Donald Somervell, Baron Somervell of Harrow

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The Lord Somervell of Harrow

Home Secretary
In office
25 May 1945 – 26 July 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byHerbert Morrison
Succeeded byJames Chuter Ede
Attorney General for England and Wales
In office
18 March 1936 – 25 May 1945
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Neville Chamberlain
Winston Churchill
Preceded bySir Thomas Inskipp
Succeeded bySir David Maxwell Fyfe
Solicitor General for England and Wales
In office
29 September 1933 – 19 March 1936
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded bySir Boyd Merriman
Succeeded bySir Terence O'Connor
Personal details
Born24 August 1889 (1889-08-24)
Harrow on the Hill, London, England
Died18 November 1960 (1960-11-19) (aged 71)
Marylebone, London, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Loelia Helen Buchan-Hepburn
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford

Donald Bradley Somervell, Baron Somervell of Harrow, OBE, PC (24 August 1889 – 18 November 1960) was a British barrister, judge and Conservative Party politician. He served as Solicitor General and Attorney General from 1933–45 and was briefly Home Secretary in Winston Churchill's 1945 caretaker government.

Background, education and legal career[edit]

Somervell was the son of Robert Somervell, master and bursar of Harrow School, and was educated at Harrow before reading Chemistry with a demyship at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with a First in 1911. In 1912 he was elected a prize fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, the first chemist to be elected.[1] He then joined the Inner Temple, but his legal training was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. Commissioned into the British Army, he served with the Middlesex Regiment and the 53rd Brigade in India and Mesopotamia. For his war service, he was appointed OBE in 1919.[1]

Having been called to the bar in absentia in 1916, he completed his pupillage and practiced in the chambers of William Jowitt, specialising in commercial law matters arising out of the Treaty of Versailles.[1] He took silk in 1929.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 1929 he entered politics. Although a Liberal by inclination, the decline of that party and his admiration for the then-Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin led him to instead join the Conservative Party and he stood unsuccessfully for Crewe in the 1929 general election. He won the seat in the 1931 election and held it for the next fourteen years.

In 1933 he became Solicitor General,[3] receiving the customary knighthood,[4] followed three years later by a promotion to Attorney General. In this latter post he served for no less than nine years, during which he oversaw crises such as the Abdication Crisis of Edward VIII. He was the longest-serving Attorney General since 1754.[citation needed] He was sworn of the Privy Council in the 1938 Birthday Honours.[5] He was Recorder of Kingston upon Thames from 1940 to 1946.[1]

In 1945 he was briefly Home Secretary in Winston Churchill's caretaker government. Both the government and Somervell were defeated in that year's general election.

Judicial career[edit]

In 1946, Somervell was made a Lord Justice of Appeal by Clement Attlee. In 1951 Churchill returned to power but passed over Somervell's claims to the Lord Chancellorship.[1] On 4 October 1954 Somervell became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and, as a Law Lord, he received a life peerage as Baron Somervell of Harrow, of Ewelme in the County of Oxford.[6] He retired in 1960, shortly before his death.


Somervell married Loelia Helen Buchan-Hepburn, daughter of Sir Archibald Buchan-Hepburn, 4th Baronet, in 1933. She died in July 1945, aged 48. Somervell survived her by fifteen years and died in November 1960, aged 71. His grave can be found in the grounds of Saint Mary's Church in Ewelme, opposite that of the writer Jerome K. Jerome.


Coat of arms of Donald Somervell, Baron Somervell of Harrow
Somervell of Harrow Achievement.png
Coronet of a baron
A Wheel Or upon it a Dragon Vert spouting Flames proper [7]
Azure three Lozenges in fess Or each charged with a Mullet of the field accompanied by seven Cross Crosslets of the second four in chief and three in base all within a Bordure Ermine for difference
On either side a Wyvern Vert spouting Flames proper charged on the shoulder with a Wheel Or
Order of the British Empire


  1. ^ a b c d e Evershed; Marc Brodie. "Somervell, Donald Bradley, Baron Somervell of Harrow". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36189.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "No. 33473". The London Gazette. 1 March 1929. p. 1448.
  3. ^ "No. 33983". The London Gazette. 3 October 1933. p. 6351.
  4. ^ "No. 33984". The London Gazette. 6 October 1933. p. 6418.
  5. ^ "No. 34525". The London Gazette. 24 June 1938. p. 4056.
  6. ^ "No. 40294". The London Gazette. 5 October 1954. p. 5649.
  7. ^

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John William Bowen
Member of Parliament for Crewe
Succeeded by
Scholefield Allen
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Boyd Merriman
Solicitor General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Terence O'Connor
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Inskip
Attorney General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir David Maxwell Fyfe
Political offices
Preceded by
Herbert Morrison
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Chuter Ede