Arthur Wyatt, CMG (1940-1948)
12th October 1929 – 4th March 2015
Arthur Hope Wyatt was born on 12th October 1929 in Anderton near Chorley, into a working class family: his father was an engineer in the machine shop at Horwich Railway Works, and his mother worked in a cotton mill. He won a county scholarship to Bolton School and joined the Boys’ Division in 1940, his sister Margaret later joining the Girls’ Division. Arthur enjoyed his School career – whilst History was his favourite subject, he was a keen sportsman and was in the First XI for both Cricket and Football, and the team photographs for both sports were displayed on his desk until the day he died.
After leaving School in 1948, Arthur won a place at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, but after National Service in the army he joined the Foreign Office in 1950. His first posting was to Ankara, in Turkey, and it was there that he met his wife, Yvonne, in the grand room of the British ambassador’s residence: Arthur was third secretary – a post he held between 1952 and 1956 – and she was the daughter of a British army officer based in Cyprus. They married in Cyprus in 1957, and went on to have two daughters, Patricia and Catherine.
Arthur’s long and illustrious career in the Diplomatic service included postings to Cambodia, West Germany, Malta, Nigeria (twice) and Turkey (a further two times) – the latter was especially important to Arthur and he spoke the language fluently.
Most notably, Arthur was charge d’affaires at the British Embassy in Tehran during the revolutionary Islamic regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, leading the last half-dozen British staff to stay on at the embassy (around 60 were evacuated) until it was eventually closed amidst an atmosphere of anti-Western hysteria. In November 1979, Arthur was one of six British diplomats who risked their lives to help six Americans fleeing the occupation of the US embassy by Iranian militants, helping to evacuate and hide them in the British summer residence of Gholhak before smuggling them into the care of the Canadian ambassador. During the crisis, the British embassy was also briefly invaded. “We were living on our nerves and under constant threat,” Arthur later remembered.
During the remainder of his career, Arthur also spent time with the FCO Inspectorate, a role which took him all over the world, including visits to Italy, Scandinavia, India, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Nepal and China. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1980.
Arthur finished his career as High Commissioner in Ghana and Ambassador (non-resident) to Togo; after retirement from the Diplomatic Service in 1989, he took up a post at the FCO in London as Head of Vetting Section, a role he held until 1995. In retirement, he continued to enjoy bridge, crosswords and football – he was a lifelong fan of Preston North End – and especially golf. Arthur enjoyed the game for its own sake, but had also found it a very useful skill in some of his diplomatic postings, as it enabled him to meet people in a social and sporting atmosphere and to develop relationships that might not have been possible in purely formal situations.
Arthur was proud of his Lancashire roots and maintained his links with both the School and the Old Boltonians’ Association throughout his life. He was a regular attendee at the annual London Dinner, where he would meet up with former classmates including Stanley Wright and Irving Wardle, and enjoyed Old Bolt trips to Lords or the Oval to watch Lancashire play Surrey.
Arthur credited his county scholarship with enabling him to achieve his full potential, and was a staunch supporter of the School’s Bursary Fund. Following his death, his daughter, Patricia, wrote: “He knew, more than most, how valuable a good education was, and is, especially in enabling children from humble backgrounds to achieve their full potential and aspire to careers which they might otherwise have thought closed to them”.
Patricia Wyatt, with extracts from The Times’ Obituary, published 16th March 2015