Records of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors

The arrest of Dame Margot Fonteyn

Dame Margot Fonteyn, the renowned English ballerina, was arrested in Panama under suspicion of collaborating with her husband Dr Roberto Arias "in a plot of vast ramifications" to overthrow the Panamanian Government with the support of Fidel Castro. This file includes a letter from John Profumo, the then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, recounting a conversation with Dame Margot during which she detailed her involvement in the plot. Profumo is best known today for his 1963 scandal involving a prostitute, known as the Profumo Affair. The file notes that at the time of her arrest, her husband remained "on the run" and makes reference to his secret papers on faithful rebels and Hollywood personalities such as John Wayne and Errol Flynn with whom he had business dealings. It also shows the Government's concern of how the episode could affect relations between the UK and Panama. Correspondence between the Embassy in Panama and the Foreign Office describes the saga as having "many puzzling features" and Dame Margot's behaviour as "reprehensible" and "irresponsible", saying she was "in it up to her neck". The file contains a hand written letter from Dame Margot to John Profumo containing a promise to meet on her return when she is "definitely not plotting!"

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Question of Dr Roberto Arias' possession of a visa for UK

This file shows Government discussions on whether Roberto Arias, husband of Dame Margot Fonteyn, should be allowed entry into the UK following his involvement in a plot to overthrow the Panamanian Government. The correspondence shows concern at Arias' alleged subversive activities.

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Account by Ernst Dawyl of his experiences in Roumania 1930-1958, including imprisonment as a spy 1949-1955

The file includes a passionate, detailed account of Ernst Dawyl who was imprisoned in Communist Roumania in 1949 accused of 18 separate charges relating to espionage.
Dawyl recounts how he resisted torture and cross examination in "indescribable conditions" and had to pay with his body for his British feelings. He stated "The terror methods were horrible. There are no words in any language I can use to describe what I had to go through." Dawyl lists the different methods used to torture him and recalls his time spent imprisoned in a labour camp where he educated his fellow prisoners about life in Britain by teaching them about Piccadilly Circus, the Battle of Britain and Shakespeare. The file shows Dawyl's admiration for Winston Churchill stating "only the wonderful speeches of 'whinny' gave millions of Roumanians the strength to resist".

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The release from prison of Dr Otto John

Dr Otto John, famed for his failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, was imprisoned in Germany in 1956 for treason and conspiracy after defecting to Western Germany. Following news of Dr John's imminent release and desire to enter the UK, this file shows correspondence between the Foreign Office and Home Office debating whether, "as a convicted traitor", Dr John should remain on the 'stop list' and be refused entry. A warning of their decision in this matter was to be urgently conveyed to Otto John before he attempted entry, but owing to a slip-up in the embassy John was not immediately notified, prompting Government concern that he would enter the UK and would have to "be detained at the airport and flown back, with all the attendant publicity and embarrassment for her Majesty's Government".

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Arrest of Mrs Sylvia Oldfield, British subject, in Roumania

This file contains correspondence between the British Legation in Bucharest and the Foreign Office over the disappearance in Roumania of British citizen Sylvia Oldfield "in circumstances which leave little doubt that she has been arrested". There is a brief reference to Mrs Oldfield's "chequered past", including a period of collaboration with the Nazis during their occupation of Roumania. The file also confirms her later release.

Records of Special Operations Executive

Special Operations Executive Knut Magne Haugland

This file on Knut Haugland, codenamed N.7 or 'Primus', contains reports on his training and conduct, and an account of his capture and subsequent escape from the Gestapo. The file also contains personal letters from Haugland. Haugland is best known for his involvement in the destruction of the Nordsk Hydro plant in Telemark, Norway, in 1943. There, he assisted in stopping the manufacture of Heavy Water for the German nuclear bomb project. The film 'Heroes of Telemark' starring Kirk Douglas was based on the events. Haugland would later to be involved in the Kon-Tiki expedition from South America to the Polynesian islands in 1947.

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Myer GRIENSPAN (born Emilio LUSSU) - born 04 December 1891, died 05 March 1975 and Marie Adrienne GRIENSPAN (born Gioconda SALVADORI later Joyce LUSSU) - born 08 May 1912 died 04 November 1998

  • Catalogue ref: HS 9/621/7
  • Date: 01 Jan 1939 - 31 Dec 1946

The famous Sardinian war hero and politician, Emilio Lussu, contacted the SOE mission in Lisbon in 1942 and proposed the idea of fomenting an anti-Fascist revolt in Sardinia which, if it spread to the rest of Italy, would have had "far-reaching consequences" in removing Italy from the war. This file shows how Lussu and his wife were flown to the UK and given new identities. The file also reveals that while in the UK, Lussu - who was not to be referred to by his real name in any official documents - had high-level talks with Cabinet ministers about a plan, code-named Operation POSTBOX. Operation POSTBOX faltered over "political considerations" according to confidential memos, notably Lussu's insistence that the plan receive official SOE backing and a promise to respect Italy's existing territorial boundaries after the war. In the end, the Italians signed a secret armistice with the Allies in September 1943.

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Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies

Naturalisation file of Konni Zilliacus

Konni Zilliacus was a prominent, left-wing, Labour politician. This file shows his naturalisation application was approved almost entirely on the recommendation of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, who wanted Zilliacus to accompany him on a special Government mission to the USA in 1918.

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Records of the Civil Service Department

Guidance for departments on the employment of homosexuals in the public service

  • Catalogue ref: BA 19/501
  • Date: 02 Jan 1974 - 04 Oct 1978

Following recent changes in the law and in public opinion towards homosexuals, which had lessened the risk of blackmail, the Civil Service decided it was timely to reconsider the general policy on the promotion of homosexual staff to senior positions. Previously this was prohibited, as there was a risk that the employee could be blackmailed about his or her sexuality and could expose government secrets. Officials acknowledged there was an equal risk of blackmail for a person who committed adultery and concealed the fact. It was put forward that each case should be looked at on its merits and that there would still be restrictions in certain departments, such as those where staff could be posted to countries that considered homosexuality illegal. This file also contains press coverage and public response on the issue including views that the Civil Service were being discriminatory.

Records of the Ministry of Defence

Northern Ireland

  • Catalogue ref: DEFE 13/1397
  • Date: 01 Aug 1974 - 30 Sep 1974

Northern Ireland: includes finance and the economy; discussions between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach; meetings with the Minister of Justice for the Republic of Ireland; the campaign for British withdrawal; and the employment of troops in Northern Ireland prisons


This file contains the valedictory dispatch from the UK Government's Representative in Northern Ireland, Oliver Wright, to then-Home Secretary James Callaghan in March 1970. Wright, a career diplomat who went on to become Ambassador to the United States, was sent to Northern Ireland in August 1969 following the outbreak of 'the troubles'. This dispatch, sent as he prepared to leave Northern Ireland, provides a typically frank assessment of the situation and prospects for future peace.

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