Thursday, 9 June 2016

Fascinating Life of Lord Harold Caccia, Grandfather of the Owner of Abernant House

Fascinating Life of Lord Harold Caccia, Grandfather of the Owner of Abernant House

Abernant House has an intriguing history. The owner’s grandfather was Lord Harold Caccia, who was in the diplomatic service and was Ambassador in China, Vienna and then the USA during the 1960's. He was then Provost of Eton. Harold's father was Antonio Caccia, who was translator at the Treaty of Versailles. A rare copy of the Treaty was found in the house about 10 years ago!

Harold was born 21 December 1905 in Pachmarhi, India, the only child of Anthony Mario Felix Caccia, of the Indian Forest Service, and his wife Fanny Theodora, daughter of Azim Salvador Birch, of Erewhon and Oruamatua, New Zealand. Harold’s great- grandfather had fled to England from Lombardy as a political refugee in 1826.

Harold went to Eton, where he was a popular all-rounder, and then to Trinity College, Oxford, where he gained a rugby blue and second-class honours in philosophy, politics, and economics (1927). In 1928 he won a Laming travelling fellowship from Queen's College, Oxford.

He entered the Foreign Office in 1929 and was appointed third secretary at Peking in 1932. He returned to London in 1935 as a second secretary and, from 1936, as assistant private secretary to the secretary of state until, in 1939, he was transferred to Athens. Driven from In 1941, the Caccias together with the embassy wives and children and some commandos, including Oliver Barstow, his brother-in-law, had to flee Athens, and had a perilous journey. Their ship was bombed en route to Crete and Barstow was killed. They reached Crete via Santorini, in another small fishing craft and a destroyer took them to Cairo.

In 1943 Harold was appointed to the staff of the resident minister at Algiers in North Africa, under Harold Macmillan (later the Prime Minister, and first Earl of Stockton). Harold then moved to Italy as vice-president of the Allied Control Commission and political adviser to General Harold Alexander (later first Earl Alexander of Tunis). In 1944 he became the political adviser to the general officer commanding British land forces in Greece, and was in the embassy during the communist uprising in Athens in December 1944. Harold was in his element in a military environment and got on well with the Allied commanders.

In 1945 he became minister at the Athens embassy, before returning to the Foreign Office as chief clerk in 1949. In this post he was instrumental in putting into effect the administrative reforms which Anthony Eden (later the first Earl of Avon) had announced in 1943.

In 1950 he went to Austria, then still under four-power administration, first as minister, then as British high commissioner, and finally as ambassador from 1951 to 1954. He was again in his element in Austria, persona grata to the Allied military commanders and popular with the Austrian authorities. For relaxation he pursued chamois in the mountains.

In 1956 Harold was appointed British ambassador in Washington, a position he took in the immediate aftermath of the Suez debacle, following which communications between the US and UK governments were virtually suspended. In spite of his earlier relationship with the US president, Harold received a frosty reception. However, after Harold Macmillan became prime minister normal relations were rapidly restored, and there were no further crises during his mission. A major success was the resumption of full co-operation on atomic energy in 1958, and the relationship was further enhanced by an official visit by the queen. Harold soon got back on excellent terms with the administration and became a respected and popular figure in the United States.

In 1962 he became permanent under-secretary of state and in 1964 head of the Diplomatic Service until his retirement in 1965. He was appointed CMG (1945), KCMG (1950), GCMG (1959), and GCVO (1961). In 1965 he was created a life peer as Baron Caccia. He took the arms of his Florentine ancestors.

From 1965 to 1977 he was provost of Eton and also accepted many outside appointments in banking, finance, industry, and insurance. He was director of the National Westminster Bank, chairman of the Orion Bank, a director of the Foreign and Colonial Investment and European trusts, director of the Prudential, chairman of Standard Telephones and Cables and of ITT (UK) Ltd., and a member of the advisory council of Foseco Minsep PLC. He was chairman of the Gabbitas Thring Educational Trust, a member of the advisory committee on public records, and chairman of the Marylebone Cricket Club. In 1969 he became first chancellor and then lord prior of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

He was a regular attender at the House of Lords, where he sat on the cross benches, speaking mainly on foreign affairs. He was chairman of the Anglo-Austrian Society and became an honorary fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, in 1963, and of Queen's College in 1974.

In appearance he was short, stocky, and bald with a fair complexion. He was forthright in speech and energetic in action and he retained throughout his life a cheerful and light-hearted, almost boyish, manner, which concealed a serious and thoughtful disposition. He was a good administrator and universally popular in all that he undertook. He ended as he had begun, as a great all-rounder.

In 1932 he married Anne Catherine Barstow ('Nancy'), daughter of Sir George Lewis Barstow, civil servant. Her family owned and lived in Chapel House, Altmawr opposite Abernant House.

They had two daughters and one son. Harold was happy in his family life and he and his wife were a devoted couple. But his later years were saddened by the untimely death of his son David in 1983.

Abernant House was their family home from the early 1960’s after Harold bought it from his wife’s father, Sir John Barstow.

Abernant had previously belonged to Alfred Tristram Lawrence, Lord Trevethin, his wife’s grandfather, who had bought it upon retiring.

Lord Trevethin was a lawyer and judge and served as Lord Chief Justice of England from 1921 to 1922.

One of his sons was Charles Lawrence.

Harold died of cancer at his home in Builth Wells, Powys, 31 October 1990 and is buried in the St Mauritius church, Altmawr, across the road from Abernant.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.