How Keynes pleaded to be excused from strict D-Day travel bans

How Keynes pleaded to be excused from strict D-Day travel bans

One of the many precautions taken by the War Office at the time of D-Day, Operation Overlord, was to impose a blanket ban on non-essential travel. At first it was slated to last seven days; later they contemplated extending it by another week or more.

While this was perfectly sensible – this was a time of heightened vulnerability of counter-attacks on non-military personnel – it also posed a problem for another of the Allied postwar missions: the plan to rebuild the world economy. For only a couple of weeks after D-Day, the Americans were holding the series of conferences which would eventually become known as Bretton Woods.

In other words, there was a significant chance that if those bans remained in place, the British and their European allies, with whom they intended to sail to the United States, simply wouldn’t have made it there in time for the pre-conference meetings in Atlantic City – or maybe even the summit itself at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire.

As a result, a flurry of letters was exchanged within Whitehall to attempt to circumvent the D-Day travel ban. I mentioned this in passing in a Telegraph piece I wrote yesterday. But for those who like such things, here are a few excerpts from those letters – both from Wilfred Eady of the Treasury.

What’s intriguing is how at the end of the second letter (final pic below), the Chancellor adds that Keynes himself “very much hopes that you will press this as we need the help of the experts” (eg those overseas economists).

Click on any of the pics for a bigger version


This first letter from Sir Wilfred Eady raises the problem, which would largely affect the non-British members of the delegation, who were due to be travelling on the Queen Mary with the Bretton Woods delegates


A subsequent letter confirms that the ban will have to be lifted for the Bretton Woods party

The Chancellor adds a handwritten note saying that Keynes was personally very keen that the mission should be allowed to proceed

More on this (much more) in my book, The Summit