(Sunday Times, 22nd March 1987)

LAST week Dale Campbell-Savours complained that he was not given the opportunity to raise the matter of the "Cunard affair", which took place in 1975. What is it? Insight is in a position to enlighten both its readers and Campbell-Savours.
On July, 1975, Sir Basil Smallpiece, who had just retired as chairman of Cunard, was woken in the middle of the night by a man claiming to be an army officer. He was questioned about Cunard's flagship, the QE2, and asked to attend a meeting the following day with a colonel, whose name he carefully noted in his diary for that day, and which Insight has seen. Smallpiece attended the meeting, but when he pointed out that he no longer had any influence over the QE2, he was abruptly dismissed.
Smallpiece, an intensely loyal and patriotic person, was deeply worried about the conversation. He reported the matter to Sir Michael Cary, then permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence. It was the last he heard of it.
But Insight has discovered that there was an official in

the Home Office in 1975, with the same name as Smallpiece was given. The man is still a senior civil servant. Last week, he confirmed to Insight that he did have a meeting with Smallpeice, but denied he had any involvement with a coup. "I too was phoned up in the middle of the night." He says he was asked whether he would be prepared to assist in "helping the nation".
Smallpiece's successor as Cunard chairman, John Mitchell, was also woken by a senior army officer during the night and asked to attend a meeting in London. Mitchell, before he died several years ago, told The Sunday Times that he met three "army and secret service people" who made it perfectly clear he was being asked to take part in a "coup d'etat". He said he was asked to put the QE2 at the army's disposal and direction, apparently to be used as a floating prison for the cabinet.
Mitchell also reported the matter to Cary, who died in 1976, at the defence ministry, who told him the matter had been "an exercise which had been dealt with".

© copyright 1987, Sunday Times