Roundell Palmer, 3rd Earl of Selborne

Roundell Cecil Palmer, 3rd Earl of Selborne, CH, PC (15 April 1887 – 3 September 1971), known as "Top Wolmer" and styled Viscount Wolmer from 1895 to 1941, was a British administrator, intelligence officer and Conservative politician.

The Earl of Selborne

Lord Selbourne.jpg
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
In office
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded byWilliam Mitchell-Thomson
Succeeded byA. V. Alexander
Minister of Economic Warfare
In office
Preceded byHugh Dalton
Succeeded byLord Lovat
Personal details
Born(1887-04-15)15 April 1887
Died3 September 1971(1971-09-03) (aged 84)

Background and educationEdit

Born in the City of Westminster, Wolmer was the eldest son of William Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne and his wife, the former Lady Maud Cecil, daughter of Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. He was educated at Winchester College and graduated from University College, Oxford in 1909. He was the cousin of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 5th Marquess of Salisbury.

Political careerEdit

A few months later, at the December 1910 general election Lord Wolmer entered Parliament as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Newton division of Lancashire. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to his uncle, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Robert Cecil in 1916 and Assistant Director of the War Trade Department from 1916 to 1918. At the 1918 general election, he did not stand in Newton (which was won by the Labour Party politician, Robert Young), but was elected to the newly formed constituency of Aldershot that year. From 1922 to 1924, he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and Assistant Postmaster-General from 1924 to 1929.

In November 1940, Lord Wolmer resigned his seat in the Commons, and was called up to the House of Lords in his father's barony of Selborne in January 1941.[1] He was Director of Cement at the Ministry of Works from 1940 to 1942. In 1942, he inherited his father's earldom and his last political post was as Minister of Economic Warfare from 1942 to 1945. This put him in charge of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which ran undercover operations of sabotage in Occupied Europe. It was his policy to back the Chetniks in Yugoslavia despite the numerous items of intelligence that suggested that they were in league with the Germans. He was responsible for a delay of 12 months in support being given to Tito's Partisans, and when Fitzroy McLean was ordered to go to Cairo with a view to establishing contact with Tito, he did everything he could to frustrate the mission.[2] He was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour after the war and in 1948 was Master of the Worshipful Company of Mercers, then chairman of the National Provincial Bank from 1951 to 1953 and deputy chairman of Boots from 1951 to 1964.


On 9 June 1910, he married the Honourable Grace Ridley, third daughter of Matthew White Ridley, 1st Viscount Ridley. They had six surviving children:

Lord Selborne's wife died in 1959 and on 3 March 1966, he married Valerie Bevan née de Thomkahaza, a daughter of a Hungarian politician. His eldest son had also died on active service in 1942 and upon his own death in 1971 in Alton, Hampshire aged 84, was succeeded in his titles by his grandson, John.


  1. ^ London Gazette, 10 January 1941
  2. ^ Special Operations Europe by Basil Davidson, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1980

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Seddon
Member of Parliament for Newton
Dec 19101918
Succeeded by
Robert Young
New constituency Member of Parliament for Aldershot
Succeeded by
Oliver Lyttelton
Political offices
Preceded by
William Mitchell-Thomson
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
A. V. Alexander
Preceded by
Hugh Dalton
Minister of Economic Warfare
Succeeded by
Lord Lovat
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Palmer
Earl of Selborne
Succeeded by
John Palmer
Baron Selborne
(writ of acceleration)