Duncan Sandys

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Duncan-Sandys
CH PC
Duncansandys.jpg
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byReginald Maudling
Succeeded byAnthony Greenwood
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
In office
27 July 1960 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Earl of Home
Succeeded byArthur Bottomley
Minister of Aviation
In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byOffice Created
Succeeded byPeter Thorneycroft
Minister of Defence
In office
14 January 1957 – 14 October 1959
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byAnthony Head
Succeeded byHarold Watkinson
Minister of Housing and Local Government
In office
19 October 1954 – 4 January 1957
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded byHarold Macmillan
Succeeded byHenry Brooke
Minister of Supply
In office
31 October 1951 – 19 October 1954
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byGeorge Strauss
Succeeded bySelwyn Lloyd
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
16 October 1964 – 13 April 1966
LeaderSir Alec Douglas-Home
Edward Heath
ShadowingAnthony Greenwood
The Earl of Longford
Frederick Lee
Member of Parliament
for Streatham
In office
23 February 1950 – 23 February 1974
Preceded bySir David Robertson
Succeeded byWilliam Shelton
Member of Parliament
for Norwood
In office
14 March 1935 – 5 July 1945
Preceded bySir Walter Greaves-Lord
Succeeded byRonald Chamberlain
Personal details
Born(1908-01-24)24 January 1908
Manor House, Sandford Orcas, Dorset
Died26 November 1987(1987-11-26) (aged 79)
London, England
NationalityBritish
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
Diana Churchill
(m. 1935; div. 1960)

Marie-Claire Schmitt
(m. 1962)
Relations
Children
  • Julian (1936–1997)
  • Edwina (b. 1938)
  • Celia (b. 1943)
  • Laura (b. 1964)
MotherMildred Helen Cameron
FatherGeorge John Sandys
Alma mater
ProfessionDiplomat
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1937–1946
RankLieutenant-Colonel
UnitRoyal Artillery
Battles/warsNorwegian Campaign

Edwin Duncan Sandys, Baron Duncan-Sandys, CH, PC (/sændz/; 24 January 1908 – 26 November 1987) was a British politician and minister in successive Conservative governments in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the son-in-law of Sir Winston Churchill.

Early life[edit]

Sandys, born 24 January 1908 Manor House, Sandford Orcas, Dorset, was the son of George John Sandys, a Conservative member of parliament (1910–1918) and Mildred Helen Cameron.[1] Sandys parents divorced in January 1921 when he was 12 years old.[2][3] His mother married Frederick Hamilton Lister in October the same year becoming Mildred Helen Lister.[4][5] He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Early career[edit]

He entered the diplomatic service in 1930, serving at the Foreign Office in London as well as at the embassy in Berlin.

He became Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Norwood in south London in a by-election in March 1935, after being opposed at Norwood by a candidate put up by Randolph Churchill.

In May 1935, he was in effect saying that Germany should have a predominant place in central Europe, so that Britain could be free to pursue her colonial interests without rival.[6]

The Duncan Sandys case[edit]

In 1937 Sandys was commissioned into the 51st (London) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Artillery, of the Territorial Army (TA).[7] In 1938, he asked questions in the House of Commons on matters of national security that reflected his TA experience. He was subsequently approached by two unidentified men, presumably representing the secret services, and threatened with prosecution under section 6 of the Official Secrets Act 1920. Sandys reported the matter to the Committee of Privileges who held that the disclosures of parliament were not subject to the legislation though an MP could be disciplined by the House.[8][9] The Official Secrets Act 1939 was enacted in reaction to this incident.[10]

Wartime career[edit]

Duncan Sandys, publicity caricature produced by the British Ministry of Information during World War II.

During World War II he fought with 51st (London) HAA Regiment in the Norwegian campaign and was wounded in action, causing him to suffer a permanent limp.[9]

His father-in-law gave him his first ministerial post as Financial Secretary to the War Office from 1941 to 1944 during the wartime coalition government. From 1944 to 1945 he served as Minister of Works for the remainder of the coalition and in the Churchill Caretaker Ministry. While a Minister he was also chairman of a War Cabinet Committee for defence against German flying bombs and rockets, where he frequently clashed with the scientist and intelligence expert R.V. Jones.[11] However, he lost his seat in the 1945 general election. He resigned his TA commission as a lieutenant-colonel in 1946.[9]

Post-war career[edit]

Sandys was responsible for establishing the European Movement in Britain in 1947 and served as a member of the European Consultative Assembly from 1950 until 1951. He was elected to parliament once again at the 1950 general election for Streatham and, when the Conservatives regained power in 1951, he was appointed Minister of Supply. For most of his time in that role, his private secretary was Jack Charles. As Minister of Housing from 1954, he introduced the Clean Air Act and in 1955 introduced the green belts.

He was appointed Minister of Defence in 1957 and quickly produced the 1957 Defence White Paper that proposed a radical shift in the Royal Air Force by ending the use of fighter aircraft in favour of missile technology. Though later ministers reversed the policy, the lost orders and cuts in research were responsible for several British aircraft manufacturers going out of business. As Minister of Defence he saw the rationalisation (i.e., merger) of much of the British military aircraft and engine industry.

Sandys continued as a minister at the Commonwealth Relations Office, later combining it with the Colonies Office, until the Conservative government lost power in 1964. In this role he was responsible for granting several colonies their independence and was involved in managing the British response to several conflicts involving the armed forces of the newly independent countries of East Africa.[12]

He remained in the shadow cabinet until 1966 when he was sacked by Edward Heath. He had strongly supported Ian Smith in the dispute over Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence. He was not offered a post when the Conservatives won the 1970 general election, but instead served as leader of the United Kingdom delegation to the Council of Europe and Western European Union until 1972 when he announced his retirement. The next year he was made a Companion of Honour.

In 1974 he retired from parliament and was awarded a life peerage. As the title of Baron Sandys was already held by another family, he followed the example of George Brown and incorporated his first name in the title Baron Duncan-Sandys of the City of Westminster. He was an active early member of the Conservative Monday Club.

Personal life[edit]

In 1935, Duncan Sandys married Diana Churchill, daughter of the future prime minister Winston Churchill. They divorced in 1960.

In 1962, he married Marie-Claire (née Schmitt), who had been previously married to Robert Hudson, 2nd Viscount Hudson.[13] The marriage lasted until Sandys' death.

It has long been speculated that he may have been the 'headless man' whose identity was concealed during the (then considered) scandalous divorce trial of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, in 1963.[14]

He died on 26 November 1987 at his home in London.[15]

Children[edit]

From his first marriage, with Diana Churchill:

  • The Hon. Julian Sandys (19 September 1936 – 15 August 1997)
  • The Hon. Edwina Sandys (born 22 December 1938)
  • The Hon. Celia Sandys (born 18 May 1943). She married firstly Michael Kennedy and secondly Dennis Walters (divorced 1979).

From his second marriage, with Marie Claire Schmitt:

  • The Hon. Laura Sandys (born 5 June 1964). She was a Conservative Member of Parliament for South Thanet. She is often incorrectly referred to as being related to Winston Churchill.

Interests[edit]

Among Sandys' other interests was historic architecture. He formed the Civic Trust in 1956 and was its President; the Royal Institution of British Architects made him an honorary Fellow in 1968, and the Royal Town Planning Institute made him an honorary member. He was also a trustee of the World Security Trust.

1969-1984 he was President of Europa Nostra and acted for the preservation of the European cultural and architectural heritage

His business activities included a Directorship of the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, which was later part of Lonrho of which he became chairman. He was therefore caught up in the scandal in which Lonrho was revealed to have bribed several African countries and broken international sanctions against Rhodesia, as well as the "unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism" episode involving 8 Directors being sacked by Tiny Rowland.[citation needed]

Career summary[edit]

  • Coalition Government
    • 20 July 1941 – 7 February 1943, Financial Secretary to the War Office
    • 7 February 1943 – 21 November 1944, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Supply
    • 21 November 1944 – 25 May 1945, Minister of Works
  • Caretaker Government
    • 25 May 1945 – 26 July 1945, Minister of Works
  • Conservative Government
    • 31 October 1951 – 18 October 1954, Minister of Supply
    • 18 October 1954 – 13 January 1957, Minister of Housing and Local Government
    • 13 January 1957 – 14 October 1959, Minister of Defence
    • 14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960, Minister of Aviation
    • 27 July 1960 – 13 July 1962, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
    • 13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964, Secretary of State for the Colonies and Commonwealth Relations

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ludlow, N. Piers (2004). "Sandys, (Edwin) Duncan, Baron Duncan-Sandys (1908–1987)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198614128.  (subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries)
  2. ^ "Politician divorced". The Argus. Melbourne, Victoria. 14 January 1921. Retrieved 10 August 2018. LONDON, Jan. 13. Mrs. Mildred Helen Sandys, who is a daughter of the late Mr. Duncan Cameron, of Springfield, Canterbury, New Zealand, has obtained a decree divorce against her husband, Mr. George John Sandys, who was member of the House of Commons for the Wells division of Somerset from 1910 to 1918 on the ground of the respondent's misconduct. Mr. Sandys served with the Guards in the South African and European wars. He was married in 1905, and has one son.
  3. ^ "Former M.P. for Wells Divorced". Gloucester Citizen. Gloucestershire, England. 13 January 1921.
  4. ^ "Frederick Hamilton Lister". thepeerage.com. The Peerage. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Lt. Col. Frederick Hamilton (I6209)". stanford.edu. Kindred Britain by Stanford University. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  6. ^ Hansard, 2 May 1935, cols.595–598.
  7. ^ Monthly Army List 1937–39.
  8. ^ House of Commons Paper 101 (1938–1939)
  9. ^ a b c Richard Holmes, Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Recoats to Dusty Warriors, London: HarperPress, 2011, ISBN 978-0-00-722570-5.
  10. ^ Clive Ponting, The Right to Know: The inside story of the Belgrano affair, Sphere Books, 1985
  11. ^ R.V. Jones, Most Secret War, Hamilton, 1978
  12. ^ "Britain's Small Wars". Facebook. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  13. ^ "- Person Page 10623". thepeerage.com. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  14. ^ Sarah Hall. "'Headless men' in sex scandal finally named". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  15. ^ Mark A. Uhlig (27 November 1987). "Lord Duncan-Sandys, 79, Dead; Smoothed Way to End of Empire". The New York Times.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Walter Greaves-Lord
Member of Parliament for Norwood
19351945
Succeeded by
Ronald Chamberlain
Preceded by
Sir David Robertson
Member of Parliament for Streatham
1950Feb 1974
Succeeded by
William Shelton
Political offices
Preceded by
Antony Head
Minister of Defence
1957–1959
Succeeded by
Harold Watkinson
New office Minister of Aviation
1959–1960
Succeeded by
Peter Thorneycroft
Preceded by
The Earl of Home
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
1960–1964
Succeeded by
Arthur Bottomley
Preceded by
Reginald Maudling
Secretary of State for the Colonies
1962–1964
Succeeded by
Anthony Greenwood