Overview

John Anderson

(1882—1958) civil service administrator and politician


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(b. Edinburgh, 8 July 1882; d. 4 Jan. 1958) British; Governor of Bengal 1932 –7, Home Secretary 1939 –40, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1943 –5; KCB 1919, Viscount Waverley 1952 Educated at George Watson's College, Edinburgh University, and the University of Leipzig, Anderson had a distinguished career as a civil servant before being called on to serve in government. He rose through the ranks of the civil service, becoming permanent secretary at the Home Office in 1922 at the age of 40. At the Home Office, he was responsible for the preparations for handling the General Strike. After ten years in the post, he was appointed Governor of Bengal, serving five years (1932 –7) before returning to England. That might have marked the high point of his career, but the possibility of war resulted in him being brought into government, as Lord Privy Seal in 1938, to handle preparations for air-raid precautions. He entered parliament as a national member, sitting for the Scottish Universities. He was among the ministers who in September 1939 pressed Chamberlain for a declaration of war following the German invasion of Poland. On the outbreak of war, Anderson was appointed Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he was brought into the War Cabinet as Lord President of the Council and chaired a committee that was largely responsible for civil administration. In 1943, he succeeded Kingsley Wood as Chancellor of the Exchequer, serving until the end of the parliament. He remained an MP until 1950.

Described by Charles Loch Mowat as ‘perhaps the ablest of a distinguished generation of civil servants’, Anderson became an indispensable figure at a time when professional expertise was necessary for the prosecution of war. His name was to become a household word with the construction of ‘Anderson’ air-raid shelters. Though never a party man, and lacking an independent political base, he became a powerful figure during the unique circumstances of war. In 1945, Churchill advised the King that, in the event of Churchill and Eden both dying, he should send for Anderson.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.


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