Who's Who - Sir Eric Geddes

Sir Eric Geddes (1875-1937) served as British Minister of Munitions, Inspector-General of Transportation, Controller of the Navy and finally as First Lord of the Admiralty during World War One.

Geddes' career began with the North Eastern Railway in 1904 where he rose to become its General Manager the year war broke out, 1914.  A new breed of businessman he favoured statistical analysis as a staple business strategy.

Such an approach endeared him to David Lloyd George, the Minister of Munitions who was always on the lookout for "men of push and go".  Geddes was therefore brought in by Lloyd George to serve in his department as Deputy Director of Supply, before being despatched to France in 1916 as Inspector-General of Sir Douglas Haig's British Expeditionary Force (BEF); for this role he was awarded the honorary title Major-General.

As Inspector-General Geddes revolutionised the BEF's transport and supply mechanism, dividing transportation into four separate areas to cover docks, light railways, railways and roads, while employing his favoured methods of statistical analysis.  By the time he left his role in 1917 (the same year his younger brother, Sir Auckland Geddes, was appointed Minister of National Service) efficiency had been transformed.

Lloyd George, by then Prime Minister, transferred Geddes to the admiralty, appointing him first Controller of the Navy in May 1917 and then installing him as First Lord of the Admiralty two months later, replacing the equally formidable (if curiously hesitant in his current role) Sir Edward Carson.

Geddes worked equally well at the admiralty (now with the honorary rank of Vice-Admiral), implementing Carson's convoy policy over the head of firm professional naval opposition (he brought about First Sea Lord Sir John Jellicoe's abrupt dismissal during Christmas 1917 over the latter's refusal to implement the policy).  Lloyd George consequently arranged for Geddes to gain a seat in the House of Commons at the next available by-election.

Geddes left the admiralty in early 1918 but retained his post in Lloyd George's Imperial War Cabinet until the end of the war.  He gained fame (and subsequent notoriety) for his publicly-stated promise of "squeezing" Germany "until the pips squeak".

After the war Geddes continued in public positions, gaining dubious renown for his policy of expenditure cuts in the civil service in 1922 (the so-called 'Geddes Axe').

He died in 1937.

A 'corkscrew' was a metal post for supporting a wire entanglement, with a twisted base enabling it to be screwed into the ground, removing the need for a hammer, the use of which could attract enemy fire.

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