Leo Amery

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Leo Amery

First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
31 October 1922 28 January 1924
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by The Lord Lee of Fareham
Succeeded by The Lord Chelmsford
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
6 November 1924 4 June 1929
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by James Henry Thomas
Succeeded by The Lord Passfield
Secretary of State for India and Burma
In office
13 May 1940 26 July 1945
Monarch George VI
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by The Lord Zetland
Succeeded by The Lord Pethick-Lawrence
Personal details
Leopold Charles Maurice Stennett Amery

(1873-11-22)22 November 1873
Gorakhpur, British India
Died16 September 1955(1955-09-16) (aged 81)
London, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Education Harrow School
Balliol College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
Profession Politician

Leopold Charles Maurice [1] Stennett Amery CH (22 November 1873 – 16 September 1955), usually known as Leo Amery or L. S. Amery, was a British Conservative Party politician and journalist, noted for his interest in military preparedness, British India and the British Empire and for his opposition to appeasement.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, sometimes informally called the Tories, 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 312 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 4 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 11 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 8,916 local councillors.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.


Early life and education

Leopold Amery was born in Gorakhpur, India, to an English father and a mother of Hungarian Jewish descent. His father was Charles Frederick Amery (1833–1901), of Lustleigh, Devon, an officer in the Indian Forestry Commission. [2] His mother Elisabeth Johanna Saphir (c. 1841–1908), [3] who was the sister of the orientalist Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, [4] had come to India from England, where her parents had settled and converted to Protestantism. In 1877, his mother moved back to England from India, and in 1885, she divorced Charles. [2]

Gorakhpur City in Uttar Pradesh, India

Gorakhpur is a city along the banks of the Rapti river in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is near the Nepal border, 273 kilometres east of the state capital Lucknow. It is the administrative headquarters of Gorakhpur district and Gorakhpur division. The city is home to the Gorakhnath Math, a Gorakshanath temple.

India Country in South Asia

India, official name, the Republic of India,, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Hungary Country in Central Europe

Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.

In 1887, Amery went to Harrow School, where he was a contemporary of Winston Churchill. Amery represented Harrow at gymnastics and held the top position in examinations for a number of years; he also won prizes and scholarships. [2]

Harrow School English independent school for boys

Harrow School is an independent boarding school for boys in Harrow, London, England. The School was founded in 1572 by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I, and is one of the original seven public schools that were regulated by the Public Schools Act 1868. Harrow charges up to £12,850 per term, with three terms per academic year (2017/18). Harrow is the fourth most expensive boarding school in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.

Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during most of World War II

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 a member of the Liberal Party.

After Harrow, he went to Balliol College, Oxford, where he performed well. He gained a First in Classical Moderations in 1894; in literae humaniores in 1896 and was proxime accessit (runner-up) to the Craven scholar in 1894 and Ouseley scholar in Turkish in 1896. He also won a half-blue in cross-country running. [2]

Balliol College, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford

Balliol College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. One of Oxford's oldest colleges, it was founded around 1263 by John I de Balliol, a rich landowner from Barnard Castle in County Durham, who provided the foundation and endowment for the college. When de Balliol died in 1269 his widow, Dervorguilla, a woman whose wealth far exceeded that of her husband, continued his work in setting up the college, providing a further endowment, and writing the statutes. She is considered a co‑founder of the college.

University of Oxford University in Oxford, United Kingdom

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two ancient universities are frequently jointly called Oxbridge. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Literae humaniores, nicknamed greats, is an undergraduate course focused on classics at the University of Oxford and some other universities. The Latin name means literally "more human literature" and was in contrast to the other main field of study when the university began, i.e. res divinae, also known as theology. Lit. hum. is concerned with human learning, and lit. div. with learning that came from God. In its early days, it encompassed mathematics and natural sciences as well. It is an archetypal humanities course.

He was elected a fellow of All Souls College. Undoubtedly intelligent, he could speak Hindi at 3; Amery was born in India and would naturally have acquired the language of his ayah (nanny). He could converse in French, German, Italian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Serbian and Hungarian. Amery was an active freemason. [5]

Hindi Indo-Aryan language spoken in India

Hindi, or Modern Standard Hindi is a standardised and Sanskritised register of the Hindustani language. Hindi, written in the Devanagari script, is one of the official languages of India, along with the English language. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the Republic of India. However, it is not the national language of India because no language was given such a status in the Indian constitution.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.


During the Second Boer War Amery was a correspondent for The Times . In 1901, in his articles on the conduct of the war, he attacked the British commander, Sir Redvers Henry Buller, which contributed to Buller's sacking. Amery was the only correspondent to visit Boer forces and was nearly captured with Churchill. [2] Amery later edited and largely wrote The Times History of the South African War (7 vol., 1899–1909).

Second Boer War war between two Boer Republics (South African Republic and Orange Free State) and the United Kingdom

The Second Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British counter-measures brought the Boers to terms.

<i>The Times</i> British daily compact newspaper owned by News UK

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, in turn wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

The Boer War had exposed deficiencies in the British Army and in 1903, Amery wrote The Problem of the Army and advocated its reorganisation. In The Times he penned articles attacking free trade using the pseudonym "Tariff Reformer" and in 1906, he wrote The Fundamental Fallacies of Free Trade. Amery described it as "a theoretical blast of economic heresy" because he argued that the total volume of British trade was less important than the question of whether British trade was making up for the nation's lack of raw materials and food by exporting its surplus manufactured goods, shipping, and financial acumen. [2]

He was a member of the Coefficients dining club of social reformers, set up in 1902 by the Fabian campaigners Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

Early political career

Amery turned down the chance to be editor of The Observer in 1908 and The Times in 1912 to concentrate on politics. [2]

He narrowly failed to win the 1908 Wolverhampton East by-election, by eight votes. In the 1911 Birmingham South by-election, he was unopposed as a Liberal Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) and he would hold that seat until 1945. One reason that Amery agreed to stand there under the Liberal Unionist label (it would fully merge with the Conservative Party the following year) was that he had been a longtime political admirer of Joseph Chamberlain and was an ardent supporter of tariff reform and imperial federation. According to AJP Taylor, Amery was a rare Conservative to promote protectionism "as merely the beginning of a planned economy". [6]

First World War

During the First World War, Amery's knowledge of Hungarian led to his employment as an Intelligence Officer in the Balkans campaign. Later, as a parliamentary under-secretary in Lloyd George's national government, he helped draft the Balfour Declaration, 1917. He also encouraged Ze'ev Jabotinsky in the formation of the Jewish Legion for the British Army in Palestine.

Amery was opposed to the Constitution of the League of Nations because he believed that the world was not equal and so the League, which granted all states equal voting rights was absurd. He instead believed that the world was tending towards larger and larger states that made up a balanced world of inherently stable units. He contrasted that idea with what he called US President Woodrow Wilson's "facile slogan of self-determination". [7]

First Lord of the Admiralty

He was First Lord of the Admiralty (1922–1924) under Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin. The Washington Naval Conference of 1921 to 1922 resulted in the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which reduced the strength of the Royal Navy and the naval estimates from over £83,000,000 to £58,000,000. Amery defended the financing of the Singapore Naval Base against both Liberal and Labour attacks. [8]

Colonial Secretary

Amery was Colonial Secretary in Baldwin's government from 1924 to 1929. Amery expanded the role of the Commercial Adviser into the Economic and Financial Advisership under Sir George Schuster. He also created the post of Chief Medical Adviser, under Sir Thomas Stanton, and a range of advisers on education (Sir Hanns Visscher for Tropical Africa), agriculture (Sir Frank Stockdale), a Veterinary Adviser, and a Fisheries Adviser. [9] He also set up the Empire Marketing Board. [10] A favorite scheme was to develop one or more colonies into white-ruled dominions, with special attention to Southern Rhodesia, Kenya, and Palestine. The strong opposition by the overwhelming nonwhite populations in Africa, and by the Arabs in Palestine, destroyed his plans. In India, the strong resistance of the Congress movement defeated his hopes for greater integration into the Commonwealth. [11]

Out of office

Amery was not invited to join the National Government formed in 1931. He remained in Parliament but joined the boards of several prominent corporations. That was necessary as he had no independent means and had depleted his savings during the First World War and when he was a cabinet minister during the 1920s. Among his directorships were the boards of several German metal fabrication companies (representing British capital invested in the companies), the British Southern Railway, the Gloucester Wagon Company, Marks and Spencer, the famous shipbuilding firm Cammell Laird and the Trust and Loan of Canada. He was also chairman of the Iraq Currency Board.

In the course of his duties as a director of German metal fabrication companies, Amery gained a good understanding of German military potential. Adolf Hitler became alarmed at the situation and ordered a halt to non-German directors[ citation needed ]. Amery had spent a lot of time in Germany during the 1930s in connection with his work. He was not allowed to send his director's fees out of the country so he took his family on holiday in the Bavarian Alps. He had a lengthy meeting with Hitler on at least one occasion, and he met at length with Czech leader Edvard Beneš, Austrian leaders Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt von Schuschnigg and Italian leader Benito Mussolini [ citation needed ].

Later career

Opposition to appeasement of Germany

In the debates on the need for an increased effort to rearm British forces, Amery tended to focus on army affairs, with Churchill speaking more about air defence and Roger Keyes talking about naval affairs. Austen Chamberlain was, until his death, a member of the group as well. While there was no question that Churchill was the most prominent and effective, Amery's work was still significant. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Army League, a pressure group designed to keep the needs of the British Army before the public.

In the 1930s, Amery, along with Churchill, was a bitter critic of the appeasement of Germany; they often openly attacked their own party. Being a former Colonial and Dominions Secretary, he was very aware of the views of the dominions and strongly opposed returning Germany's colonies, a proposal seriously considered by Neville Chamberlain.

On the rearmament question, Amery was consistent. He advocated a higher level of expenditure, but also a reappraisal of priorities through the creation of a top-level cabinet position to develop overall defence strategy so that the increased expenditures could be spent wisely. He thought that either he or Churchill should be given the post. When a ministry for the coordination of defence was finally created under a political lightweight, Sir Thomas Inskip, he regarded it as a joke.

When war came, Amery opposed cooperation with the Soviet Union against Germany. He was a lifelong anticommunist.

When Chamberlain announced his flight to Munich to the cheers of the House, Amery was one of only four members who remained seated (the others were Churchill, Anthony Eden, and Harold Nicolson). [12]

Amery differed from Churchill in hoping throughout the 1930s to foster an alliance with fascist Italy to counter the rising strength of Nazi Germany. A united front of Britain, France, and Italy would, he felt, have prevented a German occupation of Austria, especially with Czechoslovakia's support. He thus was for appeasing Italy by tacitly conceding its claims to Ethiopia. A start was made in the so-called Stresa Front of 1935, but he felt that Britain's decision to impose economic sanctions on Italy, for invading Ethiopia in 1936, drove Italy into the arms of Germany.

Amery distrusted the administration of US President Franklin Roosevelt. He resented American pressure on Canada to oppose imperial free trade, another of his favourite schemes. While the pressure was unsuccessful as long as Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Richard Bedford Bennett was in power, after he lost the 1935 election, his Liberal successor, William Lyon Mackenzie King, adopted a more pro-American stance.

Second World War

Amery is famous for two moments of high drama in the House of Commons, early in the Second World War. On 2 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain spoke in a Commons debate and strongly implied that he was not declaring war on Germany immediately even if it had invaded Poland. Amery was greatly angered, and Chamberlain was felt by many present to be out of touch with the temper of the British people. As Labour Party leader Clement Attlee was absent, Arthur Greenwood stood up in his place and announced that he was speaking for Labour. Amery called out to him across the floor, "Speak for England!" That strongly implied that Chamberlain was not doing so. [13]

The second incident occurred during the Norway Debate in 1940. After a string of military and naval disasters had been announced, Amery famously attacked Chamberlain's government in a devastating speech, finishing by quoting Oliver Cromwell:

You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go! [14]

Lloyd George afterwards told Amery that in 50 years, he had heard few speeches that matched his in sustained power and none with so dramatic a climax. [15] The debate led to 42 Conservative Members of Parliament voting against Chamberlain and 36 abstaining, leading to the downfall of the Conservative government and the formation of a national government under Churchill's premiership. Amery himself noted in his diary that he believed that his speech was one of his best received in the House and that he had made a difference to the outcome of the debate.

Secretary of State for India and Burma

During the war Amery was Secretary of State for India despite the fact that Churchill and Amery had long disagreed on the fate of India. Amery was disappointed not to be given a post in the Churchill war ministry, but he was determined to do all he could in the position he was offered. He was continually frustrated by Churchill's intransigence, and in his memoirs, he recorded that Churchill knew "as much of the Indian problem as George III did of the American colonies".

Last years

At the 1945 general election, Amery lost his seat to Labour's Percy Shurmer, a Post Office worker. He was offered but refused a peerage because it might, when he died, have cut short the political career of his son, Julian, in the House of Commons. However, he was made a Companion of Honour. In retirement, Amery published a three-volume autobiography My Political Life (1953–1955).


Throughout his political career, Amery was an exponent of Imperial unity, as he saw the British Empire as a force for justice and progress in the world. He strongly supported the evolution of the dominions into independent nations bound to Britain by ties of kinship, trade, defence and a common pride in the Empire. He also supported the gradual evolution of the colonies, particularly India, to the same status, unlike Churchill, a free trader, who was less interested in the Empire as such and more in Britain itself as a great power. Amery felt that Britain itself was too weak to maintain its great power position.

Amery was very active in imperial affairs during the 1920s and 1930s. He was in charge of colonial affairs and relations with the dominions from 1924 to 1929. In the 1930s, he was a member of the Empire Industries Association and a chief organiser of the huge rally celebrating the empire at the Royal Albert Hall in 1936 marking the centenary of Joseph Chamberlain's birth. Amery maintained a very busy speaking schedule, with almost 200 engagements between 1936 and 1938, many of them devoted to imperial topics, especially Imperial Preference.

Amery wanted to keep the UK and the newly independent British Dominions united by trade behind a common tariff barrier and away from the United States. He viewed American intentions regarding the British Empire with increasingly grave suspicion. He hoped the Labour government elected in 1945 would resist promises of trade liberalisation made by Churchill to the United States during the Second World War. Amery's hopes were partially vindicated when the Attlee government, under intense American pressure, insisted upon the continuation of Imperial/Commonwealth Preference but conceded its more limited scope and promised against further expansion.

Personal life

Amery was a noted sportsman, especially famous as a mountaineer. He continued to climb well into his sixties, especially in the Swiss Alps but also in Bavaria, Austria, Yugoslavia, Italy and the Canadian Rockies, where Mount Amery is named after him. He enjoyed skiing as well. He was a member of the Alpine Club (serving as its president, 1943–1945) and of the Athenaeum and Carlton Clubs.

He was a Senior Knight Vice President of the Knights of the Round Table. [16]

On 16 November 1910, Amery married Florence Greenwood (1885–1975), daughter of the Canadian barrister John Hamar Greenwood. [17] They had two sons.

Their elder son, John Amery (1912–1945) became a Nazi sympathizer. During the Second World War he made propaganda broadcasts from Germany, and induced a few British prisoners of war to join the German-controlled British Free Corps. After the war, he was tried for treason, pleaded guilty, and was hanged. His father amended his entry in Who's Who to read "one s[on]", with the editors' permission. [18] The playwright Ronald Harwood, who explores the relationship between Leo and John Amery in his play An English Tragedy (2008), considers it significant to John Amery's story that Leo Amery had apparently concealed his partly-Jewish ancestry.

Amery's younger son, Julian Amery (1919–1996), became a Conservative politician; he served in the cabinets of Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home as Minister for Aviation (1962–1964) and also held junior ministerial office under Edward Heath. He married Harold Macmillan's daughter, Catherine Macmillan.


  1. At some stage in his youth, Amery began using the name Maurice in place of his previous name Moritz. He did this so consistently that almost all sources give his name as Maurice. Rubinstein, p. 181.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Deborah Lavin, ‘Amery, Leopold Charles Maurice Stennett (1873–1955)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011, accessed 2 June 2011.
  3. Rubinstein, p. 177.
  4. Elisabeth and Gottlieb's father Leopold Saphir died when they were young, and their mother married Johann Moritz Leitner. Rubinstein, p.177.
  5. "Famous Freemasons". Blackpool Group of Lodges and Chapters. 10 December 2015.
  6. A. J. P. Taylor (1965). English History 1914-1945. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 375.
  7. Amery, Volume Two, pp. 162-163.
  8. Amery, Volume Two, pp. 253-254.
  9. Amery, Volume Two, p. 338.
  10. Amery, Volume Two, p. 347.
  11. Bernard Porter (2014). The Lion's Share: A History of British Imperialism 1850-2011. Routledge. pp. 223–42.
  12. David Faber (1 September 2009). Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II. Simon & Schuster. p. 398. ISBN   978-1-4391-4992-8.
  13. Amery, Volume Three, p. 324.
  14. Amery, Volume Three, p. 365.
  15. Amery, Volume Three, p. 365, n. 1.
  16. Manual of the Knights of the Round Table Club. 1927.
  17. "Leopold Stennett Amery; Lady Florence Amery (née Greenwood)". National Portrait Gallery, London.
  18. AMERY, Rt Hon. Leopold Stennett [ permanent dead link ] at Who Was Who 1997-2006 online (accessed 11 January 2008)

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Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Viscount Morpeth
Member of Parliament for Birmingham South
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Birmingham Sparkbrook
Succeeded by
Percy Shurmer
Political offices
Preceded by
William Hewins
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Edward Wood
Preceded by
The Lord Lee of Fareham
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
The Viscount Chelmsford
Preceded by
James Henry Thomas
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
The Lord Passfield
New title Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
Preceded by
The Marquess of Zetland
Secretary of State for India and Burma
Succeeded by
The Lord Pethick-Lawrence