Trusty Servant May 2019 No.127 - Page 9

No.127 The Trusty Servant Serving our Country abroad Sir David Miers KBE CMG and Peter Hilken OBE were contemporaries in Toye’s (50-55) and met up in Tehran at the time of the Islamic Revolution, 1978- 79. David was serving in the Embassy, Peter in The British Council. The Trusty Servant poses some questions: Did you get on well while together in Toye’s, and have you remained good friends ever since? D Yes, but we have only seen each other rarely. One attractive aspect of friendships made during five years of close proximity at school is the ease with which they can be resumed even after long intervals. P I think we always got on well, though I remember David frowning at me when I dropped a catch at point in an under-16 game. David was friends with everyone! Since then we have met about once every decade. What made you both decide to join differing parts of the foreign service, David the FCO, Peter the British Council? P In the 60s the countries Britain had colonised were getting their independence. I thought this was exciting. I believed the new nations would need help from us to develop and modernise their economies and education systems and I thought that we should help, building a different, post-colonial relationship with them. I also wanted to see the world outside these small islands! D Britain’s relations with countries overseas are important for our prosperity, security and quality of life. Working for the government to defend and advance our David Miers arrives in Laos, 1968 overseas interests seemed likely to be useful and attractive. The Foreign Service was said to recruit good people so it seemed reasonable to apply and even if it turned out to be disappointing it would look OK on one’s CV. You were both in Iran in November 1978, when the Islamic Revolution forced the Shah to abdicate, and allowed Khomeini to return from 9 exile and take power. What was it like to be in Tehran when that happened? D Highly instructive and never dull. This was no Middle Eastern coup d’état, but a revolution as profound and interesting as the French or Russian one. Quite a privilege to witness it unfold at first hand and professionally useful to study it, report on it, advise on the consequences etc.