Statesman Who Supervised Dimslantling Of Empire Dies
LONDON (AP) _ Lord Duncan-Sandys, one of the last survivors of Sir Winston Churchill’s World War II Cabinet and the statesman who supervised the dismantling of the British Empire, died Thursday. He was 79.
A family statement said Sandys died at his home after a long illness. No further details were given.
Sandys political career spanned five decades. Elected to the Parliament in 1935, he ran Britain’s bombing program during World War II. After the war, he founded the European Union, the precursor to the European Economic Community, but rose to greater heights in the 1960s.
Between 1960 and 1964, Sandys was the Conservative government’s chief minister in charge of steering 11 colonies and territories to independence.
Later, he was appointed to the House of Lords and developed a reputation as a political maverick.
″Duncan-Sandys played a major role in British public life from the second half of the 1930s onwards,″ said former Conservative prime minister Edward Heath. ″He was always admired for his fearless integrity in political life and for his immense command of those subjects in which he was dealing.″
Sandys (pronounced Sands), whose first wife was Churchill’s daughter, Diana, was a dashing, redheaded Tory with a wide streak of arrogance and ruthlessness.
Born Jan. 24, 1908, into a family of landed gentry, Duncan Edwin Sandys was educated at Eton and Oxford and joined the Foreign Office in 1930.
A speaker of French, Russian and German, he was posted to Berlin as Adolf Hitler was coming to power and promptly infuriated his ambassador by getting himself an appointment with the Nazi leader. Disenchanted with diplomatic protocol restrictions, he quit the foreign service in 1933.
Elected to Parliament in 1935, Sandys criticized the appeasement policy of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and, like his father-in-law Churchill, accused the government of neglecting to prepare for the inevitable war.
When the war came in 1939, Sandys was an army officer and was wounded in Norway and sent home.
Sandys was put in charge of the defense of London when Hitler unleashed V-1 flying bombs against the capital.
He is credited with one of the most difficult decisions in the war when he left London undefended for 24 hours while anti-aircraft batteries were moved to the coast to shoot down the V-1s as they crossed the English Channel.
As head of Britain’s nascent rocket program, he won approval for a massive bombing raid on Hitler’s rocket sites which set the German war effort back six months.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said that without the delay, the Allied invasion of Europe ″might have been written off.″
Sandys lost his parliamentary seat in the Labor Party landslide of 1945 and devoted himself to uniting Europe, founding the European Union, an early forerunner of the present 12-nation European Economic Community.
When the Tories regained power in 1951 and held it for 13 years, Sandys held a succession of important posts, including the defense portfolio where he backed Britain’s independent nuclear arsenal.
As Commonwealth minister, he oversaw Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s ″wind of change″ policy as country after country left the empire and became independent within the Commonwealth, the 48-nation association of Britain and its former colonies.
Under his command, 11 colonies gained independence: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cyprus, Malta, Malaysia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Sierra Leone.
He wrote in 1962: ″Britain has no desire to hold on to her remaining colonies a day longer than is necessary. Politically they involve us in much unwelcome controversy with the outside world - and economically, we draw no profit from our sovereignty.″
His Commonwealth job brought him into conflict with Heath. Sandys worried that EEC membership would damage Britain’s relationship with the Commonwealth countries, and used his European contacts behind the scenes, to Heath’s annoyance.
When Heath became prime minister, he ousted Sandys from the party leadership. He quit Parliament in 1974 and was elevated to the House of Lords. He was made a baron and took the title Duncan-Sandys.
After 1974, Sandys pursued his business interests and became chairman of the Lonrho conglomerate in 1983.
Sandys divorced Diana, by whom he had a son and two daughters, in 1960, and married Marie Claire Schmitt, a French divorcee, in 1962. They had one daughter.