HL Deb 09 September 1941 vol 120 cc1-5

My Lords, before turning to the business on the Paper, I think that your Lordships will wish to pay a tribute to the members whom we have lost since we last met. It is a curious coincidence that the noble Marquess, Lord Willingdon, and the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, both of whom made their names in proconsular posts, should have died within so short an interval of each other. Lord Willingdon first gained fame in his generation as a wonderful player of ball games, and that gave him his first opportunity of leadership as Captain of the Eton Eleven and afterwards of the Cambridge Eleven. After a short period in the House of Commons, where his popular gifts made him a very successful Whip, he took up his first Governorship, that of Bombay. This, the beginning of a long spell of responsibility overseas, was succeeded by the Governorship of Madras, the Governor-Generalship of Canada, and eventually by a return to India as Viceroy. In the intervals of that crowded life, Lord Willingdon took up other work abroad, visiting China and South America on Government Missions. Few of those who came in contact with him can have failed to be struck by his extraordinary charm. Undoubtedly his character had tremendous reserves of strength. His responsibilities were taken up in very difficult times, but the difficulties which he had to face were very generally resolved by his gifts of humour and charm.

Johnnie Baird had a very different career. He began in diplomacy, and also for some years he led a life of active soldiering. After various Ministerial appointments, he became Chairman of the Conservative Party. From that post he went to Australia as Governor-General. After a very successful term of office, he came back and was frequently heard in our debates. We remember the very uncompromising views which he often expressed, but it is safe to say that everybody appreciated his contributions. We all liked him, not only because of his gifts, but because of his transparent honesty.

There are very few public activities where wives have a greater scope than at Government Houses. Both Lord Willingdon and Lord Stonehaven were greatly blessed in this respect. I am sure the House will wish to express very deep sympathy with the Marchioness of Willingdon and Viscountess Stonehaven, and also our sense of their public services during their husbands' periods of Governorship.

There is another of our members to whom I would pay a brief tribute. The House has been robbed of another gallant young life in Lord Sudeley, who succumbed to illness while on active service. He was married only a few months ago, and I feel sure the House would wish to express its deep sympathy with his young widow.


My Lords, I should like, on behalf of my noble friends, to associate myself with what the noble Lord has said in regard to those of our members who have passed away since we last met. It was not my privilege in life, except very occasionally, to meet Lord Willingdon, but like all the rest of us I followed his career and work with close interest. He always seemed to me to provide a very conspicuous instance of how the British race throws up men who take large responsibilities in many parts of the world and who, by their fairness, judgment, and character, impress themselves upon all manner of races. It is to men like Lord Willingdon, I think, far more than to our Armies or our wealth, that the British Empire owes its stability and the universal respect which it inspires.

I did know Lord Stonehaven for many years. Although I cannot, of course, express any opinion as to his services to the great Party of which for a time he was Chairman—a very potent and important office—I did know him earlier on as a member of the House of Commons. As one of those personal and friendly acts which he was continually rendering to people of all kinds, I can remember well that on the occasion of the first Bill I ever introduced as a private member of the House of Commons, to which, at eleven o'clock, the late Lord Banbury, as was his habit, objected, the withdrawal of his objection was due entirely to the personal intervention on my behalf of Johnnie Baird, as he was known. I am guilty of having, myself, in conjunction with another, written a book about his work in Abyssinia, on the expedition, more or less diplomatic, into Somaliland. I can say truthfully I received quite a surprisingly large fee for the effort. It could not have been done except for the entirely friendly assistance all the time of Lord Stonehaven, so that my personal acquaintance with him, entirely non-political, dates back a good many years. It is true to say he inspired the affection and respect of all of us who knew him well. I should like, on behalf of my colleagues, to associate myself with the noble Lord's expression of sympathy with the widows of those who have passed away since we last met.


My Lords, on behalf of those who sit on these Benches, I desire to join in the expressions of sympathy and regret which have fallen from the two Front Benches. Lord Willingdon is indeed a great national loss, but those who knew him personally, whether as political associates in old days or from intimate knowledge of his work in the great posts he filled abroad, will think most of what was indeed mentioned by the Leader of the House—the singular fascination of his character, his absolute single-mindedness, and forgetfulness of self. There is a famous passage of Greek oratory which says that of famous men the whole world is the tomb. That was surely in a very special sense true of Lord Willingdon because there can have been very few Englishmen at any time whose name would arouse so many emotions of affection and respect in three Continents as would that of Lord Willingdon.

Lord Stonehaven is also a national loss, and in one sense even more a loss to your Lordships' House than Lord Willingdon because, although we all looked forward to hearing in our debates some of the fruits of Lord Willingdon's wide knowledge and experience, we were familiar with Lord Stonehaven's interventions in our discussions, always marked by manly independence of thought and strong but never disagreeable freedom of expression of opinion. We on these Benches certainly never in any way were oppressed by the fact that Lord Stonehaven was in a sense a spokesman and representative of the Conservative Party, because we always found him in every way a most friendly and agreeable member of your Lordships' House. Both he and Lord Willingdon, in addition to their public services, represented the enjoyment of English sports and amusements in a degree which undoubtedly enhanced their popularity. Finally we would wish to join in expressing our deep sympathy with the widow of Lord Sudeley who has died as a member of His Majesty's Forces.


My Lords, may I add my tribute to what has been said about Lord Stonehaven? It was my privilege to serve with him as the first Under-Secretary of State for Air in the last war. The Air Force owes more to Lord Stonehaven than to almost any man. He took the keenest interest in it. He worked like a slave in trying to bring it into being in those early days, and in assisting it in every possible way. Since those days he has kept interest in the air always in the forefront of his activities, and even up to the last he was a keen airman and always anxious to help everybody in the Air Forces.