Sir Harold Smedley Collection

Scope and Content

Diaries, official papers, correspondence and photographs

Administrative / Biographical History

Harold Smedley was born at Worthing in 1920, and was educated at Aldenham School and Pembroke College, Cambridge. During the Second World War he served with the Royal Marines. He entered the Dominions Office in 1946, which was responsible for Britain's relations with the then independent members of the Commonwealth. In 1948 Smedley was posted to the British High Commission in New Zealand as Second Secretary. In 1951 he was assigned to Southern Rhodesia to help set up the first British Mission there. Smedley returned to Britain in 1953 and from 1954-57 he served as Principal Private Secretary to two Secretaries of State for Commonwealth Relations, Lord Swinton and Lord Home. During 1955-56 Smedley arranged lengthy tours of New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, and then of eastern Canada, to enable Home to familiarise himself with developments in those countries. In 1957 Smedley was posted to India as Counsellor, initially to Calcutta, and then to New Delhi the following year where he was in charge of Administration and Consular Affairs. Smedley returned to London in 1960 working for the Information Policy Department, and in 1961 became Head of the News Department. During 1964-67, Smedley served as British High Commissioner in Ghana and between 1967 and 1970 as Ambassador to Laos. During 1970-72, he was employed as Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for Sub-Saharan Africa. At this time Smedley also served as Secretary General of the Commission on Rhodesian Opinion, which produced the Pearce Report. In 1972 he was appointed High Commissioner in Sri Lanka and Ambassador to the Republic of Maldives, and to a final diplomatic posting between 1976 and 1980 as High Commissioner in New Zealand and concurrently Governor of Pitcairn Island and High Commissioner in Western Samoa (1977-80). Smedley retired from the diplomatic service in 1980.

Much of the archive relates to the interests and activities of Lady Beryl Smedley (nee Brown), who was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and educated at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School and at Victoria University College. She served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force during the Second World War. Following the war, Lady Smedley worked for the Prime Minister's Department in Wellington and at the New Zealand High Commission in London. In 1950 she and Harold Smedley married, who was then serving in the British High Commission in Wellington. Lady Smedley was a leading figure in the Diplomatic Service Wives' Association and later in life wrote a history of British diplomatic spouses, 'Partners in diplomacy: the changing face of the diplomat's wife' (1990).

Access Information

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Acquisition Information

Donated by Sir Harold and Lady Smedley's son John Smedley in 2011.


Includes index.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the collection can be found on ArchiveSearch.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

good condition

Related Material

Smedley was interviewed as part of the British Diplomatic Oral History Programme and a transcript is held at the Churchill Archives Centre, DOHP 23.

Additional Information

This archival description was created by JS and MJC.

Smedley, Sir Harold (1920-2004) Knight, diplomat