Desmond Morton

Desmond Morton


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Desmond Morton was born at Hyde Park Gate on 13th November 1891. He was educated at Eton College and fellow students included Stewart Menzies, Julian Grenfell and Osbert Sitwell. In 1909 Morton won a place at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich.

Morton was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on 20th July 1911 and posted to the Royal Field Artillery that was based in Shoeburyness. He was promoted to full Lieutenant on 20th July 1914. On the outbreak of the First World War he embarked for France with the British Expeditionary Force.

On the morning of 23rd August, General Alexander von Kluck and his 150,000 soldiers attacked the British positions at Mons. Although the German First Army suffered heavy losses from British rifle fire, Sir John French was forced to instruct his outnumbered forces to retreat. French favoured a withdrawal to the coast but the British war minister, Lord Kitchener, ordered the BEF to retreat to the River Marne.

Over the next two years Morton remained on the Western Front and took part in the battles at the Marne, Ypres and the Somme. He was a brave and successful soldier and won the Military Cross and Croix de Guerre and was twice mentioned in despatches. In November 1915 he was promoted to Staff Captain of the 3rd Division Artillery. In April 1916 he took command of 41st Battery.

According to Martin Gilbert, Morton met Winston Churchill in 1916: "He (Morton) was told to visit a particular battalion commander to arrange an artillery barrage... Morton found Churchill busy painting. They discussed the proposed barrage, which Churchill intended to be a heavy one."

In October 1916 Morton was taken ill and it was reported that he was "coughing up blood and losing weight. On 13th November he was granted a short leave to England but he was back on duty in France by 9th December.

The early months of 1917 were a period of retrenchment and realignment on both sides of the Western Front. However, in March his regiment was involved in raids on the German front-line. On 28th March, near Arras, Morton was hit by a machine gun bullet. According to his biographer, Gill Bennett, the bullet was "revealed by X-Ray to have entered below his left shoulderblade, passing through his lung before becoming lodged between his fourth dorsal vertebra and the arch of the aorta, which it narrowly missed penetrating. He escaped death by a fraction of an inch."

After a short period in a local hospital Morton was sent to London for treatment. The position of the bullet meant that it was far too dangerous to attempt to remove it. He was told by a doctor that the bullet was so close to the heart that "he must never ride or take any violent exercise again". Morton later admitted: "If I had literally carried out the doctor's instructions life wouldn't have been worth living. So I decided to carry on normally."

On 7th May 1917 he was admitted to the Lennel Coldstream Convalescent Home in Scotland. On 23rd July a Medical Board decided that "although under the circumstances he is not fit for full general service, he is fit for an appointment at GHQ, France". Later that month Morton was appointed as one of four Aides de Camp to Sir Douglas Haig.

Morton admired Haig but found him to have great flaws in his character: "He gave his orders quick enough, but never explained them. Moreover, men say he was tongue-tied. If it came to public speaking that was abundantly true. He was anyway a silent man. But such silence was babbling compared with what he said when he gave an oral instead of a written order. You had to learn a sort of verbal short-hand, made up of a series of grunts and gestures... He (Sir Douglas Haig) hated being told any information, however irrefutable, which militated against his preconceived ideas or beliefs."

Winston Churchill renewed his friendship with Morton in his new position: "When I became Minister of Munitions in July, 1917, I frequently visited the front as the Commander-in-Chief's guest, and he always sent his trusted Aide-de-Camp, Desmond Morton, with me. Together we visited many parts of the line. During these sometimes dangerous excursions, and at the Commander-in-Chiefs house, I formed a great regard and friendship for this brilliant and gallant officer."

Victory was achieved in 1918. However, Morton remained critical of Sir Douglas Haig: "One has to recall that he (Haig) did get his way, he did end as Commander of the victorious British Army in France. But God! at what a cost in lives at the time and the consequential alteration of the society he longed to preserve, and the beginning of the destruction of the whole economy of this country; a matter of which he had no sort of understanding whatsoever."

Morton was seconded to the Foreign Office in 1919 where he was head of the Secret Intelligence Service's Section V, dealing with with counter-Bolshevism. Morton served under Mansfield Smith-Cumming and officially he was put in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Service at a salary of £73 14s 4d per month. Later Winston Churchill claimed he had arranged for Morton to get the post: "In 1919, when I became Secretary of State for War and Air, I appointed him (Morton) to a key position in the Intelligence". However, Morton suggested it was David Lloyd George who appointed him "to start the Foreign Intelligence Service with the emphasis particular on Bolshevist Russia."

Vernon Kell introduced Morton to George Makgill, the head of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau (IIB). Makgill recruited his agents from far-right organisations such as British Fascisti (BF). This included Maxwell Knight, the organization's Director of Intelligence. Another agent was W. B. Findley, who known as Jim Finney, infiltrated the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Another of Makgill's agents was Kenneth A. Stott, who recruited spies from within the trade union movement. In September 1922, Stott claimed that he attended a meeting in Cologne of the Deutscher Uberseedienst (German Overseas Service). Stott claimed the organisation had "its own secret service, which sent couriers to collect information, working through extremists, Trade Unions and labour movements". This information was passed on to Morton.

Morton wrote to Makgill on 2nd February 1923, that "anything I can find out is always at your disposal". Morton was not always impressed with the information provided by Makgill's agents. On 28th May 1923 Morton wrote to Makgill: "They are the kind of reports which a policeman would put up to his inspector when told to watch people, but not one statement really carries us any further. All the names mentioned are the names of people known to be interested in Communist or Irish intrigues, and... there is nothing to show what these intrigues are, which is the important thing."

Kenneth A. Stott continued to provide information to Morton. However, one of MI5's senior officers wrote in July 1923: "His methods are unscrupulous and peculiar... while Stott's knowledge of the Labour movement in this country is undoubtedly very extensive and complete... his knowledge of foreign espionage methods seems to be sketchy and coloured by imagination. He does not appear to realise the difference between commercial and military espionage."

Morton worked closely with Sidney Reilly who was sent to Russia to assassinate Lenin. However, Dora Kaplan got to him first and although Lenin survived the attempt, Reilly returned to England. In their absence, both Reilly and Robert Bruce Lockhart, Head of Special Mission, were found guilty of espionage and sabotage and were sentenced to be shot if apprehended.

Mansfield Smith-Cumming died in 1923 and was replaced by Hugh Sinclair, the former Director of Naval Intelligence. Stewart Menzies, rather than Morton, became his deputy. According to Gill Bennett, the author of Churchill's Man of Mystery (2009), has argued: "It seems that both Cumming and Sinclair saw Morton as a useful and dynamic officer, but lacking, perhaps, the steadiness of judgement and political sensitivity essential to the running of an organisation that relied upon discretion and secrecy."

Morton purchased a house, Earlylands, at Crockham Hill in Kent. The house was less than three miles from Chartwell Manor, the home of Winston Churchill. Moton's biographer, Gill Bennett, has argued: "Morton's purchase of a house so close to Chartwell must be more than coincidence... There seems little doubt, however, that from the mid-1920s onwards Morton was a regular visitor to Chartwell."

Morton continued to "focus principally on the efforts of the Bolshevik regime to spread world revolution". He told his friend, R. W. Thompson: "I have only one enemy, International Leninism". He added that communism was an "intellectual force" comparable only to Christianity: "Both are absolutely definite in regard to their ethos." During this period Morton became very close to George Makgill, who had set up a private intelligence network, the Industrial Intelligence Board, to monitor communists, trade unionists and industrial unrest. Makgill's agents included Maxwell Knight, who was later to serve under Morton in MI6.

In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had 258, Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. As MacDonald had to rely on the support of the Liberal Party, he was unable to get any socialist legislation passed by the House of Commons. The only significant measure was the Wheatley Housing Act which began a building programme of 500,000 homes for rent to working-class families.

Desmond Morton, like other members of establishment, was appalled by the idea of a Prime Minister who was a socialist. As Gill Bennett pointed out: "It was not just the intelligence community, but more precisely the community of an elite - senior officials in government departments, men in "the City", men in politics, men who controlled the Press - which was narrow, interconnected (sometimes intermarried) and mutually supportive. Many of these men... had been to the same schools and universities, and belonged to the same clubs. Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion."

In October 1924 the MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Vernon Kell, head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson head of Special Branch, were convinced that what became known as the Zinoviev Letter was genuine. Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret but someone leaked news of the letter to the Times and the Daily Mail.

The letter was published in these newspapers four days before the 1924 General Election held on 29th October 1924 and contributed to the defeat of MacDonald and the Labour Party. After the election it was claimed that two of MI5's agents, Sidney Reilly and Arthur Maundy Gregory, had forged the letter and that Major Ball had leaked it to the press. Later, Desmond Morton claimed that it was Stewart Menzies who sent the Zinoviev letter to the Daily Mail.

In his book, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009), Christopher Andrew argues that on 9th October 1924 SIS forwarded the Zinoviev letter to the Foreign Office, MI5 and Scotland Yard with the assurance that “the authenticity is undoubted” when they knew it had been forged by anti-Bolshevik White Russians. Desmond Morton, the head of SIS, provided extra information about the letter being confirmed as being genuine by an agent, Jim Finney. Andrew claims this was untrue as the so-called Finney report does not make any reference to the Zinoviev letter. Andrew also argues that it was probably George Joseph Ball, head of B Branch, who passed the letter onto Conservative Central Office on 22nd October, 1924. As Andrew points out: “Ball’s subsequent lack of scruples in using intelligence for party-political advantage while at central office in the later 1920s strongly suggests” that he was guilty of this action.

Stanley Baldwin, the head of the new Conservative Party government, set up a Cabinet committee to look into the Zinoviev Letter. On 19th November, 1924, the Foreign Secretary, Austin Chamberlain, reported that members of the committee were "unanimously of opinion that there was no doubt as to the authenticity of the Letter". However, eight days later, Morton admitted in a letter to MI5 that "we are firmly convinced this actual thing (the Zinoviev letter) is a forgery."

Morton also wrote a report for Chamberlain's Cabinet Committee explaining why the SIS originally considered the Zinoviev letter was genuine. According to Gill Bennett, the author of Churchill's Man of Mystery (2009), Morton came up with "five very good reasons" why he thought the letter was genuine. These were: its source, an agent in Moscow "of proved reliability"; "direct independent confirmation" from CPGB and ARCOS sources in London; "subsidiary confirmation" in the form of supposed "frantic activity" in Moscow; because the possibility of SIS being taken in by White Russians was "entirely excluded"; and because the subject matter of the Letter was "entirely consistent with all that the Communists have been enunciating and putting into effect". Bennett goes onto argue: "All five of these reasons can be shown to be misleading, if not downright false."

In 1929, J.F.C. Carter, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, discovered that Desmond Morton and Maxwell Knight were involved in organising the burgling "the offices of Communist and Labour Party organisations in Scotland". Keith Jeffery, the author of MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service (2010), argued: "Carter... was understandably aggrieved at SIS muscling in on his territory. Indeed, if a report by Knight of a meeting over lunch with the Deputy Assistant Commissioner on 23 July 1930, as passed on by Morton, is anything to go by, Carter was incandescent with fury about the development." Carter argued that Maxwell Knight and Morton was "doing the whole of this thing for the Conservative Party". Carter added that Ramsay MacDonald, the prime minister, was "against this sort of work".

Morton became head of the Industrial Intelligence Centre in 1931, and was responsible for providing intelligence on the plans and capabilities for manufacturing munitions in other countries. Keith Jeffery argues: "It had a wide sphere of interest, though the principal focus was on industrial capacity for war." Morton was also a member of the CID sub-committee on Economic Warfare.

Morton played an important role in organizing a response to appeasement of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler during the period prior to the Second World War by providing intelligence information about German re-armament to Winston Churchill. At this time Churchill did not have any position in the government. In 1940 Morton was Churchill's personal assistant when he became prime minister. He served on the Economic Survey Mission to the Middle East in 1949, and served in the Ministry of Civil Aviation from 1950 to 1953.

Desmond Morton died in 1971.

I got my MC in the first world war for getting my troop stuck in the mud. As we could not move the guns, nor get away fast enough on foot, we had to stay where we were in the face of a lot of battle-winded Germans who were busy over-running French trenches in front of us during the battle of the Somme. We had lots of ammo, so shot it all off. Since the range was short we could aim straight and did not, I think, kill any Frenchmen. But the Germans who thought we were all dead, or hoped it, were much discommoded and had to retire up a steep slope pursued by the shells of my enthusiastic and the loud curses of the irritated French, whose commander thereafter embraced me on both cheeks. I got the MC actually for submitting to his caress.

I found him interested politically in nothing that did not to his mind directly affect the possibility of himself superseded in command. Since, by that period, he had weathered the most serious storms, and knew it, there was very little in which he was really interested. He understood nothing of politics, economics or of governing a country...

He was very fair and just and kind to his subordinates and loyal as well; though a holy terror to his equals, superiors and possible competitors. The private soldiers in his regiment, when they knew him, adored him, as did younger officers. He had a strict sense of what was apt and fitting for a gentleman to do and how such should behave... He had trained himself never to show outwardly, by word or deed, any great emotion. He never shouted nor swore, nor raised his voice in anger, which last he also never showed outwardly. Self-discipline was his guide...

He could talk - he never chattered or even chatted - freely on certain subjects which had nothing to do with the war or military affairs, and also on his past experiences as a soldier; but what he was thinking about the war as it stood on any particular day, no one, not even his Chief of Staff could fully make out. He gave his orders quick enough, but never explained them. He was anyway a 'silent' man. You had to learn a sort of verbal short-hand, made up of a series of grunts and gestures.

He (Sir Douglas Haig) hated being told any information, however irrefutable, which militated against his preconceived ideas or beliefs. Hence his support of the desperate John Charteris, incredibly bad as a DMI, who always concealed bad news, or put it in an agreeable light.

When I became Minister of Munitions in July, 1917, I frequently visited the front as the Commander-in-Chief's guest, and he always sent his trusted Aide-de-Camp, Desmond Morton, with me. During these sometimes dangerous excursions, and at the Commander-in-Chiefs house, I formed a great regard and friendship for this brilliant and gallant officer.

One has to recall that he did get his way, he did end as Commander of the victorious British Army in France. But God! at what a cost in lives at the time and the consequential alteration of the society he longed to preserve, and the beginning of the destruction of the whole economy of this country; a matter of which he had no sort of understanding whatsoever.

It was not just the intelligence community, but more precisely the community of an elite - senior officials in government departments, men in "the City", men in politics, men who controlled the Press - which was narrow, interconnected (sometimes intermarried) and mutually supportive. Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion.

Desmond Morton's recruitment of Maxwell Knight, a fervent anti-Communist, mildly eccentric jazz musician and keen naturalist who had worked for Sir George Makgill. According to Morton, Knight had "a small amateur detective or secret service in London, consisting of about 100 individuals in all walks of life, many of whom speak foreign languages". He also claimed that, "when required to for his previous masters", Knight "and two friends burgled, three nights running", the offices of Communist and Labour Party organisations in Scotland. Knight was taken on, initially for a three-month trial, but after Morton had sent him around the country to gather information on Communist organisations he reported that "with every passing month MK has got his agents nearer and nearer the centre of affairs" and Sinclair approved his continued employment. Carter (Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police), however, soon got wind of this expanded operation and was understandably aggrieved at SIS muscling in on his territory. Indeed, if a report by Knight of a meeting over lunch with the Deputy Assistant Commissioner on 23 July 1930, as passed on by Morton, is anything to go by, Carter was incandescent with fury about the development. He accused Morton (whom he called a "worm") of "exceeding his duties". The policeman declared that he would make Morton "go on his knees to him on the carpet at Scotland Yard before he has done". Carter, whose political sympathies appear to have been rather more left-wing than those of either Knight or Morton, contended that Morton was "doing the whole of this thing for the Conservative Party". He observed that Ramsay MacDonald's second Labour government (which had come into power after Labour won the most seats, though not an absolute majority, in the May 1929 general election) were "against this sort of work" and he had "to carry out their policy".

Morton's pursuit of... International Leninism, drew him firmly into the orbit of the power base of the "Establishment": the men that ruled, financed, administered and influenced the British Empire. Though solitary by nature and by profession, he was nevertheless part of a community...

The members of this community, in common with Winston Churchill, with George Makgill and with Hugh Sinclair, viewed the first government formed by the British Labour Party in January 1924, under Ramsay MacDonald, with suspicion, alarm and in some cases contempt. Churchill called it a "national misfortune such as has usually befallen a great state only on the morrow of defeat in war." The fact that the Labour Government had only come to power because of a split in the Conservative ranks over free trade, made the experience if anything even more bitter. Not everyone viewed it as a disaster: former Prime Ministers Asquith and Baldwin agreed that MacDonald's politics, at least, were hardly revolutionary; but Labour's early de jure recognition of the Soviet Union seemed nothing less than treachery to some, and unwise to many at a time when aggressive Bolshevik propaganda and subversion seemed if anything to be on the increase.

Although the short-lived Labour Government was in many respects unexceptionably moderate, and surprisingly successful in both economic and foreign policy, its opponents were not only waiting for it to make a fatal mistake, but also working to undermine it in any way possible. MacDonald's bungled handling of the crisis caused by the arrest on 5 August 1924 of the Scottish Communist John Campbell, following an inflammatory article in Workers Weekly, proved to be the fatal mistake as the Zinoviev Letter provided the opportunity to undermine a government whose electoral downfall was already inevitable. It was an episode that still rankles with the self-styled "Labour romantics"; and Morton's role in it, if not sinister, was at least equivocal.

An extensive examination of the surviving evidence, commissioned in 1998 by the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, concluded that the letter dated 15 September 1924, supposedly addressed to the Central Committee of the CPGB by Grigori Zinoviev, President of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, and urging the Party to rouse the British proletariat in preparation for armed insurrection and class war, was almost certainly a forgery, although its precise authorship cannot be determined . It also concluded that the idea of the forgery as part of an institutional campaign, directed by British Intelligence to discredit the Labour Government, is inherently improbable. There is little doubt, however, that copies of the letter, initially received by SIS from their Riga station, found their way swiftly by overt and covert means to those vested interests who could best make political capital out of it at the government's expense. News of the impending publication of the Letter in the Daily Mail - news first passed to the FO by SIS on 24 October 1924 - led Crowe to authorise, without MacDonald's final approval, the publication of an official protest to the Soviet Government, leading to the further humiliation of the Government and of MacDonald himself.

Many details of the affair remain confused and uncertain. Nevertheless, an examination of Morton's part in it throws some light both on the role of the Occult Octopus and on his own motivation and methods. He was, in fact, at centre stage (in the Intelligence context) from the beginning. The letter arrived in SIS Headquarters on 9 October 1924 under cover of a report from Latvia (L/3900), and was passed immediately to the FO with the comment: "The authenticity of the, document is undoubted." Morton, who was responsible for its evaluation and authorised its circulation, later said that he had not thought it particularly significant when he received it. This may well be true, and although later checks on the letter's authenticity left a lot to be desired both in timeliness and thoroughness, it would not be surprising if he had accepted it immediately as genuine.

Allegedly despatched by Zinoviev and two other members of the Comintern Executive Committee on 15 September 1924, the letter instructed the CPGB leadership to put pressure on their sympathizers in the Labour Party, to "strain every nerve" for the ratification of the recent treaty concluded by MacDonald's government with the Soviet Union, to intensify "agitation-propaganda work in the armed forces", and generally to prepare for the coming of the British revolution. On 9 October SIS forwarded copies to the Foreign Office, MIS, Scotland Yard and the service ministries, together with an ill-founded assurance that "the authenticity is undoubted". The unauthorized publication of the letter in the Conservative Daily Mail on 25 October in the final week of the election campaign turned it into what MacDonald called a "political bomb", which those responsible intended to sabotage Labour's prospects of victory by suggesting that it was susceptible to Communist pressure.

The call in the Zinoviev letter for the CPGB to engage in 'agitation-propaganda work in the armed forces" placed it squarely within MI5's sphere of action. Like others familiar with Comintern communications and Soviet intercepts, Kell was not surprised by the letter's contents, believing it "contained nothing new or different from the (known) intentions and propaganda of the USSR." He had seen similar statements in authentic intercepted correspondence from Comintern to the CPGB and the National Minority Movement (the Communist-led trade union organization), and is likely - at least initially - to have had no difficulty in accepting SIS's assurance that the Zinoviev letter was genuine. The assurance, however, should never have been given. Outrageously, Desmond Morton of SIS told Sir Eyre Crowe, PUS at the Foreign Office, that one of Sir George Mahgill's agents, "Jim Finney", who had penetrated the CPGB, had reported that a recent meeting of the Party Central Committee had considered a letter from Moscow whose instructions corresponded to those in the Zinoviev letter. On the basis of that information, Crowe had told MacDonald that he had heard on "absolutely reliable authority" that the letter had been discussed by the Party leadership. In reality, Finney's report of a discussion by the CPGB Executive made no mention of any letter from Moscow. MI5's own sources failed to corroborate SIS's claim that the letter had been received and discussed by the CPGB leadership - unsurprisingly, since the letter had never in fact been sent.

MI5 had little to do with the official handling of the Zinoviev letter, apart from distributing copies to army commands on 22 October 1924, no doubt to alert them to its call for subversion in the armed forces. The possible unofficial role of a few MI5 officers past and present in publicizing the Zinoviev letter with the aim of ensuring Labour's defeat at the polls remains a murky area on which surviving Security Service archives shed little light. Other sources, however, provide some clues. A wartime MI5 officer, Donald Im Thurn ("recreations: golf, football, cricket, hockey, fencing"), who had served in MI5 from December 1917 to June 1919, made strenuous attempts to ensure the publication of the Zinoviev letter and may well have alerted the Mail and Conservative Central Office to its existence. Im Thurn later claimed implausibly to have obtained a copy of the letter from a business friend with Communist contacts who subsequently had to flee to "a place of safety" because his life was in danger. This unlikely tale was probably invented to avoid compromising his intelligence contacts. After Im Thurn left the Service for the City in 1919, he continued to lunch regularly in the grill-room of the Hyde Park Hotel with Major William Alexander of B Branch (an Oxford graduate who had qualified as a barrister before the First World War). Im Thurn was also well acquainted with the Chief of SIS, Admiral Quex Sinclair. Though he was not shown the actual text of the Zinoviev letter before publication, one or more of his intelligence contacts briefed him on its contents. Alexander appears to have informed Im Thurn on 21 October that the text was about to be circulated to army commands. Suspicion also attaches to the role of the head of B Branch, Joseph Ball. Conservative Central Office, with which Ball had close contacts, probably had a copy of the Zinoviev letter by 22 October, three days before publication. Ball's subsequent lack of scruples in using intelligence for party-political advantage while at Central Office in the later 1920's strongly suggests, but does not prove, that he was willing to do so during the election campaign of October 1924. But Ball was not alone. Others involved in the publication of the Zinoviev letter probably included the former DNI, Admiral Blinker Hall, and Lieutenant Colonel Freddie Browning, Cumming's former deputy and a friend of both Hall and the editor of the Mail. Hall and Browning, like Im Thurn, Alexander, Sinclair and Ball, were part of a deeply conservative, strongly patriotic establishment network who were accustomed to sharing state secrets between themselves: "Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion."

Those who conspired together in October 1924 convinced themselves that they were acting in the national interest - to remove from power a government whose susceptibility to Soviet and pro-Soviet pressure made it a threat to national security. Though the Zinoviev letter was not the main cause of the Tory election landslide on 29 October, many politicians on both left and right believed that it was. Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, told his rival Lord Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail, that the Mail's "Red Letter" campaign had won the election for the Conservatives. Rothermere immodestly agreed that he had won a hundred seats. Labour leaders were inclined to agree. They felt they had been tricked out of office. And their suspicions seemed to be confirmed when they discovered the part played by Conservative Central Office in the publication of the letter.

It (the Zinoviev Letter) took about a week to reach London and, having been evaluated by Desmond Morton, was circulated by SIS on 9 October to the Foreign Office and other departments. A covering note said that the document contained "strong incitement to armed revolution" and "evidence of intention to contaminate the Armed Forces", and was "a flagrant violation" of "the Anglo-Russian Treaty signed on the 8th August". Though, apparently, no systematic checks had been made, SIS also categorically vouched that "the authenticity of the document is undoubted".

The Foreign Office, nevertheless, carefully sought further corroboration from SIS. This was provided by Desmond Morton on 11 October based (he maintained) on information received from "Jim Finney" (code-named "Furniture Dealer"), one of the agents jointly run with Makgill's organisation, who had been infiltrated into the Communist Party of Great Britain. According to Morton, Finney reported that the Party Central Committee had recently received a letter of instruction from Moscow concerning "action which the C.P.G.B. was to take with regard to making the proletariat force Parliament to ratify the Anglo-Soviet Treaty" and that "particular efforts were to be made to permeate the Armed Forces of the Crown with Communist agents". This, concluded Morton, "seems undoubtedly confirmation of the receipt by the C.P.G.B. of Zinoviev's letter". But the original report contained no reference to any particular communication from Moscow, and Morton said he had ascertained details of a specific letter only during a subsequent meeting with the agent. Reflecting how curious it was that the agent had not mentioned so apparently significant a directive from Moscow in the original report, Milicent Bagot, a retired

M15 officer who spent three years in the late 1960s exhaustively investigating the affair, suggested that the agent had been asked "loaded" questions by Morton, who is known to have been working on the Riga report and had no doubt put the two together in his mind.

On 13 October SIS assured Sir Eyre Crowe that Morton's information provided "strong confirmation of the genuineness of our document (the Zinoviev Letter)". This was interpreted by Crowe as "absolutely reliable authority that the Russian letter was received and discussed at a recent meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain", and on this basis he recommended to MacDonald that a formal note of protest be submitted and full information be given to the press.

Morton's "strong confirmation", therefore, already perhaps more than the evidence supported, became "absolutely reliable authority", and the basis for explicit government action. It was only after the Soviet charge, Christian Rakovsky, had dismissed the letter as "a gross forgery" (which it almost certainly was) that on 27 October Crowe asked Malcolm Woollcombe for further information. Had, for example, the text been received in English or Russian and could an SIS officer explain things personally to the Prime Minister, who in the meantime had himself begun to wonder if the letter were bogus? Riga told Head Office that their original version had been in Russian, which had been translated by a secretary in the station before transmission to London, thus revealing that the English text was not quite as "authentic" as had at first been claimed.

Morton's own explanation, that Finney "elaborated" on his written report, is therefore invalidated. It is possible that Morton conflated, accidentally or deliberately, Finney's report with the report from Latvia received the day before. If accidentally, it implies a casualness that does not sit well with Morton's known modus operandi; if deliberately, the reason may not necessarily be sinister. Morton received a great many such reports across his desk, the majority of which were genuine. He may have believed, sincerely, in the authenticity of the letter at that point. On the other hand, it might be that since he, like many of his colleagues and contacts (including his own Chief), detested the Bolsheviks and disliked the Labour Government, he welcomed the chance to throw a spanner in the works of Anglo-Soviet rapprochement. He may have been influenced, or even instructed, to do so.

The propagation of conspiracy theories is always unprofitable, as it is impossible to prove a negative. There is no hard evidence to explain Morton's actions or motives, and he never revealed them (adding extra fuel to the conspiratorial fire in an interview in 1969, when he claimed that Menzies had posted a copy of the letter to the Daily Mail because he disliked Labour). The surviving documentation is, as so often with Morton, contradictory. By the beginning of November 1924 SIS had begun to receive reports from SIS stations that the letter was a forgery, probably originating in the Baltic States; Morton wrote to M15 on 27 November that "we are firmly convinced this actual thing is a forgery". Meanwhile, however, two Cabinet Committees had been convened to consider the question of the Letter's authenticity: the first, chaired by MacDonald, reported to the Cabinet on 4 November that they "found it impossible on the evidence before them to come to a conclusion on the subject"; it was the last act of his ill-fated Government. The second, however, chaired by the new Foreign Secretary Sir Austen Chamberlain, reported on 19 November that its members were "unanimously of opinion that there was no doubt as to the authenticity of the Letter".

Meanwhile, on 17 November Sinclair submitted to Crowe, for consideration by the Chamberlain Committee, a document, apparently drafted by Morton, containing "five very good reasons" why SIS considered the Letter genuine. All five of these reasons can be shown to be misleading, if not downright false. SIS did not know, for example, the identity of the agent in Moscow said to have provided the letter, and were certainly not, as the document claimed, "aware of the identity of every person who handled the document on its journey from Zinoviev's files to our hands".

The "independent and spontaneous confirmation" that the CPGB had received the letter was, as has been seen, of decidedly suspect provenance, while reports of arrests in Moscow were no more than circumstantial. The claim that SIS was incapable of being taken in by White Russian forgers was more aspirational than accurate, while the final reason, that the letter was consonant with Communist policy and "If it was a forgery, by this time we should have proof of it", may have been unanswerable, but was disingenuous in the light of reports received in the previous month.

This documentary sophistry, not to say prevarication, cannot fail to arouse the suspicion that Morton, and indeed SIS, had something to hide, not just about how the letter came to be given to the Press, but also about its origin. Orlov's Berlin organisation, with whom Morton remained in touch and about which he received regular information, was identified quickly as a likely potential source of the forgery, and although the account published by the Sunday Times "Insight" team in 1967, alleging that one of Orlov's colleagues, Alexis Bellegarde, forged the letter begs more questions than it answers, there is no doubt that Orlov had the opportunity and contacts required. It would, as one SIS account noted, have been easy enough for him to put in touch with a foreign intelligence service, e.g. in Riga, some well-trained agent of his own who would thereafter produce material purporting to be obtained from Moscow or elsewhere, but which was, in fact, prepared by himself. It was part of Morton's job to pay close attention to "expert" forgeries emanating from sources such as Orlov's service...

The way the letter was handled once it reached SIS, and its communication to the press, also arouses suspicion, heightened by what is now known about the activities of some of Morton's contacts: the Makgill organisation; White Russian groups at home and abroad; the head of the FO's Northern Department, J.D. Gregory, an old "Russia hand" later shown to have been engaging in decidedly unethical (if inept) currency trading at this time in company with his mistress Mrs Aminta Bradley Dyne - whose husband was another old "Russia hand". Although a Treasury Committee of Enquiry held in 1928 was unable to establish any direct connection between Gregory's activities and the Zino,viev Letter, suspicions remained." Similarly, doubts have been raised as to whether Morton's contacts with Ball at MIS were politically as well as professionally motivated: and the involvement of former M15 officer Donald im Thurn, who tried to sell a copy of the letter (which he did not possess), adds another mysterious dimension to the story; the names of the former DNI, Admiral Blinker Hall, and former Deputy Chief of SIS, Frederick Browning, have also been implicated.


Desmond Morton (1937 – 2019)

“Experience is another word for history and, I would claim, my versions of history have been powerfully influenced by my own experiences as a student, a soldier, a writer, and especially as an unashamed political activist and an academic administrator,” wrote Desmond Morton in 2011

The McGill community is mourning the passing of Desmond Morton, the Hiram Mills Professor Emeritus in the Department of History and Classical Studies, and one of Canada’s renowned historians.

Morton passed away on Sept. 4 at the age of 81.

The author of more than 40 books, Morton was a rare historian who was drawn more to the lives of ordinary people than those of famous leaders.

At the celebration of Morton’s 80 th birthday in 2017, Ed Broadbent, former leader of the federal NDP praised Morton for being “intellectually honest.”

“Des is one of the best writers in Canada, bar none. His writing is a model of intelligence and clarity,” Broadbent told the Reporter at the time. “He was never interested in the so called ‘great men’ of history, but rather the working people, the soldiers and their families, always including the women. Inclusive and unpredictable, he always reached out to people with whom he personally disagreed.”

Self-proclaimed “army brat”

The son of a brigadier-general, Morton was a self-proclaimed “army brat” who followed his father to military postings around the world. Born in Calgary in 1937, Morton’s schooling began in Canada, but he graduated from high school in Kobe, Japan, where his father was head of Canada’s Far East Military Mission.

Even as a young boy, Morton had an eye for detail that would serve him well throughout his career. Speaking on the 100 th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 2018, Morton told the Reporter about his first memory of Remembrance Day, as a 10-year-old boy.

“I remember standing outside with my sister and mum in the bitter prairie cold on Remembrance Day, in Regina, where our Dad was stationed,” he said. “It was 1947 and WWII was still very real in people’s minds. The tears froze on the faces of the veterans and families.”

Not surprisingly, Morton served in the military himself, beginning as officer cadet and rising to the rank of captain 10 years later. He was an honorary colonel of 8 Wing Trenton of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and held the Canadian Forces Decoration. He was also a graduate of the Collége Militaire Royal de St-Jean, the Royal Military College of Canada, Oxford University (where he was a Rhodes Scholar) and the London School of Economics.

Morton was principal of Erindale College (University of Toronto – Mississauga) from 1986 to 1994, and Professor of History at McGill from 1998 to 2006. In 1985, he was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 1996 an Officer in the Order of Canada.

Lifelong love of learning

In a 2017 interview with the Reporter, Elsbeth Heaman a professor of History and Classical Studies, said Morton was one of the great historians of the age.

“I’ve leaned heavily on Morton’s work for my own research,” she said, noting that she frequently invited him to lecture to her Canadian history and Canadian studies students. “He’s told enthralling stories about the Battles of the Plains of Abraham and the War of 1812 that seem to peer beyond the veil of time,” said Heaman. “His work is always original, with his impatience with orthodoxy and his abiding love of his subject, Canada and Canadians. We’ve been lucky to have him as a historian of Canada, and luckier still to have him at McGill, where he set an aspirational standard for Canadian Studies and public outreach.”

Curious and engaged, Morton had a lifelong love of learning. In an autobiographical essay he wrote in 2011, Morton looked back at his life and career. “Over my lifetime, I have been called many things, most of them overly generous and some of them unprintable,” he wrote. “Like most of my readers, I have been quite happy to be called a student…”

In that same essay, Morton reflected upon the nature of experience and, most specifically, how his own experiences shaped his work and, ultimately, his life.

“Experience is another word for history and, I would claim, my versions of history have been powerfully influenced by my own experiences as a student, a soldier, a writer, and especially as an unashamed political activist and an academic administrator,” he wrote Morton. “I am also confident that I am not alone in reflecting my experiences and I wish, when it is almost too late, that I had sought out more of them.”


Desmond Morton: Historian to be feted for setting "aspirational standard for Canadian Studies"

“Des is one of the best writers in Canada, bar none,” says former NDP leader Ed Broadbent. “His writing is a model of intelligence and clarity.”

The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada will host a special lecture in honour of Dr. Desmond Morton, Hiram Mills Emeritus Professor and Founding Director of the Institute (1994-2001). The event will simultaneously celebrate Professor Morton’s invaluable contributions to Canadian Studies, as well as his 80th birthday. The lecture will take place on Sept. 14, from 4:30 – 6:15 p.m., at the Faculty Club (3450 McTavish St.).

It’s hard to describe how important Desmond Morton’s work is in the field of Canadian history. Morton was drawn to ordinary peoples’ experiences, especially working people and soldiers, and he rewrote Canadian history from their point of view. All serious students of Canadian history have read his books.

Desmond Paul Morton is the Hiram Mills Professor Emeritus in the Department of History. A graduate of the Collège Militaire Royal de St-Jean, the Royal Military College of Canada, Oxford University, and the London School of Economics, Morton also spent ten years in the Canadian Army (1954-64) retiring as captain. He was principal of Erindale College (University of Toronto – Mississauga) from 1986 to 1994, and Professor of History at McGill from 1998 to 2006. Morton has authored 40 books on Canadian political, military, and industrial relations history, and was a frequent columnist and radio commentator. In 1985, he was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 1996 an Officer in the Order of Canada. He is an honorary colonel of 8 Wing Trenton of the Royal Canadian Air Force and holds the Canadian Forces Decoration.

Charles Taylor, eminent philosopher and political theorist, is a long time colleague and friend. “Des and I go back more than 50 years, since our days together in the newly founded New Democratic Party,” wrote Taylor in an email interview with the Reporter. “His was always a fresh and original voice in Canadian historiography. Congratulations, Des, on your 80th birthday! From Chuck.”

Elsbeth Heaman is a professor of History and Classical Studies, and interim head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC), which Morton helped found in 1994. Heaman says Morton is one of the truly great historians of the age, with extraordinary energy and distinctive powers of description.

“I’ve leaned heavily on Morton’s work for my own research I’ve also invited him, year after year, to lecture to my Canadian history and Canadian studies students. He’s told enthralling stories about the Battles of the Plains of Abraham and the War of 1812 that seem to peer beyond the veil of time: they are at once a gritty re-enactment of the battlefield and a big-picture insistence on the importance of French-Canadian participation to historic outcomes,” says Heaman. “His work is always original, with his impatience with orthodoxy and his abiding love of his subject, Canada and Canadians. We’ve been lucky to have him as a historian of Canada, and luckier still to have him at McGill, where he set an aspirational standard for Canadian Studies and public outreach.”

Will Straw says that having Morton as its founding director helped put MISC on the map. “Des immediately brought prestige and credibility to MISC when he joined it as its first director,” says the James McGill Professor of Urban Media Studies and himself a former director of MISC. “As one of that rarest of species, a progressive military historian, his own life as a scholar has been a marvellous adventure.”

Ed Broadbent, leader of the federal NDP from 1975 to 1989, says that what sets Morton apart from many other historians is his talent as a writer and his interest in telling the stories of regular people. , is also a long time colleague and friend of Desmond Mortons. “Des is one of the best writers in Canada, bar none. His writing is a model of intelligence and clarity. He manages to write simply without being simple,” says Broadbent, Ph.D. currently a Fellow in the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University. “He was never interested in the so called ‘great men’ of history, but rather the working people, the soldiers and their families, always including the women. Inclusive and unpredictable, he always reached out to people with whom he personally disagreed. He is intellectually honest. And he has a new book!”

On Sept. 14, accompanied by several distinguished speakers, Morton will present a lecture entitled French Canada’s Impact in the First World War. The event, which will be followed by a Vin d’honneur, will simultaneously celebrate Professor Morton’s invaluable contributions to Canadian history, as well as his 80th birthday.


Esteemed historian Desmond Morton wrote about Canada’s workers and soldiers

This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

Prof. Desmond Morton, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, is shown at the university in Montreal, on Sept. 28, 1999.

RYAN REMIORZ/The Canadian Press

Desmond Dillon Paul Morton had flat feet – pes planus in Latin, as he noted – that made him march like a duck, with outward turned toes, something that dismayed his commandant at the Royal Military College of Canada, wartime navy ace Rear Admiral Desmond W. Piers.

He had chosen to make the army his career, but his pes planus barred him from a warrior’s commission that otherwise might have been the due of the son and nephew of two generals and the great-grandson of a third – the first Canadian-born officer to be appointed head of Canada’s military, in 1908.

It was a condition for which he poked fun at himself, once joking in an autobiographical essay that through his school years “it remained easier with each stage of athletic expectation to opt out … and stay home with my books.”

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In 1959, when he became the first post-Second World War RMC cadet to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship – an achievement that included candidates being assessed for sports skills – historian Jack Granatstein wryly suggested his friend and colleague of 63 years was successfully evaluated as “tries hard.”

Indeed, although he was relegated to commanding cooks, clerks and drivers in the army service corps during part of his 10-year army stint – rather than leading an armoured regiment onto the Normandy beach on D-Day as his father had or commanding Canadian troops in South Africa’s Boer War as his great-grandfather had – the label “tries hard” indelibly stamped every endeavour he undertook.

Desmond (Des) Morton became one of Canada’s most impressive and remarkable historians, particularly of military, political and labour history. He was one of the country’s best-known public intellectuals, one of its most energetic political activists and one of its leading university administrators.

Carleton University historian Norman Hillmer said that the most striking thing about his colleague was “his energy, discipline and commitment to putting things into action and on paper.”

He wrote more than 40 books and thousands of radio scripts and articles for newspapers, magazines and academic journals. He taught history at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto, was academic dean and principal of Erindale College (now the University of Toronto Mississauga) and founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

He was paradoxically a shy man and an introvert, preferring to take a book with him to social gatherings so he wouldn’t have to make conversation with strangers whose names he never later remembered. In Prof. Hillmer’s description, he was a man who comfortably could express warmth and emotion from a distance but had difficulty doing it close up.

Thus, he wrote chatty, affectionate weekly and bi-weekly notes to his friends and family through most of his life. He also, on the other side of his shyness, possessed a delightful wit and sense of humour and, once behind a lectern, his friends and fellow professors recalled him as a riveting speaker who captivated his students.

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At the start of the 1960s, he became an adviser to the New Democratic Party, including to its first leader, Tommy Douglas, and, in 1964, upon leaving the army, he was recruited by Stephen Lewis, then a new NDP member of the Ontario Legislature, to become the party’s assistant provincial secretary. He quickly displayed a knack for growing the party membership, for political strategizing and, perhaps most of all, for writing eloquent, compelling political speeches.

His advice to the party was unfailingly honest, straightforward and tough, said his friend and former national NDP leader Edward Broadbent.

He was nominated for the expected election in 1978 as a candidate for Parliament in the Greater Toronto riding of Mississauga North, but he dropped out before the vote took place in 1979. His inability to remember names led him to decide not to consider running again.

Two years before his death, he finished the seventh edition of his popular A Short History of Canada and it pleased him to be able to include a critique – academically sound but pointed – of Stephen’s Harper’s Conservative government.

Desmond Morton died on Sept. 4 of heart failure in his Montreal home. He was 81.

He was born Sept. 10, 1937, in Calgary, the son of Ronald Edward Alfred Morton, a career army officer, and Sylvia Cuyler Frink, a descendant of the infamous American traitor Benedict Arnold’s aide-de-camp Nathaniel Frink, who joined Arnold in exile in New Brunswick in the 1780s and became the commercial insurer of his business interests.

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His father went overseas in 1942 as commander of the Winnipeg armoured regiment, the Fort Garry Horse. From the war’s end until Prof. Morton’s graduation from the Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan – his father was stationed in Japan as head of Canada’s Far East Military Mission – he, his mother and older sister, Diana, followed his father around to his various postings.

In 1947, at the age of 10, when his father was transferred to Regina as area commander for Saskatchewan, “here began my exposure to the activity that has rivalled history as my life’s driver,” he wrote.

“At every election, federal and provincial, big political names came to the armouries to lecture curious supporters, about a hundred yards from our front door. … I heard and saw Louis St-Laurent, C.D. Howe, Tommy Douglas, M.J. Coldwell, and the Saskatchewan CCF [forerunner of the NDP] minister of labour and Regina’s mayor, Charlie Williams. For some reason I cannot now recall, I adored the Conservative leader, Colonel George Drew. Within hours of his speech, I was determined to canvass for his candidate. I walked up to the Tory committee room at the top of our street. After a moment’s hesitation, I entered, and emerged minutes later with a bundle of leaflets and instructions I would repeat for the rest of my political career.”

At the age of 14, he fibbed about his age to join the army reserve.

In 1954, he entered Royal Military College Saint-Jean (formerly known as Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean), established two years earlier partly at the instigation of his uncle. Geoffrey Morton was the last anglophone commander of the army in Quebec and believed Canada needed a college to train officers in both languages.

Prof. Granatstein, a military and political historian whose reputation rivals that of Des Morton (and who co-authored several popular books of history with him), followed him two years later into RMC Saint-Jean and was assigned to sit at his table in the mess hall where he was a senior cadet in his third year.

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“Unlike other seniors who said nothing, ate and disappeared,” Prof. Granatstein said, "he ran the table like a history seminar, asking a group of semi-literate 17- and 18-year-olds questions on Canadian military history. I still remember with a frisson of pride that when he asked us about the South African War I identified the capital of the Orange Free State as Bloemfontein. I think that was the moment I decided to become a historian. I blame Des.”

From RMC Saint-Jean, Prof. Morton went on to the Royal Miltary College of Canada, in Kingston, and was awarded a two-year Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. He subsequently returned to Canada, where the army assigned him as Captain Morton to Camp Borden “flat feet and all,” to train recruits in infantry tactics with assistance from then-Lieutenant Granatstein.

On weekends, he drove to Toronto and learned how to run NDP constituency campaigns. In 1963, the army transferred him to its historical section. A year later, he returned to civilian life and, while working for the NDP, met and married his first wife, Janet Smith, who also was working for the party. Two years later, he began work on his doctorate at the London School of Economics.

He started his academic career at the University of Ottawa in 1968-69.

He was primarily a historian of ordinary Canadians – ordinary soldiers, ordinary workers – rather than of great historical figures.

Possibly his most innovative work was When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War – an analysis of what the ordinary soldier faced in discipline, punishment, combat and medical treatment based on more than three decades of research, much of it poring through archives material.

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He wrote a biography of his great-grandfather, The Canadian General: Sir William Otter, initially as an effort to cleanse his forebear’s reputation as an incompetent villain for his role in the North-West Rebellion and his attack on Chief Poundmaker in Saskatchewan’s 1885 Battle of Cut Knife. “It was a verdict family pride compelled me to reverse,” he said. “Oddly enough, I couldn’t.” The result was what he fervently hoped was a balanced account of Gen. Otter’s career.

He wrote the acclaimed Working People: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Labour Movement. He wrote foundational works on the history of the NDP – including The Riverdale Story, an account of how the party’s organizing and canvassing techniques changed the way campaigns in Canada are run. He wrote four popular military history books with Prof. Granatstein, among them Bloody Victory: Canadians and the D-Day Campaign 1944.

He was a friend of legendary Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion and worked on her election campaigns.

In 1985, Prof. Morton was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1996, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada. In 2010, he was presented with the Pierre Berton Award for popularizing history in public media.

In 1990, his wife, Janet, died from complications of diabetes. In 1999, he married Gael Eakin, a former member of McGill’s board of governors. They met when she and a friend turned up in his class to audit one of his courses. (When he asked the class if anyone knew what a running board was, only Ms. Eakin raised her hand.)

Prof. Morton leaves Ms. Eakin his son, David, of Oxford, England daughter, Marion, of Ottawa sister, Diana one granddaughter and Ms. Eakin’s four daughters and four grandchildren.


A Military History of Canada

Is Canada really “a peaceable kingdom” with “an unmilitary people”? Nonsense, says Desmond Morton. This is a country that has been shaped, divided, and transformed by war — there is no greater influence in Canadian history, recent or remote.

From the shrewd tactics of Canada’s First Nations to our troubled involvement in Somalia, from the Plains of Abraham to the deserts of Afghanistan, Morton examines our centuries-old relationship to war and its consequences. This updated edition also includes a new chapter on Canada’s place in the war on terrorism.

A Military History of Canada is an engaging and informative chronicle of Canada at war, from one of the country’s finest historians.

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LibraryThing Review

It's a history book , of course and one which I believe acknowledges the American and English jingoisms. My favourite theme of Morton, however is his assertion that North Americans lost heavily in . Читать весь отзыв


Desmond Morton – historian, author and former U of T principal – 'was everything a public intellectual should be'

Desmond Morton was a teacher, author and rigorous academic, but also a brilliant communicator who brought history to life for the Canadian public.

Morton was a soldier and political organizer before joining the University of Toronto, where he spent 25 years of his career at Erindale College, now U of T Mississauga. His energy and enthusiasm boosted Erindale’s reputation, and as principal from 1986 to 1994 he helped expand the campus and cement ties with the community.

He died on Sept. 4 at the age of 81.

Morton brought a “sense of place” to Erindale, both as part of U of T and as an important contributor to Mississauga and the Peel region, said Ian Orchard, acting vice-president and principal of U of T Mississauga. Because of Morton, “it is in the DNA of UTM that it is a community itself, but also contributes to the broader community.”

Morton lived near the campus in Streetsville (now part of Mississauga), was engaged in local politics, and encouraged students to study local history.

While at U of T, and later at McGill University, Morton was a prolific and high-profile commentator on Canadian military, labour and political history. Over the years he wrote dozens of op-ed pieces and was interviewed often in print, radio and television.

Morton was a central player in the revitalized public interest in Canadian history that exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, said historian Paul W. Bennett, a long-time colleague and friend who is now director of Schoolhouse Consulting in Halifax. “He popularized Canadian history and did so in a way that paid respect for scholarship. He combined serious research, exquisite writing and very refined communication skills.”

Desmond Morton speaks at an Ontario Federation of Labour conference in the late 1980s or early 1990s (photo by Steve Jaunzems)

Through a series of national history conferences, Morton brought together historians with radically different views, Bennett said. “He was a bridge builder [and] he just loved raising the level of discussion.” He was highly supportive of teaching at all levels, and was involved in presenting awards to the top history teachers across the country.

A quintessential absent-minded professor, Morton could be forgetful. He sometimes locked his keys in his car, left his glasses behind, or could be seen with his pant leg tucked into his sock. “He was a brilliant man who was so consumed by his thoughts and ideas, that the mundane and routine were not bothered with,” Bennett said.

Morton described himself as a political, military and industrial relations historian, noting that this “really adds up to the single specialty of human conflict, both violent and otherwise.” He wrote 40 books, including his seminal A Short History of Canada. First published in 1983, its seventh edition was released in 2017 and soon made it back on the bestseller lists.

“He had the ability to write straight-laced scholarly history with the best of them, but he also had a gift for a story and an eye for detail,” said historian Jonathan Vance, a professor of history at the University of Western Ontario. “He never forgot that history was ultimately about people.”

Morton was Vance’s external examiner for his PhD, and later became a friend and colleague. As a person, Morton “had an acerbic wit, but at heart was a kind and genial fellow,” Vance said.

Long-time colleague Robert Johnson, Professor Emeritus of history at U of T Mississauga, said Morton challenged established ideas and respectfully looked for weaknesses in people’s arguments. “He was a thoughtful, independent, contrarian voice that was profoundly important in public discourse,” Johnson said. “He was everything a public intellectual should be. He wasn’t somebody who was on a soapbox or riding a hobby horse. He asked important questions and poked holes in everybody’s dogmas.”

Desmond Dillon Paul Morton was born in 1937 in Calgary. His mother was from New Brunswick and his father, from Toronto, was an officer in the Canadian armed forces. Morton and his mother and sister moved to New Brunswick to stay with his grandparents while his father was away fighting during the Second World War.

In an autobiographical essay written in 2011 for the Canadian Historical Review, Morton said that his initial knowledge of history was gleaned from his grandfather’s Book of Knowledge encyclopedia, and faded British history books. He avoided athletic pursuits as much as possible, but learned – from a retired sea captain – how to build model wooden ships. He kept up that hobby for the rest of his life.

​Former Governor General David Johnston (right) presented Morton with the Pierre Berton Award for teaching Canadian history in 2010 (photo by MCpl Dany Veillette/Rideau Hall)

After ​ his father returned from the war, Morton and his family moved to Barrie, Ont., then to Regina. In Saskatchewan he was first exposed to political debate, when leaders such as Louis St. Laurent, C.D. Howe, Tommy Douglas, M.J. Coldwell and George Drew came to town to campaign. It was also while he was in Regina that his byline first appeared, after he wrote a letter to the CBC Times magazine. When his letter appeared in the publication, “my ego exploded,” he wrote in his memoir. “I have never quite forgotten the absurd ecstasy of seeing my name and words in print.”

In 1949 the family moved to Winnipeg, and Morton was enrolled in a private boys’ school. It was there that he started his own military career, joining the school’s cadet corps. But soon the family was off again, this time to Kingston, Ont., where Morton went to high school and joined the army reserves. His father was then transferred to Tokyo as a military attaché during the Korean War. In his summer breaks in Japan, Morton worked for a Canadian army administrative unit, and when the family returned to Canada he decided the military was where he wanted to make his career. He enrolled at College Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean, south of Montreal, then after three years continued his education and training at Royal Military College in Kingston.

Morton was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and studied for two years at Oxford, but returned to Canada to perform his military service training officer-cadets, then moved to the army’s historical section. By this time his interest in politics had deepened, and he was persuaded by then Ontario New Democratic Party MPP Stephen Lewis to become assistant provincial secretary of the NDP. He was responsible for membership and fundraising. “I never worked harder or more happily,” he wrote. “My recreation was producing what political parties call ‘literature,’ a stream of pamphlets on issues, organization, or anything I wanted to discuss.”

After a brief stint working on a PhD at the London School of Economics, he returned to Canada, got married in 1967 to Janet Smith, and in 1970 published his thesis as his first book, Ministers and Generals, about British army officers’ attempts to command the Canadian militia.

Former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion with Morton at his installation as principal in 1986 (photo by Steve Jaunzems )

In 1969 Morton accepted a job teaching history at Erindale. He thrived in the fast-growing, diverse community of Mississauga, and participated in local politics, including working on two early campaigns of long-time mayor Hazel McCallion.

“He was incredibly efficient and productive,” said Catherine Rubincam, Associate Professor Emeritus at U of T Mississauga. “He published at a ferocious rate and he taught with great energy.”

Morton was an expert at multi-tasking, Rubincam said. He would open his mail while attending long meetings, she said, but still manage to listen and participate in the proceedings.

At U of T he had the flexibility to work on a wide range of historical subjects, although his core interest was military history which he saw as “the study of people under deadly stress, making decisions and suffering from the decisions of others.”

In the early 1980s Morton was contacted by Edmonton publisher Mel Hurtig and asked to write a history of Canada that was “short enough to be bought in the Edmonton airport and finished before the buyer landed in Toronto.” Hurtig’s further instructions, Morton said, were that it had to include women, begin with First Nations and not Confederation, and not shun controversy. The result was the wildly popular A Short History of Canada. The book, as a Toronto Star reviewer said, cemented Morton’s reputation as a “first-rate storyteller” as well as a consummate historian.

Morton took on an administrative role at Erindale, as vice-principal of humanities. Then in 1986 he was named principal. He didn’t move into the opulent principal’s residence, however, as his wife Janet was confined to a wheelchair with complications from diabetes, and he wanted to stay in the house they had adapted to her needs.

Morton was an energetic and efficient administrator, said Rubincam. “He sized up situations very fast,” and then made decisions quickly.

Morton shakes hands with Ignat Kaneff as he receives an honorary degree (photo by Steve Jaunzems)

One of his major successes was the construction of the Kaneff Centre to house the social sciences faculty as well as a lecture hall and a gallery. A local donor – Ignat Kaneff, a Bulgarian immigrant who had become a successful builder in Mississauga – funded the project. Morton also spearheaded two innovative joint programs with Sheridan College.

Morton’s wife Janet died in 1990, and in 1993 he was approached by McGill University to help launch their new Institute For the Study of Canada. He decided to go, and it was in Montreal that he met his second wife Gael Eakin, whom he married in 1999.

Morton’s reputation continued to flourish at McGill, where he maintained his prolific production of textbooks, essays, newspaper articles and public appearances. He retired from teaching at McGill in 2006, but continued to write and comment on history and public affairs.

He leaves his wife Gael, children David and Marion, a granddaughter, four stepchildren and four step-grandchildren.


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Download Now!

We have made it easy for you to find a PDF Ebooks without any digging. And by having access to our ebooks online or by storing it on your computer, you have convenient answers with A Short History Of Canada Desmond Morton . To get started finding A Short History Of Canada Desmond Morton , you are right to find our website which has a comprehensive collection of manuals listed.
Our library is the biggest of these that have literally hundreds of thousands of different products represented.

Finally I get this ebook, thanks for all these A Short History Of Canada Desmond Morton I can get now!

I did not think that this would work, my best friend showed me this website, and it does! I get my most wanted eBook

wtf this great ebook for free?!

My friends are so mad that they do not know how I have all the high quality ebook which they do not!

It's very easy to get quality ebooks )

so many fake sites. this is the first one which worked! Many thanks

wtffff i do not understand this!

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Desmond Morton (civil servant)

Major Sir Desmond Morton KCB CMG MC (1891–1971) was a British military officer and government official. Morton played an important role in organizing a response to appeasement of Germany under Adolf Hitler during the period prior to World War II by providing intelligence information about German re-armament to Winston Churchill. At this time Churchill did not have any position in the government. In 1940 Morton was Churchill's personal assistant when he became prime minister.

Morton joined the Royal Artillery in 1911. He saw action in World War I, and was shot in the heart at the Battle of Arras in 1917. However, he survived and recovered, serving again with the bullet still inside. He served as aide de camp to Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force from 1917 to 1918.

He was seconded to the Foreign Office in 1919 where he was head of the Secret Intelligence Service's Section V, dealing with counter-Bolshevism in the mid 1920s, and was Head of the Industrial Intelligence Centre of the Committee of Imperial Defence from 1929 to 1939, responsible for providing intelligence on the plans and capabilities for manufacturing munitions in other countries. From 1930 to 1939 he was also a member of the CID sub-committee on Economic Warfare.

In 1939, he became the Principal Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and became Churchill's Personal Assistant in 1940. He served on the Economic Survey Mission to the Middle East in 1949, and served in the Ministry of Civil Aviation from 1950 to 1953.

He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917, and a knighthood in 1945. Morton was portrayed by Jim Broadbent in the 2002 film The Gathering Storm.


Watch the video: Desmond Morton on French Canadas impact in the First World War