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one of Sir John's decendants
In reference to Sir John Sinclair I wrote "His descendants however took
other courses, some of them quite brutal." It was an off hand remark.
John S. Quarterman <email@example.com "Which descendants were those?"
The answer is unfortunately is both not popular and long winded.
Sir Archibald Henry MacDonald Sinclair 1st Baronet of Ulbster, Caithness and
1st Viscount Thurso was born in London on 22 October 1890 the only son of
Clarence Granville Sinclair and his wife Marbel, daughter of wealthy New
York businessman Mahlon Sands. His mother died a few days after his birth
and five years later his father also died.
Archibald Sinclair was educated at Eaton and Sandhurst. He enters the army
in 1910 in the 2nd Life Guards. His grandfather died in 1912 he inherited
the baronetcy of Ulbster and with it 100,000 acres at the northernmost tip
In the First World War Archibald Sinclair served on the western front. He
was appointed ADC to the Liberal MP, and former Secretary for War J.E.B.
Seeley, commander of the Canadian Cavalry. Archibald Sinclair ended the war
as a major in the Guards Machine-Gun Regiment.
After the war Archibald Sinclair became an aide to Churchill, serving as his
personal military secretary at the War Office (1919-21) and his private
secretary at the Colonial Office (1921-1922). In 1922 he entered Parliament
as MP for Caithness and Sutherland, standing as a Liberal. He soon built a
reputation as a skilful Opposition speaker and was in favour of Scottish
devolution. In October 1931 Archibald Sinclair became Secretary of State for
Archibald Sinclair in 1935 was party chairman of the Liberal party. The
Liberal party had only twenty one MPs.In the House of Commons Sinclair and
Churchill worked closely.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 Chamberlain
invited Archibald Sinclair to accept office on behalf of the Liberals but he
declined. When Churchill became Prime Minister on 10 May 1940 Archibald
Sinclair became Secretary of State for Air a post he retained until
dissolution of the coalition in May 1945.
The Caithness Field Club at Caithness.org writes; "In that same month the
Prime Minister's scientific adviser, Professor Lindemann - better known as
Lord Cherwell, wrote a famous memorandum to Churchill in which he argued
that, with the strength now becoming available to it, Bomber Command could
systematically destroy the homes of the great majority of the inhabitants of
Germany's fifty-eight largest cities. This, he claimed, would destroy the
workers' morale and Germany's will to continue fighting. Sinclair commented
that he found the argument proposing area bombing, "simple, clear and
convincing". Although he did have earlier private misgivings Sinclair was to
become an assiduous apologist for area bombing and as Air Minister, he was
always the R.A.F.'s political representative rather than its master. lie
relied on the "common sense" judgement that a weapon so destructive as
bombing must also be effective: any Air Minister who thought differently
would not have survived the wrath of the air marshals for long.
There was moral revulsion from several important public figures who opposed
the use of bombing to terrorize and kill civilians. Among them was Bishop
Bell of Chichester, who throughout the war was the most persistent and
articulate critic of the bomber offensive. Another was the 4th Marquis of
Salisbury, head of the famous Cecil family, who wrote to Sinclair expressing
fears that, by area bombing the Allies were "losing moral superiority to the
Germans". However the moral issue did not cause Sinclair any difficulty, for
he believed that the German people must suffer for a war which was their own
responsibility, a harsh view which most people accepted in the heat of the
conflict. Fulfilling his role as the R.A.F.'s political representative,
Sinclair thought it wise not to explain the nature of the bombing offensive
too frankly in public, in case [it] was stirred up on grounds of moral
conscience and the morale of the bomber crews affected. An illustration of
this is a Commons reply by Sinclair to an opponent of area bombing: "The
targets of Bomber Command are always military, but night bombing of military
objectives necessarily involves bombing the area in which they are
situated". An earlier speech by Sinclair produced reaction from Dr.
Geobbels, who wrote in his diary on 3rd March 1943: "The English Minister
for Air delivered a speech that puts into the shade anything ever said. He
proclaimed the British intention of causing a German migration.... from the
big cities. The cynicism underlying such a statement simply cannot be
Sir Archibald stated "I am in full agreement (of terror bombing). I am all
for the bombing of working class areas in German cities. I am a
Cromwellian - I believe in 'slaying in the name of the Lord!"
"It is one of the greatest triumphs of modern emotional engineering that, in
spite of the plain facts of the case which could never be disguised or even
materially distorted, the British public, throughout the Blitz Period
(1940 - 1941), remained convinced that the entire responsibility for their
sufferings it was undergoing rested on the German leaders. Too high praise
cannot, therefore, be lavished on the British emotional engineers for the
infinite skill with which the public mind was conditioned prior to and
during a period of unparalleled strain."
Major General H. Bratt, Royal Swedish Army said, "Even the senseless and
highly culture-destroying terror acts, against for example, Lubeck and
Dresden, carried out by the Allied pilots, should have been investigated and
brought before a proper court of justice." Hon. Lydio Machado Bandeira de
Mello, Dr. Juris. Brazilian Professor of Criminal Law; author of more than
40 works on law/philosophy spoke for thousands of world figures.
"A nation which spreads over another a sheet of inevitably deadly gases or
eradicates entire cities from the earth by the explosion of atomic bombs,
does not have the right to judge anyone for war crimes; it has already
committed the greatest atrocity, equal to no other atrocity; it has killed -
amidst unspeakable torments - hundreds of thousands of innocent people."
"As for crimes against humanity, those governments which ordered the
destruction of German cities, thereby destroying irreplaceable cultural
values and making burning torches out of women and children, should also
have stood before the bar of justice," added Hon Jaan Lattik, the Estonian
statesman, diplomat and historian J.M Spaight, CB, CBE, Principal Secretary
to the Air Ministry (RAF) conceded that "Hitler only undertook the bombing
of British civilian targets reluctantly three months after the RAF had
commenced bombing German civilian targets. Hitler would have been willing at
any time to stop the slaughter. Hitler was genuinely anxious to reach with
Britain an agreement confining the action of aircraft to battle zones."
"One of the most unhealthy features of the bombing offensive was that the
War Cabinet - and in particular the Secretary for Air, Archibald Sinclair
(now Lord Thurso) felt it necessary to repudiate publicly the orders which
they themselves had given to Bomber Command." R.H.S Crosman. Labour
Minister, of Housing. Sunday Telegraph,1 Oct. 1961
"Is terror bombing now part of our policy? Why is it that the people of this
country who are supposed to be responsible for what is going on, are the
only people who may not know what is being done in their name? On the other
hand, if terror bombing be part of our policy, why was this statement put
out at all? I think we shall live to rue the day we did this, and that it,
(The bombing of Dresden) will stand for all time as a blot on our
escutcheon." Richard Stokes, M.P. This Member of Parliament was referring to
the Associated Press Correspondent of Supreme Allied Headquarters in Paris,
which had gloatingly described: "this unprecedented assault in daylight on
the refugee-crowded capital, fleeing from the Russian tide in the East. The
report had been widely broadcast in America, and by Paris Radio. It was
suppressed in Britain for fear of public revulsion.
"In a minute dated 28 February, 1943, Sir Archibald Sinclair explained to
Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, that it was necessary to stifle
all public discussion on the subject because if the truth had been disclosed
in response to the enquiries being made by influential political and
religious leaders, their inevitable condemnation would impair the morale of
the bomber crews and consequently their bombing efficiency."
"Kassel suffered over 300 air raids, some carrying waves of 1,000 bombers;
British by night, American by day. When on 4 April 1945, the city
surrendered, of a population of 250,000, just 15,000 were left alive," Jack
Bell, Chicago Daily News Foreign Service,15 May 1946.
A urbane moral dissertation is not required to impeach civilian bombing.
Non-combatants are off-limits. It is universally regarded as wrong to kill
for the sake of sheer terror. War, though unspeakably horrific, is not an
excuse for the dropping of all moral restraint. The disputes between
governments should not be permitted to spill onto the people forced to live
under those governments. People rarely go to war. They make a living and
raise their families. When they are war, they have first been whipped into a
frenzy by political leaders, whose insignificant ambitions are often
advanced under a cloak great national purpose. The leaders rarely do the
dying. Dying is left to the people.
When transgression in any war is pointed out, many become defensive, as
though acknowledging government's moral lapses is outright treason. That
attitude is not fitting to the political heirs of Jefferson and Madison, who
understood the dangers intrinsic to the state and who grasped that eternal
vigilance is the price of liberty. Those who wish not to dwell on atrocities
often respond that the enemy was engaged in such horrors as the rape of
Nanking, the Bataan death march, the bombing of Rotterdam and Warsaw, the
So that is what it comes down to: Dresden? Kassel, Tokyo? Hiroshima?
Nagasaki? They were no worse than the crimes of the Japanese imperialists
and the Nazis. At that point, a plea of innocence is hard to distinguish
from a plea of guilty.
In the General election of 1945 Sir Archibald Sinclair lost his seat, coming
last in the pole of three candidates. After failing again in 1950 he
accepted a peerage in the first honours list of the post-war Churchill
government, becoming Viscount Thurso, of Ulbster in 1952. He became ill and
he did not take his seat in the House of Lords until 1954.
Lord Thurso died in Twickenham on 15 June 1970.
Ref 14 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain, House of Commons
The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany. (H.M Stationery Office, London,
Bombing Vindicated. J.M. Spaight, CB., CBE., Principal Secretary to the Air
New York Times,10 January 1946
Dennis Richards, The Royal Air Force, 1939 - 1945; The Fight at Odds. H.M
Advance to Barbarism, Mitre Press, London. F.J.P Veale
Are We Beasts? Churchill and the Moral Question of World War 11 Christopher
C. Harmon, Naval War College Newport, Rhode Island. USA
Webster, Sir Charles and Noble Frankland The Strategic Air Offensive Against
Germany 1939-1945 Her Majesty's Stationery Office; London: 1961
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