River Plate tailpiece

Ian Duddy, Britain's ambassador to Uruguay, and his team have been playing a huge part in getting stranded crusie passengers home via Montevideo. We've been following this story closely because of friends on one ship, the Ortelius, and because we so nearly got caught ourselves when the port of Ushuaia was closed to landings. It is good moment to recall  his illustrious predecessor as H.M.'s representative in Uruguay. 

Eugen Millington-Drake was almost the archetype of the not-quite-successful British diplomat sent to serve out his time in a minor post. A rowing Blue and keen tennis player, he was a physical fitness enthusiast who made his staff begin their days with exercise on the the roof. He was also a considerable scholar of the Spanish language and translated Rudyard Kipling's If into Spanish. 

His moment of glory came in December 1939 when the badly damaged Graf Spee took refuge in Montevideo after the Battle of the River Plate, which has been mentioned much in this blog. Millington-Drake gently pushed the Uruguayan government into applying firmly the rules for the treatment of a belligerent warship by a neutral government and limiting sharply the time she could shelter in Montevideo. He might also have played a part in the extraordinary events which saw scrap metal dealers, secretly working for Britain, formally buying the wreck of Graf Spee with all its secrets from Germany. 

He was rewarded with a KCMG in 1941 and went on to serve until 1946 as the Chief Representative to Spanish America for the British Council cultural propaganda organisation. He has the unusual distinction for a diplomat of being commemorated in a memorial in the country to which he was accredited.


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