Duncan Edwin Duncan-Sandys, Baron Duncan-Sandys[1] 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 and played a key role in promoting European unity after World War II.

The Lord Duncan-Sandys
Sandys in 1975
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byReginald Maudling
Succeeded byAnthony Greenwood
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
In office
27 July 1960 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byThe Earl of Home
Succeeded byArthur Bottomley
Minister of Aviation
In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byOffice Created
Succeeded byPeter Thorneycroft
Minister of Defence
In office
14 January 1957 – 14 October 1959
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byAnthony Head
Succeeded byHarold Watkinson
Minister of Housing and Local Government
In office
19 October 1954 – 4 January 1957
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded byHarold Macmillan
Succeeded byHenry Brooke
Minister of Supply
In office
31 October 1951 – 19 October 1954
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byGeorge Strauss
Succeeded bySelwyn Lloyd
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
16 October 1964 – 13 April 1966
LeaderSir Alec Douglas-Home
Edward Heath
ShadowingAnthony Greenwood
The Earl of Longford
Frederick Lee
Member of Parliament
for Streatham
In office
23 February 1950 – 8 February 1974
Preceded bySir David Robertson
Succeeded byWilliam Shelton
Member of Parliament
for Norwood
In office
14 March 1935 – 15 June 1945
Preceded bySir Walter Greaves-Lord
Succeeded byRonald Chamberlain
Personal details
Edwin Duncan Sandys

(1908-01-24)24 January 1908
Sandford Orcas, Dorset, England
Died26 November 1987(1987-11-26) (aged 79)
London, England
Political partyConservative
(m. 1935; div. 1960)
Marie-Claire Schmitt
(m. 1962)
Children4, including Edwina and Laura
Alma mater
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1937–1946
UnitRoyal Artillery
Battles/warsNorwegian Campaign

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.[2] Sandys' parents divorced in January 1921 when he was 12 years old.[3][4] His mother married Frederick Hamilton Lister in October that year, becoming Mildred Helen Lister.[5] He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Early career


Sandys 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.[6] He was a prewar member of the Anglo-German Fellowship.

In November 1936 Sandys put forward to the “1912 Club” a “fanciful vision” of England in 1950 (including peace in Europe) .[7]

The Duncan Sandys case


In 1937, Sandys was commissioned into the 51st (London) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Artillery, of the Territorial Army (TA).[8] 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.[9][10] The Official Secrets Act 1939 was enacted in reaction to this incident.[11]

Wartime career


During the Second World War Sandys fought with 51st (London) HAA Regiment in the Norwegian campaign and was wounded in action; this left him with a permanent limp.[10]

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. W. A. Robotham who had been in the Ministry as "Chief Engineer of Tank Design" wrote that he was knowledgeable 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).[12]

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 chairman of a War Cabinet Committee for defence against German flying bombs and rockets, on which he frequently clashed with the scientist and intelligence expert R. V. Jones.[13] However, he lost his seat in the 1945 general election. He resigned his TA commission as a lieutenant-colonel the following year.[10]

Co-founder of the European Movement


Sandys played a key role in the creation of the European Movement. He established the United Europe Movement in Britain in 1947 following a speech of his father-in-law, Winston Churchill, in Zurich on 19 September 1946 when Churchill had called for the "European family" to be recreated and provided with "a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom".

In 1947, Joseph Retinger, who had been instrumental in setting up the European League for Economic Cooperation in 1946, approached Sandys, then Honorary Secretary of the UEM, to discuss ways the League and the United Europe Movement might cooperate on questions relating to European integration. They decided to call a small conference of existing organisations working for European unity - the European League for Economic Cooperation, the United Europe Movement, the Nouvelles Equipes Internationales, the European Parliamentary Union, and the European Union of Federalists. This took place in Paris on 20 July 1947 where ELEC, the UEM, the EPU and the EUF agreed to establish the Committee for the Co-ordination of the International Movements for European Unity. The EPU did not however subsequently ratify its participation in the committee but the Nouvelles Equipes Internationales agreed to join. In December 1947, the committee was renamed the International Committee of the Movements for European Unity and Sandys was elected its chairman and Retinger its Honorary Secretary.

The Committee organised the Congress of Europe, held in The Hague from 7–11 May 1948 with 750 delegates from across Europe. Following the Congress, the International Committee was transformed into the European Movement.[14][15][16][17]

Sandys served as a member of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1950 until 1951.

Post-war parliamentary career


Sandys 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 (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.[18]

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 member of the Order of the Companions 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 his title, changing his surname to Duncan-Sandys.[19] He was created Baron Duncan-Sandys, of the City of Westminster, on 2 May 1974.[1]

He was an active early member of the Conservative Monday Club.

Personal life


In 1935, 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 scandalous divorce trial of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, in 1963.[20]

Sandys died on 26 November 1987 at his home in London.[21] He is buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas in Child Okeford, Dorset. His grave is marked by a horizontal white slab.[22]



From Sandys’ 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:



Among Sandys' other interests was historic architecture. He formed the Civic Trust in 1957 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 and 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 eight directors being sacked by Tiny Rowland.[23]

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


  1. ^ a b "No. 46284". The London Gazette. 7 May 1974. p. 5585.
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ "Former M.P. for Wells Divorced". Gloucester Citizen. Gloucestershire, England. 13 January 1921.
  5. ^ "Lt. Col. Frederick Hamilton (I6209)". stanford.edu. Kindred Britain by Stanford University. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  6. ^ Hansard Archived 6 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 2 May 1935, cols.595–598.
  7. ^ https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/KCC19361105.2.9?end_date=01-12-1936&items_per_page=10&page=3&query=Norwood&snippet=true&start_date=01-11-1936
  8. ^ Monthly Army List 1937–39.
  9. ^ House of Commons Paper 101 (1938–1939)
  10. ^ a b c Richard Holmes, Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors, London: Harper Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-00-722570-5.
  11. ^ Clive Ponting, The Right to Know: The inside story of the Belgrano affair, Sphere Books, 1985
  12. ^ Robotham, William Arthur (1970). Silver Ghosts and Silver Dawn. London: Constable. p. 246.
  13. ^ R. V. Jones, Most Secret War, Hamilton, 1978
  14. ^ Lipgens, Walter (1982). A history of European integration (English ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-822587-3. OCLC 8785025.
  15. ^ Retinger, J. H. (1972). Joseph Retinger--memoirs of an eminence grise;. John Pomian. [Brighton]: Sussex University Press. ISBN 0-85621-002-1. OCLC 495575.
  16. ^ Mayne, Richard (1990). Federal Union : the pioneers : a history of Federal Union. John Pinder, John C. de V. Roberts. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-41995-2. OCLC 26163180.
  17. ^ European Movement and the Council of Europe. Watford, United Kingdom: Hutchinson & Co (Publishers) Ltd. 1949. pp. 31–49.
  18. ^ "Britain's Small Wars". Facebook. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  19. ^ "No. 46267". The London Gazette. 18 April 1974. p. 4909.
  20. ^ Sarah Hall (10 August 2000). "'Headless men' in sex scandal finally named". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  21. ^ Mark A. Uhlig (27 November 1987). "Lord Duncan-Sandys, 79, Dead; Smoothed Way to End of Empire". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "About the Church – Child Okeford".
  23. ^ "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 Member of Parliament for Norwood
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Streatham
1950Feb 1974
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
New office Minister of Aviation
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by