Four Tall NCOs of the Life Guards

Lord Mountbatten, Harold Wilson, and the Immediate Aftermath of UDI: The Proposed Mountbatten Mission

By Dr JRT Wood

When dealing with Rhodesia, the British more than once showed an - albeit touching - naiveté. An example was the insistence that British 'bobbies' should be deployed to see fair play at the polling booths in Zimbabwe's first general election in February 1980. The British believed that the sight of the blue-helmeted Mr Plod the Policeman, unarmed, would induce as much confidence in the democratic process in the people of Gutu as it would in the good folks of Stow in the Wold. Of course, the 'bobbies' failed to prevent massive intimidation of an electorate still traumatised by a savage civil war. The locals had predicted this, but then the locals were usually right and the British so often wrong in matters Rhodesian.

The first hint of the Mountbatten mission was given to me in 1989 in almost oblique comment by Sir Humphrey Gibbs, the former Governor of Rhodesia. Gibbs, that wise, courageous man of principle, discussing the immediate post-UDI period simply said: 'There was some wild idea of sending Mountbatten out'. Surprised, I pushed him further but, ever courteous but correct, he referred me gently to the memoirs of Harold Wilson. Wilson, however, made no reference there to any mission involving Mountbatten, and only when the British Cabinet papers were opened in 1996 did it come to light.

What Wilson did write about was a furore, which erupted just as his penultimate talks with Ian Smith ended in stalemate on Monday, 11 October 1965. Smith went home threatening UDI and Wilson flew off to Balmoral two days later to consult the Queen. Wilson intended that this should be a secret visit but someone at Heathrow tipped off the press to his impending departure. Therefore, he left in a hubbub of speculation that he was seeking a dissolution of parliament. With a bare majority of three, it was concluded that he wanted to strengthen his hand before confronting Smith and other crises. The Tories, holding their annual conference at Brighton, were startled, fearing that Wilson was stealing a march.

Wilson, of course, was doing nothing of the sort. He went to Balmoral to discuss undercutting Smith's political support. He recalled in his memoirs that: 'Serious messages were coming in. Reliable sources warned that UDI might be accompanied by the use of force against the Governor - possibly involving his arrest. Doubts . . . were circulating that Sir Humphrey Gibbs whose health was giving him cause for concern, might in any case resign.' Wilson wanted to be ready for any action against Gibbs because, if Gibbs was arrested, his office would devolve, under the 1961 Constitution, to the Rhodesian Chief Justice, Sir Hugh Beadle, an abhorrent figure in British eyes, or, if he declined, to the next in line of the senior high court judges.

Wilson and his ministers quickly reviewed possible alternative governors, considering a list of distinguished Rhodesians, particularly former high-ranking officers in the Rhodesian armed services. Was Major-General Garlake among them? After then considering British candidates, Wilson's team settled on Lord Louis Mountbatten, a popular figure with the Labour Party, having served Attlee's Government in 1948 by overseeing India's independence. Wilson believed that Mountbatten's personality and his authority (as a distinguished war leader and as the recently retired Chief of General Staff) might induce sufficient a demonstration of loyalty from Rhodesians to stop Smith in his tracks.

There was, however, a problem. Mountbatten was a member of the Royal House and could not be approached directly. Thus, Wilson had not only to secure the approval of the Queen but had to tell her that Mountbatten could be in some danger. This was the single purpose of his visit to Balmoral but, recalling the speculative uproar, Wilson forgot to tell us of the Queen's reaction to the Mountbatten proposal. Presumably, she proved reluctant to involve the Royal Family in the Rhodesian dispute.

Despite the deepening Anglo-Rhodesian crisis, the flurry of further threatening exchanges, a visit by Wilson and his Commonwealth Secretary, Arthur Bottomley, to Salisbury and the last-minute advancement of the idea of a Royal Commission (the classic delaying tactic) a month later on Thursday, 11 November, Ian Smith declared UDI. Somehow, Wilson was still taken by surprise.

While he took immediate financial measures to contain the situation and, if possible, to punish the rebels, Wilson remained convinced that Mountbatten was the key to turning the tables on Smith. Wilson said as much to the Queen during his audience with her on Tuesday, 16 November, suggesting that Mountbatten should be sent out as her direct emissary as a gesture of support for Sir Humphrey Gibbs and to supply the catalyst for the loyalists. The Queen, however, was unconvinced and agreed only to an examination of the idea.

Wilson put his idea to Mountbatten at the Commons at 6.45 p.m. the next day, Wednesday, 17 November. Although he hesitated initially, Mountbatten soon became enthusiastic. The excuse for the visit, Wilson thought, could be to confer a decoration on Gibbs. Mountbatten agreed. He thought that there would be a propaganda advantage if the Rhodesians refused him permission to land, and a greater advantage if he succeeded in getting through to Gibbs.

He and Wilson settled on a two-day visit and agreed that Mountbatten should leave someone suitable behind to advise Gibbs and to give him moral support. Insisting on careful planning, Mountbatten then requested his party comprise:

  1. Squadron Leader Lythgoe (formerly of Mountbatten's staff)
  2. Wing Commander Le Hardy (by then a civilian with the British delegation to NATO),
  3. Lord Bradbourne, his son-in-law and confidante,
  4. a BBC team led by Geoffrey Talbot,
  5. a senior Commonweal Relations Office (CRO) man, for advice,
  6. one or more military intelligence officers,
  7. four tall NCOs from the Life Guards,
  8. Sir Martin Charteris or Lord Plunkett from the Royal Household,
  9. assorted orderlies to provide domestic services which might have been cut off from Gibbs,
  10. an information officer to control the public relations aspects, and
  11. 11. Sir Solly Zuckerman, the distinguished South African anatomist who was currently Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office.

For this planeload, he demanded that RAF Transport Command transfer a Comet to the Queen's Flight.

Wilson's Principal Private Secretary, Derek J. Mitchell, promptly sought confirmation from the Queen's Private Secretary, Sir Michael Adeane, of this extraordinary planeload.

Adeane, Mitchell noted, 'went broody' over the inclusion and then telephoned back at 11.15 p.m. to remind Mitchell that the Queen had only agreed to the idea being explored. If Wilson wanted to pursue the idea, Adeane said, the Queen wanted very definite advice in writing and preferably publishable. Moreover, she warned Wilson that, as she was personally involved, she might give a negative answer. Adeane stressed that there could be nothing slapdash about this mission because of the considerable risk to Mountbatten. The Queen insisted on most careful planning. She also forbade the inclusion of members of her personal Household.

For his part, Adeane said that he and Lord Cobbold, the Lord Chamberlain of the Household, had reviewed the proposal and had additional points of advice to put to the Queen. These were:

  1. Mountbatten would have to be sent and seen to be sent to Salisbury (hence the comment by the Queen about Wilson's advice being publishable) - make of that what you will.
  2. Mountbatten would not bear a written message from the Queen because, if he failed to deliver it, it would be seen as a personal rebuff to the Queen. There was no objection to a photograph or a decoration being taken out, however.

Lord Cobbold then took over the telephone, saying that he and Adeane were prepared to come round to advise Wilson. Mitchell replied that Wilson was in bed and that there were, in any case, better ways to communicate views. Cobbold wanted, however, to be able to put views directly to the Queen if there were any signs the plan would be implemented.

Mitchell next sought the advice of Sir Burke Trend, Cabinet Secretary, who agreed that Wilson should be woken and told of the views of the Palace so that he could decide whether to put them to his colleagues in the morning. Mitchell spoke to Wilson who agreed that it was necessary to put the proposal to the full Cabinet. Mitchell suggested telephoning Mountbatten to tell him that the proposal was in suspense and to warn him to keep the matter to himself. Wilson agreed and Mitchell telephoned Mountbatten who agreed to treat the matter as confidential.

In the event, the next morning (Thursday, 18 November), Wilson responded to the Palace pressure by not discussing the mission at the 9.30 a.m. meeting on Rhodesia or at the later Cabinet meeting.

What was announced was that the Queen was making Gibbs a knight commander of the Royal Victorian Order in appreciation of his refusal to step down from office. This order lay in her personal gift. Gibbs responded by thanking the Queen for 'the great honour she has bestowed upon me as Her Majesty's representative of the people of Rhodesia.'

In addition to the award, the three party leaders, Wilson, Edward Heath and Jo Grimmond, tabled an unprecedented motion in the Commons. It stated:

'This House notes with admiration the dignified and courageous stand taken by Sir Humphrey Gibbs, the Governor of Rhodesia, in the face of the illegal attempts to drive him from office;
'Deplores the efforts made by the illegal regime to shake the loyalty of Her Majesty's subjects in Rhodesia towards the Governor and the Constitution as by law established;
'And expresses its sympathy towards all those for whom Sir Humphrey and Lady Gibbs are setting so inspiring an example.'

The British press warmly commended the motion.

In Salisbury, however, Smith deepened the crisis that day by further isolating Gibbs, announcing that the Minister External Affairs and Defence, Clifford Dupont, had resigned from the Cabinet and the Parliament and had accepted an appointment by the Rhodesian Executive Council to be 'Acting Officer Administering the Government' in terms of the 1965 Constitution. Dupont assumed his duties immediately after taking the oath of office. Yet, there was no attempt to oust Gibbs from Government House. Dupont, the statement said, would reside at the Governor's Lodge, Highlands, 'until Government House, at present temporarily occupied by Sir Humphrey Gibbs in a private capacity, becomes available.'

Gibbs, meanwhile, was the target of threatening letters from Rhodesians. Smith deplored this publicly as 'not in keeping with accepted Rhodesian standards of behaviour.'

The British were further alarmed when the Rhodesia's nine Appeal and General Division judges contradicted a report that they were unequivocally 'standing solidly behind the Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs and the Chief Justice, Sir Hugh Beadle, in rejecting Mr Smith's new Constitution.' Instead, Beadle indicated that day that the judges would neither confirm nor deny reports that they had refused to sign the new oath of allegiance, adding that anyone publishing such a report did so 'entirely without authority.' After saying that the judges were not making any statements, Beadle reiterated his earlier statement that the judges would continue to carry out their duties 'according to the law.' The Cape Times concluded this meant that Smith had failed so far to persuade the judiciary to acknowledge his 1965 Constitution confirmed and that the 1961 Constitution continued in being.

Mountbatten had not given up, asking Mitchell to receive Squadron Leader Lythgoe at 3.45 p.m. The Palace, however, remained anxiously cautious. Sir Burke Trend transmitted a message to Mitchell from Adeane that, after sleeping on the idea, he was in full agreement with Cobbold on the need for the utmost caution and the fullest protection of the Queen's position. Adeane added, by way on consolation, that this idea had in no way affected Wilson's personal standing with the Queen.

At 3.45 p.m. Lythgoe and Derek Mitchell reviewed the proposals. Mitchell explained the loss of momentum but promised that, as soon as detailed plans were available, Mountbatten would get most of the people he wanted. Lythgoe added a team of military planners to the list. Mitchell agreed but argued that, in order to have real expertise on tap, they should prise John B. [since knighted] Johnston, the recent High Commissioner in Salisbury, out of the CRO. Closing, Mitchell asked Lythgoe to restrain Mountbatten from rushing to the aircraft before the necessary political authority had been obtained.

Later in the afternoon, Mountbatten himself telephoned to say that he had discussed the matter with Lord Bradbourne and Sir Solly Zuckerman, and was all the more convinced that something had to be done 'to open up the situation' in Rhodesia and that his expedition was the thing most likely to succeed. Mitchell, however, cautioned on the timing. Mountbatten agreed that the timing had to be considered very carefully. He was confident, however, that he could win the Queen around as he was spending the weekend with her at Luton Hoo (the great mansion and 1 500 acre estate of the Major-General Sir Harold Wernher in Berkshire, 30 miles from London - Wernher was married to a cousin of the Queen on the Russian side of the family). Mitchell replied that Wilson would not wish to restrain Mountbatten from doing this but equally was not in a position to encourage Mountbatten to do so.

Mountbatten asked if Mitchell had arranged for cars to meet him at Salisbury Airport. Was there not a chap in Salisbury who could arrange this? Mitchell replied that the chap was leaving Salisbury soon and that it would not be easy to arrange transport. Mountbatten replied: 'Nonsense, he has only to ring up a garage.' Mitchell replied by pointing out that life was not quite normal in Salisbury.

Mitchell then approached Sir Saville Garner, the Head of the Diplomatic Service, for Johnston, warning that 'the balloon or the Comet will go up' as a result of the weekend at Luton Hoo. The slightest sign of Royal approval, Mitchell believed, would encourage Mountbatten to intensify the pressure for the preparatory work to begin. As Mountbatten was determined to cover everything that might arise when he set foot on Rhodesian soil, Mitchell explained, Mountbatten wanted a service planning team involved but Mitchell thought Johnston had to be involved and asked Garner to order him to advise Mountbatten immediately.

Writing from his home at 2 Kinnerton Street, London SWI, and supplying an appreciation on his mission, Mountbatten informed Wilson on Friday, 19 November, that, on reflection, his mission had to go ahead. 'The deplorable situation in Rhodesia is getting worse and the effect of the Commonwealth and on our relations with the Afro-Asian bloc may be disastrous if no active steps are taken.'

He was confident that he could not fail if his party was assembled in secrecy and if the Rhodesian Chief of Air Staff was only asked for clearance two hours before take-off. The presence of the press corps at the take-off would convince the world that the British 'meant business' if the Rhodesians refused permission to land. If the Rhodesians let him land, Mountbatten argued, and did not interfere with the Governor, the expedition would be a public relations gesture of considerable value even if nothing more fruitful developed.

Mountbatten understood that the Queen required formal advice on his safety but he informed Wilson that he would reassure her at Luton Hoo. He referred Wilson to Lythgoe's talks with Derek Mitchell and added that Lythgoe would organise everything 'on the word go'.

Referring to his appreciation, Mountbatten suggested that Johnston and the Secretary of Defence Planners should combine to produce a further one.

Mountbatten's appreciation read:

'Appreciation for Lord Mountbatten's visit to the Governor of Rhodesia.

Aim: to invest Sir Humphrey Gibbs with the KCVO and to give him moral support.

Method of Execution: Mountbatten was to fly with appropriate civil and military staff (the later in undress) to arrive in Salisbury before breakfast one morning and to drive in cars provided by the British representative direct to Government House. Clearance for the landing was to be sought from the Rhodesian Chief of Air Staff two hours before take-off. Courses of Action in Various Eventualities:

  1. If met by Mr Dupont or Mr Smith to shake hands and say 'How do you do' but to refuse any discussion. If Mr Smith wishes discussion, to say he would be welcome to come to Government House for such discussions and that his remarks would be reported to the Queen to decide on further action.
  2. If a guard of honour were provided, to take the salute and to inspect it in the usual way and show friendliness for any senior Rhodesian officers at the airfield.
  3. If there were demonstrations outside Government House, to decide with the Governor and the CRO representative how they were to be dealt with.
  4. If invited to give a press conference, to agree to do so only at Government House in the presence of the Governor and to talk on lines of a brief to be provided by the British Government. The representatives of the press accompanying Mountbatten were to be present.

If Mountbatten was convinced of the strength of the loyalists, the public manifestation of that was simply 20 copies of an unsigned statement, refusing to recognise the Rhodesian Government, collected in a police raid on the student residences and staff houses of the University College of Rhodesia. In addition, 400 students signed a statement expressing loyalty to Gibbs.

Before the Luton Hoo weekend, there was a further development, which Wilson revealed to Mountbatten at a function attended by the Queen that evening in London. Out of her earshot, Wilson conceded that the danger being run by Mountbatten was no greater than that of any long-range flight. Nevertheless, clearly attempting to rein Mountbatten in, Wilson made it clear that the mission could only be contemplated on the basis that the British Government took full collective responsibility for it - Wilson as yet had said nothing to his Cabinet - and that it was very carefully planned.

The timing for the expedition, he added, had changed as one of Gibbs's elder brothers, Sir Geoffrey [the London banker] was flying to Salisbury that night to comfort his beleaguered brother and to bring back Sir Humphrey's assessment of what action would be most helpful to him in maintaining his position 'and bringing about the overthrow of the Smith regime'.

Wilson now felt that the best time for a visit from Lord Mountbatten would be to coincide with a split in Rhodesian opinion, which would give Gibbs the opportunity to call on someone with moderate views to form an interim government. Wilson thought that the recent Rhodesian High Commissioner in London, Evan Campbell, was one such person. In such a situation, Wilson argued, a visit from Mountbatten would have a catalytic effect.

Recording all this, Mitchell suggested that the earliest date for Mountbatten to go would be Friday, 26 November. Wilson promised Mountbatten that to discuss his mission in principle on Monday morning, 22 November, with those of his ministers who were directly concerned. Thereafter, subject to their agreement, the next week would be devoted to a detailed appreciation of all the possible contingencies. This appreciation would be part of the advice to the Queen. Wilson stressed that one advantage of this process was that it would be possible to defer the executive decision on the take-off to the last possible moment, allowing the possibility of postponing or cancelling the mission if the omens for success were not good.

On Saturday, 20 November - while Mountbatten was at Luton Hoo - in Salisbury, Ken Flower, despite being Smith's Director of the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation, was reassuring Gibbs of the support of the General Commanding the Rhodesian Army, Major-General Sam Putterill, and of the commander of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Harold Hawkins. Hawkins suggested that Gibbs call new elections, but Putterill and Flower thought there had to be a serious deterioration of the situation in the country first.

Also in Salisbury, Ian Smith asked Gibbs to transmit to London new Rhodesian terms for Wilson's proposed Royal Commission, involving the Constitutional Council; African MPs; Chiefs and African Nationalists. Ken Flower, at least, wondered at this attempt to re-open negotiations after only eight days of unilateral independence. It seemed to him that UDI was turning out to be a 'nine-day wonder' as Smith wanted already to revert to constitutional government. It seemed that Smith had not believed that Wilson would implement sanctions. Furthermore, it was clear, that Smith preferred Gibbs to remain in Government House to provide the link to the British Government.

In London, planning was continuing despite Wilson's caution. Wilson and Derek Mitchell reviewed the three contingencies the Queen specifically wished to be considered. These were:

  1. What posture Mountbatten would adopt if met by Mr Smith. Wilson's advice was to bow stiffly and condescendingly and to treat Smith as a private person.
  2. What if there were demonstrations outside Government House? Wilson's reply was to rely on the tall guardsmen.
  3. What if there was no clearance for landing? Mitchell agreed with Wilson that this would show up Smith's loyalty to the Queen as completely bogus rather than constitute a snub for the Queen herself.

By Monday, 22 November, J.B. Johnston handed to Mitchell his appreciation:

Proposed Special Visit to Rhodesia
Objectives and Obstacles

  1. Public: To invest the Governor with the KCVO and demonstrate:
    1. the highest support for his stand;
    2. his continuing recognition as the sole remaining lawful authority.
  2. Additional (subject to report by Sir Geoffrey Gibbs on return from Salisbury)
    1. to sustain the Governor's morale and to discuss future moves;
    2. to improve communications with him. This probably means taking a friend to remain if possible as an ADC. The Rhodesian immigration authorities might refuse to let any of Mountbatten's mission stay on and Gibbs might not want any additional British on his staff as 'Much of the strength of his position is that he is a Rhodesian despite Smith's attempt to depict him as only a tool of the British Government.'
    3. to disabuse Beadle of his current unrealistic political ideas and get him and others to concentrate on the overthrow of the regime and not on 'deals we might do with it.'
    4. to assess the current atmosphere and situation.
    5. to take any opportunity to propagate British policy and especially to clarify the options before Rhodesia. Reactions of Regime
  3. Entry: It was essential that the party go by special flight so entry permission could be tested by obtaining flight clearance. If the party went by BOAC, the options would be either to obtain assurance on entry permission beforehand or risk refusal after arrival at Salisbury.
  4. Method. The CRO representative in Salisbury should be told to seek clearance at official level for the arrival of a special flight at a specific time bearing Mountbatten and staff. The CRO representative should say that the aim was to invest the Governor with the KCVO on the Queen's behalf. This could provoke an internal debate in the Cabinet and Britain might not get a quick reply. If refusal persisted the aircraft could be refused permission to land. If it landed, its occupants could be refused permission to leave the airport and be asked to depart.
  5. If permission were refused, the situation would be ripe for thorough exploitation to discredit the regime.
  6. If the Rhodesians did not prevent the mission, they would view it with intense suspicion and would try to limit its effectiveness; and to seek maximum advantage for themselves. The British should be prepared for:
    1. a full customs search of baggage;
    2. a demand from immigration authorities of full details of all the party and a refusal to let any of them stay on;
    3. permanent surveillance of all activities, probably the use of eavesdropping devices;
    4. instructions to officials and services to avoid contact or conversation with the party except with the express approval;
    5. attempts to create an impression the British were treating the regime as de facto authorities e.g. by making contact with illegal ministers as the only way of removing obstacles or of protesting at restrictions they might impose;
    6. attempt to involve Mountbatten in discussions on constitutional proposals for terminating the rebellion for later exploitation as reasonable propositions, which the British had rejected.
  7. Size. The mission should be of a size for the overt job. An inexplicably large party might involve criticism at home (e.g. using the investiture of the KCVO as a cover for activities with which the Queen should not be involved personally) and misrepresentation in Rhodesia (e.g. the suggestion that the visit was an attempt to bully or to frighten the Government, or to intimidate the Governor into continuing resistance against his better judgement). Johnston suggested that the party should comprise Mountbatten and his personal staff (secretary, valet and two ADCs), a Special Branch bodyguard, a 'friend' who was expert in covert communications and someone of a legal background to talk to Beadle.
  8. Duration: 2-3 days.
  9. Accommodation: Johnston doubted if Government House could accommodate the party. Gibbs would confirm if this was so. If not the party should stay at Meikle's Hotel and use hired transport.
  10. Contacts: These were very difficult. Johnston wanted to know if Mountbatten had any personal friends in Rhodesia. A meeting with the Chiefs of Staff might be desirable but they might be under orders to refuse 'solvitur ambulando'.
  11. Press and Television. The principal target was Rhodesia and the Rhodesians and it would detract from the effectiveness of the mission if the press or television were included in the party. The British television and press were fully represented in Salisbury. The main points to get across with the press and television were:
    1. the British determination to end the regime;
    2. the responsible and moderate approach thereafter to political problems of Rhodesia with the interests of all races and the necessity for time being paramount.
    3. the appalling international threat to Rhodesia that i.d.i. [UDI] has created.
  12. Contacts with the regime. These might be unavoidable but should be courteously frigid with specific disclaimers of recognition.

Johnston's effort, however, was somewhat wasted because Mitchell informed him that planning had been postponed for another 24 hours because Wilson had still not yet discussed the principle of the mission with his colleagues. It was, however, proving difficult to keep the mission secret within the Cabinet as Lythgoe was due in Cyprus and his departure needed to be postponed to 27 November. The quandary of the officials was how to effect this without alerting Lord Shackleton, the Minister of Defence for the Royal Air Force.

Although Wilson hesitated on the Mountbatten mission, he supported the involvement of the United Nations in the implementation of sanctions, banning imports of tobacco and sugar, and proceeded to bring in exchange control regulations and other measures in the coming days. He defended all this against Tory attacks as necessary to prevent the break-up on the Commonwealth. Still, he said, he was prepared to deal with Rhodesians 'without any recrimination or anger about the past' and assured the Rhodesian white minority that Rhodesia would not come under African majority rule 'tomorrow or the day after.' Wilson secured the support of Canada and New Zealand who on Tuesday, 23 November, applied sanctions against Rhodesian sugar and tobacco exports. He shied clear, for the moment, of the oil sanctions being called for by the UN Security Council. He also made it clear that he still stood by his earlier commitment not to use force to settle the Rhodesian dispute.

By Wednesday, 24 November, Sir Geoffrey Gibbs was back from Rhodesia and reported to Wilson and Arthur Bottomley at No 10 Downing Street at 2.30 p.m. that his brother was in excellent health but somewhat concerned about his personal popularity.

Yet, life at Government House was perfectly tolerable. Dinners were being held and Sir Humphrey went out to the Salisbury Club on occasions.

The message from the loyalists and Evan Campbell, in particular, was that that sanctions should hit hard and swiftly because the 'Smith gang' were riding the crest of the wave, the Rhodesian loyalists demanded that sanctions should hit hard and swiftly. What worried them was that the British measures would only be felt by Rhodesians in March 1966.

Wilson and Sir Geoffrey reviewed the British actions and the Rhodesian situation. Sir Geoffrey was confident that the banking regulations would soon render the Rhodesians unable to pay for oil. He reported on the Rhodesian forces, finding only the upper ranks loyal. He doubted the possibility of a military coup particularly as the police were the largest force. He and Wilson discussed further measures like a leaflet raid - which Wilson did not favour. Wilson wanted Rhodesian television jammed. The question of the return to legitimacy was exercising Beadle because he wanted to know if the Queen would grant amnesty to the rebels. Wilson thought this was possible except in the case of Dupont who was impersonating the Queen.

As for the delayed descent of Mountbatten, Sir Geoffrey said that the Governor's - somewhat crushing - reaction was that Mountbatten was not the most known member of the Royal House and thus he hoped for a visit from someone 'higher up'. Wilson retorted: 'Not likely', but nothing more was heard of the Mountbatten mission. We will never know what was the real purpose of the four tall Guardsmen.

Two days later, on 26 November, the Rhodesian Government cut off the Government House telephone, removed the ceremonial guard, the official cars and even the typewriters. Defiantly, Gibbs issued a statement declaring that he had 'no intention of resigning as Governor.' and that he intended 'to remain at Government House as the lawful Governor of Rhodesia until such time as constitutional government is restored, which I hope will be soon.' He remained there until Rhodesia was declared a republic in 1970.

©1999 Dr JRT Wood. For more information please contact

Reference in bibliographies as Four Tall NCOs of the Life Guards: Lord Mountbatten, Harold Wilson, and the Immediate Aftermath of UDI: The Proposed Mountbatten Mission", Dr J.R.T. Wood,, 1999
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