Sir Auckland Campbell Geddes - Encyclopedia

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"SIR AUCKLAND CAMPBELL GEDDES (1819-), British man of science, administrator, and diplomatist, was the son of Auckland Campbell Geddes of Edinburgh and the younger brother of Sir Eric Geddes, and was educated at George Watson's College, Edinburgh, and Edinburgh University. He studied medicine, qualified as a practitioner, was at;:he London hospital for a time, and later studied at Freiburg. He was a demonstrator and professor of anatomy first at Edinburgh, then at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, and afterwards at McGill University, Montreal. He had also military experience, first in the South African War, and afterwards in the World War from 1914-6, becoming eventually a brigadier-general in the Territorial Force. At the outbreak of war he was still at McGill University; but in 1916 he was brought into the War Office as Director of Recruiting. The remarkable efficiency of his work in this capacity caused him to be appointed to succeed Mr. Neville Chamberlain in Aug. 1917 as Minister of National Service. This was one of the new ministries instituted by Mr. Lloyd George, with a view to the more energetic prosecution of the war. The great problem was to utilize the man-power and womanpower of the country to the best advantage. Sir Auckland Geddes outlined his policy in speeches at Edinburgh on Oct. 3, at Nottingham on Oct. 9, at Plymouth on Nov. 12, and at the Aldwych Club on Nov. 14. Instead of following Mr. Chamberlain's plan of building up a great department, he proposed to utilize existing machinery as far as possible. He contemplated a system of industrial cooperation, and determined to carry out the necessary transference of labour by means of labour's own organizations. More men were wanted for the shipyards, the production of steel, the making of aerodromes, and the production of aircraft and aero engines. To get them he proposed to use the employment exchanges, the trade unions, and the employers' federations. He appealed for volunteers for seasonable occupations like haymaking and harvest, and said that the waste of power in domestics, chauffeurs, and gardeners must stop. He made a special appeal to young, healthy, middle-class femininity. He instituted four grades of physical fitness. He said that the need of men and women for the army must be obtained by a drastic comb-out of individuals. He condemned extravagance on luxury, such as women's clothes. His department made a card index of the whole of the army at home, so as to get back into civil life men unfit for active service but fit for industrial occupations. His object was to ensure the maximum effort of the country for the following spring, when the strain would be the greatest.

A seat in Parliament was found for Sir Auckland at Basingstoke, and unlike some of the eminent practical men whom Mr. Lloyd George introduced from the outside into his administration, Sir Auckland had little difficulty in accommodating himself to parliamentary life. He introduced in Jan. 1918, and carried through Parliament in Feb., a bill the chief object of which was to call up from civil employment a number of young men who had hitherto been exempt from military service. He secured the cooperation of the trade unions in general, and even eventually of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which had hitherto proved recalcitrant. It was largely due to his efforts that the manpower and woman-power of the whole country was so completely thrown into the prosecution of the war as to make the victory of 1918 possible. In Nov. he became President of the Local Government Board and Minister of Reconstruction, and in the following May President of the Board of Trade. In this latter capacity he began the removal of the barriers to British trade which the war had necessarily set up, and he had to deal with the difficulties which immediately arose in the coal industry. He pointed out that the shortening of the working-day and the slackness of production had resulted in a deficiency of nearly 50 millions of money, that England could not get back to her industrial position before the war, unless the work of the country was done, and it was not being done. He had to increase the price of coal by 6s. a ton in the summer; but in Nov., as the result of a conference with the Labour party, he announced that the British consumers ought to profit by the profits on export coal, and reduced the price of domestic coal by ios. In 1919 an opportunity was afforded him to return to academical life by his selection to succeed Sir W. Peterson as principal of McGill University. He accepted the appointment, subject to its not being operative until he could be spared from his work at the Board of Trade on account of the coal crisis in England. But the delay so caused prevented his taking up the appointment, and in the spring of 1920 the Government prevailed on him to accept the post of British Ambassador at Washington, Gen. Sir Arthur Currie being made principal of McGill in his stead. It was thought that his combination of academical and intellectual interests with military and administrative experience, together with his knowledge of, and affection for, Canada, gave him peculiar qualifications for the Washington Embassy. He had, moreover, married in 1906 an American wife, Isabella Gamble, daughter of W. A. Ross of New York, by whom he had four sons and one daughter. He was made a K.C.B. in 1917.

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