Duncan Sandys

The Lord Duncan-Sandys
CH PC
Duncan Sandys 1975.png
Sandys in 1975
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by Reginald Maudling
Succeeded by Anthony Greenwood
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
In office
27 July 1960 – 16 October 1964
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by The Earl of Home
Succeeded by Arthur Bottomley
Minister of Aviation
In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Peter Thorneycroft
Minister of Defence
In office
14 January 1957 – 14 October 1959
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Anthony Head
Succeeded by Harold Watkinson
Minister of Housing and Local Government
In office
19 October 1954 – 4 January 1957
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded by Harold Macmillan
Succeeded by Henry Brooke
Minister of Supply
In office
31 October 1951 – 19 October 1954
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by George Strauss
Succeeded by Selwyn Lloyd
Shadow Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
16 October 1964 – 13 April 1966
Leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Edward Heath
Shadowing Anthony Greenwood
The Earl of Longford
Frederick Lee
Member of Parliament
for Streatham
In office
23 February 1950 – 8 February 1974
Preceded by Sir David Robertson
Succeeded by William Shelton
Member of Parliament
for Norwood
In office
14 March 1935 – 5 July 1945
Preceded by Sir Walter Greaves-Lord
Succeeded by Ronald Chamberlain
Personal details
Born (1908-01-24)24 January 1908
Sandford Orcas, Dorset, England
Died 26 November 1987(1987-11-26) (aged 79)
London, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s)
(m. 1935; div. 1960)

Marie-Claire Schmitt
(m. 1962)
Relations
Children 4, including Edwina Sandys and Laura Sandys
Parents
Alma mater
Profession Diplomat
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Branch/service  British Army
Years of service 1937–1946
Rank Lieutenant-Colonel
Unit Royal Artillery
Battles/wars Norwegian 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 a son-in-law of Winston Churchill.

Early life

Sandys, born on 24 January 1908 at the 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 that year, becoming Mildred Helen Lister.[4] He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Early career

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, at which he was opposed by an Independent Conservative candidate sponsored 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.[5]

The Duncan Sandys case

In 1937, Sandys was commissioned into the 51st (London) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Artillery, of the Territorial Army (TA).[6] 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 which held that the disclosures of Parliament were not subject to the legislation, though an MP could be disciplined by the House.[7][8] The Official Secrets Act 1939 was enacted in reaction to this incident.[9]

Wartime career

During the Second World War he fought with 51st (London) HAA Regiment in the Norwegian campaign and was wounded in action; this left him with a permanent limp.[8]

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. Sandys had been wartime Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply. W. A. Robotham who had been in the Ministry as "Chief Engineer of Tank Design" wrote that he was knowledgable on army matters. Robotham of Rolls-Royce who had headed development of the Meteor tank engine in WWII was surprised and pleased when in 1963 Sandys said "I regard the adoption of the Meteor tank engine as the absolute turning-point in the history of British tank development", at the opening of a Rolls-Royce aero engine factory at East Kilbride (aero engines being Rolls-Royce's main business).[10]

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 the following year.[8]

Post-war career

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 on 2 May. 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.[13] He was an active early member of the Conservative Monday Club.

Personal life

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.[citation needed] 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]

Sandys died on 26 November 1987 at his home in London.[15] He is buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas in Child Okeford, Dorset. His grave is marked by a horizontal white slab.[16]

Children

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:

Interests

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.

Between 1969 and 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 eight directors being sacked by Tiny Rowland.[17]

Career summary

  • 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

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