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Duncan Sandys

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Title: Duncan Sandys  
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Subject: Norwood (UK Parliament constituency), Harold Watkinson, 1st Viscount Watkinson, Alec Douglas-Home, Operation Crossbow (film), Third Churchill Ministry
Collection: 1908 Births, 1987 Deaths, Alumni of Magdalen College, Oxford, British Army Personnel of World War II, British Secretaries of State, British Secretaries of State for Commonwealth Affairs, Conservative Party (Uk) Life Peers, Conservative Party (Uk) Mps, Members of Pratt's Club, Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, People Educated at Eton College, People Educated at West Downs School, Royal Artillery Officers, Secretaries of State for the Colonies (Uk), Uk Mps 1935–45, Uk Mps 1950–51, Uk Mps 1951–55, Uk Mps 1955–59, Uk Mps 1959–64, Uk Mps 1964–66, Uk Mps 1966–70, Uk Mps 1970–74
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Duncan Sandys

The Right Honourable
The Lord Duncan-Sandys
Shadow Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
16 October 1964 – 13 April 1966
Leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Edward Heath
Preceded by Anthony Greenwood
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 – 13 July 1962
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
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 by Sir Walter Greaves-Lord
Succeeded by Ronald Chamberlain
Personal details
Born (1908-01-24)24 January 1908
Died 26 November 1987(1987-11-26) (aged 79)
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Diana Churchill (1935–1960)
Marie-Claire Schmitt (1962–1987)
Relations George John Sandys (father)
Winston Churchill (father-in-law)
Children Julian (1936–1997)
Edwina (b. 1938)
Celia (b. 1943)
Laura (b. 1964)
Alma mater Eton College
Magdalen College, Oxford
Profession Diplomat
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  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 (24 January 1908 – 26 November 1987) was a British politician and minister in successive Conservative governments in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the son-in-law of Sir Winston Churchill.


  • Early life 1
    • The Duncan Sandys case 1.1
  • Wartime 2
  • Post-war 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Children 5
  • Interests 6
  • Notes 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Career summary 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Sandys was the son of Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. 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, after being opposed at Norwood by a candidate put up 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.[1]

The Duncan Sandys case

In 1938, Sandys asked questions in the House of Commons on matters of national security. 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 who held that the disclosures of Parliament were not subject to the legislation though an MP could be disciplined by the House.[2] The Official Secrets Act 1939 was enacted in reaction to this incident.[3]


Duncan Sandys, publicity caricature produced by the British Ministry of Information during World War II.

In 1937 Sandys was commissioned into the 51st (London) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army.

During World War II he fought with the British Expeditionary Force in Norway and was wounded in action in 1941, giving him a permanent limp..

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.[4] However, he lost his seat in the 1945 general election. He resigned his commission as a lieutenant-colonel in 1946.


Sandys was responsible for establishing the European Movement in Britain in 1947 and served as a member of the European Consultative Assembly in 1950 to 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 as Minister of Supply, 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 rationalization (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.[5]

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 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.[6] 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.[7]


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:

  • The Hon. Laura Sandys (born 5 June 1964). She was a Conservative Member of Parliament for Thanet South. She is often reported incorrectly to be related to Winston Churchill.


Among his other interests were 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.

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.


  1. ^ Hansard, 2 May 1935, cols.595-598.
  2. ^ House of Commons Paper 101 (1938-1939)
  3. ^ Clive Ponting, The Right to Know: The inside story of the Belgrano affair, Sphere Books, 1985
  4. ^ R.V. Jones, Most Secret War, Hamilton, 1978
  5. ^ "Britain's Small Wars". Facebook. Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  6. ^ "- Person Page 10623". Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Sarah Hall. Headless men' in sex scandal finally named"'". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2015. 


  • Cowling, Maurice, The Impact of Hitler - British Policies and Policy 1933-1940, Cambridge University Press, 1975, p. 415, ISBN 0-521-20582-4

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

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Duncan Sandys
  • men' in sex scandal finally named - The Guardian, Thursday August 10, 2000.
  • Obituary, New York Times Nov 7 1987
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
Preceded by
New creation
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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