When Chamberlain succeeded Baldwin as Prime Minister in May, 1937 and appointed the chief appeaser, Halifax, his Foreign Minister,(1) it made impossible the position of the Permanent Under- Secretary, Sir Robert Vansittart, who "loves appeasement not" (Time, Sept. 4, 1939).(2) Vansittart's responsibility for foreign policy had led to the Hoare-Laval mess which had raised such a storm of popular protest that his retirement was demanded by the press. However, to dismiss the head of the Foreign Office is almost unprecedented.
It was given out that Vansittart had retired and that Chamberlain himself would take a more intimate interest in foreign affairs. He disappeared almost wholly from the political scene and was rarely mentioned in the press. It was almost a year before Chamberlain in response to a Parliamentary inquiry let it be known that Vansittart was acting in an advisory capacity. In the 1939 Whitaker's Almanac, Vansittart was listed as "Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Foreign Office", a new title, non-existent in 1938 when he was listed under the title of
"Permanent Under-Secretary", with the same salary, £3000.3
Vansittart's new activities were carefully guarded. Not only was news kept from the newspapers but sophisticated editors knew that here was something that was to be left alone, protected. But putting together the little bits of news from the back pages of newspapers, newsletters and clandestine sources that have slipped by censors and editors, one gets occasional glimpses of his new activities. (cf p 100)
"There's a reason why Sir Robert Vansittart has rarely been heard from since his 'eclipse' in the British Foreign Office. The fact is that he's busy handling one of the nation's most delicate problems--how to combat Nazi and Fascist propaganda abroad." This item in Newsweek, November 28, 1938, attracted little attention, nor did the surmise of one of the writers of the "Fortune" article, Dec., 1938, that Chamberlain had "politely kicked Sir Robert Vansittart into an upstairs job". (cf "What Makes Lives", p 163)
The new job was to build in secret a great organization to control all information that went to the United States. To insiders this organization was referred to as the "Bureau for anti-Nazi Propaganda