Who's Who - Lord Haldane

Lord Haldane Lord Richard Burdon Haldane (1856-1928) is widely regarded as one of Britain's greatest War Ministers, and served as Lord Chancellor from 1912 until he was hounded from office in 1915 as a result of false press allegations relating to his supposed German sympathies.

Born on 30 July 1856 in Edinburgh, Haldane was part educated in Germany (and Edinburgh) and retained a fondness for the country throughout his life - an affection that was later used against him to devastating effect during the First World War.

Haldane was called to the Bar in 1879 and was appointed a QC eleven years later.  Haldane was elected as an imperialist Liberal Member of Parliament in 1885, remaining in the lower house until his elevation to the peerage in 1911, after which he spoke for the Liberals in the House of Lords.

In December 1905 Haldane was appointed Minister of War, a post he retained until 1912.  Haldane used his portfolio to institute a series of vital military reforms, including the creation of the Territorial Army (many of whose units went off to war as part of the British Expeditionary Force), the Officer Training Corps and Special Reserve, in addition to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).  He also effected great strides in the provision of army medical and nursing facilities.

When war arrived in 1914 it was largely thanks to Haldane's earlier planning that the BEF was able to mobilise for war as quickly as it did.  Not that he saw war as inevitable; two years earlier, in 1912, Haldane travelled to Berlin in an (unsuccessful) attempt to repair Anglo-German relations and to discourage continued Anglo-German naval competition.

In June 1912 Haldane was appointed Lord Chancellor by Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.  Among his judicial reforms he increased the number of Lords of Appeal.

When war broke out in August 1914 Haldane remained in Asquith's cabinet as Lord Chancellor.  However a sustained press campaign launched by Northcliffe's newspapers - chiefly the Daily Mail - resulted in Haldane being dropped by Asquith in May 1915.

The spiteful press campaign which drew inferences from Haldane's known liking of Germany was widely regarded as a national scandal even among contemporaries.  However Haldane eventually emerged from political hibernation to serve in the first Labour government headed by Ramsay MacDonald in 1924, once again as Lord Chancellor.

Haldane, whose autobiography was published posthumously in 1929, died on 19 August 1928 in Perthshire, aged 72.

Click here to view brief film footage of Lord Haldane.

A "dogfight" signified air combat at close quarters.

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