'...an officer of long experience of Chinese language political psychology...'
Nicholas Fitzmaurice was Consul in Peking from 1935 to 1937 (not 1933, as stated in Midnight in Peking). It followed a posting in Changsha:
Changsha, as Hunan’s provincial capital, was far more worthy of a consulate. It had many wealthy inhabitants…opened in 1905 P.D. Coates page389 Last Days of the Manchus. The China Consuls
After marrying in 1933, Nicholas and his wife lived in Changsha, 'a really difficult place' in the Yangste basin with 'a ghastly climate; either steaming hot or freezing cold'.
‘Changsha’s constant gloom…the skies were leaden…P.D.Coates The China Consuls
Fitzmaurice said he was not prepared to take his wife to such a place as Changsha again.
Following the birth of his two children in Peking in 1936 and 1937, Fitzmaurice returned to England for some long service leave (after nearly 3 years - hardly an annual jaunt as was inferred). His next posting was in Amoy where he was promoted to Consul General.
‘Amoy was not a post of political importance’ P.D.Coates page209 The China Consuls
‘All in all, Amoy was a happy port, although by the end of the century the long shadow of Japan was falling over it…’ P.D.Coates page210.The China Consuls
Fitzmaurice's family were evacuated in May 1941.
REPORT ON CONDITIONS IN AMOY CHINA by Theodore V. Oltman, M.D (written August 6, 1942) http://www.amoymagic.com/AM_Oltman.htm
The final stage of the diplomatic froideur [between the Japanese and British] came with Britain's declaration of war against Japan following...Pearl Harbour on 7th December 1941. Consuls were confined to their residences while diplomatic exchanges went on for months on the modalities of how each government would arrange for the return of its consulate staff and families. John Dickie The British Consul. Heir to a Great Tradition. (Hurst and Company. London 2007)
Fitzmaurice was interned with Murray MacLeHose (later Governor of Hong Kong), his junior, and eventually repatriated. When boarding the boat to leave China, the Japanese soldiers demanded Nicholas' wedding ring.
The Japanese also wanted his hip flask but he wouldn't give that to them either, saying it contained cleaning fluid for his typewriter.
As they finally departed China, Fitzmaurice produced his hip flask. His thoughts, and those of his colleague as they sampled the gin it contained, remain unknowable.
The ship from NZ avoided the depredations of the North Atlantic U boat patrols and Nicholas retired in the UK. He declined a further posting due to his ill health.
He was elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Career in the China Service
1908 Entered Foreign Office Consular Services as a Student Interpreter
1916 Promoted to 2nd Class Assistant
1927 Promoted to HM Vice Consul (Grade 1) in China
1930 Promoted to HM Consul in China
1934 Awarded "Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire"
1938 Promoted to HM Consul General in China
1911 Appointed Pro Consul at Foochow
1913 - 1914 Pro Consul at Tientsin
1915 - 1917 Pro consul at Hankow
1916 Acting Consul at Kiukiang
1919 - 1922 Engaged on Special Service at Kashgar with the local rank of Vice Consul. Acting Consul-General May-July 1922
1923 - 1923 Acting Vice Consul at Nanking. Acting Consul General July - December 1924
1925 - 1927 Acting Vice Consul at Canton
1928 - 1930 Acting Consul at Ichang
1931 Seconded for temporary service under the government of India and appointed Acting Consul-General Kashgar
1934 - 1935 In charge of the Consulates at Changsha
1935 - 1937 In charge of the Consulates at Peking
1938 - 1943 Consul General at Amoy
SOURCE: Historians Section | WH 1.321 | Foreign and Commonwealth Office | London SW1A 2AH |
'essential to have a man ...with a thorough knowledge of Chinese'
Midnight in Peking's description of Fitzmaurice, as with many aspects of the story, is fictional. It is important for the author to have a hero (Werner), villain (dentist), and various antagonists to thwart the hero's actions (detectives, "The Legation", short-hand for the British Consular service in Peking, journalists). This is engineered by using invented dialogue and imaginary interactions between the protagonists.
Midnight in Peking insinuates that Fitzmaurice was side-lined by the
Foreign Office.This encourages the reader to take sides.
No such rumors are made, or repeated, anywhere in any of Werner's letters or the archive material quoted by the author.
Our sources, archival, and otherwise, emphatically contradict Midnight in Peking's portrayal of Consul Fitzmaurice.
For the record, Nicholas Fitzmaurice was:
meticulous about detail and always lived "by the book". Although he respected the office which they represented, Nicholas disliked having to get dressed up in his uniform, sword and medals.
Well-mannered, yes; pompous, no.