4th August 2010
I’ve spent the past few days researching the papers of Harold Ingrams at the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge.
Harold Ingrams was a British Colonial Administrator, best known for the ‘Ingrams Peace’ which he and his wife Doreen brokered in 1937 between warring tribes in the Hadhramaut in southern Arabia (now part of the Republic of Yemen).
He was born in 1897, the son of a clergyman and assistant master at Shrewsbury School. He fought and was wounded in the First World War and then joined the Colonial Service, working in Zanzibar and Mauritius before being posted to Aden, in southern Arabia, in 1934.
He seems to have been cast in the same mould as other British colonial officials and travellers in Arabia, such as T E Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger. After being sent to the coastal town of Al Mukalla, he and his wife were the first Europeans to visit some of the remote inland wadis (or valleys) in the Hadhramaut, travelling by donkey and camel. In 1937 he was appointed British Resident Adviser for the territory that was to become the Eastern Aden Protectorate. He wore Arabian clothes and like Lawrence, believed the Arabs should be left alone to work out their own destiny and opposed the implantation of a Western style democracy.
In 1945, and this is the reason for my interest in him, he was seconded by the Colonial Office to work for the Control Commission for Germany. He was given the job of head of the Administration & Local Government branch, responsible for restoring democracy in the British Zone of Germany after the fall of Hitler, recommending suitable forms of governmental organisation, which he believed generally should be based on the British model, and organising elections.
In 1947, after two years in Germany, he returned to the Colonial Office as Chief Commissioner for the Northern Gold Coast (now part of Ghana), but retired and returned to the UK after only one year in post. In later life he continued to be consulted by the Colonial Office on various matters and took part in missions to Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Uganda, though he was not appointed to another permanent full-time position. He retired from this advisory work in 1968 and died in 1973.
I find it intriguing that someone who spent his entire career as a Colonial Administrator in the British Empire should have been chosen for the job of restoring democracy in Germany. Maybe he volunteered? I haven’t found anything in the archives that explains why he was offered or applied for the position.
Noel (later Lord) Annan, who also worked in Germany after the war, and accompanied Ingrams on a lecture tour to seven major towns in the British Zone of Germany in November 1946, wrote in his book Changing Enemies that:
‘Ingrams was apt to treat the Germans as if they were a specially intelligent tribe of Bedouins. Discussion in the shady tent was permitted until the Resident Officer struck the ground with his stick and gave his decision. This attitude exasperated the Germans.’
That may be a little unfair, (though Noel Annan was there at the time and I wasn’t). I hope that looking in more detail at the life and work of Harold Ingrams in Germany from 1945-1947 will provide an insight into the ‘echoes of Empire’, which seem to have characterised many aspects of British post-war involvement in Germany.
Roger T. Stearn, ‘Ingrams, (William) Harold (1897–1973)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
G. Rex Smith, ‘"Ingrams Peace", Hadramawt, 1937-40. Some Contemporary Documents’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Apr., 2002), pp 1-30
Noel Annan, Changing Enemies: The Defeat and Regeneration of Germany (London: Harper Collins, 1995)