Duncan Sandys

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The Lord Duncan-Sandys

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 byOffice 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 Cabinet positions
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 23 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 bySir Walter Greaves-Lord
Succeeded by Ronald 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
Political party Conservative
Diana Churchill
(m. 1935;div. 1960)

Marie-Claire Schmitt
(m. 1962)
  • Julian (1936–1997)
  • Edwina (b. 1938)
  • Celia (b. 1943)
  • Laura (b. 1964)
MotherMildred Helen Cameron
Father George John Sandys
Alma mater
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Branch/serviceFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Years of service1937–1946
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.

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 313 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 18 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 12 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 9,008 local councillors.

Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was instead a member of the Liberal Party.


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] [5] He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Eton College British independent boarding school located in Eton

Eton College is an English 13–18 independent boarding school and sixth form for boys in the parish of Eton, near Windsor in Berkshire. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor, as a sister institution to King's College, Cambridge, making it the 18th-oldest Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference school.

Magdalen College, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford in England

Magdalen College is one of the wealthiest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, with an estimated financial endowment of £180.8 million as of 2014.

Early career

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

Her Majestys Diplomatic Service diplomatic service of the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service (HMDS) is the diplomatic service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, dealing with foreign affairs, as opposed to the Home Civil Service, which deals with domestic affairs. It employs around 14,000 people, roughly one-third of whom are crown servants working directly for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, either in London or abroad. The remaining two thirds of staff are employed locally by one of nearly 270 British diplomatic missions abroad. The Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is also the Head of the Diplomatic Service.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

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 a candidate put up by Randolph Churchill.

Norwood (UK Parliament constituency) parliamentary constituency in South London

Norwood was a parliamentary constituency in south London which returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by the first past the post system.

South London Boroughs of South London in England

South London is the southern part of London, England. Situated south of the River Thames, it includes the historic districts of Southwark, Lambeth, Bankside and Greenwich.

The Norwood by-election of 1935 was a by-election held in the United Kingdom on 14 March 1935 to elect a new Member of Parliament (MP) for the House of Commons constituency of Norwood. Demographically at the time the seat was almost equally split between housing with gardens and generally depressed, subdivided Victorian property such as in Herne Hill and Tulse Hill elements of the seat where wages were low on the back of a continuing high unemployment rate.

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

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 which 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]

51st (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery

51st (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment was a volunteer air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army from 1922 until 1955. During World War II it served in Norway, The Blitz, North Africa, and finally in Italy until the end of the war in Europe, by which time a proportion of the regiment's personnel were African soldiers, and the guns were engaging ground targets rather than aircraft.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom Lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.

National security defense and maintenance of a state through use of all powers at the states disposal

National security refers to the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of government.

Wartime career

Duncan Sandys, publicity caricature produced by the British Ministry of Information during the Second World War. INF3-56 Duncan Sandys Artist Stephen 1939-1946.jpg
Duncan Sandys, publicity caricature produced by the British Ministry of Information during the Second World War.

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. [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 the following year. [9]

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. 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

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]


From his first marriage, with Diana Churchill:

From his second marriage, with Marie Claire Schmitt:


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 1969–1984 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


  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. 1 2 3 Richard Holmes, Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats 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

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Walter Greaves-Lord
Member of Parliament for Norwood
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
Succeeded by
Harold Watkinson
New office Minister of Aviation
Succeeded by
Peter Thorneycroft
Preceded by
The Earl of Home
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
Succeeded by
Arthur Bottomley
Preceded by
Reginald Maudling
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Anthony Greenwood

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