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Sir Alexander Martin Lindsay, 1st Baronet

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Sir Alexander Martin Lindsay, 1st Baronet

For the Irish boxer, see Martin Lindsay (boxer).

Sir Martin Alexander Lindsay, 1st Baronet, CBE, DSO (22 August 1905 – 5 May 1981) was a British army officer, polar explorer, politician and author.

He first came to national attention in the 1930s, through his successful expeditions to Greenland. As a decorated front-line officer, his military service during the Second World War then further cemented his reputation. Immediately after the war he went into politics and served as an energetic Member of Parliament for nearly two decades. In 1962, for a lifetime of distinguished service to his country, he was awarded the title of Baronet.

Early life

Lindsay was born to a long-established Scottish noble family and could trace direct descent, as 22nd in line, to the Sir William Lindsay who was ennobled as Lord Lindsay of Crawford in 1398. Martin Lindsay was himself the son of an officer in Britain's Indian Army who became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles.

Lindsay was educated at Wellington College and at the Royal Military College Sandhurst.[1]

Army officer

In 1925, on passing out from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Lindsay was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Two years later, he was posted to Nigeria and seconded to the 4th Battalion, the Nigeria Regiment. During this period, Lindsay won Nigeria's Grand National horse race.

First expeditions

At the end of his two years in Nigeria in 1929, Lindsay undertook his first expedition, travelling from West to East Africa through the Ituri Rainforest in what was then called the Belgian Congo.

In 1930 he was appointed Surveyor to the British Arctic Air-Route Expedition to Greenland, led by Gino Watkins. Lindsay later wrote up his experiences in a book Those Greenland Days (1932), paying tribute to Watkins' team building. He was awarded the King's Polar Medal for the success of the expedition. Lindsay enjoyed writing about explorers and in 1933 wrote The Epic of Captain Scott about Robert Falcon Scott.

British Trans-Greenland Expedition

In 1934 Lindsay was the Leader of the British Trans-Greenland Expedition under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. The expedition was sponsored by several British government ministries and aimed to explore and map a 350-mile long stretch of Greenland which had not previously been visited but contained the highest mountains in the Arctic Circle. Andrew Croft was the photographer for the expedition; Lt. Daniel Godfrey was in charge of survey and navigation.

The expedition crossed Greenland from west to east, and succeeded in fixing the positions of many important features including Gunnbjørnsfjeld. On the return journey the team headed south-west to Amassalik (now Tasiilaq) and on their journey discovered the extent of the Kronprins Frederik Bjerge mountain range. Lindsay's expedition set a new world record after sledging for 1,050 miles (700 of which were through unexplored territory).

When all three returned safe and well, the expedition was regarded as an unqualified success, with The Times devoting a leader to it. The Times observed that "for daring and success [it] will rank high in the long annals of polar exploration".[2] Lindsay had also written his report of the expedition for The Times and in 1935 wrote a book, Sledge, based on these reports. His fame extended beyond Britain and in April 1935 he was awarded the Alexandre de la Roquette Gold Medal by the French Geographical Society for his leadership.[3]

Civilian interlude

In 1936, Lindsay left the army. He had married a distant cousin, Joyce Lindsay, in 1932 and they had a young family.

He moved to Lincolnshire where he was adopted as Conservative Party candidate for Brigg in June 1936.[4] The constituency was held by Labour with a majority of only 203, and Lindsay began to attend social events in the constituency in an attempt to build up his chances of election.

He was a Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire from 1938.

Second World War

Lindsay wrote to The Times in April 1939 to support the introduction of conscription based on his knowledge of the people of Brigg, stating that "so widespread is the determination of the British working man to 'Stop Hitler' that I do not believe there would be any opposition of importance".[5]

Lindsay returned to soldiering 1939, on the outbreak of the Second World War. It was just three years since he had left the Army. The following year, Britain decided to send troops to Northern Norway and Lindsay, with his experience of organising Polar expeditions, was an obvious choice to help advise on the particular problems the climate and terrain could bring to military operations. He served in a staff appointment during the Norwegian campaign in the early summer of 1940 and his contribution was recognised with a Mention in Despatches.

In July 1944 Lindsay was appointed second-in-command of the 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, in the 51st Highland Division. He commanded the battalion in sixteen operations between July 1944 and May 1945, being again Mentioned in Despatches, wounded in action, and receiving the Distinguished Service Order.[6] He ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

As was already his pattern, he wrote up his experiences in So Few Got Through: The Diary of an Infantry Officer in 1946; this was followed by a recap of his Arctic exploits, Three Got Through: Memoirs of an Arctic Explorer the following year.

Member of Parliament

Lindsay's political career had been put on hold during the war - he had resigned his Brigg candidacy - instead in June 1945, just after the war in Europe had ended, he was adopted as Conservative candidate for Solihull, a newly created constituency which was expected to be safely Conservative.[7] His Labour opponent was the future cabinet minister Roy Jenkins, but Lindsay beat him by 5,049.

Comment: early issues

His maiden speech on 7 November 1945 dwelt on the problems of an international arms race between the United States and Soviet Union. Lindsay supported giving details of the atomic bomb to the latter "if she would agree to cooperate and take part in a mutual system of controls and inspections".[8]

Early in his Parliamentary career he concentrated on conditions for servicemen and ex-servicemen; in May 1946 he encouraged discharged officers to take up posts with the Colonial Office and with the Control Commission in occupied enemy countries.[9] A week later he condemned the Germany Control Commission's publication "The British Zone in Germany" as "a miserable little rag" because it was a pale ghost of the Manchester Guardian.[10] He was a firm opponent of nationalisation of the steel industry, which took place.

Lindsay spoke in October 1946 in support of German prisoners of war being allowed to remain in Britain and being allowed British citizenship, because of the shortage of skilled labour.[11]

Comment: the John Strachey controversy

Although a generally moderate MP, Lindsay could be roused to anger. In April 1949, a criticism of the Conservative Party by Minister of Food John Strachey prompted Lindsay, recalling Strachey's association with Oswald Mosley, to ask "Is it in order for an ex-member of the Fascist Party ...", the rest of the sentence being drowned out by angry shouts from Labour MPs.[12] The exchange between the two caused a major row involving many Members of Parliament.[13]

Journalism

Outside Parliament, Lindsay also contributed his journalistic skill, writing the text for a book about the House of Commons published in the "Britain in Pictures" series in 1947. In 1948, with debates on the House of Lords starting as a result of the Labour government's Parliament Bill, he wrote Shall We Reform 'the Lords'?, which discussed the options which might be taken.

He was Chairman of the West Midlands Area of Conservative and Unionist Associations from 1949 to 1952.

During the 1950 general election, Lindsay made a speech at Wellington, Shropshire in which he prophesied that Aneurin Bevan would soon take over as Prime Minister after Clement Attlee retired.[14]

During the close Parliament of 1950-51, Lindsay played his part in harrying the Labour government. In November 1950 he won a spot in the ballot for Private Member's Bills and introduced a freedom of information Bill to give the press a statutory right to report the proceedings of public bodies.[15] Lindsay's Bill ran out of time; he also supported the bill, that became statute, introduced by Labour MP Eirene White reforming the divorce laws.[16] Early in 1951 he called on Belgium not to put General von Falkenhausen, the former German military governor, on trial for war crimes. Lindsay argued that Belgium had the least oppressive occupation of any nation.[17]

Churchill's second ministry

Lindsay was not offered any government posts when Churchill returned to office in 1951.

He pressed the new government to set up an all-party conference on House of Lords reform,[18] and to abolish identity cards as soon as possible.[19] Lindsay also supported a committee such as that run by Eric Campbell Geddes in 1920 to cut public expenditure, criticising "the Government's hitherto total failure to fulfil their election promises" to make a substantial economy.[20]

He received the CBE in 1952.

At the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Lindsay served as a Gold Staff Officer.

He was a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland.

Writing in his constituency association's magazine in June 1954, he stated that Winston Churchill would retire before that autumn to make way for Anthony Eden and predicted that Harold Macmillan would be promoted to be the new Foreign Secretary.[21] In the autumn he became interested in the problems of road congestion and tabled a motion urging a much increased road programme to solve it.[22]

Comment: capital punishment

When Sydney Silverman proposed the abolition of capital punishment in 1956, Lindsay put down an amendment to retain it only for the murder of a police officer.[23] Despite the significant employment in the car industry in his constituency, he once in parliament criticised workers in the industry for "shoddy workmanship",[24] When the workers at British Motor Corporation were ordered on strike that summer, Lindsay pointed to the fact that 53% of workers had reported for work as usual to observe that it was an unpopular strike.[25]

1956-1964

Comment: the Suez Crisis and length of Parliament's debates

Lindsay was one of the sponsors of a motion critical of the United States after the Suez Crisis.[26] He was critical of the Macmillan government in July 1957 for not doing enough to tackle inflation,[27] and led a group of three MPs who abstained on it.[28] At the end of 1957 he criticised the mediocrity of many MPs and called for reforms to House of Commons procedures including ending all-night sittings,[29] in a letter which prompted a long debate. At the end of January 1958 the House of Commons set up a Select Committee on the issue, with Lindsay criticising the continued denigration of Parliament by newspapers who were also damaging the Royal family.[30]

When the Parliamentary group on Egypt and Syria was formed in June 1960, Lindsay was appointed Chairman.[31]

Comment: Ford Motors

In November he protested that the Government should not sell its shares in Ford Motors of Dagenham without allowing MPs to express their views.[32]

Honours

In the New Years' Honours list of 1962, Lindsay was awarded a baronetcy: an hereditary knighthood.[33]

Comment: Beaverbrook Newspapers

Following a lecture tour of the United States early that year, in March he tabled a strongly worded motion attacking Lord Beaverbrook for authorising editorial comments attacking the Royal family. Lindsay circulated to other Members of Parliament examples of coverage in the Daily Express, which he described as a "sustained vendetta".[34]

Comment: European Economic Integration

He supported the Macmillan government's application to join the Common Market, commenting that it was difficult to find a banker or industrialist who did not think membership was essential.[35]

Retirement announcement

Lindsay announced in March 1963 that he would leave politics at the next election, stating his intention to take life easier.[36]

Comment

He abstained rather than support Macmillan on the Profumo Affair,[37]

Early in 1964 he called for an inquiry into the Public Trust Office, after discovering that it had lost a large sum of money in investments.[38]

Later life

In 1964 he was left $250,000 and a luxury Manhattan flat in the will of American philanthropist Florence Berlowitz Shaw (widow of George Hamlin Shaw and former wife of Bernard Pollak), whom he had escorted at social occasions in New York City.[39] The will was disputed by Mrs Shaw's three stepchildren, but eventually upheld.[40] A cousin living in North Wales also left him £20,000 the same year. Lindsay indulged his interest in horse racing by becoming a racehorse breeder.

Lady Lindsay divorced her husband in 1967 on grounds of his desertion.[41] Later that year he took the Sunday Express to the Press Council over an article asking, after his two legacies, whether Sir Martin was "after a rich widow". The editor John Junor defended the story, but the Press Council upheld the complaint and deplored the form of journalism.[42]

On 1 August 1969, Lindsay married Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, a former wife of the 2nd Duke of Westminster.[43]

Involved in business as Chairman of several companies, Lindsay was Chairman of the Standing Council of the Baronetage and wrote his final book on "The Baronetage" in 1977.

References

  • "Sir Martin Lindsay" (Obituary), The Times, 7 May 1981.

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Solihull
19451964
Succeeded by
Percy Grieve
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New title
Granted by
Queen Elizabeth II
Baronet
(of Dowhill)
1962–1981
Succeeded by
Ronald Alexander Lindsay
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