Robert Boscawen

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Robert "Bob" Thomas Boscawen, MC, PC (17 March 1923 - 28 December 2013) was a British Conservative politician. He was the last member of the House of Commons to hold a Military Cross for action during the Second World War.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Robert Boscawen was the fourth son of Evelyn Hugh John Boscawen, eighth Viscount Falmouth, of Tregothnan, by his wife Mary (née Meynell, descended from the Earls of Halifax)[2] A member of a very old Cornish family, his ancestors included Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, and Admiral Edward Boscawen, victor over the French at the Battle of Lagos.[1] Boscawen was educated at West Downs School and Eton College.

Military career[edit]

Too young to serve at the outbreak of the Second World War, Boscawen went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read mechanical science and took the special army engineering course. In 1941, he joined the Royal Engineers, but the following year was commissioned in the Coldstream Guards (with which members of his family had served since 1769, including his brothers George and Evelyn, who had been killed during the evacuation from Dunkirk) of the Guards Armoured Division and was sent to the cavalry wing of Sandhurst to train as a tank commander. In 1944, his was among the first tanks to enter Brussels and he was awarded the Military Cross in the battle to relieve Arnhem.[3]

In April 1945, during the last month of the war, he was very seriously wounded and sustained disfiguring burns when a shell pierced his tank. He was evacuated to Archibald McIndoe's pioneering “Guinea Pig Club” plastic surgery unit at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex, spending much of the next three years in hospital.[1][3]

He is the author of Armoured Guardsmen, a book which follows the Coldstreamers through France, Belgium and Holland, in 1944/45.

Political career[edit]

Boscawen served during 1947 and 1948 in Hamburg, West Germany, with the British Red Cross civilian relief teams organised by his mother, Lady Falmouth, a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party. From 1948, he spent two years with Shell Petroleum as a management trainee before joining the family-owned Cornish china clay business, Goonveen, at Rostowrack. He became a Lloyd's underwriter in 1952.[1] Boscawen's party political career began in 1948 when he joined the Young Conservatives.[3]

Boscawen contested Falmouth and Camborne in elections in both 1964 and 1966, achieving a swing to the Conservatives but not enough to win, and was subsequently deselected because of his support for the right-wing Monday Club: local party activists thought his membership of the Club would harm his ability to appeal to a traditionally radical-leaning seat.[1] For thirteen years, from 1970 until 1983, he was the member for Wells and then, as the result of boundary changes, his constituency became Somerton and Frome, which he held for a further nine years, from 1983 to 1992.

In Parliament, Boscawen was noted for his right-wing views. He supported the restoration of capital punishment and drastic cuts in the welfare state and student grants but opposed abortion. He also became a leading supporter of Ian Smith after Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence. He voted against the imposition of sanctions in defiance of the Party Whip. He was also initially opposed to Britain's entry into the European Common Market but later tentatively supported it, warning opponents against using war memories to make decisions affecting future generations.[1]

Boscawen was interested in the National Health Service and sat on its London Executive Council from 1954 to 1965. Also, he was on the backbenchers' Health Services Committee and vice-chairman from 1974 to 1979.

He was scathing about attempts to raise MPs' pay in 1976 at a time of financial hardship for many, saying it "brought ignominy" on the whole House[1]

Boscawen served as an assistant whip from 1979, as a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury from 1981, and then Vice Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household 1983-86 and finally Comptroller of the Royal Household until 1988. He became a member of the Privy Council in 1992, in the same year that he retired from the House of Commons.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Boscawen married Mary Codrington in 1949 and they had two daughters and one son, who followed him into the Coldstream Guards.[4] They lived at Ivythorm Manor in Street, Somerset. Boscawen was a rower and yachtsman. He stroked the Trinity boat and rowed in the University trial eights. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and regularly sailed in international races, including the Fastnet.[1] Boscawen died on the Isle of Wight on 28 December 2013.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Robert Boscawen - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  2. ^ http://peeragenews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/rt-hon-robert-boscawen-pc-1923-2013.html
  3. ^ a b c "Robert Boscawen, former MP for Wells and Somerton and Frome dies aged 90". Shepton Mallet Journal. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  4. ^ http://www.thepeerage.com/p5032.htm#i50315
  5. ^ "Hon Robert Boscawen Obituary", The Times, 8 January 2014 (subscription required)
  • Boscawen, Robert. Armoured Guardsmen: A War Diary, June 1944-April 1945. Barnsley, England: Pen & Sword, 2001.
  • Times Guide to the House of Commons 1987

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Carol Mather
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
1983–1986
Succeeded by
Tristan Garel-Jones
Preceded by
Carol Mather
Comptroller of the Household
1986-1988
Succeeded by
Tristan Garel-Jones
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lynch Maydon
Member of Parliament for Wells
19701983
Succeeded by
David Heathcoat-Amory
New constituency Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome
1983-1992
Succeeded by
Mark Robinson