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Sir Archibald Henry MacDonald Sinclair (1890-1970)

From: "Sinclair" <>
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 15:50:01 +0100

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 <> "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 of Scotland.

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 Scotland. .

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 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 beaten".

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 Holocaust.

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, 1961.

Bombing Vindicated. J.M. Spaight, CB., CBE., Principal Secretary to the Air Ministry

New York Times,10 January 1946

Dennis Richards, The Royal Air Force, 1939 - 1945; The Fight at Odds. H.M Stationery Office

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

Last changed: $Date: 2002/12/06 13:55:49 $ [Clan Sinclair]