Leslie Glass

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Sir Leslie Glass, KCMG, (born 1911, died on December 17 1988, at the age of 77) was a British diplomat who spent most of his career as a propagandist in colonial counterinsurgency, disinformation and psychological warfare in Cyprus, Burma, the US and UN.

According to an obituary in the Times:

Glass was certainly one of the most unconventional British diplomats of his generation; he did not even look the part, indeed some colleagues felt he physically resembled Ernest Bevin. With a rumbustious, somewhat Dickensian laugh and large girth, he was the least pompous of envoys and could be blunt and straightforward in argument whenever roused to something he believed in or felt the case was going by default. He was a versatile man and as his single published book, The Changing of Kings Memories of Burma 1934-1949 (where he had first served an equally unconventional apprenticeship for the Foreign Service before the Second World War) showed clearly he was a very funny and entertaining writer. Glass found his talents well suited to the changed and changing post-war world where diplomacy assumed increasingly a public relations dimension. No longer could Britain assume a take-it-or-leave-it attitude and that other nations would either understand London's stance or feel obliged to heed it if they did not. A key aspect of information matters which Glass also dealt with was their role in East-West relations.
He served from 1953 as Head of the Information Division, the British Middle East Office, going to Cyprus to be on the staff of Lord Harding at the time of the Suez crisis. Here he concentrated on information work and disinformation work as well. Faced with most of the world being against the British stance, Glass tried to justify our intervention. With the Suez problem still echoing and making things difficult with the Americans, Glass was sent in 1957 to become Counsellor and Consul-General in Washington, being given charge as Director-General of the British Information Services in the US and Information Minister at the Embassy from 1959-61.
These were also the difficult years when the Americans' suspicions about Kim Philby, and the general reliability of their British ally's intelligence services, mounted steadily. Just how aware Glass was of Philby's activities will probably never be known. After periods as an Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office and as British Ambassador to Romania between 1965-67 Glass went to the United Nations to be Ambassador and Deputy Permanent UK Representative. He served under Lord Caradon, who as Minister of State for UN Affairs, was a member of the Cabinet. Glass was thus the senior professsional diplomat in the mission, but working in tandem cannot always have been easy for him. His last posting came in 1969 as High Commissioner to Nigeria, where he proved highly successful before retiring in 1971.
Glass was one of the post-war entrants to the diplomatic service from the Indian Civil Service in 1947. But the earlier experiences he brought with him were undoubtedly crucial to his subsequent career. Though his view of pre-war Burma did not tally with that portrayed by another expatriate Briton of the time, George Orwell, in Burmese Days, Glass did see life in the raw as a warden in the oilfields and the problems of industrial unrest. When war broke out in Asia Glass was recruited for the Far Eastern bureau of the Ministry of Information and then quickly became involved in psychological warfare, targetted on preventing the Burmese looking to the Japanese as liberators from the Europeans. He himself had to make an adventurous escape after the Japanese advance. At the war's end he was Secretary of the Information Department of the Government of Burma. His first post in the Foreign Service was as a first secretary in Rangoon. Glass was educated at Bradfield, Trinity College, Oxford, and at the School of Oriental Studies of London University. He is survived by his second wife, Betty, whom he married in 1957 and by two sons of a first marriage.[1]



  1. 'Sir Leslie Glass; Obituary', The Times (London), December 21 1988, Wednesday, SECTION: Issue 63270.