looked after them and all seemed very delighted. Almost everyone gave Christmas parties to the German children and I should think thousands were entertained. I wonder how many children’s parties the German Army and the Gestapo gave in occupied Europe during the War.

   Last night we had to have a sudden dinner party for 12 to meet Lord Wright¹, the Judge who came for a few days. If we hadn’t had such a full house, I suppose we would have had to put him up too. He is an ugly and not wildly exciting little man, but I think the party was a great success, and I’m sure I hope he enjoyed it. Jowitt² was to be here this week too and we would naturally have had to do something about him. I am told he is a most exigent guest and very offensive when he doesn’t get what he likes. However, he has postponed his trip, D.G. He was going to take Daddy off to show him round the Zone and I think it would have done him no good in this intense cold. It is like the coldest Swiss weather with no heat in the sun at all.


   On Wednesday night it is the American quadripartite party at their lakeside club. It will be a frightful bore, I expect, as these four-seaters always are, besides being a long way from here. Daddy has at last acquired a wireless by buying one for 25 dollars in the American Sector. I am quite sure that, in view of his position and this being a Mess, he was entitled to one, especially as there is an unmendable one here already.

All my love, darling; I haven’t another moment.



¹ Robert Wright, Baron Wright (1869-1964), one of the Law Lords, the predecessors of the Supreme Court.


² William Jowitt, 1st Earl Jowitt (1885-1957), Lord Chancellor in the then Labour Government.




Letter 12.  Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 10 January (undated; probably January 1947)


   … The cold here since the New Year has been unbelievable. People with small babies have been afraid to take them out at all and the German children too have disappeared and I think most of them stay in bed. Many of the English people in the Zone had to keep their children in bed before Christmas when the fuel rationing broke down for everyone. The front rooms in this house are usable but the back ones which face east are definitely ice-boxes and the thick frost on the inside of the bathroom window hasn’t melted for a week. Last night it began to snow and it is still doing it. We have all gone quite Swiss and never open a window.

   Last night was the American Quadripartite party at their beautiful lakeside club. It is almost the most vulgar house I have seen, with Golden Hall doors but a beautiful view over the Wannsee. It was rather a good party after one had done one’s bit talking to Russians through interpreters. There was one frightful American-speaking Jewish Russian with a little fat blonde who looked as if she had made up with greasepaint. He introduced her all round as a young mother with a fortnight-old baby – unfortunately a girl! She then produced a large photograph of a tough little Jewish terrorist out of her bag and we all had to find translated words of congratulation – thank goodness that you and Michael don’t adopt this technique at parties.

   Our now very good driver, long may he reign, was coming back to fetch us away from the party when he was held up by five Russians who indicated that their car was bust and they wanted his! After some parley which neither side understood, he decided to drive on and leave them in the road and risk being fired at, but he got away with it. Jolly nice people!

All my love till Sunday week [when she was due to visit London],



The reference to the baby resembling a Jewish terrorist reflects the fact that Jewish groups were conducting a terrorist campaign against the British in Palestine (Britain was responsible at the time for administering Palestine under a United Nations mandate). There had been a number of deaths, including 91 people killed in the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem the previous July.  




Letter 13. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 28 February 1947


   … Do you remember a child at school called Jane Shaw Witham? I met her parents last night. Her father had an even more unpleasant and much more inexcusable rencontre with the Russians than I had and which makes me think I am very lucky. He was waiting in his car near the Russian police station where your papers have to be checked when you are leaving the Russian zone to enter Berlin. His driver had gone into the police station with the papers. A Russian came along, and despite Witham’s protests and the fact that he is about 6 ft 4 in, tried to break his little finger to get his gold signet ring. He was rescued by two [Russian] military police who ultimately came out of the police station and asked him what he wanted done with the man. He, more than somewhat annoyed, said “throw him in the river”, which they appear to have done.

   It is busy snowing very hard today and is as cold or colder than ever. There is an exciting rumour that Daddy may be given a larger, much more well furnished and fitted house than this. He has applied, and certainly one bathroom and 3 ½ bedrooms doesn’t make it easy to entertain our constant flow of visitors; and as Daddy has to pay rent, he might as well have the best house he can get – he pays according to his rank and not according to the accommodation he gets, and this is the most old-fashioned and oldest and most hideously furnished house that any Chief of Division has and a good many Deputy Chiefs as well. …





Letter 14. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 3 March 1947


   … Last night we were taken to the Opera – Barber of Seville – by Cecil Sprigge¹ and his wife, who is paying him a short visit. … We had a very interesting party after the Opera at Sprigge’s house not very far from here. Mrs Sprigge had just come back from Athens. Frank Macaskie² is one of her dearest friends, it seems, and she says he has been offered to be the Greek correspondent of the Times, and as the Greek news has suddenly become much more interesting, she thinks he must have started.

   She told us how it fell out that the Times was so utterly E.L.A.S.-minded originally [E.L.A.S. was the communist-dominated Greek resistance movement]. Their correspondent Geoffrey Hoare was in love with a young woman who is a well-known communist, an English girl who lives in Athens and whose name I can’t remember. She was practically the Times correspondent, but now they have found out the horrid truth and sacked him and given the job to Frank. If Frank would only pull up his socks and get into one of these Commissions and take an interest in his surroundings, there are all sorts of openings for a young man with real brains. … Mrs Sprigge says it is absolutely vital that American troops should join ours in Greece. That would give our presence there a raison d’être, because we obviously cannot keep troops there indefinitely and to clear out is to hand Greece over first to civil war fomented by Russia – they are already doing their bit and have 15,000 armed puppets in the mountains – and ultimately to communism.

   She said there is a terrible pincer movement going on, one end in Northern Greece and the other in Palestine. All the inflammatory literature is printed in Russia for the Jews, and they supply the Jews as well. If they can get our troops out of both places, they can close in on the Turks in their own time.

   She says the departure of the House of Savoy [from Italy] was a near thing as they were only defeated by so small a majority; curiously enough [the support for the Monarchy was] all from Naples and the South, directed by the Church. What a turnaround to find the Vatican clergy backing up the House of Savoy! In my youth, Victor Emmanuel³ was third in the queue after Garibaldi and the Devil himself. However, Umberto has now fixed himself in Switzerland – much too near, because any coup d’état now would cause civil war and she says Italy would become just one of the Balkans, and she couldn’t bear that.

   By the way, all that dreadful account of the hours it took to despatch the Nuremburg criminals was an absolute misrepresentation. The times given for the hangings of the individuals included the post-mortems and all the formalities which were carried out at once, and they took no longer hanging them than they did any other criminal. Unfortunately, this has not been publicly explained and the Germans are convinced that we let ourselves go as the Nazis did after the last Hitler plot when all the Generals were publicly executed here in the Reichskanzlerplatz. …


¹ Cecil Sprigge (1896-1959). Journalist and writer on Italian affairs who was inter alia the chief Reuters correspondent in Italy 1943-46, after which he spent a year in Berlin as Chief of the British Information Services in the Control Commission.


² Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert Francis (Frank) Macaskie (1912-1952), a first cousin of Nick Macaskie, son of his uncle Thomas Septimus Macaskie. He joined the Army in 1940 and became famous for his daring war-time exploits in Greece. He was captured by the Germans on Crete, but escaped and made his way to Cairo. He got himself posted back to Greece (then under Italian occupation) as part of a special underground unit to help other escapees. He was captured again three times, but twice escaped again. The third time, in 1943, he was condemned to death, but his release was negotiated shortly before the Germans took over the prison camp where he was.  He was parachuted back into Greece in 1944, and organised the escape of some 250 Allied personnel. Subsequently, he became the Times correspondent in Athens, where he remained until his death. He was considered a hero by the Greek resistance and, for a long time after the war his name was one to conjure with in Greece.


³ Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy (1820-1878) joined forces with Giuseppe Garibaldi, commander of the Risorgimento, to bring into being the united Kingdom of Italy (of which he was the first king). Unification involved the takeover of the Papal States in 1870, hence the hostility of the Catholic Church. His grandson Victor Emmmanuel III, was King of Italy from 1900-1946, when he abdicated in favour of his son Umberto (1904-1983). His abdication did not prevent a plebiscite in that year voting to make Italy a Republic.  The Royal Family were exiled and Umberto went to live first in Switzerland and then in Portugal.  






Letter 15. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 17 March 1947


   … We had an interesting man from the Commandatura [the separate quadripartite governing council set up to run Berlin] here last night. He says they are always getting apparently authentic accounts of the very bad conditions inside Russia; that the N.K.V.D. [the Soviet secret police] gets worse and more powerful and that here in Berlin a Russian General has absolutely no control over an N.K.V.D. sergeant who will sit down in his presence without saluting and puff smoke in his face. Their rule is entirely one of terror now and the numbers of these secret police are ever increasing. Unfortunately, my theory that no revolution ever happens until it is no longer necessary does not give me much hope in this situation, but maybe that is not true of counter-revolutionaries because Robespierre and his gang were overthrown by Frenchmen. Meanwhile, whatever the position inside Russia may be, the Communists are certainly strengthening their hold outside.

   The French representatives are tending to side more and more with Russia at the Directorate meetings – it is certainly so in Daddy’s department. In the Allied Commandatura, the opposite number of the man who was here last night, Harris [unidentified], was a very charming, enlightened French officer who always quite automatically objected to Russian savageries and obstructions, and was always with England and the USA. He has just been recalled and was told it was because he is too anglophile and too much inclined to oppose Russia at the meetings. One would think it a curious moment to recall an anglophile just after the Dunkirk Treaty [an Anglo-French “Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Security” that had been signed a couple of weeks previously]. However, if all the French heads out here are going to be replaced by people subservient to the Communist Party, it is going to strengthen Russia’s hand and make it much harder for the Americans to carry on. …





Letter 16. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 23 March 1947


   … I have at last seen Hitler’s Chancellery and shelter and all that. The Russians are shortly pulling the whole thing down and no loss either. It is the most perfect memorial to the Nazi regime – the purest cinema architecture, no quality but size, and everything bogus – marble, mosaic, gilding, everything. It couldn’t have been built so fast if it had been real – isn’t it typical!

   Do please send me 2 lb of coffee beans! I am down to my last. …

Lots of love and lovely kisses,





In 1945 the writer Nancy Mitford published The Pursuit of Love, a novel closely based on the antics of her family. She was one of the seven children of the eccentric Lord Redesdale, almost all of whom had unconventional lives. Their doings were widely reported in the press. Nancy Mitford herself, the eldest, married Peter Rodd but moved to Paris after the War and had a long affair with the French Gaullist politician Gaston Palewski; politically she was on the left.  Her sister Diana married first Bryan Guinness and then Oswald Mosley, the British fascist leader, and was interned during the war because of her fascist tendencies. Unity Mitford adored Hitler and shot herself when Britain declared war on Germany. Jessica Mitford ran away aged 19 to Spain at the time of the Civil War with a left-wing cousin, Esmond Romilly, and remained on the left all her life.Pamela Mitford was one of the six wives of Derek Jackson, a distinguished physicist (an earlier wife had been the daughter of the painter Augustus John). The youngest daughter conventionally married into the Cavendish family and became a much-loved Duchess of Devonshire. The one son, Tom, had fascist ympathies, although to a lesser extent than hs sisters Diana and Unity.


Before the war the Macaskies had been on a Hellenic cruise with a party that included Lord and Lady Redesdale and some of their daughters, and in the following letter Jane comments on the resemblance of the characters in the novel to the real Mitfords.


Letter 17. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 2 April (probably 1947)


My darling Florence,

   I am sending you back The Pursuit of Love, which I have now read. It is, as you say, very funny. It is also a practically photographic rendering of the Mitfords. Lady Redesdale is perfect – one can almost hear the tones of her rather worried, rather tired voice. She told me on the cruise that her husband hated cruising, hated foreign countries, hated meeting people and really only wanted to live in his own home. Daddy was once appearing in a ridiculous slander action in which intemperate remarks of Lord Redesdale’s about a Spanish grandee had been repeated. Do you remember?  After reading this book, I can well imagine that only a very few of his remarks can have been repeatable.

   Linda is, in her career, a mixture of Diana and Jessica. The Kroesigs are so obviously the Guinnesses. The present generation, grandchildren of the two original Dublin brewers, pervaded London society in the 1920s with their money, their titles, their politics, their marriages, their divorces and always their business instincts. I can quite imagine Redesdale’s attitude towards them, and theirs towards a family going so rapidly down the hill that they were climbing equally fast. I can also imagine someone like Lord Berners¹ gunning for a Guinness wherever he found one. In one place she even slips up and makes Linda speak of Bryan instead of Tony. She may have had a communist interlude of which one hadn’t heard; on the other hand Jessica did all that, running away to Spain and being pursued with a view to holy matrimony by the Peter Rodds, who finally lost the trail at Avignon when they were bringing her safely home with the Romilly boy. He is obviously Matt, and not the only brother who patronised Munich rallies and was killed in Burma. The personal description too is more like Jessica – Diana never had to turn into a beauty, she always was quite an overpowering one.

   On the other hand, the short dark man with the black Homburg and the Blitzkrieg methods towards females and their unfailing success is obviously Mosley disguised as a French duke [Jane was wrong about this; he was a portrait of Nancy’s lover Gaston Palewski, a French politician]. As Nancy Mitford herself was one of the true left-wing, pro-French Mitfords, she couldn’t possibly have made her hero out of a [illegible] fascist. Irmgard² [Devaux] once told me that she overheard Diana telling a fellow internee in halting German ‘he is like a god to me’.


   The distinction in outlook between the English and French aristocrat is finely drawn. Despite the Revolution and the subsequent retirement of the French upper class, the latter is more likely to last as a tradition handed down because of these two things. I suppose the more or less normal sister Louisa is maybe either Deborah, or Pamela, whom one never heard of except during the brief moment when she upped and married the husband of Poppet John. If they are so recognisable to us, who have but the slightest acquaintance with some of them, imagine what it must be to their friends, and therefore I think it anything but worthy of an Hon. To write such a book about the other Hons when they are her own immediate family and most of it is such very ‘hot’ news too. 

   When all is said and done, the utter absence of any kind of sense, including sense of decency, of the Mitford family has already had fairly tragic consequences not only for themselves. I should think their parents must be a very broken couple of people, and I do not think this book is in very good taste. The strange thing is that Unity and probably Diana will have some small place in the history of these times; and on account of their position and their looks are bound to be enormously exaggerated as personalities by people who never knew them. It would be hard to find a more stupid young woman than Unity – childish, crude, uneducated and sentimental – a case of arrested development really. She might have been 16 when we met her, instead of 24. I imagine Diana is just the same – utterly irresponsible, abandoning her two little boys and taking up her abode in Mosley’s house when his wife was still alive. I can imagine her crying on her suitcase in the Gare du Nord and saying she wasn’t a white slave, instead of taking a taxi to the British Embassy.

   The description of the ardent young communists was very funny, and also the Bolter, who might be almost any of Pam Gordon Lennox’s³ female relations. One can really understand these young people wanting to get away to Rhodesia or anywhere from these sordid love affairs among their parents. But the whole book is redeemed by its fun and I enjoyed reading it while despising the author. …


¹ Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt Wilson, 14th Baron Berners (1883-1950). A notoriously eccentric composer, writer and artist and friend of the Mitfords. Portrayed as Lord Merlin in The Pursuit of Love.


² Irmgard Devaux and her husband had left Germany for London before the War because they opposed the Nazis. But like other German nationals they were interned as by the British Government as “enemy aliens”. Diana Mitford and her husband Oswald Mosley had similarly been interned because of their pro-Nazi views.


³ Pamela Gordon Lennox, née Leyland (1917-1997). A friend of Florence’s.





Florence was keen to visit her parents in Berlin. However, because of the acute shortages of food and other supplies in Germany, there were strict restrictions on visits by family members and it was not until the following year that she finally got there.


Letter 18. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 17 May 1947


   … I am afraid there is no hope for you yet. It is still only permissible to bring non-dependent married children here on the most extreme compassionate grounds. In three months’ time, if the Americans don’t let us down again with their grain shipments and if there is a decent harvest here and the kind-hearted German farmer can be induced to let his fellow Germans have a little of it, they may relax these rules and let us have at least members of our own families on short visits. Daddy has been flown to Nürnburg on a visit to the [war crime] trials and will be back on Sunday. Most of next week he will be beauxing Jowitt [the Lord Chancellor] around as he is coming on a tour of inspection, so he won’t have time to try and turn the heat on about you, even if he thought it a good idea at the present time. …





Letter 19. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place,  London W.8, 14 June 1947


My darling Florence,

   This is a rather hangover letter. Not that I did anything to hang a hangover on, but last night was our Quadripartite party and I think it was really a great success, not nearly such a bore as the other people’s were. For one thing, ours is the only one given in a private house. The Russians have an official house for parties about 12 miles from here! And the French and U.S.A. use their clubs, which is never really so nice. And we also had a very good band and quite a lot of champagne. The only contretemps was that we were a few minutes late returning from the Embassy where we went to dine in order to let the rooms be got ready for the party, and when we got back a few minutes after time the whole Russian delegation had already arrived and were wandering around with vacant possession! Fortunately, Barbara [Nick Macaskie’s P.A.] had warned me to hide Daddy’s cigars because a whole box was stolen at the last quadripartite party he had. They certainly would never have been seen again after this entirely free run by our distinguished allies. Even Helen Wells [the Russian interpreter who worked for Nick Macaskie] hadn’t arrived.  However, they didn’t look very affronted; they probably think it is English manners and will do it to us next time.

   The Americans came in large numbers and they are always gay at a party. The only thing is they never speak any language but American, except for one very brilliant young Greek called Rhoditi¹ in the American Legal Division who speaks practically every language and has written a book about Oscar Wilde – one more! Marie-Philippe [Herschenroder] slipped silently up to bed as soon as he arrived from the office and never showed up at all.  However, he didn’t starve, I am sure, because he always keeps his wine in his bedroom and various oddments like biscuits. He couldn’t have had much sleep, however, before 2 a.m., or alternatively, if he slept through a party like that, he must be an utter humbug about his health. Anyway, he was gone with the lark as usual this morning. …


¹ Edouard Roditi (1910-1992). American poet, short-story writer and translator. His book Oscar Wilde was published in about 1947.




Letter 20. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert in London, 18 June 1947


   … Everyone we have heard of so far says what a good party ours was the other night and I think it really was more endurable than these quadripartite shows usually are. They are really an ordeal in the ordinary way. On the next night the Steeles, the Political Division people, had their quadripartite party and the food didn’t turn up and someone had to be chased round Berlin to produce it after the eleventh hour. At their joint staff party with us last November in their house, the band didn’t turn up and part of the Embassy [club] band had to be lured away to come and play the dance music; and at their German children’s party at Christmas to which they had invited 100 children, the children didn’t turn up! And they really went into the highways and byways and compelled them to come in sooner than waste all the feasting and fun, so it looks as though the Steeles have an even less efficient P.A. than Barbara, although she is an exceedingly nice girl, beloved by everyone in Berlin, not in a glamorous way because she is heavy and plain, but really very nice, so I suppose that’s why they keep her. General Inglis’ P.A. … is so useful that she does Mrs Inglis’ hair as well! Can you beat it!

   We went to an exceedingly good American party last evening, a very big dinner party most beautifully done at one of their charming lakeside clubs. No nonsense about other ranks either among these democrats. Our hosts were people called Horniman. He is an airman from 1914-18 when he fought with the British and has loved them ever since. This war he was in M.I. 9 [which organised escape routes for allied airmen brought down in enemy territory]. They were really the Inglis’ friends but invited us as well. We had some very interesting talk and really it makes me sick to consider that portion of the Labour Party who advocate drawing further away from America and nearer to Russia. They really should spend three months out here to see them side by side. As far as I can see, from out here anyway, all the Americans are pro-British and the higher they are mentally the more pro-British they are – in fact quite embarrassingly so.

   I also met a very pro-British Frenchwoman at my party the other night. She used to lie on the floor in an attic every night to be able to listen to the BBC, and she was quite overcome when I told her that the English officer who used to speak in French was a friend of ours¹. She implored me, if ever I saw him again, to say how much he had done to save France!  Jimmy had better pass this on to Jock. She told me that one day in the village near Dijon they were being visited by the Feldpolizei when a lot of English planes flew over. The whole village sang God Save the King while the Feldpolizei stood by helpless. …


¹ JockFairlie, a friend and contemporary of Jane’s son Jimmy Macaskie.



Letter 21. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 2 Aubrey Road, London W. 8, 30 July 1947[?]


   Jane [her second daughter] will show you my letter all about my journey [back to Berlin after a visit to London] and how I was the beggar-maid carrying things and sweating in queues as far as the gangway onto the ship at Harwich, but how after the magic words “Mrs Macaskie, the last of the V.I.P.s” had been pronounced over me I suddenly became the Queen of the Fairies and everything was done for me. It was really a wonderful transformation after the terrible heat of the train and climbing in and out of lorries to be ushered into the coolest of cabins and have a most comfortable night’s sleep with sea breezes fanning my brow. I also had quite a good night last night and slept much more than I intended, as Mother once said. Only I was not met. Jervis [their driver, supplied by the Army] has been sacked by [illegible] in our absence and we have a new driver whom Daddy told to meet me a quarter of an hour late, which he did with the result that he missed me. However, I remembered I was still the last of the V.I.P.s and told my plight to a CCG [Control Commission Germany] official who got me a taxi. …

   Daddy has been offered a real palace as from the middle of September, when India no longer will provide a military mission and our dear friend General Stuart will be liquidated and give up his house. It is very large, beautifully furnished and on the biggest lake, the Havel, with beautiful views. It would mean an extra quarter of an hour on every car journey Daddy makes, which would be an hour a day on the office journey alone [he came back home for lunch]. Also we might not be able to take any of our excellent staff, who simply couldn’t get there unless they wanted to live in. There is plenty of room, as it is a very large house, but in the event of the car breaking down – which has hitherto been a recurring decimal – Daddy and all of us would be completely cut off. The twins might lose a certain amount of fun, too. Daddy is very inclined to say yes as General Stuart  asked  him to dine last night to show him round, and it really is a very beautiful, very luxy place. But General Stuart, like all the other Military Mission People, has very little to do as they are really a kind of uniformed Corps Diplomatique and he has all day to run in and out of Berlin to his house, and with someone as busy as Daddy it might be a great tax, especially in winter. [In the end they did not take this house.] …

   I now feel as if I had never been away at all, and never again will I make such a long journey for so short a time – you will have to put up with me for a month next time. I hope you got the box and all the behests. I was afraid to take the tea because I had two pounds of coffee and I was afraid they might confiscate the lot. But there was no vestige of customs anywhere, which was odd, as we were constantly threatened by mike of the dire results of making false declarations. I think it was so hot that the Customs people everywhere just struck. …




Letter 22. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 2 Aubrey Road, London W. 8, 22 September (probably 1947)


   … Yesterday afternoon we took Jennifer¹ to Potsdam. We had an idiotic temporary driver, a blonde fish-faced Englishman who went on and on without ever giving a thought to where we were making for, or even asking us if he was going right. He reminded me so much of that delightful German who drove me into the Russian Zone. He knew we were making for the Neue Palais and Sans Souci, which are in a Wildpark, an unmistakeable place with great gates at intervals. He ignored it completely. It is not much harder to miss than Hampton Court. However, he missed it. We had Helen Wells [Nick Macaskie’s Russian interpreter] with us and she nobly alighted and stopped first a Russian officer on a bicycle and second a car full of very veto-faced Russians. However, they were very polite and in each case gave her elaborate directions  which proved to be quite wrong and we found ourselves driving further and further out of Potsdam, which is precisely what one must not do, as our passes were for Potsdam only. She explained their very strange conduct by saying they didn’t know the way to the Schlosser [castles] and they couldn’t lose face by admitting it, so they made up something. However, a German family ultimately put us right, but we had lost so much time that we could only visit Sans Souci, because our Russian pass expired at 6 p.m. I feel pretty sure that if there is a real breach after November, we won’t be able to go there any more at all.

   We had a Conservative M.P. for Cambridge University, Pickthorn², to dinner on Tuesday. I think he must be one of the things that is wrong with the Conservative Party.  A conceited little poseur of a man; highly defeatist. He admitted that he had come to Germany with certain prejudices and apparently was taking them all home again. He wanted to know as earnestly as any innocent socialist pacifist why we thought it necessary to blow up blockhouses [fortified strongpoint] and flak towers [tower with anti-aircraft weapons]. He was distressed beyond words at a very modest stone in the Charlottenburg Chaussee which says ‘From Alamein to Berlin’, a small commemoration of the 6th Army, and had really hoped that we would have refrained from putting up victory monuments etc. He had hoped for more delicacy of feeling. I could not help asking him, in view of recent events, what good delicacy was going to do in dealing with the Germans.  He was violently anti-Roosevelt and anti-Churchill and said they were both entangled with international Jews. One heard something like this from the Nazis, I remember.


   He was also very shocked at the destruction and above all the disruption of the Krupps gang [the Krupps industrial conglomerate had been Germany’s main producer of tanks and armaments and was notorious for using slave labour; they were based in the Ruhr, part of the British Zone, and after the War the British dismantled their works]. He just wouldn’t see General Brownjohn’s³ point that, without that organisation, neither war would have been possible, nor accept his statement that its destruction was not going to cause unemployment here. We all went on hoping he was going to show some quality which warranted being returned for Cambridge, when he made the astounding statement that all red-haired Jews were bad, hopelessly bad and in fact it was apparently a physiological impossibility that they could be otherwise! … After that, we gave up struggling, Daddy having instanced Georgie Lewis [unidentified] as a very decent type by any standards who gave his life in the War despite being a red-headed Jew. I was very glad to hear Daddy coming out on this subject, because he likes to indulge in occasional anti-semitic outbursts. I wonder whether Pickthorn can be such a bonehead as he appeared or whether he was being an agent provocateur, seeing how these blimpish fascists like Daddy and Brownjohn would react to the stale old ‘Link’ [pre-war Anglo-German friendship organisation] kind of propaganda. Anyway, such a man can be no use on earth to any party, not even a dinner party of normally intelligent people. …


¹ Jennifer Paterson (1928-1999) was the daughter of Josephine and Robert Paterson, longtime family friends of Nick and Jane Macaskie. The Patersons were then living in Berlin.  Jennifer later became a cookery writer for the Spectator and a celebrity chef as one of the “Two Fat Ladies” in the television series of that name in the 1990s.


² Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Bart) (1892-1975). Academic and Conservative politician. He was the MP for Cambridge University  from 1935 to 1950 (at a time when members of Oxford and Cambridge elected their own MPs), and visited Berlin when Nick Macaskie was in the Control Commission. He subsequently became a junior Minister.


³ General Sir Nevill Charles Dowell “BJ” Brownjohn (1897-1973) was the British Deputy Military Governor in the Control Commission 1947-48.





Letter 23. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 25 Kensington Place, London W.8, 13 November 1947


   … I have told Awken in my last letter all about the new house Daddy has been told he can have – as against merely being offered. So I think this time it is a cinch. Unfortunately it is absolutely devoid of furniture of any kind and not being a modern house it has none of those posh fitted cupboards. … The house [Martin Bormann’s old house in Helfferichstrasse adjoining the Grünewald] stands in what must have been one of the grandest roads in this part. It is enormously wide and has a plantation of fir trees and grass all down the middle and must be at least two miles long. It goes right into the heart of the American sector from here. Almost all these enormous houses have been utterly destroyed; ours appears to have been overlooked by the passing Russians because it wasn’t as enormous or imposing as the rest, like the house next door, which is the first in the road. They may, of course, have got tired if they started at the other end in Dahlem and gave out before sacking the last two. …

   It is just a step from the Grünewald, being actually on its border instead of ten minutes walk there before you reach the wood like the present one. It has big gates and a drive in and all that. The Army took the flag staff, but I can really live without that, though it might have been fun lowering the flag when the Chief took to the Zone or Sheffield. It won’t be too big for our present staff to run and they will be much more comfortable – they must be terribly cramped here, though they don’t seem to mind. Our flightiest-looking parlourmaid Sophia is in extreme joy and excitement because her husband is at last being released by the Americans and comes home tomorrow. Poor Charlotte, the housemaid, was almost in tears – in fact quite in tears – yesterday because the Russians took her husband in 1942 and she has never heard one word since.

   I hope I shall get on with Pakenham¹ when I meet him on Saturday. Daddy met him in the Zone recently and liked him very much and said he was a most cultured charming man. Daddy wants to take me to Hanover next time he goes to meet the Brunswicks!²  The Regional Commissioner likes them enormously and says they are the most charming family and as far as he can see completely pro-English. Whether the Kaiser’s daughter was always so pro-English is another matter. It could be so, of course, since she has so much English blood. I suppose it might come out just once instead of her German blood. Anyway, without getting an Irmgard complex, it would be interesting to meet them [their friend Irmgard Devaux was mad about royalties]. …


¹ Frank Pakenham, later Baron Pakenham and then Earl of Longford (1905-2001). An upper class intellectual who started as a Conservative but then joined the Labour Party. He was a junior Minister in the 1945 Labour Government.


² Ernest Augustus, deposed Duke of Brunswick and head of the House of Hanover (1887-1953) was a descendant of George III’s son the Duke of Cumberland. Married Princess Victoria Louisa of Prussia, daughter of the Kaiser and great-grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. He had to abdicate in 1918 when Hanover became part of the Weimar Republic, but continued living on his estates.





Letter 24. Jimmy Macaskie in Berlin to his sister Florence in London, 31 December 1947


My dear Florence,

   You will be glad to hear that I got through with the turkey, which showed no signs of corruption at the end of its long and cramped journey, although it had imparted a faint essence de morgue to my socks. The Customs at Harwich enquired whether I was carrying any foodstuffs, and I admitted the coffee, the apples, and even the Christmas pudding. The man was mildly inquisitive, in fact, but decided that it was too much trouble to search. Fortunately, the turkey’s sigh of relief was not audible.

   The twins arrived back unexpectedly according to plan, though their train was some hours late. They are not a great deal changed since last Easter. If anything, Claudia is more determined on doing everything possible, and being a useful citizen, while Nicola has not a care in the world except the risk of being confronted by John Brownjohn [son of General Brownjohn of the Control Commission in Berlin], whose early passion has I think dissolved now he is leaving school. Philippe Legrain¹ declared his love for Claudia in the Metro, and was coolly met. He saw them off palely with tears in his eyes. His best friend should tell him to use Phillips Dental Magnesia. …

  We all had a very pleasant Christmas. … Nils Moller [a British lawyer working in the British Zone of Germany] and Jack Rathbone [a member of the Control Commission] were staying here as you know, and on Christmas night the Patersons came over en masse. With them, and a superabundance to eat and drink, it was a boisterous evening. As was yours, I trust. When I first arrived, there was thick snow everywhere which vanished during Christmas, to be replaced by rain, and then clear mild weather. Which has sharpened again into frost. So we have been able to walk off our surfeit comfortably in the Grűnewald. And eat and read and talk and drink the days away in a Christmas haze, to which the powerful central heating of this house is very conducive. And each day there have been drinks, or opera, or a dance or Young People’s Party somewhere for some or all of us. Mostly drinks. …

   Everyone is rather on tenterhooks here in Berlin, except the Russians, who maintain an inertia between their spasms of unpleasantness. The speculation is what will happen should the Russians one day withdraw their representatives from the quadripartite committees. The object of our presence in Berlin would cease to be. It would be only too simple for them to make Berlin nearly untenable. The Allied personnel could be supplied by air, but not the Berliners, for whom we are responsible. They number some 2,000,000. Also, the Potsdam Agreement would be broken and with that the demarcation line between the zones would fail, and the Americans could claim those provinces of Saxony and Thuringia which they handed over to Russian occupation in 1945.


   The attitudes of the powers … are in the case of Russia inscrutable but presumably boding no good. The Americans have stated officially that they have no intention of leaving Berlin. Nor would they give up such a position without loss of face in their present grim mood.  Our policy is to avoid actively displeasing the Russians and to fix our eyes on the far horizon. And the French are toying with the idea of breaking off diplomatic relations with Russia on account of their active assistance to the French communist strikes. I think the Americans are right; and if somebody has to play the undignified, conciliatory, hopeless role of family solicitor, it is a pity it should have to be us. …


¹ Philippe Legrain was a young Frenchman who had come on an exchange visit as a teenager to the home of one of the Macaskies’ cousins. Nicola and Claudia had by the time of this letter been sent to school at the Sacred Heart Convent in Florence. To get between Berlin and  Florence they had to travel via Paris, where they stayed with Philippe’s family. Philippe fell promptly in love with Claudia.





Letter 25. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert in London, 4 February 1948


My darling Florence,

   I have just been trying to find out if your permits are through yet. Two of the eight forms I filled up have come back to the office stamped all over, but before you get this it is to be ´oped you will either have got the permits or a telegram from Christine saying they have been granted and then you can do your booking. As soon as I know, I will book a sleeper from Herford for the two of you. The twins are in great excitement over your coming and I am longing to have you and only hope you won’t be bored after a few days. I can offer you a perfect rest anyway with absolutely nothing you need do. There are not nearly so many parties as there used to be, but we will try to collect some of the people we like, and there are operas, ballets and endless cinemas, and German theatres. …

   I haven’t any fresh wants since my last letter except half a dozen Phillips dental magnesia as they have run out of it here and I am sure it will be ages before they stock it again. You ought to get a Board of Trade permit for the lining if you are able to bring any, because I am told our customs all along are getting more and more poisonous and will suspect you of bringing in all kinds of things to sell on the black market. I have no doubt it is extensively done by a great many of the types who come out here, but if you flourish a permit at them, all is well. You could include in it two pounds of coffee. I understand coffee is not officially allowed, even now, but they very rarely stop a small quantity. …




In 1946, the Americans had offered a huge programme of aid to European countries, the so-called Marshall Plan, to help them recover from the war and develop their economies. Stalin refused to allow any of the countries under Soviet control, including the Soviet Zone of Germany, to accept this aid, which he saw as an American plot to control Europe. This was the first major disagreement between the wartime allies on the administration of post-war Germany. From then on, the paths of the Western Zones and the Soviet Zones began to diverge sharply, with the Western allies approving the extension of Marshall aid to their zones and encouraging their economic integration. In early 1948, despite strong Soviet opposition, they announced that they would combine the three Western zones into the single unit that subsequently became the Federal Republic of Germany. The Russians reacted by harassing the Allies in various ways, including holding up British and American trains crossing the Soviet Zone to Berlin (which carried most of the supplies of food and fuel to the Western Sectors) and making lengthy checks on the passengers; and also “buzzing” Allied flights flying to and from Berlin along the agreed air corridors across the Soviet Zone.  On 5 April, this led to disaster, when a Soviet fighter plane collided with a British Airways flight carrying 14 people, killing all aboard both planes.


Letter 26. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Macaskie at 2 Aubrey Road, London, 8 April 1948.


My darling Florence,

   Things seem to be simmering down here now for the moment, though I have no doubt the Russians will try some other freezing-out tactics. I believe the poor victims of the air crash were so utterly destroyed, because there was an explosion first and then a fire, that identification is practically impossible, or the arrangement of 14 bodies for burial. Mrs Benson’s sister, a young unmarried one who was coming out on a visit, is the only person whom we know about among the victims. It is a terrible price to pay, but I imagine it will have the effect of keeping the Russians out of our flying corridor. They were bound of course to excuse themselves with a tissue of lies, but all the same I think it will teach them a lesson. …

   I went to an incredible American party on Tuesday night. It was described as a get-together of the leading Allied and German Catholics of Berlin. It began at the Staatsoper with Joan of Arc on the Scaffold [oratorio by Arthur Honegger]. We were a party of about 70, at least half of them German priests and prelates. Cardinal Preysing [Bishop of Berlin] wasn’t able to come, not being in Berlin. Claudel [unidentified, but presumably a member of the French Control Commission delegation] had also been invited but had just left for Paris. Mrs Westropp [wife of the British Deputy Chief of Staff General Victor Westropp] and I were in the centre lodge with Mrs Walsh [probably Mrs Paton Walsh] and several German Monsignori and such. It was bitterly cold, but I enjoyed the performance more than the first time.


   We were all then bidden to a reception at the house of a Mrs Reidel, I was told a very saintly American who lives to do good to all mankind – a comprehensive programme. As she lived in Vogelsang which is one of the few places Bowman [the Macaskies’ chauffeur] knows his way to, he shot away and Mrs Westropp and I arrived a good ten minutes before anyone. Even the saintly universal provider Mrs Reidel was not on view, but we were received with polite curiosity by Junior – rather a sweet tough-looking little boy of eight dressed in the regulation baseball outfit. Two other little boys, his brothers, joined him. We were terribly cold after being chilled to the bone in the Opera, and Mrs Westropp didn’t think that what she saw on the table in the next room was going to be nearly enough for the multitude, especially the German priests. However, they all arrived at once and our hostess arrived from somewhere. She was exactly like Zasou Pitts [unglamorous American film star working in the 1920s and 1930s] and dressed in what looked like a red flannel dressing-gown trimmed with black braid. She had a simply all-embracing Middle West kind of manner.

   After a little while, I discovered that a very bright, wide-awake baby of about a year old was circulating, by hand, among the crowd and being blessed by various of the clergy on the way round. Mrs Reidel announced “This is my daughter for whom we have waited 15 years!” – evidently the three baseball players were superfluous. Then she said that she had another announcement to make – there were six general’s ladies present and she would ask them to stand in a row and have all the company line up and be presented to them. You can imagine Mrs Westropp’s horror, but she had to go. There were three Americans and a couple of French women, but no Generals!

   Finally, food did come and plenty of it. Glorious turkey and all kinds of good things. The table was decorated with fleurs de lys in pastry sugar and as we left the general’s ladies were being photographed seated round an enormous cake made in the shape of Jeanne d’Arc’s sword. I don’t know how it all ended, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the baby recited the Sermon on the Mount. There is no doubt Americans are wonderful people and, if great faith can move mountains, I feel sure great simplicity ought to be able to do so.

   Actually, it was quite interesting as a party when it wasn’t being excruciatingly funny. One old German priest told me that a leading American woman journalist went to Midnight Mass at his church – one of the biggest in Berlin. She went prepared to pray but rang him up in the morning and made a terrific attack on the Catholic Church because she had found Americans standing in the church while Germans occupied seats! He spent a long time trying to explain the theory of equality before God, at least during Mass, with no results, until at last he gave it up and said it was the arrangement of the Sacristan, which she accepted. …




Letter 27. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 2 Aubrey Road, London, 8 May 1948


My darling Florence,

   I hope by now your permits [to visit Berlin] have been granted [Florence and her husband Michael were planning to visit Berlin]. Miss Nolan [unidentified] will be on leave in England when you and Michael arrive at Herford, but since the new dispensation everyone is in the same boat and you will be put up at the Transit Hotel and awoken at 5 a.m. to get the bus which leaves for Berlin at 6.30. Before leaving the station on your arrival, go and get your Russian visas and papers and whatever is necessary – there will be no opportunity the next morning. Also, please note that once past the Russian checkpoint no one is allowed to leave the bus for any purpose whatsoever – disappearing into the bushes is strictly prohibited because the Russians treat all such shade seekers as spies and pick them up if they notice them. It takes about 5 hours to crawl through the [Soviet] Zone and you should also take chocolate or biscuits or anything you fancy as refreshment on the way – Jimmy got separated from his iron ration by leaving it in his kitbag. The luggage travels with you, but by a separate lorry. You arrive in Berlin – Lancaster House – about 4-4.30 and we will meet you. …

   The first parachute nightie is made at last [material was rationed after the war and the silk from war-time parachutes was being used to make clothes].  It looks very nice and is a very good shape, but to all whom it may concern, these garments come out very small size. They are narrow in waist and hip and would only fit Macaskies – I don’t think, for instance, that Grace or Patsy [Michael’s sister and sister-in-law, both very tall] could wear them without using more material and not getting so many garments from each parachute. You might tell this to your friends and relations who have invested in parachutes and are not as thin as you and Jane and the twins, to avoid disappointment. Once more, I have cause to be grateful for having thin children. …





Letter 28. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 2 Aubrey Road, London W.8, 22 June 1948


My darling Florence,

   I gather from Jimmy that you had a very good journey back. I hope you found the children all right. Our Russian allies, as you see, are retaliating over the currency reform and making it harder to get in or out, so I think you and Michael [Florence’s husband] timed your visit admirably and I am more than glad that Nicola came when she did too. The new regulation that you may take a car  or bus or lorry out of Berlin but may not bring it back again is likely to prove so annoying that I think some steps may be taken towards bringing back the train service and getting things going normally again. Even the Americans will get tired of flying their cars up here whenever they need them. …

   Dick Stokes¹ was to have come and dined with us last night, but there was the usual Berlin-Zone muddle and he went to Sir Cecil Weir’s.² However, he very politely turned up about six to apologise for the mess, which was none of his making, and to have a drink. He was such a tough guy when he was younger, ugly too, and I find him one of the few people that age and grey hair has made much better looking. He was very pleasant and friendly and is beginning to see a few spots on his spotless Germans. In fact, I think he is learning, which is always important in public men. Only an old-fashioned private blimp like me can afford not to change their mind. In any case, he has a strange, mixed and entirely independent outlook. He is out to help all oppressed people, or even those who claim to be oppressed, until it comes to the Jews, even German Jews. He took pains to explain that he had not done any of the things that he has been accused of here, like gate-crashing prison camps and talking to them privately and all that, so what is one to believe?  Is he a liar, or is somebody else? Needless to say, we didn’t bring up the matter; he did it himself. I think there is a little truth on both sides, but he obviously felt his conduct needed explaining, which is also a sign of grace.

   Now I must stop and take some food to the twins’ tailor. Since currency reform, the Germans can’t buy anything in their own shops; everything is hidden.

Much love to you all,


¹  Richard (Dick) Stokes 1897-1957). A maverick politician. From a monied background, he became a Labour M.P., but was associated with various fascist groups before the war. He was also strongly anti-Semitic. He had opposed the war with Germany on the grounds that the real enemy was communism and the Soviet Union, and after the war he was active in a campaign to provide food aid for German civilians.


²  Sir Cecil Weir (1890-1960). Economic adviser to the Allied Control Commission in Germany, after having been Director-General of equipment and stores at the Ministry of Supply during much of the Second World War.





In June 1948, the Russians stepped up their action against the Western allies and began the Berlin Blockade, blocking all road and rail access to the Allied sectors of Berlin. The immediate trigger for the blockade was the introduction by the Allies of a new currency for the Western Zones and their sectors of Berlin, the Deutschmark, to replace the devalued Reichsmark. The Russians had introduced their own “Ostmark” for their Zone and wanted this to be used throughout Berlin. Their ultimate aim was to dislodge the Allies from Berlin altogether. It was the first major crisis of the Cold War, and there was great fear that it could lead to a third world war. The Allies responded by an “air lift”, supplying all Berlin’s needs by air, a massive operation, involving sometimes more than a thousand flights a day, bringing a daily supply some  8,000 tons of coal and food that had previously travelled by train. The airlift was so successful that by April 1949 more was being supplied by air than had previously been coming in by rail. In May 1949 the Russians lifted the blockade.


Letter 29. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at 2 Aubrey Road, London W.8, 1 July 1948


My darling Florence,

   You actually don’t deserve any kind of letter because each time you have been out here you just don’t write any more.

   Josephine [Paterson] has done her best to extract your undies yesterday without success, since the people are demanding the same amount in new marks which they originally asked in old marks. This would of course come to a fantastic amount and would not be procurable in any case. She begged me not to intervene – indeed was rather insistent that it would be dealt with by one of her German friends and I don’t even know the name and address of the shop, nor what the sum in marks was which you contracted to pay them. I never know what the Paterson family are up to and the whole transaction has been in her name in any case, and she seemed very confident that her friend would be able to deliver the goods.

   The whole position about money is very complicated and there is practically none about. … Wages and rents remain at the old rate in marks – if you got 150 marks a month wages you still get them in new marks, but except for rent everything else, including debts, is payable in new marks at 1 for 10. So these people who made your undies are really not entitled to more than a tenth of the marks you promised them or they asked. … If the Germans adjust their prices from now on, we will be better off and able to spend a few marks here, because they were fantastically high at 40 to the £. I once paid 18 marks each for two hairnets for the twins and that was almost the last of my purchases. As we are to get 13 ½ marks to the £1 in future, anything like the old prices would mean the end of British custom. On the other hand, if they reduce their charges to a tenth, things will be reasonably cheap. But they will be paying rent and wages at the old rates. It really won’t affect us much one way or the other, because most of the twins’ clothes are made now and I have no debts except a small one to the dentist, and I never wanted to buy German things.

  The dockers’ strike collapsed very quickly after Attlee took emergency powers. I don’t know on what terms they have gone back. They may have felt that public opinion was dead against them, which I imagine from here was the fact. All the same, there are many left-wing elements who will never forgive Attlee for having shown firmness against his own. B-J  [General Brownjohn] was very interesting about his recent Cabinet visit. He found them almost entirely united to stand up to Russia out here and was quite won over to Aneurin Bevan¹ on account of his brains. He was also very polite and pleasant to B-J which he had not expected on account of Bevan’s well-known detestation of all soldiers. He and Cripps¹ and Bevin¹ impressed him most, and he said Attlee is undoubtedly a man of considerably more personality than one would think, but the others struck him as a job lot except for Morrison¹, who is hated, feared and mistrusted. Anyway, he got a most friendly and satisfactory reception.


   All day long and all night too, planes whizz over this house. It is a heartening sound and reminds me of when we were flying home our prisoners at the end of the War. … We had a dinner party which was nearly all men. The Permanent Under-Secretary to the F.O. was brought by Weir – who by the way spoke admiringly about Michael’s parents – and he also brought a really frightful Labour M.P. called Scott Elliott², formerly of the Guards. He was the end, incapable of conversation, capable only of saying his piece. There was something irresistibly funny about hearing the purest socialism spoken in the most perfect blimpish manner. Not that he had ever been anything bluer than a Liberal, from which camp he withdrew on account of the sad fate of the blood-stained Haile Selassie³. The F.O. man was quite charming, called Stevenson.

Lots of love to you all,


Note  1

  • Aneurin (Nye) Bevan (1897-1960), Minister of Health.  Labour politician from a Welsh coalmining background (he left school at 13 to enter the pits). He entered politics through the trade union movement. He played a vital part in the creation of the National Health Service.


  • Sir Stafford Cripps (1889-1952), President of the Board of Trade. Strong-minded Labour politician who occupied a number of Ministerial posts from 1931 onwards, including in the War Cabinet. 


  • Ernest Bevin (1881-1851), Foreign Secretary. Labour politician who was Minister of Labour in the War Cabinet and then Foreign Secretary in the 1945 Labour Government. 
  • Herbert Morrison, later Lord Morrison of Lambeth (1888-1965). Labour politician who held a number of senior Ministerial positions. Deputy Prime Minister in the 1945 Labour Government. Unpopular with many of his colleagues. Grandfather of Peter Mandelson.


² Walter Scott-Elliott (1895-1977), member of an aristocratic Scottish family who served in the Coldstream Guards in the First World War, was elected as a Labour MP in 1945. He stood down in 1950 because of disagreements over the Government’s nationalisation policy, and retired to manage his estates and business interests. In 1977, both he and his wife were murdered by a butler whom they had just engaged.


³ Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia 1930-1974. After the Italians invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and declared it part of an Italian Empire, he sought the help of the League of Nations, but the League failed to do more than some impose half-hearted and ineffective sanctions, making a mockery of the idea of collective security and attracting strong condemnation from anti-fascists. He remained in exile until 1941, when the Allies defeated the Italians in Ethiopia.





Letter 30. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert in London, 21 September 1948


   … It is bitterly cold here at the moment – at least the wind, which is still almost gale force, is very cold. I suppose it comes from Moscow, like so many other nice things. We seem to have reached a real deadlock, the more so because no matter how much is taken up before the U.N.O. or the Security Council, they have no powers in face of the Russian veto. So I suppose there opens before us two alternatives. Either we continue and intensify the air lift all through the winter and try and supply enough fuel to keep people from freezing to death, or the Russians will try and interfere with the air lift, which they have not attempted to do so far.

   I cannot but believe that every unnecessary person will be evacuated. I am sure that will include as many Germans as we can move as well. It may still take a month if and when such a policy is announced, so will either you, or Jimmy, or Claudia, or Awken please send me as soon as possible four sets of forms from the Ministry of Labour to get permits for German servants. Would you like me to take steps about getting a cook for you too? Because once I am gone it will be too late. I doubt if Daddy would or could have time to cope with it. Darling, I am not trying to push anything on you, but only thinking of your comfort and that I might be able to help you while I am still here. If the worst happens and the Russians attack the air lift, we will have to go very quickly, because some incident is bound to happen which would make the Americans anyway loose off something. Daddy doesn’t think the Russians will go so far, and Sam Kramer [a member of the American Legal Division], who is a wise old guy, doesn’t think so either.

   All this is my private opinion. I have never been told by anyone who would know that I may be evacuated. Actually, I don’t believe the Russians mean to start a war against us and the USA and ultimately most of the rest of the world too; but I equally don’t believe that they mean either to lift the blockade or to let us have joint control of the Berlin currency, because it is by those two weapons they hope to get us out of here ultimately. Worsening conditions in their own Zone due to the blockade, or adverse public opinion through U.N.O., or both, might move them to reverse this Berlin policy – nothing else will or can. …





Letter 31. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to her son James Macaskie, 7 October 1948


   … The weather here has turned heavily pro-Stalin since October began, especially since we went back to winter-time on Sunday. It has been very cold and very dark, owing to the heavy clouds and rain. It became quite dark about 4.30 on Sunday – too dark to read, even on the window-sill, and there we had to sit till six when the lights went on. I provided candles for the downstairsers [the servants], who were literally groping as you can imagine. Today looks fine and sunny, though cold, and if it doesn’t cloud over after lunch it ought to be fairly light up until, six for couple more weeks. The Germans don’t get any electric light till eight. I haven’t enough candles with our wretched allowance of six a week – very small, quickly wilting socialist candles at that – which just light us to bed of a night. … The Americans have a very superior brand, and apparently unrationed.

   Also, we are forbidden to use gas, electricity, coal or coke for “space heating” until further orders, which rumour says will be November 1st. It said nothing about wood off the estate, so Nicola and I shiver till evening and then light the fire in the drawing room. Glogow [their butler] has altered the register and removed the iron basket, which makes the wood burn more slowly and looks much nicer without loss of heat. I am also told I can have any trees cut down if necessary, and there are quite a few detested pine trees lurking round the end of the garden which would look much better in the grate. …

   I don’t believe the Russians have any intention of lifting the blockade until the end of winter, if we can carry on till then. If we do, they will have failed all along the line and may feel conciliation will get them further than force. I have no doubt that, at this point, Sokolovsky’s head will be offered on a charger, because someone must be guilty when any Moscow policy fails. Maybe Molotov’s too – the twists and turns and idiotic denials of Vyshinsky [Deputy Soviet foreign minister] in Paris shows how much they loathe the air-lift they have called into being, and if they can’t freeze or starve us out this winter, I think they really may decide it is better to call the whole thing off, anyway for the time being. Of course war may come. Gangsters are always afraid and always hate to make a false or desperate move, and in Russia only about a dozen people need even to be consulted and only one will decide whether they blunder into war or not. But since it took Germany, nominally defeated in 1918, twenty years before they were ready to fight again, I cannot think that Russia – only nominally victorious considering their losses in men and materials, and then their massive inefficiency – would be ready any sooner, and Uncle Joe [Stalin] won’t be so full of beans at 85. …





Letter 32. Jane Macaskie in Berlin to Florence Lambert at Shornbrook, Crowborough, 19 November 1948


My darling Florence,

  I hope it is as hot and spring-like as it is here. It was much colder before Nicola and I left in October. It will make an enormous difference here if the winter is a month shorter than usual.

    Frau Nitsche [unidentified] tells me all the rich Germans who had come back to Berlin, bringing their goods and chattels and repairing their habitations, are all leaving again and this time leaving their goods behind. In the Russian zone, she tells me (all her people come from E. Prussia), there is a reign of terror – people fetched away and never heard of again, their children taken, all kinds of things – with the result that practically all work and business has ceased. People live from day to day only and are convinced any effort on their part to improve their conditions is simply wasted labour. Meanwhile the Moscow radio tells them that Stalin now controls the whole of China and could take the Rhine in a fortnight anytime he wants to. This is the gloomiest German view and Marie-Phillippe, who is no fool as you know, says he is convinced that the Americans don’t even want any further discussions with the Russians until the Western German state is a fait accompli and they can then say that “whatever else you want to negotiate about, the Western German Government cannot be gone back upon”.

   We had a very merry dinner last night at the Embassy [club] as Hay’s [unidentified] guests. The place was practically empty. In fact, the city is emptying every day and there is at the moment a sauve qui peut of the German staffs, all wanting to get to England. …



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