John Anderson, 1st Viscount Waverley

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The Viscount Waverley
John Anderson, 1st Viscount Waverley 1947.jpg
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
24 September 1943 – 26 July 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byKingsley Wood
Succeeded byHugh Dalton
Lord President of the Council
In office
3 October 1940 – 24 September 1943
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byNeville Chamberlain
Succeeded byClement Attlee
Home Secretary
Minister of Home Security
In office
4 September 1939 – 3 October 1940
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Winston Churchill
Preceded bySamuel Hoare
Succeeded byHerbert Morrison
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
In office
27 October 1938 – 4 September 1939
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Preceded byHerbrand Sackville
Succeeded bySamuel Hoare
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
28 January 1952 – 4 January 1958
Hereditary peerage
Preceded byPeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Viscount Waverley
Member of Parliament
for Combined Scottish Universities
In office
25 February 1938 – 23 February 1950
Preceded byRamsay MacDonald
Succeeded byConstituency Abolished
Governor of Bengal
In office
Preceded byStanley Jackson
Succeeded byMichael Knatchbull
Personal details
Born(1882-07-08)8 July 1882
Eskbank, Midlothian, Scotland
Died4 January 1958(1958-01-04) (aged 75)
Lambeth, London, England
Political partyNational
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
University of Leipzig

John Anderson, 1st Viscount Waverley, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, PC, PC (Ire), FRS[1] (8 July 1882 – 4 January 1958) was a British civil servant and politician who is best known for his service in the Cabinet during the Second World War, for which he was nicknamed the "Home Front Prime Minister". He served as Home Secretary, Lord President of the Council and Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Anderson shelters are named after him.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Eskbank, part of Dalkeith in Midlothian and studied mathematics and geology at the University of Edinburgh and chemistry at the University of Leipzig where he wrote a thesis on the chemistry of uranium. He was a brilliant student, winning numerous prizes, but at the age of 22 he decided to forsake a career in science and sat for the British civil service examinations, coming first, while also taking a degree in economics. In later life he was elected an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.[1]

He was appointed to the Colonial Office in 1905.

Aged only thirty-four, Anderson headed the Civil Service staff of the new Ministry of Shipping in 1917.[2] Later, he served as Under-Secretary for Ireland, and became Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office in 1922, where he had to deal with the General Strike of 1926. His career in the civil service was capped by a posting as Governor of Bengal from 1932 to 1937. On 15 January 1935 he met with Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.

Bhaktisiddhanta and Governor of Bengal John Anderson

Public career[edit]

In early 1938, Anderson was elected to the House of Commons by the Scottish Universities as a National Independent Member of Parliament, a non-party supporter of the National Government. In October that year he entered Neville Chamberlain's Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. In that capacity, he was put in charge of air raid preparations. He initiated the development of a kind of air-raid shelter named the "Anderson shelter", a small sheet metal cylinder made of prefabricated pieces which could be assembled in a garden and partially buried to protect against bomb blast.

War time[edit]

After the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Anderson returned to hold the joint portfolio of Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security, a position in which he served under Winston Churchill, often attending his War Cabinet. He retained responsibility for civil defence. In October 1940, he was replaced by Herbert Morrison in a reshuffle precipitated by Chamberlain's resignation over ill-health. He became Lord President of the Council and full member of the War Cabinet.

In July 1941 as Lord President of the Council he was appointed as minister responsible for the British plan to build an atomic bomb, known as the Tube Alloys project.[3]

During the Yalta Conference Anderson opposed the Soviet Union's demands for war reparations from Germany because of the role World War I reparations played in the Great Depression and the collapse of the Weimar Republic.[4]

In January 1945, the Prime Minister wrote to King George VI to advise that should he and his second-in-command (and heir apparent) Anthony Eden die during the war, John Anderson should become Prime Minister: "it is the Prime Minister's duty to advise Your Majesty to send for Sir John Anderson in the event of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary being killed." Although not a member of a political party, Churchill thought Anderson had the abilities to lead the National Government, and that an independent figure was essential to the maintenance of the coalition.[5]

Following the unexpected death on 21 September 1943 of Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Anderson was appointed to that office. As Chancellor, in a written Commons answer of 12 June 1945, he announced the creation of the Arts Council of Great Britain, a successor body to the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA).[6] He remained in the post until the Labour victory in the general election in July 1945.


He left the Commons when the university constituencies were abolished at the 1950 general election. Meanwhile, he became Chairman of the Port of London Authority in 1946 and Chairman of the Royal Opera House in March the same year.[7] He remained in the latter post for eleven years.

He rejected an offer to join Churchill's peacetime administration when it was formed in October 1951, and was created Viscount Waverley, of Westdean in the County of Sussex, in 1952. He died six years later at the age of 75 in St Thomas' Hospital, Lambeth, London.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Anderson's first marriage was in 1907 to Christina Mackenzie. The couple had two children:

Christina died in 1920.

In 1941, he married Ava (Bodley) Wigram, daughter of John Edward Courtenay Bodley.[9] She was the widow of Ralph Wigram, a senior civil servant who had provided Winston Churchill with confidential military information during the 1930s.


Coat of arms of John Anderson, 1st Viscount Waverley
Coronet of a British Viscount.svg
Waverley Escutcheon.png
A demi-lion rampant Or armed and langued Azure holding in his dexter forepaw a branch of olive Proper.
Argent a saltire engrailed between a mullet in chief and a lotus flower in base and in each flank a crescent Gules on a chief Sable three martlets of the field.
Two horses Argent crined and unguled Or.[10]
Beati Pacifi (Blessed Are The Peacemakers)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bridges, L.; Dale, H. (1958). "John Anderson, Viscount Waverley 1882-1958". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 4: 306. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1958.0024.
  2. ^ Grigg, John (2002). Lloyd George: War Leader, 1916–1918. London: Allen Lane. pp. 45–9. ISBN 0-713-99343-X.
  3. ^ Gowing 1964, pp. 106–111.
  4. ^ Reynolds, David (2009). Summits: Six Meetings That Shaped the Twentieth Century. New York: Basic Books. p. 131. ISBN 0-7867-4458-8. OCLC 646810103.
  5. ^ Wheeler-Bennet, J. (1958). King George VI: His Life and Reign. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 544–46. OCLC 334913.
  6. ^ Hansard, HC Debate 12 June 1945
  7. ^ Lebrecht, Norman (2000). Covent Garden: the Untold Story: Dispatches From the English Culture War, 1945–2000. London: Simon & Schuster. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-0-684-85143-3.
  8. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Ava (née Bodley), Viscountess Waverley". National Portrait Gallery.
  10. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2019. p. 4725.


Further reading[edit]

  • John Anderson, Viscount Waverley, 1962 by John Wheeler-Bennett Publisher: NY, St. Martin, 1962. 445 pp., illus. ASIN: B000UDUU48.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
James Macmahon
Macmahon also remained Joint Under-Secretary
Joint Permanent Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Office abolished
Preceded by Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Bengal
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Combined Scottish Universities
Constituency abolished
Political offices
Preceded by Lord Privy Seal
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Preceded by Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Office created
Minister of Home Security
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Waverley
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