10 Downing Street before the war. The car probably belonged to A J BalfourLloyd George immediately accepted the King’s invitation to form a government on 7 December 1916. His own version of events dripped insincerity, giving the impression that the onerous task of leading the government was thrust upon him suddenly, as if by magic. ‘As soon as the King entrusted me with the task of forming an Administration in succession to the Ministry that had disappeared, I had to survey the tasks awaiting me …’ [1] What arrant nonsense. ‘The ministry that had disappeared.’ This was not a Harry Potter. Perhaps he was thinking more in terms of a mafia ‘disappearance’. He would have been at home with the Mafiosa.

One of Lloyd George’s first moves was to summon Maurice Hankey to the War Office to ‘have a long talk about the personnel of the new Govt., the procedure of the select War Ctee., and the future of the war.’ [2] He asked Hankey to write a memo giving his view on the state of the war and as early as 9 December, Hankey spent the whole day with the new War Cabinet. [3] How more central could he have been to all of the discussions which finally approved Lloyd George’s decisions? [4] Unlike many of his contemporaries, Maurice Hankey was not surprised to find that Milner had been appointed directly to the inner-sanctum of Britain’s war planning. Unelected, unknown to many ordinary men and women, Lord Milner appeared as if out of the ether to take his place among the political elite charged with managing the war to ultimate victory. [5] Lloyd George claimed, laughably, that ‘I neither sought nor desired the Premiership’ and explained Milner’s inclusion as representing the ‘Tory intelligentsia and Die-Hards.’ [6] What lies. Lloyd George had always exuded unbridled ambition and had been plotting the coup against Asquith with Milner’s cabal for months. [7] His premiership was conditional on their support. Lord Milner was to have a place by his side.

The myth of Lloyd George’s ‘lightening rapidity’ in assembling around him ‘all that is best in British Life’ was coined by Lord Northcliffe in an article printed by the international press on 10 December. [8] Northcliffe had been highly influential in supporting Lloyd George, largely, but not exclusively through his editor at the Times, Geoffrey Dawson.

Northcliffe - his editors were instructed to hound Asquith out of office.

Although he thought nothing of telephoning the new prime minister in person, [9] the owner of the Times could not stop other influences obligating Lloyd George to retain what Northcliffe called ‘has-beens’ in cabinet posts. [10] His Daily Mail and Evening News called for the removal of Arthur Balfour and his cousin, Lord Robert Cecil to no avail. Did Northcliffe not know that both men were deeply entrenched inside the Secret Elite?

Let there be no doubt, the coup was devised and executed by members and agents of the Secret Elite. Once Asquith had been replaced, they permeated the new administration with Milner’s acolytes and associates from top to bottom, and on all sides as well. [11] Let Lloyd George be the figurehead, but the Monday Night Cabal and their Secret Elite supporters were absolutely determined to place themselves and their trusted allies in all of the major offices of state. Furthermore, Lloyd George was subtly but securely scrutinised at every turn. He would not be given free rein. Thus their chosen men were placed in key positions, with a smattering of useful Conservative and Labour MPs given office in order to guarantee that the government could survive any parliamentary vote. On his return to London on 10 December, Hankey ‘had to see Lord Milner by appointment’. He noted in his diary ‘I have always hated his [Lord Milner’s] politics but found the man very attractive and possessed of personality and [we] got own like a house on fire’. [12] Of course they did. Hankey would not have survived otherwise. He was well aware of Milner’s power and influence.

Optimised by Greg Smith

Another myth still widely accepted is that Lloyd George’s very special cabinet, which literally took control of every strand in the prosecution of the war, was assembled at break-neck speed by the Welsh genius. It had taken months of deliberation and consultation before appointments and tactics were finally agreed inside the closed ranks of the Monday Night Cabal. The final selection which bore Lloyd George’s alleged stamp reflected the Secret Elite’s approval of men in whom they had faith. The War Committee initially comprised prime minister Lloyd George, who had been in the Secret Elite’s pocket since 1910, [13] Viscount Alfred Milner, the most important influence inside that secret movement [14] George Curzon of All Souls and twice Viceroy of India, [15] Andrew Bonar Law, still the formal leader of the Tories and the Labour MP Arthur Henderson, an outspoken champion of the war effort. [16] This central core took charge. They held daily meetings to better manage the war. Sometimes two and three meetings took place in a single day. These five men alone were supposedly the supreme governors of the State. [17] But they were not in any sense, equals.

From the left, Lord Crewe, Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey. Crewe and Grey were dismissed ini 1916. Churchill was still sidelined by Lloyd George.

The old order of senior Liberal politicians was mercilessly purged. Out went Asquith despite his years of loyal service. Sir Edward Grey had forfeited his right to office when he began to consider possibilities of peace with the Americans. He was put out to pasture. Reginald McKenna, long a thorn in Lloyd George’s side was dismissed. Lord Crewe remained loyal to Asquith and was not considered. To his great disappointment, Winston Churchill was not deemed suitable.  He had many enemies in the Tory  party. One Liberal Party stalwart, Samuel Montagu, who took over at the Ministry of Munitions when Lloyd George moved to the War Office in July 1916, had to go in order to find room for other appointees, but his patience was to be rewarded some short months later when he was made Viceroy of India. [18] This is precisely how the Secret Elite adjusts its favours and looks after its own. It still does.

The Secret Elite stamped their authority over every important level of government. With Sir Edward Carson at the Admiralty and Arthur Balfour at the Foreign Office, Lord Derby became Secretary of State for War and Lord Robert Cecil continued in his position as Minister of Blockade. Home Secretary, Sir George Cave took office barely months after he and FE Smith had successfully prosecuted Sir Roger Casement and refused his right to appeal to the House of Lords. [19] Secret Elite agents, every one.

Milner ensured that his close friends were given positions of influence and authority. Take for example the meteoric rise of Rowland Prothero. He claimed to know only two men ‘prominent in public life’. [20] It transpired that these were Lords Milner and Curzon. In 1914 Prothero was first elected to parliament as one of Oxford University’s MPs. In late 1915 he served on a Committee on Home Production of Food with Alfred Milner. In 1916, Milner’s friend was given the cabinet post of President of the Board of Agriculture. [21] It took him a mere two and a half years to move from new recruit to cabinet minister. In addition, Arthur Lee, who had accommodated many of the secret meetings which foreshadowed the coup, was appointed Director-General of food production. Other known members and supporters of the Secret Elite who shamelessly benefitted from the coup included H.A.L. Fisher, President of the Board of Education, [22] Walter Long as Colonial Secretary and Sir Henry Birchenough at the Board of Trade. [23] They were everywhere … and not just politicians.

Board of Trade offices from Parliament Square around 1900.

Lloyd George had risen to high office through the unseen patronage of the Secret Elite. His performance at the Board of Trade [24] guaranteed him the benevolent approbation of leading figures in shipping and ship-building. As Chancellor he laid claim to saving the City [25], took advice from Lord Rothschild, financiers and insurance brokers, linked the British economy to America through Morgan-Grenfell and met and socialised with the great mine-owners and manufacturers of the time. In December 1916 he revolutionised government control of production by bringing businessmen into political office. Unfortunately the appointment of interested parties to posts from which their companies could reap great profit was not a success.

Sir Joseph Maclay was appointed in charge of shipping. As a Scottish ship-owner and manager, Maclay had been critical of the government’s concessions to trade unions and he opposed the nationalization of shipping. The Admiralty treated Maclay with deep hostility, and opposed his idea of convoys after the onset of Germany’s unrestricted submarine offensive in February 1917. Maclay was proved right [26] though shipowners still reaped unconscionable fortunes.

Hudson Kearley 1st Lord Devonport

The new prime minister made Lord Devonport food controller. Chairman of the Port of London Authority (1909-25), he broke the dockers’ strike in 1912, causing great distress and hardship in East London. Imagining that his hard-man image equated to strength of character, Lloyd George appointed Minister of Food Control. [27] Not so. Devonport protected his own grocery interests and resisted the introduction of rationing until May 1917. 

Lord Rhondda, the Welsh coal magnate and industrialist was entrusted with the Local Government Board and his popularity grew when he was asked to take over the role of the incompetent Devonport as minister of food control. He grasped the nettle, by fixing food prices and ensuring government purchases of basic supplies. [28] Compared to the others, he was a shining light.

Westman Pearson, later Viscount Cowdrey, was placed in charge of the Air Board. Pearson had acquired oil concessions in Mexico through his questionable relationship with the Mexican dictator, Diaz. [29] His ownership of the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company (which became part of Royal Dutch Shell in 1919) guaranteed Pearson vast profits throughout the war.

Sir Alfred Mond, elevated by Lloyd George in 1916 to Commissioner of Works was the managing director of the Mond Nickel Company and a director of the International Nickel Company of Canada. Nickel hardens armour and special steels. Basically it is a strategic material which came to the fore in the so-called naval race prior to 1914. [30]

Alfred Mond (left) with Lloyd George.

The Mond companies made great profits during the prolonged war. In 1915 Britain sent twelve times the amount of nickel to Sweden that it had in 1913. [31] There, it was either manufactured into war materials and sold to Germany, or re-exported in its raw state. Incredibly, the Chairman of one of the Empire’s most important metal processing and exporting businesses, which was directly and indirectly supplying Germany, was created Commissioner of Works. Questionable deals were subsequently negotiated between the British government and the British-American Nickel Corporation which were strongly criticised in parliament [32] but Alfred Mond ended his career as Lord Melchett of Landforth. You couldn’t make this up.

In addition, Milner and his Secret Elite associates literally took over Lloyd George’s private office. As early as 10 December Hankey realised that he was not to be the only member of the new prime minister’s secretariat. At Milner’s request, Leo Amery, his loyal lieutenant in South Africa, was unaccountably placed on the staff of the War Cabinet, but not as joint Secretary. Hankey remained secure in Lloyd George’s trust in charge of the War Cabinet organisation. [33]

A curious new chapter in Downing Street’s history was created outside the prime minister’s residence. Literally. Temporary offices were constructed in the Downing Street garden to accommodate a select group of trusted administrators who monitored and directed all contact between Lloyd George and departments of government. [34] The man in charge throughout its existence was Professor W.G. S. Adams, an Oxford Professor and member of Milner’s entourage [35] who later became editor of War Cabinet Reports and Warden of All Souls in Oxford. [36] This appointment was swiftly followed by that of two former members of Milner’s famous Kindergarten; [37] Philip Kerr became Lloyd George’s private secretary and Lionel Curtis, another of Milner’s loyal acolytes, was also drafted into service. It did not stop there. Waldorf Astor and Lord Northcliffe’s younger brother, Cecil Harmsworth followed shortly afterwards.

John Buchan was drafted into Lloyd George's service at the insistence of Alfred Milner.

To complete the pack, Milner insisted that Lloyd George reconsider appointing John Buchan to his staff after Haig’s apologist had been turned down for a post. In a private letter which has survived because it comes from the Lloyd George archives, rather than Milner’s much culled and carefully shredded papers, he wrote:
‘My Dear Prime Minister, Don’t think me too insistent! I wish you would not turn down John Buchan, without seeing him yourself…. I am not satisfied to have him rejected on hear-say, & ill informed hear-say at that.’ [38]
Buchan was appointed to the prime minister’s staff as Director of Information. And historians would have us believe that these were Lloyd George’s appointments.

It was as if the Monday Night Cabal had kidnapped the prime minister. Just as Alfred Milner had captured, then captivated, the nascent talent of young imperialists from Oxford University at the turn of the century and taken them to South Africa to help him govern and renovate the post Boer-War Transvaal and Cape colonies, so now, the very same men ‘guided’ Lloyd George and filtered the information which flowed to Downing Street. They were not Lloyd Georg’s men … they were Lord Milner’s. He was in charge.

To the anguish of Asquith’s political allies, this new bureaucracy had metamorphosed into an undemocratic monster fashioned by Alfred Milner. They could see it and railed against it. What we need to know is, why has this wholesale coup d’etat been studiously ignored by mainstream historians? Why do they continually write about Lloyd George’s government and Lloyd George’s secretariat when his very position was bound and controlled by Milner and his Garden Suburb minders? The radical journalist, H W Massingham published a vitriolic attack on Milner’s organisation in early 1917:

‘… A new double screen of bureaucrats is interposed between the War Directorate and the heads of [government] Departments, whose responsibility to Parliament has hitherto been direct … The first is the Cabinet Secretariat … the second is a little body of illuminati, whose residence is in the Prime Minister’s garden …These gentlemen stand in no sense for a Civil Service Cabinet. They are rather a class of travelling empirics in Empire, who came in with Lord Milner … The governing ideas are not those of Mr. Lloyd George … but of Lord Milner … Mr George has used Toryism to destroy Liberal ideas; but he has created a Monster which, for the moment, dominates both. This is the New Bureaucracy which threatens to master England …’ [39]

It was indeed. This was the Secret Elite’s most successful coup so far, accomplished by the critical silence and complicity of a compliant press. Elected parliamentary government had been purged. The Secret Elite spurned democracy because they ordained that democracy did not work. Their dictatorship was masked by Lloyd George, happy to pose and strut as the man who would win the war. Perhaps you were taught that he did? It is a self-serving myth. He operated inside a political straitjacket and fronted an undemocratic government.

And the sacrifice of youth continued.  And the profits of war grew ever larger.

[1] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 620.
[2] Hankey, Diary 10 December 1916.
[3] War Cabinet 1, CAB 23/1/1 discussed the cost of loans from America which were running at $60 million per week. Messrs. Morgan, Grenfell and Co. continued as the conduit for all American payments. Hankey also recorded in these minutes that the Press had been informed that the War cabinet would meet every weekday.
[4] Lord Vansittart recorded that Hankey ‘progressively became secretary of everything that mattered. He grew into a repository of secrets, a chief Inspector of Mines of information.’ Robert Gilbert Vansittart, The Mist Procession, p. 164.
[5] While Lloyd George spends many pages expressing his opinion on most of his colleagues, he curiously omits a pen-picture on Lord Milner. Possibly the Censor removed it. Either way it is interesting to note how carefully Milner’s contribution to Lloyd George’s ascent to the premiership has been airbrushed.
[6] Lloyd George, Memoirs, p. 596.
[7] See blog, The Great Coup of 1916: 4 The Monday Night Cabal, 3 August 2016.
[8] The Times estimated that Lord Northcliffe’s lengthy article in praise of Lloyd George had been carried in one thousand American, Australian, Canadian, South African, French, Italian and other journals. [Times 11 December, 1916]
[9] A M Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 329.
[10] The Times, 11 December 1916, p. 4.
[11] Gollin, Proconsul, p. 376.
[12] Ibid., p. 329.
[13] Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, pp. 164-5.
[14] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 6-9 and pp. 140- 47.
[15] The place of All Souls college at Oxford as the centre of the Secret Elite intelligentsia in Britain was identified by Professor Quigley. See The Anglo-American Establishment pp. 20-26.
[16] In August 1914 Arthur Henderson had been outspoken in his objection to war, but he changed his position absolutely within weeks.
[17] Gollin, Proconsul, p. 391.
[18] E.S. Montagu was both a friend of Asquith’s and respected colleague of Lloyd George. To most observers his omission from Asquith’s cabinet in 1916 spelled the end of his political career. But this is not how the Secret Elite work. In stepping down temporarily, Montagu earned the right to be promoted to the prestigious position of Viceroy of India in 1917.
[19] Thomas S. Legg, Marie-Louise Legg, ‘Cave, George, Viscount Cave (1856–1928)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
[20] Lord Ernle, Whippingham to Westminster, p. 248.
[21] Quigley, Anglo-American Establishment, p. 27.
[22] Ibid., p. 312.
[23] Ibid.
[24] President of the Board of Trade was Lloyd George’s first cabinet post in 1906. During his tenure there he became popular with the business class whose interests he often championed.
[25] Lloyd George, Memoirs, p. 61.
[26] Ibid., pp. 688-95.
[27] Richard Davenport-Hines, ‘Kearley, Hudson Ewbanke, first Viscount Devonport (1856–1934)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
[28] John Williams, ‘Thomas, David Alfred, first Viscount Rhondda (1856–1918)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
[29] Geoffrey Jones, Westman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdrey, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
[30] Gordon H. Boyce, Co-operative Structures in Global Business, pp. 84-5.
[31] Rear Admiral MWWC Consett, The Triumph of Unarmed Forces, p. 201.
[32] Hansard House of Commons Debate, 14 January 1918 vol. 101 cc5-6.
[33] Maurice Hankey, Supreme Command, vol. II, p. 590.
[34] John Turner, Lloyd George’s Secretariat, p. 1.
[35] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 313.
[36] Ibid., pp. 91-93. All Souls College in Oxford has been closely associated with the Rhodes/Milner group so integral to the Secret Elite in England.
[37] The title Milner’s Kindergarten was given to the group of young Oxford University graduates whom Milner attracted to help him rebuild South Africa after the Boer War. They subsequently enjoyed stellar careers in journalism, politics, banking and finance every area of Secret Elite influence. Further reading – Walter Nimocks, Milner’s Young Men.
[38] Milner to Lloyd George 17 January 1917, in the Lloyd George Papers.
[39] H.W. Massingham, The Nation 24 February, 1917.