Help! Trying to do some research...

In the absence of a dedicated forum for asking research-related questions, I’m posting this here in the hope that someone may be able to point me in the right direction. My novel requires a certain amount of diplomatic communication between various Countries, but mostly between Great Britain and Finland.

One of my significant characters is a Navy Admiral. Another is a member of the House of Lords with an undisclosed official position but essentially a ‘behind the scenes, fingers in lots of pies, contacts all over the world’ type of character. A shadowy figure in the intelligence community, basically. The fact that he is a Lord is not central to the premise.

To add complication to everything, all this is set in the mid 1960s.

I have two problems currently:

  1. Who would speak to whom (no names, just positions) in the British government to initiate a request for assistance/co-operation to a foreign power? I’m guessing it would be something along the lines of civil service -> senior civil servant -> foreign secretary -> ambassador on foreign soil (or foreign ambassador on British soil) but that’s pure supposition on my part and I’d like to get the details correct.

  2. The objective is to establish a co-operative investigation, into an internationally wanted war criminal, probably (in the plot this is not yet proven, but it will be subsequently) operating on Finnish soil. My research so far shows that Finland and the UK have enjoyed a good relationship since September 1947 (before this they were supporting Germany against the Russians, so we declared war on them although we never actually came to blows unless you count the Raid on Kirkenes in '41) so I’m sure this could be believably arranged, but:

  • who in the Finnish government would accept this request?
  • who would authorise it?
  • at what level after this authorisation was obtained, would subsequent communcation ensue regarding operational matters? (I’m assuming that Admirals/Generals and above would be appropriate peer-peer contacts on each side in the event we got this far, but again - would be nice to know for sure.)

I’m relatively early in the research process for this, so there are a lot of questions, but immediately I can see it’s going to be hard work and there is a LOT of information that needs to be sifted through to distill the salient facts I need. I need to learn to research, as much as anything else I guess.

If anyone knows anything, knows anyone who might know anything, or can point me in the general direction of appropriate historical records or a good website etc. then I would be very grateful.

I’m already pulled a number of obvious Wikipedia pages, and also history-related sections from the official government websites for both UK and Finland, and I have sent a polite email to a couple of addresses in both the UK and Finnish governments (that’s a long shot I’m sure) but any other pointers would be fantastically helpful.

Phew, long post. But, if you don’t ask, you don’t get :slight_smile:

I suppose the really short version of this post would be: What goes on behind the scenes in International Diplomacy, and was it the same in the mid 1960s?



I checked with a friend and former student of mine who spent 30 years in foreign service, chiefly in Europe and the Middle East. He is now also a novelist, so he understands the difficulty of writing about such matters. Here’s his comment:

Hope this is helpful, and good luck.


This is priceless information Droo, thank you so much!

I really, really appreciate you taking the time to run this past your friend.

Many thanks to you both, this is exactly the kind of detail I was after to create a realistic sequence of events. Perfect!