Harold Sidney Harmsworth Rothermere - Encyclopedia


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"HAROLD SIDNEY HARMSWORTH ROTHERMERE, 1ST Visct. (1868-), British newspaper proprietor and financier, was the second son of Alfred Harmsworth, and brother of Visct. Northcliffe (see Northcliffe). He was born April 26 1868 at Hampstead, London, was created a baronet in 1910, Baron Rothermere in 1914, and Visct. Rothermere of Hemsted after his services as Air Minister, in 1918. He married in 1893 Mary Lilian, daughter of George Wade Share. At the age of 21 he entered the publishing firm in which his brother Alfred (afterwards Lord Northcliffe) was then the principal, soon after the date when Answers was launched. He assisted in developing the business on sound and economic lines, and for the next 20 years he was the close associate of his brother in all his great undertakings and shared in his triumphs. His administrative and financial skill admirably seconded Lord Northcliffe in working out his original schemes. He took an important part in the reorganization of the London Evening News, when his business talent helped to make that once insolvent newspaper a large profit-yielder. He was one of the three principals in the establishment of the Daily Mail (1896), for many years controlled the finance of that newspaper, and was largely responsible for developing its methods of distribution. He was equally active at the Amalgamated Press, the gigantic periodical publishing business which his brother had founded after the success of Answers. He founded the Glasgow Daily Record, bought the Leeds Mercury, and shared in the purchase of The Times (1908). He became known also as a most generous benefactor of charities. By the gift of a large sum he enabled the Union Jack Club to provide worthy accommodation for sailors and soldiers in London; and he gave £10,000 to the Territorial Force County of London Association. In 1910 he founded the King Edward chair of English literature at Cambridge, and in the same year he ceased his connexion with The Times, Daily Mail, and Evening News. In 1914 he acquired the Daily Mirror from Lord Northcliffe, and this henceforth became his special organ. In 1915 he founded the Sunday Pictorial, the first fully illustrated Sunday newspaper in London.

In the World War, Mr. Lloyd George, while Secretary for War, appointed Lord Rothermere in 1916 Director-General of the Royal Army Clothing Department. In the following year he accepted the office of Air Minister, under Mr. Lloyd George as Premier. He at once declared himself" whole-heartedly in favour of reprisals,"which were the best means of carrying the war into Germany and protecting British towns against air attacks. Suffering from precarious health and his bereavements in the war, he resigned on April 25 1918, after he had carried out the fusion of the Royal Naval Air Force and Royal Flying Corps." My second tragic loss in the war, ten weeks since,"he wrote to the Prime Minister," caused me great distress of mind and body. .. I was suffering from ill-health and insomnia."Immediately after the war he began a most energetic campaign. against extravagance in national and local finance, himself contributing numerous articles to his newspapers.

The tragic losses to which he referred were those of his two sons, Capt. Harold Alfred Vyvyan St. George Harmsworth, M.C. (b. Aug. 2 1894) and Lieut. Vere Sidney Tudor Harmsworth (b. Sept. 25 1895), both of whom, after showing exceptional promise in civil fields, served with extreme gallantry in battle and fell in the national cause. Harold, in the Irish Guards, was twice severely wounded in 1915, and was then given a staff appointment in England. This he insisted on resigning and returned to his battalion at the front. There in Bourlon Wood, on Nov. 27 1917, he received mortal wounds of which he died on Feb. 12 1918. In recording the grant of the M.C. for his conduct on that occasion the London Gazette stated:" He led his company forward under heavy fire and himself put out of action two enemy machine-guns. It was entirely due to his splendid example that his company reached their objective."In his memory Lord Rothermere founded and endowed the Harold Vyvyan chair of American history at Oxford University in June 1920. Vere, educated for the navy which he had to leave owing to gun-deafness, joined the Royal Naval Division immediately after the outbreak of war, took part in the expedition to Antwerp, and, when his battalion was driven across the frontier into Holland, made his escape from Dutch internment. He was in the terrific fighting at Gallipoli and in the battle of the Somme, having refused a staff appointment, like his brother, because he was determined to share the fortunes of his men. Twice wounded in the storming of Beaucourt on Nov. 13 1916, but still advancing and setting an example which, as his commander wrote," thrilled with pride the men of his battalion,"he was struck a third time by a shell and killed. In memory of him Lord Rothermere in 1919 established and endowed the chair of naval history at Cambridge which bears his name.

Lord Rothermere's third and only surviving son, Esmond Cecil (b. May 26 1898), who had served during the last part of the war in the Royal Marine Artillery, was in 1919 elected ,c" M.P. for Thanet, and was then the youngest member of the House of Commons and the fifth of his family in Parliament. (H. W. W.)

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