Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister: Foreign Affairs from Churchill to Thatcher edited by Andrew Holt and Warren Dockter is a volume in the Routledge Studies in Modern British History series. In eight chapters the book considers the private secretaries who served the prime ministers from Winston Churchill (1951-55) to Margaret Thatcher’s first years (1979-83). Each chapter provides biographical information on the private secretary under consideration and describes their relationship with the prime minister that they served. The conclusion of the volume is by Anthony Seldon and studies the role of the Principal Private Secretary.
Warren Dockter (author of Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire, and Diplomacy in the Middle East) writes the first chapter in the volume which is entitled, “Managing a Giant: Jack Colville and Winston Churchill.” Colville served the prime minister as Assistant Private Secretary (1940-41, 1943-45) and Joint Principal Private Secretary (1951-55). He later published his diaries as Fringes of Power along with other books and articles.
On returning to 10 Downing Street in 1951 Churchill insisted that Colville rejoin his staff and that the role of Principal Private Secretary be split between him and David Pitblado. Dockter writes that Colville’s role was “unique and remarkable” with Churchill giving him assignments “rarely given to members of the private office.” Colville was a member of Churchill’s inner circle and gave his loyalty to the prime minister rather than the government or the civil service. He was thus “overly identified with the Prime Minister personally” and considered “spoiled as a civil servant.” Colville resigned from the civil service in 1955 upon Churchill’s stepping down from office. After their respective resignations Colville remained Churchill’s friend but also “became something of a guardian for Churchill’s legacy.”