Duncan Sandys

Last updated

The Lord Duncan-Sandys

Duncan Sandys 1975.png
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 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 bySir Walter Greaves-Lord
Succeeded by Ronald Chamberlain
Personal details
Born(1908-01-24)24 January 1908
Manor House, Sandford Orcas, Dorset, England
Died26 November 1987(1987-11-26) (aged 79)
London, England
Political party Conservative
(m. 1935;div. 1960)

Marie-Claire Schmitt
(m. 1962)
Children4, including Hon. Edwina Sandys and Hon. Laura Sandys
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.


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 and W. A. Robotham who resigned from the Ministry in 1943 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-Sandysof 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]


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. [17]

Career summary


  1. Ludlow, N. Piers (2004). "Sandys, (Edwin) Duncan, Baron Duncan-Sandys (1908–1987)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39858. ISBN   9780198614128.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)(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. "Lt. Col. Frederick Hamilton (I6209)". stanford.edu. Kindred Britain by Stanford University. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  5. Hansard, 2 May 1935, cols.595–598.
  6. Monthly Army List 1937–39.
  7. House of Commons Paper 101 (1938–1939)
  8. 1 2 3 Richard Holmes, Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors, London: HarperPress, 2011, ISBN   978-0-00-722570-5.
  9. Clive Ponting, The Right to Know: The inside story of the Belgrano affair, Sphere Books, 1985
  10. Robotham, William Arthur (1970). Silver Ghosts and Silver Dawn. London: Constable. p. 246.
  11. R. V. Jones, Most Secret War, Hamilton, 1978
  12. "Britain's Small Wars". Facebook. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  13. "No. 46284". The London Gazette . 7 May 1974. p. 5585.
  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.
  16. https://childokeford.org/the-village/village-history/the-village-archive/about-the-church/
  17. "Bond faces a Tiny bit of opposition". The Sydney Morning Herald . 10 November 1988. p. 17. Retrieved 19 September 2019.  via newspapers.com (subscription required)

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

Related Research Articles

Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook Anglo-Canadian business tycoon, politician, and writer

William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, PC, ONB, generally known as Lord Beaverbrook, was a Canadian-British newspaper publisher and backstage politician who was an influential figure in British media and politics of the first half of the 20th century. His base of power was the largest circulation newspaper in the world, the Daily Express, which appealed to the conservative working class with intensely patriotic news and editorials. During the Second World War, he played a major role in mobilising industrial resources as Winston Churchill's Minister of Aircraft Production.

Winston Churchill (1940–2010) Former British Conservative politician, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Spencer-Churchill, generally known as Winston Churchill, was a British Conservative politician and a grandson of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. During the period of his prominence as a public figure, he was normally referred to as Winston Churchill, in order to distinguish him from his grandfather. His father Randolph Churchill was also an MP.

Mark Francois British Conservative politician

Mark Gino Francois is a British politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Rayleigh and Wickford since 2010. Francois was first elected as the MP for Rayleigh in 2001.

Christopher Soames British Conservative politician

Arthur Christopher John Soames, Baron Soames, was a British Conservative politician who served as a European Commissioner and the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia. He was previously Member of Parliament (MP) for Bedford from 1950 to 1966. He held several government posts and attained Cabinet rank.

Ian Gilmour, Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar British politician

Ian Hedworth John Little Gilmour, Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar, was a Conservative politician in the United Kingdom. He was styled Sir Ian Gilmour, 3rd Baronet from 1977, having succeeded to his father's baronetcy, until he became a life peer in 1992. He served as Secretary of State for Defence in 1974, in the government of Edward Heath. He also served in the government of Margaret Thatcher, as Lord Privy Seal from 1979 to 1981.

Peter Thorneycroft

George Edward Peter Thorneycroft, Baron Thorneycroft, was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1957 and 1958.

William Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech

William George Arthur Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech, was a British Conservative politician and banker.

Rolls-Royce Meteor Motor vehicle engine

The Rolls-Royce Meteor later renamed the Rover Meteor was a British tank engine developed during the Second World War. It was used in British tanks up to 1964. It was a result of co-operation between Leyland Motors and Rolls-Royce who between them in 1941 had suggested that a specialised de-rated version of the latter company's Merlin aero-engine would be highly suitable for use in armoured fighting vehicles.

Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne British Conservative politician (1897–1977)

Thomas Lionel Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne,, known as Sir Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baronet from 1945 to 1959, was a British Conservative Party politician. He resigned as a government minister over the Crichel Down Affair, often quoted as a classic example of the convention of individual ministerial responsibility.

Victor Warrender, 1st Baron Bruntisfield

Victor Alexander George Anthony Warrender, 1st Baron Bruntisfield, MC, known as Sir Victor Warrender, Bt, between 1917 and 1942, was a British Conservative politician. He held minor political office between 1928 and 1945, notably as Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1940 to 1945 in Winston Churchill's war-time coalition government. In 1942 he was ennobled as Baron Bruntisfield.

Third Churchill ministry UK government, 1951–1955

Winston Churchill formed the third Churchill ministry in the United Kingdom after the 1951 general election. He was reappointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by King George VI and oversaw the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 and her coronation.

Richard Law, 1st Baron Coleraine British Conservative politician (1901–1980)

Richard Kidston Law, 1st Baron Coleraine, was a British Conservative politician.

Ralph Assheton, 1st Baron Clitheroe British Conservative politician (1901–1984)

Ralph Assheton, 1st Baron Clitheroe,, was an English aristocrat and politician.

Stormont Mancroft, 2nd Baron Mancroft

Stormont Mancroft Samuel Mancroft, 2nd Baron Mancroft, born Stormont Mancroft Samuel, was a British Conservative politician.

William Henry Fellowes, 2nd Baron de Ramsey, was a British Conservative politician.

Sir Sidney Herbert, 1st Baronet was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1922 to 1931 and 1932 to 1939.

Captain George John Sandys was a British diplomat and Conservative politician.

1945 Prime Ministers Resignation Honours

The 1945 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours were announced on 14 August 1945 to mark the resignation of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, following the success of the Labour Party in the 1945 General Election.

John Astor, 3rd Baron Astor of Hever

John Jacob "Johnny" Astor VIII, 3rd Baron Astor of Hever, PC DL is an English businessman and politician. He is an hereditary Lord Temporal, sitting with the Conservatives. Astor was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence from 2010–2015. Astor is a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

The February 1974 Dissolution Honours List was issued on 2 April 1974 following the dissolution of the United Kingdom parliament in preparation for a general election.