About the Author: Ben Strachan
Born in Edinburgh , Ben Strachan is a former British ambassador. He saw war service in the armoured corps in France and Germany , where he was wounded and captured. He was wounded again in the Malayan campaign and eventually commanded a squadron of tanks. He has studied widely: Classics at school, Applied Science at Durham University and the Military College of Science, Arabic in Lebanon and Pure Mathematics at Aberdeen University . He served as an intelligence staff officer in Egypt and ended his 20 year military career as Deputy Head of MI 10 (technical intelligence) in London .
He started his diplomatic career as head of the Middle East Section of the Foreign Office's counter-propaganda department and went on to head the information services of the British Colonial Government in Aden .
He returned to the Foreign Office in 1964, where he served as deputy head of the Scientific Relations Department, in which capacity he represented the Briish Government at various international scientific conferences, dealing in particular with nuclear energy and the space programme.
This was followed by posts in the British Embassies in Kuwait and Jordan , where, as Deputy to the Ambassador, he witnessed the civil war between the PLO and the Jordan Army.
This was followed by six years in Canada : 3 years in Toronto (as trade commissioner) and 3 years in Vancouver (as consul-general). Here he took advantage of the magnificent Canadian public libraries to read widely on scientific, philosophical and esoteric subjects.
In 1977 he returned to the Middle East to serve as ambassador to Yemen , where his knowledge of Arabic enabled him to enjoy Yemen 's unique and ancient cultural life.
Next followed three years as ambassador in war-torn Beirut , scene of the appalling suffering of the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples. He gained some notoriety in the British media by being the first senior British official to meet Yasser Arafat (privately and without government instructions!) The two hit it off surprisingly well and the dialogue prospered, eventually gaining official acquiescence. Ben likes to think that his initiative started a dialogue which was crowned years later by the Oslo accords between Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin.
After three harrowing years in Beirut , he was transferred to his last post, as ambassador to Algeria . A more positive era in British-Algerian relations was marked by the signing of a wide ranging British-Algerian Defence Agreement, an event which also marked Ben's 60th birthday and automatic retirement.
In 1990, he was invited out of retirement to be 'Special Adviser ( Middle East )'at the Foreign Office for the duration of the first Gulf War.
In his retirement in rural Scotland Ben has started several little businesses (with varying fortunes!) including a language school, a trout fishery, a small sheep farm and a wine importing business. He has also been active in local and Scottish politics and continues to serve on the Scottish Liberal Democrats Policy Committee. He is now (2005) on the point of completing a 4-year degree course in Mathematics at Aberdeen University and looks forward to completing his memoirs.
He is blessed with a Danish wife, 5 children and 10 grand-children.