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The Papers of William and Elsie Strang

Reference Code: GBR/0014/STRN

Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence; drafts of books, articles, broadcasts, and speeches; family papers; a photocopy of a diary; and photographs.

Some of the highlights of the collection include correspondence and papers relating to William Strang's career in the Foreign Office, including the Metro-Vickers trial in Moscow, 1933, Appeasement policy, 1938-9, and his relations with the Foreign Office during that period; and the work of the European Advisory Commission, 1943-5, and the British Control Commission in Germany, 1945-7. There are numerous letters exchanged between William Strang and historians interested in his memories of people and events during his Foreign Office career, particularly during his time as Joint Permanent Under-Secretary (Germany Section) and Permanent Under-Secretary, and photographs illustrating different stages of his diplomatic career.

The collection includes photocopies of a diary he kept while on active service in France and Belgium, 1916-17. The originals of this diary are in the Liddle Collection at Leeds University Library's Special Collections.


  • Creation: 1913-78

Biographical / Historical

William Strang was born in Rainham, Essex, 2 January 1893, the son of James Strang and Margaret Strang (née Steven). He was educated at Palmer's School in Grays, Essex; University College London; and the Sorbonne (University of Paris). He married Elsie Wynne Jones, 1 March 1920, with whom he had a daughter and a son.

During the First World War, he served with the 4th battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment and on the headquarters staff of the 29th Division. In 1919, he joined the Diplomatic Service and was posted to Belgrade, where he was Third Secretary, 1919-20, Second Secretary, 1920, and acting Chargé d'Affaires, 1921-2. He returned to the Foreign Office in London in 1923, where he worked in the Northern Department and was an expert on the Soviet Union. He attended the Anglo-Soviet Conference in 1924, was promoted to First Secretary in 1925, and posted to Moscow, as Acting Counsellor, 1930-2, and Counsellor, 1932-3. On returning to London, he became head of the League of Nations Section, 1933-7, and then of the Central Department, dealing with Germany, 1937-9.

He was Assistant Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign Office, overseeing relations with occupied European countries, 1939-43, and then British representative on the European Advisory Commission with the personal rank of Ambassador, 1943-5. After the war, he became Political Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of the British army of occupation in Germany, 1945-7, and Joint Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign Office, in charge of the German Section, 1947-9. He was appointed Permanent Under-Secretary in 1949 and retired from the Foreign Office in 1953.

He was appointed MBE, 1918; CMG, 1932; CB, 1939; KCMG, 1943; KCB, 1948; GCMG, 1950; and GCB, 1953. He was created a hereditary peer, as Baron Strang, in 1954.

As a member of the House of Lords, he was Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chairman of Committees, 1962. In retirement, he was also Chairman of the National Parks Commission, 1954-66; a member of the Nature Conservancy Council, 1954-66; Chairman of the Food Hygiene Advisory Council, 1955-71; and Chairman of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1958-65. In 1946, he became a Fellow of University College London; he was Chairman of the College Committee, 1963-71; and, in 1954, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by London University.

His publications include: The Foreign Office (1955); a memoir, Home and Abroad (1956); a history, Britain in World Affairs (1961); and Diplomatic Career (1962).

He died in Newcastle, 27 May 1978.


21 archive box(es)

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Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to Churchill Archives Centre by his children, Colin and Jean, in 1981, with a further addition by his granddaughter, Caroline Miller, in 2020.


The collection was catalogued in 1981 and the typescript catalogue was converted and published online as part of the A2A project co-ordinated by the National Archives. The catalogue was updated by Natalie Adams, 2002-6. A new accession was added to the collection and further detail to the catalogue by Sophie Bridges, August 2022. The biographical history was researched in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Who Was Who, and Wikipedia.

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Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087