George May, 1st Baron May

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George Ernest May, 1st Baron May of Weybridge KBE (20 June 1871 – 10 April 1946), known as Sir George May, 1st Baronet, from 1931 to 1935, was a British financial expert and public servant.


May was the younger son of William May, a grocer and wine merchant, of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and his wife Julia Ann Mole. He was educated at Cranleigh School. At the age of 16, he joined the Prudential Assurance Company as a clerk. He was to remain with this firm until his retirement in 1931, serving as the Company Secretary from 1915 until 1931.


On 15 October 1903, George May married Lily Julia Strauss OBE (b. 1887; d. 15 Jan 1955), the second daughter of Gustave Strauss, a wealthy Bohemian glass merchant of 2 West Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London. The marriage took place in the Theistic Church in Swallow Street, Piccadilly, London, and was officiated by Charles Voysey, a freethinking Yorkshire vicar who was deposed for publishing heretical sermons and for denying the doctrine of everlasting hell. Lily’s elder sister and suffragist, Florence Annie Strauss, had married MP and barrister-at-law Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare in the same church seven years earlier. George and Lily May had three children: John Lawrence May, Elizabeth Frances May and Patrick W. May.[1]

Financial expert[edit]

May quickly made his mark as a financial expert. During the First World War, he was Manager of the American Dollars Securities Committee from 1915 to 1918. This committee was set up by the government to oversee the collection of securities held by British firms in the United States, and to make them available to the British government in aid of the war effort. For his services, May was made a KBE in 1918.


He was created a Baronet of the Eyot, on 27 January 1931.[2]

Committee on National Expenditure[edit]

In 1931, after retiring as Secretary of the Prudential Assurance Company, he was appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Snowden to oversee a committee on national expenditure. The majority report found that there was a prospective deficit of £120 million, and recommended savings of £96,578,000 for the next financial year, of which £66.6 million were to come from reductions in Unemployment Insurance and £13.6 million from cuts in education. The chairman and the members suggested by the Conservative and Liberal parties supported the recommendations.[3] Two members from the Labour Party submitted a minority report fundamentally disagreeing with the committee's recommendations.[4]

Oversees reorganisation of iron and steel industry[edit]

In early 1932, May was appointed Chairman of the Import Duties Advisory Committee by the new Chancellor, Neville Chamberlain. The committee oversaw the introduction and implementation of a general tariff over the next three years. As one of three members on the committee (along with Sir Sydney Chapman and Sir Allan Powell), May was specifically responsible for overseeing the reorganisation of the British iron and steel industry. The committee's activities were largely suspended after the outbreak of the Second World War, but May remained Chairman until 1941.


May was further honoured on 28 June 1935 when he was raised to the peerage becoming Baron May, of Weybridge in the County of Surrey.[5] At the same time, he also became Lord May of Weybridge by virtue of his peerage and Lily Julia May became Lady May.


  1. ^ The history of a Cornish mine office, and biographies of its owners, occupants and those who had a legal interest in it, by Peter King Smith (2009; ongoing project).
  2. ^ "No. 33686". The London Gazette. 3 February 1931. p. 744.
  3. ^ Report of the Committee on National Expenditure (Cmd. 3920), July 1931, pp. 215-224.
  4. ^ Report of the Committee on National Expenditure (Cmd. 3920), July 1931, pp. 227-270.
  5. ^ "No. 34176". The London Gazette. 2 July 1935. p. 4241.
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron May
Succeeded by
John Lawrence May