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Sir Fitzroy Maclean papers

Identifier: MSS 11487

Scope and Contents Note

This Fitzroy Maclean papers consist (1827-1996; 44 cubic feet) of the professional and personal papers of Scottish soldier, diplomat, politician, author, and traveler, Sir Fitzroy Hew Maclean (1911-1996) of Dunconnel. It includes correspondence, memoranda, manuscripts, typescripts, newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, lectures, speeches, photographs, memorabilia, and research material pertaining to his military, diplomatic, political and literary career as well as family and personal affairs.

Maclean is best known for his role during World War II as head of the British military mission to Yugoslavia in which he served as Winston Churchill's personal representative to leader of the Communist Partisans, Josip Broz Tito, his diplomatic service in the Soviet Union in the late 1930's, and as the author of the classic memoir Eastern Approaches (1949) and many other books and articles. After the war, he pursued a political career as a Conservative member of Parliament, and, based on his close relationship with Tito, played a key role in Anglo-Yugoslav affairs. He was also noted for his expertise on the Soviet Union.

A third focal point of his life and career was Scotland: he was a proud member of Clan Maclean and wrote several works on Scottish history, biography, and folklore. The collection contains some material in Serbo-Croatian, German, Italian and French.

The papers are arranged in four main series with various sub-series. Items of particular interest in the First Series, Career and Personal Papers, are described in the following paragraphs devoted to each subseries. In the Diplomatic Subseries are dispatches and memoranda of his trips through Central Asia (including Afghanistan and the ancient cities Bokhara and Samarkand) and the Caucasus, on the situation in Sinkiang (Chinese Turkestan) and on the political stability of the Soviet Union, 1937-1939.

The subseries British Military Mission to Yugoslavia contains Winston Churchill's Minute concerning his Mission to Tito, Autograph Diary (2 pages) re his arrival in Yugoslavia, "Ratweek" Map (oversize), twelve files (labeled Top Secret) including memoranda, correspondence, telegrams, etc concerning military and political affairs such as Allied operations and aid to Tito's Partisans, formation of the Yugoslav government, relief, the visit of Field Marshal Alexander, Supreme Allied Commander to Belgrade, Macedonia, Prospect of South Slav federation, and correspondence with Evelyn Waugh.

The Special Refugee Commission subseries contains correspondence, telegrams, reports, including one submitted to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, articles, and a draft of a speech on the refugee problems to a parliamentary committee.

Political correspondence includes papers concerning the Lancaster by-election of 1941, the general election of 1945, and correspondence with Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Anthony Eden, Alec Douglas- Home, Peter Carrington, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Robert Kennedy, John Lindsay, Henry Jackson, and Averell Harriman ; a memorandum to Field Marshal Alexander of Tunis concerning irregular warfare; and correspondence and memoranda related to a parliamentary delegation to Romania in 1973.

Material in the VIP Subseries includes: letters and notes from members of the Royal Family including Prince Charles, Princess Margaret, Elizabeth the Queen Mother; Clementine Churchill and Mary Churchill Soames; and a thank you note from Lauren Bacall.

The Yugoslavia and Tito Subseries contains significant material including memoranda of meetings with Tito in 1949,1950, 1953, 1968, 1973; informative accounts by Maclean and other British officers about the Military Mission in World War II for an official book published by Muzej AVNOJ (1970-1971); correspondence about Maclean's involvement in proposals for the publication of Tito's memoirs (1966-1977) and about the nomination of Tito for the Nobel Peace Prize (1972-1973); correspondence and papers by Maclean and others from a conference on British Policy and Resistance in the Balkans (1973); Briefing papers, correspondence and memoranda of Margaret Thatcher's visit to Yugoslavia in 1977, and correspondence and memorabilia pertaining to the Prince of Wales' visit in 1978; correspondence about Maclean's visit in 1989 and transcript of an interview with Prime Minister Ante Markovic.

For the 1990's, the time of war and the dissolution of Yugoslavia , there is correspondence with David Owen, Stevan Dedijer and others, and about the Korcula Emergency Appeal, a relief effort for a hospital on the island of Korcula, Croatia, organized by the Macleans; letters from Yugoslav friends describing the turmoil , and/or seeking assistance in finding jobs in the United Kingdom; correspondence about renewed controversy about the British Military Mission in World War II. and the Aldington-Tolstoy Libel Case concerning the repatriation of Yugoslavs in 1945. It should also be noted that in Series II, Subseries B, Literary Material pertaining to Yugoslavia, there is some correspondence filed with the manuscripts, typescripts, articles and radio and television transcripts.

The Subseries Family and Personal Papers has letters from friends and teachers, some in German, French, and Italian. In a significant group of letters to his parents (1939-1945) from London, Cairo, Belgrade, and elsewhere, Maclean discussed the international situation, his desire to leave the Foreign Office in order to join the army, life in London during the Blitz, the beginning of his political career, and his military service (some letters were extensively cut by the censors). There are also a number of letters to his parents from the years 1946-1955 from Maclean and his wife Veronica discussing family matters and living conditions in Italy and Austria while Maclean was directing the Special Refugee Commission, and about their travels in Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey in the early 1950's.

Also present is correspondence with Frank McLynn, his biographer, 1990-1994, and two scrapbooks. The blue scrapbook (1939-1951) includes one letter of Maclean to his aunt, newspaper clippings relating to his military service in Yugoslavia, his marriage, some articles by him, a few photographs. The red scrapbook, 1943-1946 also has newspaper clippings about his military service and political career and articles by him.

The Second Series consists of literary papers. This series contains drafts, typescripts, setting copies of his books with related correspondence with publishers and others about the publication process, contracts, royalty statements, book reviews, fan mail, articles, book reviews, speeches, lectures, transcripts of radio and television programs, film proposals or treatments. Several of his books were published under different titles in the United States. It is organized into five subseries based on subject matter. These include: Eastern Approaches(American title- Escape to Adventure); Yugoslavia (the country as originally constituted and also the new states that emerged in the 1990's); Russia and the former Soviet Union and the new nations post 1990); Scotland; and Miscellaneous Literary.

The subseries about Eastern Approachescontains a typed manuscript (Setting copy) with corrections, including an unpublished introduction; some material omitted from the published version including his admiration for a Soviet army unit, comments on the Cetniks, and conversations with King George VI and Winston Churchill and King Peter of Yugoslavia; letters from Michael Adeane, Secretary to King George VI and Winston Churchill requesting that certain passages be omitted; a letter from Peter Fleming to Jonathan Cape offering his opinion of the book, a letter from Ian Fleming to Jonathan Cape and a note to Maclean.

Other material includes correspondence with Jonathan Cape and other publishers about a new edition, correspondence with Douglas Fairbanks, Eric Ambler and others concerning a possible film version, and with Ian Curteis about a proposed television adaptation.

The Yugoslavia Subseries includes books: Disputed Barricade(1957), published in America as The Heretic, which includes an interview with Tito; Yugoslavia(1969), in which Maclean wrote the text for this book of photographs; Battle of Neretva(1970); and Tito: A Pictorial Biography(1980). Also present are articles from newspapers and magazines, 1947-1995, on Yugoslav politics and society, including interviews with Tito. Particularly interesting are two unpublished articles "Whither Yugoslavia?" written in 1989 based on interviews with Yugoslav politicians, including Slobodan Milosevic. There are also a number of book reviews of works by Julian Amery, William Deakin, Noel Malcolm and Misha Glenny and others.

In addition, the subseries on Yugoslavia contains lectures, 1949-1995; transcripts of radio and television programs, with related correspondence; and some interviews with Tito, notably The "Life and Times of Marshal Tito" (December 1963); and one for a CBS news program (1969).

The Russian Material Subseries contains drafts, correspondence, and research material for his books A Person from England(1958), including several autograph letters,1827-1861, of Dr. Joseph Wolff, one of the English travelers chronicled in the book; Back to Bokhara(1959); Holy Russia(1978); drafts titled "All the Russias" and "The Other Russias," which were the basis for To the Back of Beyond(1974), To Caucasus: End of All the Earth(1976); and Holy Russia(1978) which completed the trilogy; Portrait of the Soviet Union(1988), including material for both the book and the related TBS television series since Maclean was working on these simultaneously; and All the Russias(1992). Correspondents include Pamela Harriman, Marietta Tree and Fitzgerald Bemiss.

In addition to his books about Russia and the Soviet Union, his papers also contain articles, 1949-1995 on political, social, economic, cultural aspects of the former Soviet Union, a number on Georgia and the Caucasus, and Mikhail Gorbachev; book reviews, 1949-1994; and radio and television material, such as correspondence and transcripts for programs, including "The End of All the Earth" and "Carnival in the Caucasus"; interviews with Anna Mikhailovna Larina (Bukharin's widow) and others for the BBC "Timewatch" program "Bukharin."

The subseries concerning his Scotland material includes books, A Concise History of Scotland(1970); Isles of the Sea(1985); Bonnie Prince Charlie(1988); and Highlanders(originally titled Clans) (1995). Material for the book and television series are combined since Maclean was working on them simultaneously. Among the articles on Scotland is a notable series "Scottish Approaches" which appeared in The Scotsmanin 1959.

The last subseries in Maclean's Literary Papers consists of miscellaneous literary material, including material for the book Take Nine Spies. There is also correspondence with publishers in which he discusses more than one book, and with his literary agents.

Articles are arranged chronologically, and topics range from post World War II Japan, Korea, Italy, the Middle East, and defense policy to China and Mongolia in the 1960's, an extended trip to China in 1988, and his travels in Nepal, Tibet, and Oman in the 1990's. There are also articles about his military, diplomatic, political and literary career, his travels, and personal life, and note that others are contained in two scrapbooks. The radio and television material includes his commentaries on the international scene from 1946 on.

Photographic Material comprises the third series, which contains twenty-four boxes of photographs (some in albums), contact sheets, negatives, and slides, taken by Maclean, primarily of his travels in the former Soviet Union, Europe and Asia, from 1938 through the 1990's. Especially noteworthy are those taken in Moscow, Leningrad, and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, the cities Bokhara and Samarkand, and Persia, Paris and Florence in the late 1930's, Yugoslavia during World War II, postwar Korean and China, and of Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and Iran in the early 1950's. Maclean visited the former Soviet Union frequently from the late 1950's through 1987 and took numerous photographs of his favorite regions, Central Asia and the Caucasus, particularly Georgia.

As for Yugoslavia, there is an album dated 1953 labeled Namanevru Jugoslovenska Narodne, Armije (Yugoslav People's Army) with photographs of Tito, Maclean, and soldiers; and photographs from the early 1960's through 1980 including a number of photographs of Tito. Individuals subjects include Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. There are also many family photographs taken at Maclean's homes Beechfield and Strachur, and of friends. The photographs used in Eastern Approaches, Disputed Barricade, A Person from England, and Bonnie Prince Charlieare also in this section. The fourth series consists of two small additions to the papers and include some correpondence files, such as congratulatory letters about his appointment as Under Secretary for War in 1954 and his Baronetcy in 1957, his letters published in the press, and the Great Britain-USSR Association; files on his participation in various conferences concerning Yugoslavia and War War II; election campaign materials of Maclean; Notebooks, including “Russian Notebook” (May 15-June 17, 1958); “Mission” describing his recall from the Middle East in 1943 to go to Yugoslavia as Winston Churchill’s personal representative to support the resistance forces that were most effective against the Germans, moving British support from the Chetniks to the Communist-led partisans and Tito, (circa 1943-1944); and a trip to the country of Georgia (no year, May-June); news articles; speeches by Maclean, including printed speeches published in "Parliamentary Debates"; passports; pocket and desk diaries; first drafts of "Eastern Approaches"; a file on guerilla warfare; a copy of a 1938 Report on Central Asia by Maclean; and Veronica Maclean's description about her first meeting with Josip Broz Tito in 1947.


  • Creation: 1827-1996


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Biographical Note

Fitzroy Hew Royle Maclean was born in 1911 in Cairo, Egypt to Charles Maclean, a major in the British army, and Gladys Royle Maclean. He was raised in Scotland, India, and Italy and attended Eton (1924-28), the University of Marburg in Germany (1929), and Kings' College, Cambridge (1929-32) where he won a senior scholarship and first class honors. He entered the Foreign Office in 1934 and was first posted to Paris, and then to Moscow in 1937 where he served as the Third Secretary in the British Embassy. Stalin's purges were at their height during Maclean's two years in the Soviet Union, and he was present at the state trial of Nikolai Bukharin in 1938. He also made journeys to remote areas of the Soviet Union such as Central Asia and the Caucasus where few if any foreigners had been for many years. In 1939 he returned to London and worked in the Foreign Office on Russian affairs.

When World War II broke out, he wanted to enlist in the military, but as a diplomat was in a "reserved" position and was not allowed to do so. He learned that the only way to be released from the Foreign Office was to declare himself a candidate for Parliament, and so he was returned for the constituency of Lancaster at a by-election in 1941. He joined the Cameron Highlanders regiment in the British army as a private, and then the new Special Air Service (SAS) and served in the Western Desert, where he participated in the raid on Benghazi along with SAS founder David Stirling and Randolph Churchill, and foiled a coup in Persia by kidnapping General Zahidi who had collaborated with the Germans.

In July 1943 Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked Maclean to serve as his personal representative and Brigadier commanding a British Military Mission to Josip Broz Tito, leader of the Communist Partisans in German-occupied Yugoslavia. At this stage of the war, there was a debate in the British government over which Yugoslav resistance group it should support - Tito's Partisans or Draza Mihalovich's Cetniks. In September Maclean was dropped by parachute into Bosnia and met Tito, and subsequently reported to Churchill that the Partisans were the more effective fighting force and would benefit from additional British and American aid. In August 1944, as the Germans prepared to withdraw from Yugoslavia Maclean planned "Operation Ratweek" for the first week of September, a coordinated Allied and Partisan attack on enemy communications which proved quite successful. In the course of his mission, which lasted until 1945, he became a friend and admirer of Tito. In 1947 Maclean was asked to head the Special Refugee Commission which had the sensitive task of screening of tens of thousands of Yugoslav and Ukrainian Displaced Persons, some of whom were alleged to have committed war crimes, in Italy and Austria.

After completing this assignment, Maclean focused on politics, representing Lancaster until 1959 and Bute and North Ayrshire from 1959-1974, and served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for War from 1954-1957. He was chairman of the Committee of the North Atlantic Assembly from 1964-1974. Maclean's friendship with Tito and frequent visits to Yugoslavia allowed him to play a key role in Anglo-Yugoslav relations. In the 1960's he purchased a home on the island of Korcula, becoming one of the few foreigners allowed to own property in Yugoslavia. Maclean also maintained a keen interest in the Soviet Union where he traveled extensively and he served as chairman of the Great Britain-USSR Association. He lectured frequently in the United Kingdom and the United States on Yugoslav and Soviet affairs.

Maclean's literary career was launched in 1949 with the publication of Eastern Approaches, a memoir of his experiences as a diplomat and soldier, which was acclaimed by critics and became a best-seller. This was followed in 1957 by a biography of Tito, Disputed Barricade, A Person from England(1958), describing the adventures of English travelers in Central Asia, and in 1958, Back to Bokhara(1959), and a number of books, articles and book reviews on Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and other subjects.

A third focal point of his writing was Scotland, and he published A Concise History of Scotland, (1970), The Isles of the Sea, a collection of West Highland folk tales (1985), Bonnie Prince Charlie, (1988) and Highlanders(1995). Along with establishing a reputation as the author of entertaining and informative works that blended his travel experiences and historical research, he turned his attention to radio and television, working on a number of documentary programs including The Road to Samarkandand The Life and Times of Marshal Titoand two major series. Portrait of the Soviet Unionand Highlanders.

Maclean was made a baronet in 1957 and a Knight of the Thistle in 1993, and was the recipient of many honors and decorations including the Commander of the British Empire, the Croix de Guerre, the Order of Kutusov, and the Partisan Star, and several honorary degrees.

In 1946 Maclean married a widow with two children, Veronica (Fraser) Phipps, daughter of the 16th Lord Lovat. They had two sons, James and Charles. In 1957 the Macleans purchased Strachur, an estate in Argyllshire in the Scottish Highlands, and later operated a hotel on the estate, the Creggans Inn, which became known for its good food, drink, and hospitality. Maclean continued to be extremely active into his eighties and kept up a busy schedule of writing, lecturing and traveling. He died of a heart attack while swimming at a friend's house in June 1996. In Maclean's later years, there was speculation that he had been the inspiration for Ian Fleming's James Bond.


44 Cubic Feet (102 document boxes, 2 os folders)


The collection is arranged in four main series, with various subseries:

Series I: Career and Personal Papers (Boxes 1-11)

Subseries A: Diplomatic Service (Box 1)

Subseries B: British Military Mission to Yugoslavia (Boxes 1-2)

Subseries C: Special Refugee Commission (Boxes 2-3)

Subseries D: Political Correspondence (Box 3)

Subseries E: VIP Material (Boxes 3-4)

Subseries F: Yugoslavia & Tito Related Material (Boxes 4-8)

Subseries G: Family & Personal Papers (Boxes 9-10)

Subseries H: Honors & Decorations (Boxes 10- 11)

Series II: Literary Papers - Books, Television & Radio Scripts, Articles, etc.

Subseries A: Eastern Approaches Material (Boxes 12-15)

Subseries B: Yugoslavia Related Material, including Books (Boxes 15-21); and Articles, Book Reviews, Lectures, Radio & Television, & Research (Boxes 21-26)

Subseries C: Russia & the Former Soviet Union Material, including Books (Boxes 26-40); Articles (Boxes 41-43); Book Reviews & Lectures (Boxes 43-45); and Radio & Television (Boxes 45-46)

Subseries D: Scotland Material, including Books (Boxes 46-57), Highlanders Television Series (Boxes 57-58), and Articles, Book Reviews and Lectures (Boxes 59-60)

Subseries E: Miscellaneous Literary Material, including Take Nine Spies (Boxes 60-63), Articles (Boxes 64-66); Book Reviews, Introductions, Lectures & Speeches and Literary Correspondence (Boxes 67-68); and Radio and Television (Boxes 68-69)

Series III: Photographic Material (Boxes 70-93)

Series IV: Sir Fitzroy Maclean Additional Papers (Boxes 94-102


This collection was purchased by the University of Virginia Library on November 30, 1998. The first addition, consisting of the desk diaries of Sir Fitzroy Maclean (MSS 11487-a), was received on March 7, 2003, and the second addition (ViU20160030) was received on December 1, 2015.

Sir Fitzroy Maclean papers
In Progress
Ann Marie Plunkett and assisted by Sharon Defibaugh, and Manuscripts students. Additions to the finding aid were made by Sharon Defibaugh in 2019.
Description rules
Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English
Web version of the finding aid funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Revision Statements

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  • Feb 27, 2004: converted to conform to eadVIVA.dtd by vivastrict.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States