The next four blogs will concentrate on the Scottish novelist John Buchan.  Both of us knew of him in different ways. Like Jim, Buchan was an alumnus of Glasgow University. Gerry has recently directed an adaptation of his most famous works, The Thirty-Nine Steps and had read all of the Richard Hannay novels as a youngster. Neither of us knew of his links to the Secret Elite. Any background information accompanying his novels omits his propaganda work and even in the twenty-first century, a veil has been drawn over his role as a writer of falsified history. That he became a member and agent of the Secret Elite offers the perfect example of how young men of talent were groomed and richly rewarded by the secret cabal.

John Buchan in his uniform as Governor-General of Canada

Have you ever wondered how John Buchan, one of Scotland’s most successful novelists, though no literary giant like Sir Walter Scott, ended his life as Governor General of Canada? How a man with no diplomatic background was elevated to one of the top administrative positions in the post-war British Empire? Does it surprise you to learn that this writer of ‘shockers’ was appointed to the War Office Staff at the General Headquarters in France and by 1918 was Deputy Head of the Ministry of Information? [1] Perhaps, like me, you thought he merely wrote fictional stories about spies.

It was John Buchan’s good fortune to gain a scholarship to Oxford and enter Brasenose College in 1895, at the same time as a veritable powerhouse of talent and privilege. A son of the manse, he first won a scholarship to Glasgow University before going on to Oxford. There he befriended such rising stars as FE Smith, John Simon, Leo Amery and Lord Halifax, [2] all of whom played key roles in or for the Secret Elite. Herbert Asquith’s son, Raymond was his close friend, and he came to know the Prime Minister personally.

Buchan played the society game in London in the first year of the twentieth century, joining younger men’s clubs whose membership was confined to Oxbridge graduates. He actively pursued social advancement, seeking invitations to grand dinner parties ‘where there was far too much to eat, but where men sat long at table and there was plenty of good talk.’ [3] He met elder statesmen and politicians, wrote articles for the Spectator and enjoyed week-ends as a guest at ‘great English dwellings’.  This was precisely the route taken by every aspiring member of the elite who was not sufficiently fortunate to be born into a titled household. At which point, according to his autobiography, Buchan was suddenly jolted out of his comfortable rut, like one of the characters in his later novels. [4] In fact his step forward on the rung of privileged access came about through the recommendation of his Oxford friend, Leo Amery.

In 1901, John Buchan was asked by Lord Alfred Milner, then High Commissioner for South Africa to join him there, not as a salaried official, ‘but individually working for me [Milner] and directly under me’. The Lord High Commissioner had been given funds, most likely by his ardent admirer, Cecil Rhodes [5] to bring together an exceptionally talented group of young men to help him reconstruct South Africa after the Boer War. Milner made an independent arrangement with each one, ‘the terms of which I should prefer not to have divulged.’ [6] He offered John Buchan the princely sum of £1,200 per annum. [7] (approximately £116,500 at current prices.) [8]

Lord Alfred Milner, the most important figure inside the Secret Elite from the death of Cecil Rhodes until 1925.

Alfred Milner’s hand-picked men, Lionel Curtis, Lionel Kitchens, Robert Brand, Philip Kerr, Patrick Duncan and Geoffrey Dawson were John Buchan’s companions. Loyalty to Milner and his ‘Credo’ became a central theme for the remainder of all of their lives. Lionel Curtis held senior posts in South Africa, India, China and Ireland; Lionel Hitchens went on to become head of a great shipbuilding company; Robert Brand to a career in Merchant Banking; Philip Kerr headed up Lloyd George’s Secretariat in 1916 and went on, as Lord Lothian, to be British Ambassador at Washington, and instrumental in the formation of the Round Table. [9] Patrick Duncan was Governor General of South Africa; Geoffrey Dawson for many years was the editor of The Times.

All of his chosen men proved their loyalty to Lord Milner and there was much for which the High Commissioner had reason to be grateful to his acolytes. Bound to his coat-tails, all were included in the ranks of the Secret Elite. It was only fitting that John Buchan too reaped a rich reward for his years of commitment to Milner, the Empire and the Secret Elite’s global ambition. [10]

He shared the deep-rooted philosophy of Milner’s brand of imperialism.

‘I dreamed of a world-wide brotherhood with the background of a common race and creed, consecrated to the service of peace; Britain enriching the rest out of her culture and traditions … Our creed was not based on antagonism to any other people. It was humanitarian and international … we believed that we were laying the basis of a federation of the world. As for the native races under our rule, we had a high conscientiousness; Milner and Rhodes had a far sighted native policy.’ [11]

That common race was to be British-dominated; the creed was the so-called ‘English ruling-class’ values expounded by John Ruskin at Oxford. [12] The sheer hypocrisy of this philosophy is best exemplified by the notion that it was ‘consecrated to the service of peace … that it ‘was not based in antagonism’ while in reality it sought to crush its main economic rival, Germany, through a devastating war.

John Buchan joined the ranks of what would later be called Miler’s Kindergarten and immediately proved his worth to the Secret Elite. The governor-general was in serious political trouble in 1901. Herbert Kitchener’s policy of burning farm after farm in the Veld and transporting all women, children and black servants and workers to make-shift concentration camps resulted in deprivation, starvation, rampant disease, dehydration and appalling mortality rates. When the extent of these atrocities were brought to the attention of the Liberal leader in the House of Commons, Campbell-Bannerman attacked the government over their ‘methods of barbarism.’ [13] It was certainly barbaric.

In the aftermath of the scandalous revelations and international rebuke on the plight of civilian concentration camps run by the army in South Africa, Milner was instructed by the Secretary for the Colonies in London to take charge of the camps and reduce the devastatingly criminal mortality rates. Although even Milner described Kitchener’s system [14] of herding Boer women and children into inadequately sheltered ‘camps’ without sufficient food as ‘a grave error’, [15] he refused to criticise him personally.

Boer War concentration camps were an affront to civilisation, even in desperate times.

A total of 45 concentration camps had been ‘built’ for Boer internees and 64 for native Africans. By October 1901, the numbers interned reached 118,000 ‘white persons’ and 43,000 ‘coloured persons’. [16] At least 20,000 Boer civilians, mostly women and children, died there and 12,000 Africans suffered the same fate. [17] Buchan’s account of his time in South Africa omitted any reference to Emily Hobhouse whose investigation into concentration camps in early 1901 caused outrage in liberal Britain. According to the official line, ‘the truth was that while the concentration system caused far less misery than, and loss than would have been suffered had the families remained on the veld, the way in which it was carried out was open to much criticism. [18] Whitewashed nonsense.

Criticism? It was a crime which outraged opinion in Britain and abroad. Milner called them ‘refugee camps’. What he and the British government lamented was the bad publicity which in their eyes allowed the Boers to make political capital from the condition of the camps. Their rebuttal was that ‘in parts these complaints were insincere, for it is abundantly clear that they [the Boers] were heartily glad to be relieved of the responsibility for the maintenance of their families’. [19] The Secret Elite apologists closed ranks around the debacle. Flora Shaw, (later Lady Lugard) a correspondent for The Times investigated the ‘so-called “concentration camps” which she claimed were ‘an inducement to the Boers to surrender’ and a ‘refuge for women’. [20] She inquired into the ‘sorrowfully high child mortality rate and learned that it was ‘due almost entirely to heat.’ [21] What? It was an act of God rather than lack of drinking water, adequate food, shelter, sanitation and basic hygiene, not to mention a crippling epidemic of measles? These abuses of historic fact are typical of how Secret Elite historians and journalists rewrote history to their own benefit.

Few assistant private secretaries have ever started their careers as civilian administrator of a host of disease-ridden concentration camps where, in 1901, the death-rate hit a scandalously high 344 per thousand of the population. [22] Buchan took charge at the height of this unqualified disaster, a blight on any civilised nation, but it takes more than a creative mind to claim, as he did, that ‘in our period of administration we turned them [the camps] into health resorts’. [23] Health resorts! Incredibly he was referring to concentration camps.

Dame Millicent Fawcett whose committee was sent to 'investigate' the concentration camps, was considerably kinder to the British government.

To his credit Buchan seconded medical personnel from the Indian Army and introduced reforms recommended by the ‘committee of English Ladies under Dame Millicent Fawcett’. [24] According to The Times History of the War in South Africa, the establishment’s officially approved version of the Boer War, written by Lord Milner’s young men, the death rate fell thereafter to 69 per thousand in February 1902 and by May, to 20 per thousand. [25]

Reflecting later, Buchan wrote that ‘the camps gave us a chance of laying the foundation of a new system of elementary education.’ [26] Fact and fiction was regularly intermixed in all of John Buchan’s writings, but this claim is surely as insensitive as it was ridiculous.

Buchan and his ‘kindergarten’ colleagues worked assiduously to repatriate Boers after the war in South Africa had ended, resettle the estranged population and create a scheme of land settlement for newcomers. Here again, John Buchan was Milner’s ‘fixer’. Using tactics which bordered on impropriety, he operated a clandestine scheme whereby his agents posed as private land dealers to buy up land from unsuspecting, and often desperate Boers. Buchan’s men were allowed access to the concentration camp victims to make offers to landowners in dire circumstances and buy up their property at very low prices. The ultimate aim was to provide cheap land for the government’s resettlement programme so that more British emigrants might be attracted to South Africa. [27] So much for ‘cultural enrichment’.

On returning to London in 1903, John Buchan claimed to be disturbed to find that both political parties were blind to the true meaning of Empire. [28] Inspired as he was by Milner’s disdain for politics and convinced that the British Empire had to assert itself or lose its international position, he had ‘an ugly fear that the Empire might decay at the heart.’ [29] Buchan became very close to the Liberal Imperialist politician, Richard Haldane, a fellow Scot, whose loyalty to  Milner was unbending. Clearly Alfred Milner had spoken admiringly of Haldane whom, according to John Buchan, ‘Milner thought the ablest man in public life, abler even than Arthur Balfour’, [30] who was then the prime minister.

Around 4,200 Chinese mine workers imported for the Simmer and Jack Mine on the Witwatersrand 1904-1910.

Haldane had proved his loyalty to Milner by publicly defending the High Commissioner’s policy of importing Chinese labour to serve in slave-like conditions down the gold mines of the Rand. [31] He was equally prepared to accentuate the positive in Milner’s reconstruction in South Africa by writing numerous reviews anonymously in the Spectator and the Times Literary Supplement. [32] Loyalty to Milner, to the Empire, to a philosophy which understood the essential need for the British way of life to triumph over any alternative power, was utterly essential for those brought into and nurtured inside the Secret Elite.

Buchan was deeply upset by the treatment, as he saw it, of Ulster Unionists and had sufficient clout to bring F.E. Smith, Lord Robert Cecil and Alfred Lyttelton to speak for his campaign to be elected as the Conservative candidate for the Peebles and Selkirk  constituency before war was declared and elections postponed. He was also very close to Lord Rosebery, the former Liberal Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. From his Oxford Days onwards Buchan met him on regular occasions and they would ‘foregather every autumn at his moorland house at Rosebery’. [33] Rosebery, like many others in the Secret Elite, distrusted anything in the nature of a ‘plebiscitary democracy’. According to Buchan, this pre-eminent former statesman confided in him that Britain was on a razor edge internationally, and had lost all its dignity and discipline in domestic affairs.

Such self-indulgent elder-statesman reflection is typical of all epochs and ages desperate to hold and protect what advantages they have. Cato could have sat in their midst moaning about Carthage just as these elites denigrated the Kaiser and Germany. Inside the rarified ranks of the upper echelons of the Secret Elite, John Buchan found a place, though his natural talent for writing fiction was yet to elevate his usefulness to a higher level. Buchan had neither the finance nor breeding nor political position to be placed in the inner circle of the Secret Elite, but he was most certainly intimately associated with them, trusted by them, allocated specific tasks by them and rewarded handsomely for his loyalty and dedication. [34] He was ‘of them’, if not quite in the inner sanctum. [35]

[1] Kate MacDonald, John Buchan and the Idea of Modernity, p. 100.
[2] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p.57.
[3] John Buchan, Memory Hold the Door, p. 93.
[4] Ibid., p. 94.
[5] The multi-millionaire Cecil Rhodes was, in company with Alfred Milner, one of the founding fathers of the secret cabal identified by Professor Carroll Quigley. (The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 31 – 50.) He admired Milner above all of his colleagues and friends though it should be acknowledged that Milner’s funding could equally have been underwritten by the De Beers millionaire Sir Alfred Beit or Lord Rothschild. Alfred Milner’s plan was backed by some of the richest men in the world.
[6] Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan and his world, p. 34.
[7] Milner to Buchan, 18 August 1901.
[8] https:
[9] The Round Table group was part of the plan to influence and control British foreign policy through local same-minded people at home and across the Empire whose opinion they moulded to agitate for imperial and pro-British interests. They helped in the vital task of preparing the Empire for war against Germany. [ Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 117-139.]
[10] Buchan, Memory Hold The Door, p. 104.
[11] Ibid p. 125.
[12] Ruskin was the nineteenth century Oxford professor whose philosophy was built on his belief in the superiority and the authority of the English ruling classes acting in the best interests of their inferiors.
[13] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 504.
[14] The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. V., pp. 86-7.
[15] J. Lee Thompson, Forgotten Patriot, p. 184.
[16] The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. V., p. 252.
[17] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 517.
[18] The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. V. p. 253.
[19] Ibid., p. 252.
[20] E. Moberly Bell, Flora Shaw, p. 237.
[21] Ibid., p. 239.
[22] Smith, John Buchan and his world, p. 37.
[23] Buchan, Memory Hold The Door, p. 108.
[24] There were two ‘investigations’ into the conditions in the concentration camps. The first, unofficial, was carried out by Emily Hobhouse. Her subsequent book, ‘The Brunt of War and Where It Fell’ outraged the Liberals in Parliament and created an embarrassing scandal which damaged the Conservative government. The second report by Dame Millicent Fawcett was much more sympathetic to Lord Milner and the attempts through Buchan to improve conditions.
[25] The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. VI. p. 25.
[26] Ibid., p. 108.
[27] Michael Redley, John Buchan And The South African War, in Kate MacDonald, Reassessing John Buchan, pp. 68-9.
[28] Buchan, Memory Hold The Door, p. 127.
[29] Ibid., p. 128.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid., p. 131.
[32] Kate MacDonald, Reassessing John Buchan, chapter by Michael Redley, John Buchan and the South African War, p. 73.
[33] Buchan, Memory Hold The Door, p. 156.
[34] Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 313.
[35] Ibid., p. 56.