Godfrey Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Malvern
CH, KCMG, PC
Godfrey Huggins 1937.jpg
Huggins, photographed by Howard Coster in 1937
Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
In office
7 September 1953 – 2 November 1956
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by New Creation
Succeeded by Roy Welensky
Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
In office
12 September 1933 – 7 September 1953
Monarch George V
Edward VIII
George VI
Elizabeth II
Preceded by George Mitchell
Succeeded by Garfield Todd
Minister of External Affairs of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
In office
7 September 1953 – 2 November 1956
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by New creation
Succeeded by Roy Welensky
Minister of Defence of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
In office
7 September 1953 – 2 November 1956
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by New creation
Succeeded by Roy Welensky
1st Viscount Malvern
In office
1955–1971
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by New creation
Succeeded by John Huggins, 2nd Viscount Malvern
Personal details
Born 6 July 1883
Bexley, South East London, United Kingdom
Died 8 May 1971(1971-05-08) (aged 87)
Salisbury, Rhodesia
Political party Reform Party
United Party
United Rhodesia Party

Sir Godfrey Martin Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern, CH, KCMG, PC (6 July 1883 – 8 May 1971) was a British-born Rhodesian politician and physician. He served as the fourth Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1933 to 1953 and remained in office as the first Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland until 1956, becoming the longest serving prime minister in British Commonwealth history.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Huggins was born at 'Dane Cottage', Knoll Road, Bexley in north Kent, England (now a borough of London), the second child, but eldest son of a stockbroker. The family later moved to a property his father built, 'Shore House' in Sevenoaks, a town about 27 miles from London. He was educated at Brunswick House, a preparatory school in Hove and then moved to Sutherland House, a similar school in Folkestone.

He suffered a severe infection of the left middle ear at the age of 11, which left him deaf on that side and delayed his move to Malvern College in 1898,[2] a school from which he later took part of his title. From there he moved on to study medicine at St. Thomas's Hospital, London after some difficulty obtaining the necessary entrance examinations.[citation needed]

After practising medicine and training as a surgeon in London, spending some time as a Resident Superintendent at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Huggins travelled to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia in 1911, initially to act as a locum to some doctors there, but eventually deciding to stay on.

World War I[edit]

Huggins returned to the UK in late 1914 following the outbreak of war and joined the RAMC with the rank of Captain, stationed at Colchester Hospital which had become a casualty clearing station. Although he wanted to go to France he was sent to Malta where he dealt with incoming casualties from Gallipoli.

Doctors only had to serve for a year at that point in the war so in 1916 Huggins went out again to Southern Rhodesia but returned to the UK within a few months. This time he was posted to the Hammersmith Orthopaedic Hospital and then the Pavilion Hospital in Brighton. In 1917, he finally got to go to France with the 5th Cavalry Field Ambulance, attached to the 2nd Cavalry Division near Amiens. His surgical work at this time led to his writing a book, Amputation Stumps: Their Care and After Treatment (Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1918).

Practice in Rhodesia[edit]

He returned to Southern Rhodesia at the end of the war, just in time to deal with the influenza epidemic, and bought Craig Farm on the outskirts of Salisbury, now Harare, which was to remain his home for the rest of his life. He began again as a surgeon, quickly becoming the best known, albeit in a small field, in Rhodesia. He married in 1921 to Blanche Slatter of Pietermaritzburg, the daughter (some sources say stepdaughter) of a Major in the South African Constabulary. He and his wife had two sons, born in 1922 and 1928.

Having become a spokesman for the local Comrades of the Great War Association, he began to have contact with government, intervening for the Association with the then Administrator, Sir Drummond Chaplin. Although he was on the side of union with South Africa when there was a referendum on the matter in 1922, he accepted the Rhodesian decision to 'go it alone' and accept responsible government.

Political career[edit]

He entered politics in 1924 and was elected, unopposed in the Salisbury North constituency, to the legislative council of the newly created self-governing colony. He became Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia in 1933 when his Reform Party won that year's general election. (The Reform Party subsequently merged with the Rhodesian Party to form the United Party). Huggins won successive elections and was knighted in 1941 by King George VI. He was a leading guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[3]

Huggins (second from right) with Canada's Mackenzie King, Britain's Winston Churchill, New Zealand's Peter Fraser, U.S. General Dwight D Eisenhower and South Africa's Jan Smuts, in England just before the Normandy landings in June 1944

Huggins became an advocate of federating Southern Rhodesia with some of the neighbouring British colonies in the region so that they would become an independent state within the British Empire while maintaining white minority rule with only a small number of educated Blacks having the vote in addition to white settlers. As a result of his effort the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was created in 1953 uniting Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland with Huggins as the federation's first prime minister after his new United Federal Party won the federation's first general election. Huggins remained in office until 1956 and was elevated to the British peerage as Viscount Malvern prior to his retirement. He was succeeded as prime minister by Sir Roy Welensky. The biggest political issue of his tenure as Federal Prime Minister was the question of race relations. Huggins and other proponents of Federation claimed to stand for a policy of partnership, which was claimed to be much more enlightened than the apartheid that the new Nationalist Party Government was then installing in South Africa. He compared it to "the partnership of rider and horse." Huggins' successor, Welensky, spent his time in office trying to prevent an inevitable break-up of the Federation.

Having served 23 years as Prime Minister, Huggins became the longest serving Prime Minister in British Commonwealth history, beating the records of Mackenzie King of Canada and Sir Robert Walpole of Great Britain and Ireland, until his record was surpassed by Sir Thomas Playford, Premier of South Australia 1938 until 1965. He is the only one to serve under four monarchs in British Commonwealth history (George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II).

He lived out the remainder of his life in Southern Rhodesia, continuing his quiet retirement under the territory's UDI administration.

Legacy[edit]

References[edit]

  • Huggins of Rhodesia, by M. Gelfand and H Gann, published by Allen and Unwin, London, 1964
  • Welensky's 4000 Days, by Roy Welensky. London, Collins.
  • Godfrey Martin Huggins, Viscount Malvern 1883–1971, His Life and Work, edited by M. Gelfand, Central African Journal of Medicine, Salisbury, Rhodesia, 1971
  1. ^ Statesman and Surgeon. British Medical Journal, 20 November 1971, pp.497.
  2. ^ Godfrey Huggins. The Malvern Register 1865–1904, 1905. p. 414.
  3. ^ Royal Collection: Seating plan for the Ball Supper Room http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/royalwedding1947/object.asp?grouping=&exhibs=NONE&object=9000366&row=82&detail=magnify

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
George Mitchell
Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
12 September 1933 – 7 September 1953
Succeeded by
Garfield Todd
Preceded by
New position
Prime Minister of the
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

7 September 1953 – 2 November 1956
Succeeded by
Sir Roy Welensky
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Malvern
1955 – 1971
Succeeded by
John Godfrey Huggins