British Passport Signed By Ambassador Sir Horace Rumbold

British Passport Signed By Ambassador Sir Horace Rumbold

Sir Horace George Montagu Rumbold, 9th Baronet, GCB, GCMG, KCVO, PC (5 February 1869 – 24 May 1941) was a British diplomat. A well-traveled diplomat, learning Arabic, Japanese and German, he is best remembered for his role as British Ambassador to Berlin from 1928 to 1933, where he warned of the ambitions of Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Rumbold was an attache at The Hague (1889–1890) and then served in Cairo, Tehran, Vienna, and Munich between 1900 and 1913. He was then moved to Tokyo (1909–1913) and to Berlin (1913–1914). In 1916 he was appointed ambassador to Berne, Switzerland. After the First World War he was appointed ambassador to Poland in 1919. The following year he became the High Commissioner to Constantinople, during which he signed the Lausanne Treaty on behalf of the British Empire. He was then ambassador to Madrid from 1924 to 1928.

Rumbold then went on to his last job, when he was appointed ambassador to Berlin in 1928. During this time Rumbold was in favor of appeasing the Brüning Government in the hope that this would stave off German nationalist parties, like Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party. However, once Hitler came to power in 1933 he was deeply unsettled by the Nazi regime and produced a succession of despatches which were critical of the Nazis. On 26 April 1933 Rumbold sent to the Foreign Office his valedictory despatch, in which he gave an unvarnished view of Hitler, the Nazis and their ambitions:

“[Hitler] starts with the assumption that man is a fighting animal; therefore the nation is a fighting unit, being a community of fighters…A country or race which ceases to fight is doomed…Pacifism is the deadliest sin…Intelligence is of secondary importance…Will and determination are of the higher worth. Only brute force can ensure survival of the race. The new Reich must gather within its fold all the scattered German elements in Europe…What Germany needs is an increase in territory…[to Hitler] the idea that there is something reprehensible in chauvinism is entirely mistaken…the climax of education is military service [for youths] educated to the maximum of aggressiveness…It is the duty of the government to implant in the people feeling of manly courage and passionate hatred…Intellectualism is undesirable…It is objectionable to preach international understanding…[he] has spoken with derision of such delusive documents as peace-pacts and such delusive ideas as the spirit of Locarno.”

Rumbold concluded by giving stark warnings for the future of international relations:

    “…it would be misleading to base any hopes on a return to sanity…[the German government is encouraging an attitude of mind]…which can only end in one way…I have the impression that the persons directing the policy of the Hitler government are not normal.”

Sir John Simon, the Foreign Secretary, found Rumbold’s descriptions “definitely disquieting”. Ralph Wigram, an official in the Foreign Office, gave Winston Churchill a copy of this despatch in mid-March 1936. After Rumbold’s death, Lord Vansittart said of him; “little escaped him, and his warnings [about Nazi Germany] were clearer than anything that we got later”.

Rumbold was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in 1907, a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1917, sworn of the Privy Council in 1920 and appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1922.

Rumbold retired due to his age in June 1933 and died in May 1941, aged 72. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son, Anthony, who also became a distinguished diplomat.

The Passport

British Embassy in Berne, Switzerland, hand signed by H.B.M. Horace Rumbold and issued to Sheikh Osman Muhammed (Egyptian Nationality) proceeding to Cairo (via Italy) with the knowledge and consent of His Britannic Majesty’s Government.

Actually not a passport per se also due to it’s form and content but however he must have been of importance or well connected to get such a very interesting “passport document” issued and signed by one of Britain’s finest diplomat.


incl. FREE guideline!

FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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