London, Sept.1 : An amateur British diplomat tried to strike a peace deal with Germany just months after the Second World War began.
Previously unreleased documents suggest that Old Etonian and fascist sympathiser James Lonsdale-Bryans travelled to Italy to try to negotiate a deal with the then German ambassador in Rome, Ulrich von Hassell.
According to The Mirror, Bryans proposed that Germany be given a free hand in Europe as long as it agreed to leave Britain's colonial empire untouched.
Files released under the Freedom of Information Act show the Foreign Office knew of the trip but was uneasy about Lonsdale-Bryans' conduct.
"He went to Italy with the knowledge of the Foreign Office in order to develop his contacts. He greatly exceeded his instructions," a note from the security service states.
Lonsdale-Bryans wrote to the then Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax with his plans. The files reveal the secret service was unsure as to how much backing Lonsdale-Bryans, who also explored going to Germany, had from Halifax.
"There is no doubt that Bryans with or without authority from Lord Halifax endeavoured to go to Germany to contact (German foreign minister) Ribbentrop and if possible Hitler himself," one file shows.
In the event, Germany's invasion of France in 1940 radically changed the political climate. Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister, attitude to appeasers hardened and Halifax was packed off to become Britain's ambassador in Washington.