HC Deb 12 April 1920 vol 127 cc1465-9

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The object with which this Bill is introduced is to provide a permanent organisation for the management of the Imperial War Museum. The House will recollect that in March, 1917, the Government authorised me to form a committee which has been occupied since then in collecting the materials to form an Imperial War Museum. The work of that committee is drawing to a close. The Imperial War Museum Committee, the body to which I refer, has no legal status, and it has therefore become necessary formally to provide an organisation legally incorporated, with a Board of Trustees, to take charge of this valuable and unique collection and to provide for its future management and custody. The Bill follows the ordinary lines of the enactments under which our national collections are governed, and presents no point of novelty. The Board of Trustees set forth in the Schedule of the Bill is to consist of a President, and 24 Other members, of whom 17 shall be appointed members, with 7 ex-officio members. Of the appointed members, 11 shall be persons appointed by the Treasury. It is the intention to ask a number of distinguished soldiers, sailors and airmen who have taken a great and noble part in the War, and who in their relative positions of command have interested themselves in forming the collection to consent to become trustees. One person shall be appointed by the Admiralty, one by the War Office, and one by the Secretary for the Colonies; one for India, one by the Board of Education, and one by the Secretary of State for Air. The ex-officio members will include the High Commissioners for the Dominions. I am pleased to be able to state that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has graciously consented to be the First President of the Board. I think that is really all I need say about the Bill, the object of which is machinery. It may interest hon. Members to know that we hope early in June to open the Museum in its temporary home at the Crystal Palace, when Members of this House and the public generally will be able to see the result of the labours of the Committee, the sub-committees and the various commanding officers at the front who, during the last three years, have interested themselves in forming this collection.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Will the different collections in the country come under the jurisdiction of these trustees?


The various war relics throughout the country have been allocated to the care of the various local authorities. These trustees will only be concerned with the collection in the Museum itself.

8.0 P.M.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I am afraid I shall have to oppose this Bill. My opposition, I admit, is somewhat placated by the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill. If it had been introduced by the Minister of War, I would have been even more opposed to it, but the right hon. Gentleman's manner, and I am sure his whole character, suggests that he is essentially peace-loving and pacific. The Bill is, however, thoroughly mischievous. Let me begin by stating that I have been a subscriber to the United Services Institute. That institute, in addition to other services, has made a very valuable collection of weapons of past wars and of some of the relics and curios which this Bill is designed to placed under the charge of this new-fangled Board of Trustees. For the small charge of 6d. anyone can go into our club house in Whitehall and sec our very interesting collection of some thousands of relics and war trophies, got together by various Service members who interested themselves in it. That, apparently, is not good enough for the Government, and in March, 1917, they saw a chance of creating a new bureaucracy with a few snug billets in it, with lady typists and the rest of it, at our expense, and also a chance for giving some pleasant and congenial employment to certain distinguished generals and admirals, to whom the right hon. Gentleman paid the usual tributes. Doubtless they are very gallant officers, and no doubt very nice posts will be held by them. From their point of view, and the point of view of their immediate friends and relations, of course, that is very desirable, but apart from that, I object to this war museum because now we want to let people forget about the War. I make that statement quite seriously. We want the glamour and ceremony of war out of the minds of the people of this country, especially the younger generation.

Here under this Measure you will have this Department of a modern business Government. School treats will be taken to this museum, and they will see the interesting curios of this last terrible war. Their minds will be filled with it, and not with the ideas of peace. I wish to enter a protest against the appointment of His Royal Highness as President of the Board. I know that His Royal Highness has very graciously accepted this position, and I would much rather that he had become a Prince of Peace and not a Prince of War. I would much rather hear of His Royal Highness accepting some post in connection with the League of Nations and not accepting the Presidency of the Board of Trustees for the Imperial War Museum. On this matter I am speaking for a number of people in the country who have not failed in their duty in the last few months, and if we had our way every vestige, trace, trophy, and relic of the late War would be destroyed. We would take every obsolete warship we could get hold of, and if we could have an international arrangement, we would take every modern warship and sink them in deep water, and destroy every gun, hand grenade, poisoned gas cylinder, and bomb thrower and other devices of the devil invented for warfare.

We should forbid our children to have anything to do with the pomp and glamour and the bestiality of the late War, which has led to the death of millions of men. I refuse to vote a penny of public money to commemorate such suicidal madness of civilisation as that which was shown in the late War. I do not know what this proposal under the Bill will cost. It may be only just a trifle, just a few thousand pounds to add to the millions we have spent, but the price will be paid by anything of this nature which perpetrates the war spirit, which befools the young into thinking there is something grand and heroic in the international struggle between nations. Anything of that sort is a price too high to pay, and for these reasons I shall vote against this Bill. If I only lead a few Members into the Lobby, I feel it is my duty to raise this protest against a policy which has led to war in the past, in which the youth of the country have paid the penalty and the old men have profited.


I oppose this Measure because I do not think it is necessary to set up another public department such as is provided for under this Bill. I think it is quite undesirable in these days to perpetuate the remembrance of war. A collection of the relics of warfare is altogether undesirable. The effect upon the young mind is such that we are going to familiarise them with all the barbarism of warfare when we ought to be proclaiming the virtues of peace. In various parts of the country the public have protested against having sent to them some of the war relics in the shape of tanks and German guns, and in my own experience I know definite protests have been made against these implements of warfare being put in public places in various parts of the country. My view is that the general public desire to forget as much as possible the facts of the War. It is quite sufficient for the general public to remember that over 800,000 British soldiers have fallen in the conflict, and that of itself is quite sufficient recollection for the various families in different parts of the country whose members have paid the penalty and rendered their tribute in that direction. There is no public demand for a museum of this character. If a plebiscite of the public were to be taken I am sure this museum would not be brought into existence at all. There is no justification for setting up an institution of this character. It does interpret the public mind and they do not want it, and I am sure the public would not have it if they had an opportunity of vetoing the proposal. Upon those grounds I associate myself with the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, and if he goes to a Division he will find at least one other hon. Member with him.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 110; Noes, 14

Division No. 78.] AYES. [8.10 p.m.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C. Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)
Baird, John Lawrence Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Parker, James
Baldwin, Stanley Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Hood, Joseph Perkins, Walter Frank
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central) Pollock, Sir Ernest M.
Barnett, Major R. W. Howard, Major S. G. Prescott, Major W. H.
Barrie, Charles Coupar Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Purchase, H. G.
Bonnett, Thomas Jewell Hurd, Percy A. Raffan, Peter Wilson
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Illing worth, Rt. Hon. A. H. Rankin, Captain James S.
Borwick, Major G. O. Jesson, C. Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Johnson, L. S. Rees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Brackenbury, Captain H. L. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Royden, Sir Thomas
Bridgeman, William Clive Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly) Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Bruton, Sir James Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Kenyon, Barnet Simm, M. T.
Campbell, J. D. G. King, Commander Henry Douglas Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.
Chadwick, R. Burton Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.) Sturrock, J. Leng
Conway, Sir W. Martin Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd) Sugden, W. H.
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) Lister, Sir R. Ashton Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.) Lloyd-Greame, Major P. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Loseby, Captain C. E. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham) Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.) Waddington, R.
Edge, Captain William Macmaster, Donald Wallace, J.
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Mallalieu, F. W. Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Molson, Major John Elsdale Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M. Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M. Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Fell, Sir Arthur Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)
Flannery, Sir James Fortescue Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Waring, Major Walter
Forestier-Walker, L. Morison, Thomas Brash Wignall, James
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge) Morris, Richard Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Goff, Sir R. Park Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross) Winterton, Major Earl
Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington) Neal, Arthur Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Newbould, Alfred Ernest
Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Hancock, John George Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.
Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston) O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.
Brace, Rt. Hon. William Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Cairns, John Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Waterson, A. E.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Sitch, Charles H.
Finney, Samuel Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Irving, Dan Swan, J. E. Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and Mr. Myers.
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.