Leslie Hore-Belisha

Leslie Hore-Belisha

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Leslie Hore-Belisha was born in Devonport in 1893. Educated at Clifton College and Oxford University he served as a major in the British Army during the First World War.

Hore-Belisha, a member of the Liberal Party, worked as a journalist and lawyer before entering the House of Commons for Devonport in 1923.

In 1931 Hore-Belisha supported James Ramsay MacDonald and the National Government and became chairman of the National Liberal Party. MacDonald rewarded Hore-Belisha by appointing him Financial Secretary of the Treasury. In 1934 he became Minister of Transport. He successfully reduced the number of road accidents by introducing Belisha beacons at pedestrian crossings, a new highway code and driving tests for motorists.

In 1937 Neville Chamberlain appointed Hore-Belisha as Secretary of State for War. This was a controversial decision as the former holder of the post, Alfred Duff Cooper, was popular with the British armed forces. Hore-Belisha introduced a series of reforms to improve recruitment. Pay and promotion prospects were improved for all ranks, together with more generous pensions. He also introduced modernised barracks with showers and recreation rooms. Married men over the age of twenty-one were now allowed to live with their families.

Hore-Belisha upset the Army Council by replacing three senior members with younger and more flexible men. He also upset Neville Chamberlain by suggesting the introduction of military conscription during his negotiations with Adolf Hitler in 1938. His attempts to persuade Chamberlain to rapidly increase spending on the armed forces was also unsuccessful.

In the House of Commons the Conservative Party MP Archibald Ramsay was the main critic of having Jews in the government. In 1938 he began a campaign to have Hore-Belisha sacked as Secretary of War. In one speech on 27th April he warned that Hore-Belisha "will lead us to war with our blood-brothers of the Nordic race in order to make way for a Bolshevised Europe."

Hore-Belisha had a poor relationship with General John Gort, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. By the outbreak of the Second World War the two men were not on speaking terms.

In May 1939 Archibald Ramsay founded a secret society called the Right-Club. This was an attempt to unify all the different right-wing groups in Britain. In his autobiography The Nameless War Ramsay argued: "The main object of the secret society was to oppose and expose the activities of Organized Jewry... Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence." Ramsay continued his campaign against Hore-Belisha and even distributed in Parliament free copies of right-wing magazines that included articles attacking the Secretary of War.

Neville Chamberlain eventually decided to remove Hore-Belisha as Secretary of State for War and appoint him as Minister of Information. Lord Halifax objected, claiming that it was "inappropriate to have a Jew in charge of publicity." In January 1940 Hore-Belisha was sacked as Secretary of State for War.

In 1945 Winston Churchill appointed Hore-Belisha as Minister of National Insurance. However, he lost office when the Labour Party won the 1945 General Election. Leslie Hore-Belisha, who lost his seat in the election, died in 1957.

The sensation of the reshuffle is sending Leslie Belisha to the War Office, which is a staggering appointment and will make or mar his career. Personally, I think he will be successful. His flamboyant personality, his application, his unstinting energy ought to help him and, after all, even if he is a failure, we can cart him, for he is not Conservative, whereas Duff Cooper is.

Leslie Hore-Belisha, another Liberal National and former Minister of Transport, who had been appointed Secretary of State for War during the half-hearted revival of our defences when a European war seemed almost inevitable, did not get on very well with Chamberlain on personal grounds. It was also said that he was on occasion difficult to find when he was needed by the cabinet or at the War Office.

Hore-Belisha's greatest fault in his colleagues' eyes was that he had methods and a mind of his own in administration. He did not hesitate to set aside the advice of the generals when he thought it was wrong. There are people who think he was often right when he disagreed with the generals and who have considerable respect for his work as War Minister. He certainly had ability.

What is the truth of what happened? There has been an anti-Belisha faction in the House, in the War Office and in the Army for some time. His mania for publicity, his courting of public favour, and his democratic methods of re-organising the Army have made him many enemies: every place seeker disappointed in his hopes, everyone refused a commission, and most of the upper-classes who saw their sons serving in the ranks, were against him: but he went blindly and blandly on with his reforms... Then a cabal was formed of people on the General Staff - but they could think of no way to oust him until they hit on the brilliant idea of roping in, of all people, the Duke of Gloucester, as a professional soldier. He took up the cause and told his brother the King. The Crown decided to intervene dramatically, and sent for the PM... The PM startled by the King's complaint, gave in and that turned the scales. Hitherto, the PM, though aware of the movement, had supported Leslie. On Thursday he sent for him to come to No. 10 - and Leslie, unsuspecting went: they had a long talk during which the PM asked Leslie to accept the Board of Trade. Belisha was staggered, and asked why (evidently he had not believed my too-mildly-worded warning). Then he was told, as gently as the PM could do it, that he must go. Leslie demanded an hour in which to make up his mind, and went for a walk in St James's Park. He could hardly believe what he had been told, and was, of course, quite unaware of the Royal intervention. Later he refused the offer of the Board of Trade and made it plain that he would never serve under Chamberlain in any capacity again, because he no longer trusted him. How could he ever be sure that the PM would not throw him over again ? There was some bitterness, but no actual scene, and Belisha agreed not to make a statement, not to attack the Government.

Leslie Hore-Belisha

Divenuto deputato nel 1923, fu sottosegretario al Commercio nel 1931 e al Tesoro nel 1932 nel luglio 1934 fu nominato ministro dei Trasporti e mantenne la carica fino al maggio 1937. Divenne molto popolare per i Belisha beacon, segnalatori a luce gialla intermittente, che, per disposizione del ministro, furono installati in tutti gli incroci.

Nel 1937 divenne ministro della Guerra e cercò di migliorare i rapporti con l'Italia, con l'intento di rompere le strette relazioni fra Mussolini ed Hitler e fare in modo che l'Italia si schierasse contro la Germania. Nell'aprile 1939 fece approvare la coscrizione obbligatoria e fece nominare John Gort come capo di Stato maggiore generale imperiale. Il suo maggior proposito fu quello di rendere l'Esercito ed il servizio militare più popolari presso l'opinione pubblica, modernizzando allo stesso tempo la struttura gerarchica.

Nel 1938 contribuì alla nascita di Radio Londra gestita dalla BBC. Durante la crisi dell'agosto 1939, fu tra i più accesi fautori della linea dura con Hitler e la Germania, anche a costo di arrivare alla guerra la sera del 2 settembre fu tra coloro che fece pressione sul primo ministro Chamberlain al fine di inviare l'ultimatum definitivo.

Scoppiata la seconda guerra mondiale, Hore-Belisha organizzò il corpo di spedizione britannico in Francia e nel gennaio 1940 compì una ispezione alla linea Maginot ed alle altre fortificazioni della Francia settentrionale. La sua personale valutazione delle difese fu particolarmente negativa e questo fatto lo pose in contrasto con numerosi membri del governo, tanto da dimettersi nello stesso mese di gennaio. Per il resto del conflitto si astenne dalla politica attiva entrò brevemente nel governo Churchill tra il giugno ed il luglio 1945 come ministro delle Assicurazioni sociali.


HORE-BELISHA, LESLIE, LORD (1898–1957), British politician. Hore-Belisha was of Sephardi origin and educated at Clifton College and at Oxford, where he was president of the Union. He served with distinction in World War i. His father, Jacob Isaac Belisha (son of Isaac *Belisha), died when Hore-Belisha was an infant and his mother married a non-Jew, Sir Adair Hore, whose surname he added to his own. He was admitted to the bar in 1923 and in the same year entered Parliament as a Liberal. In 1931 he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Board of Trade in the National Government coalition under Ramsay Macdonald. When the majority of the Liberal Party left the coalition, he remained in the government as a National Liberal. He was financial secretary to the Treasury from 1932 to 1934, when he was made minister of transport. In this capacity he introduced various measures against road accidents, including the illuminated beacons at pedestrian crossings known as "Belisha Beacons." In 1936 he was brought into the cabinet and in 1937 was made secretary of state for war.

One of the most popular and visible members of the government, he initiated numerous reforms involving the reorganization of the top ranks of the army. As a member of the War Cabinet on the outbreak of World War ii, he was responsible for the efficient dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to France. Nevertheless, his democratization of the army administration was bitterly resented and the ensuing attacks upon him probably contained an element of antisemitism. He accordingly resigned in January 1940 and sat as an independent member of Parliament from 1942 to the end of the war. In 1945he was minister of national insurance in Winston *Churchill's caretaker government but lost his seat in the general election of 1945 and retired from politics. He was raised to the peerage in 1954. Hore-Belisha was an elder of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation for many years.

WWII: This British War Minister Was Hated by His Subordinates

During the “Phony” War, British War Minister Leslie Hore-Belisha was unceremoniously sacked.

Lord John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France in 1940, and his chief of staff, General Henry Pownall, have both been forever associated with the British Army’s greatest continental defeat namely, the retreat through Flanders and eventual evacuation from the harbor and beaches of Dunkirk in May and June, after being engaged with the invading German Wehrmacht for only three weeks.

Ironically, after Dunkirk, Gort became inspector general to the forces training in Great Britain prior to being sent to the island of Malta as governor general. Lt. Gen. Pownall subsequently became chief of ctaff to General Archibald Wavell at the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) command in early 1942 after just having taken command in Singapore a few days earlier.

Despite the debacle of Dunkirk and its mythic representation in the history of British arms, both Gort and Pownall had earlier in January 1940 won a decisive political victory over their civilian superior, the war minister, Leslie Hore-Belisha. At a time when Great Britain and her Western Allies and Dominions were engaged in an inactive, nonshooting conflict with Nazi Germany, the “Phony War,” the British war minister was waging a constant personal struggle against his military subordinates, who for both professional and personal reasons regarded him as unable to serve in this lofty capacity.

In personal diaries of some of the British Expeditionary Force’s (BEF) leaders, the odious tone of the establishment’s anti-Semitism as well as personal incompatibility with the BEF leadership seem to have led to the war minister’s resignation. Others have gone so far as to suggest an analogy between Hore-Belisha’s sacking and France’s Dreyfus affair after the debacle of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Nonetheless, the dismissal of the war minister of one of the chief Allied nations combating Nazi Germany barely four months after the outbreak of hostilities and prior to actual combat for the BEF in both Belgium and France has never been satisfactorily explained.

Isaac Leslie Hore-Belisha: Minister of Parliament

Isaac Leslie Hore-Belisha was born in London in 1893. His father’s family members were Sephardic Jews driven from Spain during the Inquisition. In Manchester, Hore-Belisha’s ancestors established a cotton import firm. Hore-Belisha entered public school at Clifton in 1907. There, he entered Polack’s House, which was entirely made up of of Jewish students. His Clifton schoolmates observed that Hore-Belisha was quarrelsome and that good manners were not his strong suit. After Clifton, he was educated at Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford Union. He was a major in World War I, serving in the Royal Army Service Corps, and was invalided home after being in France, Flanders, and Salonika.

In 1923, he was both called to the Bar and became a member of Parliament (MP) from Devonport as a Liberal. From 1931-1932, he was parliamentary secretary for the Board of Trade, and from 1932-1934 he served as financial secretary to Neville Chamberlain at the Treasury. In 1934, Hore-Belisha became minister of transport and significantly reduced the number of road accidents with the introduction of a number of innovations including pedestrian crossings guarded by the now famous “Belisha beacons.” Three years later, upon Stanley Baldwin’s retirement, the new prime minister, Chamberlain, gave the War Office to Hore-Belisha.

The Innovative Hore-Belisha Against the Aristocratic Army

Hore-Belisha’s notable achievements at the War Office included improvements in other-rank terms and conditions of service as well as barracks and recruiting. This all went over well with the typical British Tommy. In the public’s view, Hore-Belisha ranked only after Eden, always the favorite, and Winston Churchill in popularity. Newspaper photographs and newsreels frequently showed him chatting with the troops or drinking beer in sergeants’ messes in an attempt to democratize the Army.

The war minister reformed the Army, and as war clouds were again gathering in Europe, Hore-Belisha doubled the size of the Territorial Army and introduced conscription. However, it was in the endeavor of Army reorganization and leadership that Hore-Belisha was sowing a bitter harvest. Specifically, by the late summer of 1937, in close collaboration with Basil Liddell Hart, the noted military correspondent, Hore-Belisha began a reduction in the number of strictly infantry units, particularly in the garrisons of India, to save funds for increased mechanization under the armor pioneer, Percy Hobart, among others. Specifically, when Hobart’s name was proposed by Hore-Belisha to lead the first home-based armored division, Field Marshall Sir Cyril Deverell, chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), argued that cavalry officers could not be asked to serve under an officer from the comparatively new mechanized branch besides, it would not be possible for the wives of cavalry officers to call on the one tank commander qualified, because Hobart had been divorced years before.

The hierarchy of the British military reflected the nobility caste in England with its rules and snobbishness. Since these initial proposals to reorganize the Army met with so much opposition, Hore-Belisha became convinced that a wholesale replacement of the senior generals in the War Office must precede more constructive reforms. Hore-Belisha decided that Deverell must leave the War Office. Thus, the war minister began to directly antagonize Britain’s generals nearly two years before the onset of World War II. Furthermore, since Hore-Belisha orchestrated these changes with Basil Liddell Hart, a former Army captain, current military correspondent, and frequent critic of the Army who had numerous enemies in its hierarchy, a deepening of hostilities between the war minister and the Army’s leadership developed.

The Cabinet Clash Over Appeasement

First, Hore-Belisha replaced Deverell as CIGS with the recently appointed military secretary, Lord Gort, who was junior to many of the British generals. Deverell had refused to reduce the garrison in India and also typified the cavalry mind-set at the War Office. Lt. Gen. Sir Harry Knox, the adjutant general, and Lt. Gen. Sir Hugh Elles, the master general of the ordinance, were both replaced by younger and more flexible men. Thus, the upper echelon of the Army Council at the War Office was purged.

No one could dispute Lord Gort as a fighting general of boundless courage however, Gort somewhat reluctantly became CIGS with General Sir Ronald Adam as his deputy. Pownall became Gort’s new director of military operations and intelligence at the War Office. This triumvirate of general officers now leading the War Office was to become obstructionist toward Hore-Belisha’s new proposals, suspecting, often correctly, that the plans originated with Liddell Hart. It is ironic that the close association between Hore-Belisha and Liddell Hart began to thaw in 1938 while the ire of the Army’s leadership was brewing up. Hore-Belisha was increasingly disappointed at the lack of reforming zeal shown by his new team of Gort, Adam, and Pownall, but knew that another purge was impossible following the recent dismissal of Deverell.

As the Munich Crisis, involving Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, unfolded in September 1938, Hore-Belisha began to defy and anger Chamberlain, his political leader and benefactor, by pressing for conscription and for a Ministry of Supply. He also abandoned the concept of “limited liability” to save funds for the other services and set plans in motion for a larger BEF should hostilities commence. These stances were at odds with Chamberlain’s efforts to minimize actions that would signify an aggressive posture to the Nazi regime and, thereby, negate the appeasement strategy that he had implemented until the invasion of Poland in 1939.

So, Hore-Belisha, who previously had delighted Chamberlain by “stirring the old dry bones” at the War Office and received the prime minister’s support, now clashed with him and his ardent pro-appeasement cabinet ministers. This cabinet struggle was to have grave consequences for Hore-Belisha.

“It is Time We Had a Better Chap in the War Office”

The most damaging rift between Hore-Belisha and Britain’s military leadership occurred with the outbreak of war in September 1939, and ultimately caused the war minister’s downfall. This occurred despite Hore-Belisha’s aggressive stance and vocal opposition to the Nazis. In October 1939, he enunciated British war aims on the BBC: “We are concerned with the frontiers of the human spirit … only the defeat of Nazi Germany can lighten the darkness which now shrouds our cities, and lighten the horizon for all Europe and the world.” Unfortunately, it was still Chamberlain’s policy, ably supported by his pro-appeasement sycophants in the cabinet, to avoid offending the Nazis although England and Germany were at war.

In September 1939, Hore-Belisha traveled to France to inspect the BEF’s defensive works. He appointed a team of military and civil engineers to make further technical inquiry and recommendations to strengthen the British Army’s dispositions. This seems to have incensed General Pownall, Gort’s chief of staff, who regarded it as odd that the war minister went to France to deal with strategic and tactical matters.

Hore-Belisha thought it was his prerogative to visit the BEF’s fortifications because he had to fight for the Army’s plans and budget in Parliament. Also, if disaster occurred, it would be the war minister’s head that would roll. After a second visit to France to meet with Gort and Pownall in November 1939, Hore-Belisha criticized the rate at which concrete pillboxes were being built. This so outraged the generals that they enlisted the support of the upper crust of power in England in an attempt to oust him. Pownall even traveled back to England after this second Hore-Belisha visit to express the “virtues and failings of Hore-Belisha” at the War Office.

Some historians assert that Pownall convinced King George VI and other powerful government leaders, including General William Edward Ironside, the CIGS, who replaced Gort when the latter assumed command of the BEF in France. Upon returning from a meeting with Gort and Pownall in France, Ironside was concerned about the rage he found in the BEF leadership and stated, “It is time we had a better chap in the War Office.”

The Choice Between Hore-Belisha and the BEF Leadership

After receiving many reports from the BEF leadership that there was resentment toward Hore-Belisha, the king went to France in December 1939 to meet with Gort and Pownall among others. The king became convinced that Hore-Belisha would have to be replaced and had actually asked Pownall who should be the new war minister. Almost two weeks later, Chamberlain went to France to meet with the same BEF leadership. Gort told the prime minister that the BEF did not have confidence in the war minister.

Hore-Belisha’s days were numbered as 1940 began. Next to Churchill, the war minister was the most vigorous in prosecuting the war, even though no actual fighting occurred. However, friction between Hore-Belisha and the War Office had grown to such an extent that, in Chamberlain’s view, it was impeding the development of Britain’s war effort, especially in France. Hore-Belisha had expressed lack of confidence in the commander in chief of the BEF, Lord Gort.

After Chamberlain visited Gort’s headquarters on December 15, 1939, and listened to Gort’s account of the deficiencies of equipment in the BEF, he realized that no confidence existed between the senior British officers in France and their minister. Amid the rumors circulating during the debate to sack Hore-Belisha in January 1940, it was made clear that the choice before Chamberlain lay between the dismissal of Hore-Belisha and a request from Gort and the two corps commanders (Lt. Gen. Sir Alan Brooke being one of them) to be relieved of their appointments.

After conferences between Chamberlain and Hore-Belisha in the latter part of December, the prime minister decided to replace Hore-Belisha with Oliver Stanley, the son of the Earl of Derby. On January 4, 1940, Chamberlain summoned Hore-Belisha to the cabinet room, and informed him that he was to leave the War Office. Chamberlain wanted to offer him the Ministry of Information, but Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, objected to the appointment because it would have a “bad effect among the neutrals … because HB is a Jew”.

The “Pillbox Affair”

Ultimately, the now deposed war minister was offered the presidency of the Board of Trade, but Hore-Belisha rejected this position and withdrew to the back benches. Thus ended the sacking of the war minister just four months after the commencement of hostilities with Germany and prior to any land action on the Continent or in Scandinavia seemingly based on the number and speed of construction of pillboxes, the “Pillbox Affair,” in northern France.

According to General Freddie DeGuignand, Hore-Belisha’s military secretary (and later to be Montgomery’s ubiquitous chief of staff), the war minister was trying to be helpful rather than critical of the BEF leadership. Gort, Pownall, and Maj. Gen. R.P. Pakenham-Walsh, a subordinate of Gort’s, resented any criticism at all since they believed they were doing their best in adverse conditions, which the war minister had totally failed to grasp.

It seems Hore-Belisha’s particular problem was that he inaccurately presented the facts of the pillbox construction to the Army Council, discussed the matter in cabinet after Ironside had left, sent a verbal reprimand to Gort through a subordinate office (Pakenham-Walsh), and dispatched the CIGS to inspect the defenses on the authority of the War Cabinet. Perhaps, the most galling to the GHQ in Northern France was Hore-Belisha’s mistaken impression that the French were setting an example in the construction of pillboxes and could serve as a model for the British.

Was Religion the Real Factor in Hore-Belisha’s Dismissal?

Did the handling of the dismissal of Lesley Hore-Belisha bear any analogy to France’s Dreyfus affair after the calamitous Franco-Prussian War? There is evidence to suggest that some of the British generals, notably Gort’s chief of staff, Pownall, had made up their minds on the outbreak of war that for the Army’s sake Hore-Belisha would have to go from the War Office.

When Hore-Belisha resigned his office in January 1940, the reaction of the popular press reflected the frenetic suspicion of the time that somebody, somewhere, was conspiring against democracy. Among the wilder assertions were that Hore-Belisha had been fired at the instigation of British friends of the Nazis, because he was a Jew that he was the victim of high society intrigue to replace him with Oliver Stanley, son of the Earl of Derby and that the brass was determined to get rid of him so that they could set up a military dictatorship. It is not too difficult to imagine what the reaction would have been if the king’s part in the affair had become known.

It cannot be ignored that the war minister’s religion played some role in his dismissal. Some months after his requested resignation, Hore-Belisha was asked why he had been dismissed. “Jewboy!” he replied. There is also a clear trail of remarks that constitute ethnic slurs. Pownall commented about the relationship between Lord Gort and Hore-Belisha, “The ultimate fact is that they could never get on—you couldn’t expect two such utterly different people to do so—a great gentleman and an obscure, shallow-brained charlatan, political Jewboy.” Gort’s nickname for the War Minister was “Horeb Elisha.”

In May 1937, General Ironside noted in his diary, “We are at our lowest ebb in the Army and the Jew may resuscitate us.” Some have speculated that Hore-Belisha’s ostentatious pushiness provoked the comment, “of course he’s Jewish.” However, the provocative behavior, not the religion, was probably the real cause of the prejudice against Hore-Belisha.

There were other, more pragmatic and non-religious reasons to explain Hore-Belisha’s dismissal. He was prone to failing to consult the Army leadership about important reforms, such as doubling of the Territorial Army. His association with Liddell Hart was troublesome. Hore-Belisha stirred fear in the GHQ in France, thinking that he intended to replace some of its senior officers from Gort downward.

Gort and Pownall resented Hore-Belisha’s style of making high-level appointments without consulting them. Perhaps, Pownall in his diary summed up the ill-will toward Hore-Belisha: “He has an amazing conceit, thinking himself in the direct line of descent with Cardwell and Haldane in matters of Army organization. He knows nothing about it … and he doesn’t seem to listen and he will not read what is put before him. Impossible to educate, thinking he knows when he doesn’t know, impatient, subject to a lot of outside influence, ambitious, an advertiser and self-seeker—what can we do with him?”

Ultimately, Chamberlain and his Cabinet bear a large responsibility for failing to support Hore-Belisha in his disagreements with the generals and arriving at a more appropriate conclusion, especially during wartime. Fortunately for the king’s generals and the British throne, the man who was accused of being too publicity minded retired to the back benches and did not make a major press issue of his sacking. This was important because in five short months, Great Britain would be fighting for its life as the remnants of the BEF were evacuated from the harbor and beaches of Dunkirk.

Personal life [ edit | edit source ]

In 1944, at 51, in northeastern Surrey, he married Β] Cynthia Elliot, daughter of Gilbert Compton Elliot. They had no children.

While leading a British parliamentary delegation to France in February 1957, he collapsed while making a speech at Rheims town hall, and died a few minutes later. The cause of death was given as a cerebral haemorrhage. The barony died with him as he had no children. Lady Hore-Belisha died in July 1991, aged 75. ⎛]

Hore-Belisha var enda sonen i den judiska familjen av Jacob Isaac Belisha. Fadern dog när han var mindre än ett år. År 1912 gifte i Kensington faderns änka om sig med Sir Charles F. Adair Hore, ständig sekreterare vid ministeriet för pensioner.

Hore-Belisha studerade vid Clifton College och fortsatte sina studier i Paris och Heidelberg innan han började vid St. Johns College, Oxford, där han var ordförande för Oxford Union Society. Under första världskriget tjänstgjorde han i Frankrike, Flandern och Saloniki och hade vid krigsslutet avancerat till majors grad. Efter kriget återvände han till Oxford och utexaminerades där 1923 som advokat.

Politisk karriär Redigera

Efter att ha misslyckats i parlamentsvalet 1922 kunde Hore-Belisha året därpå ändå nå en plats i parlamentet där han blev känd som en teatralisk och lysande talare. Som liberal kritiserade han labourregeringen och kunde efter valet 1931 ta en plats som biträdande minister i handelsdepartementet. Han fortsatte där även när de officiella liberalerna lämnade regeringen i september 1932.

Hore-Belisha utsågs 1934 till kommunikationsminister och noterade som sådan den ökande bilismens risker för trafikanterna. Han införde då under kraftigt motstånd hastighetsbegränsning till 30 miles per hour i bebyggda områden. För att ytterligare minska trafikriskerna införde han körprov och en orange lampa (allmänt kallad Belisha beacon) placerade som markering för övergångsställen. Efter sin avgång utsågs han till vice ordförande i de engelska fotgängarnas riksförbund, som också har den oranga lampan i sin logotyp.

Efter sina framgångar som kommunikationsminister utsågs han 1937, under protester från de konservativa, till krigsminister i Chamberlains regering. Med känslan av hotande krig ville han 1938 införa allmän värnplikt vilket dock avböjdes av Chamberlain, som inte ville gå med på ökade försvarsutgifter. Han arbetade då istället för förbättrade materiella förhållanden och sociala villkor inom försvaret. I början av 1939 fick han slutligen införa värnplikten för att möta hotet från Nazityskland.

I januari 1940 avskedades han från krigsministeriet anklagad för att ha släpat Storbritannien in i andra världskriget för att skydda det judiska folket på kontinenten.

År 1942 lämnade Hore-Belisha liberalerna och blev oberoende ledamot i parlamentet, men gick efter valet 1945 över till konservativa partiet och utsågs till socialförsäkringsminister. År 1954 adlades han till Baron Hore-Belisha av Devenport in County of Devon.

Under ett uppdrag med en brittisk parlamentarisk delegation i Frankrike i februari 1957 kollapsade han under ett tal i Reims stadshus och dog några minuter senare i hjärnblödning.

World War II Database

ww2dbase Leslie Hore-Belisha, born of Jewish parentage in Devonport in southern England, United Kingdom, was educated at Clifton College and later studied in Paris and Heidelberg before attending Oxford University. During the First World War, he served in France and Salonika and finished the war with the rank of Major. Thereafter he returned to Oxford and in 1923 qualified as a Barrister. In the 1923 General Election he won the Devonport constituency seat for the Liberal Party, and soon became known in Parliament as a flamboyant and brilliant orater. In Parliament he showed considerable intelligence and drive, although his intense energy tended to occasionally alienate traditionalist elements within the Government who resented his status as an "outsider".

ww2dbase After appointments as a junior Minister at the Board of Trade and then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Hore-Belisha became the Secretary of State for Transport in 1934, in which role his concern over the rising numbers of road casualties led, not without some opposition, to the introduction of a national driving test, a speed limit of 30 mph in built-up areas, and the pedestrian crossings with their distinctive Belisha beacons to indicate their position on the road.

ww2dbase In 1937 he was controversially appointed by Neville Chamberlain to the post of Secretary of State for War, suceeding the popular Alfred Duff Cooper who later resigned from the government over Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. He came into office determined to bring the Army up to date and in a short time his efforts produced results. He increased pay and unblocked the officers' promotion blockage by laying down that a subaltern would automatically be promoted to Captain after eight years service (15 was the average until then) and to Major after a further nine years. The result was that in August 1938 more than a quarter of the Subalterns and Captains found themselves promoted. He finally did away with half-pay and built a number of new barracks to replace some of the old Victorian and First World War structures in which the Army at home lived. Many of these new barracks remain in use today. He raised Army cooking standards and also introduced a uniform, battle dress, based on the ski suit, which the British Army would wear throughout the war and into the mid 1960s.

ww2dbase More importantly, he tackled the problem of organising the Army to fight the European war that seemed increasingly likely. He dismissed Sir Hugh Elles, who seemed to be unable to make up his mind what the army needed, or of pressing hard enough for any tanks at all, from the ancient post of Masters-General of the Ordnance at the end of 1937. He seriously considered promoting Colonel Martel to fill the vacancy before arriving at the decision to merely promote him to Brigadier, whilst simultaneously completely abolishing the MGO and transfering its functions to the new Director-General of Munitions Production, Rear-Admiral Sir Harold Brown.

ww2dbase A more unpopular decision with the military hierarchy was to employ his friend, Basil Liddell Hart, still working as a journalist, as his unoffical adviser, especially once it became known that Liddell Hart was advising on senior officers' appointments. It was this that caused the cartoonist David Low to introduce his famous character, Colonel Blimp, the epitome of military conservatism, Liddell Hart had written a book which became Hore-Belisha's Mein Kampf, in which he proposed that in the next war England would fight on sea and in the air but there would be no expeditionary force sent in France. Such a suggestion by someone with close links to the British War Office was bound to induce a very serious crisis with the French government.

ww2dbase Convinced that war was looming, Hore-Belisha sought permission to introduce conscription during 1938 but was rebuffed by Chamberlain, who would not agree to increased defence spending. However, in early 1939 he was finally allowed to begin its introduction. Liddell Hart had come to believe that in a major war it would be fatal to send a large expeditionary force made up merely of conventional infantry divisions, since they would have little effect on offensive operations. He suggested that it would be better to restrict an expeditionary force to two armoured divisions, which would pack much more punch. Hore-Belisha was very impressed with this argument, as were other Ministers, who wanted to avoid any possibility of a mass Army being sent to France and suffering the same losses as 20 years before. On Liddell Hart's recommendation the two mobile divisions which had been agreed three years previously were now set up, one in Egypt and one in England. The Division in Egypt was initially commanded by Percy Hobart, but his unconventional outlook, although it inspired those under him as it had in the 1st Tank Brigade, did not combine easily with the High Command in Egypt, and he was soon replaced. Nonetheless Hobart had laid the foundations of what would become one of the most famous wartime formations, the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats. The creation of the Mobile Division in England went more slowly. Much of the problem lay in the extreme shortage of tanks, and the fact that funds had been diverted into setting up Anti-Aircraft Command, which encompassded five Territorial divisions. One positive step, however, which reflected the increasing mechanisation of the cavalry, was the formation of the Royal Armoured Corps, comprising the cavalry, less the Household Cavalry, and the Royal Tank Corps which was now renamed as the Royal Tank Regiment.

ww2dbase As time wore on and war seemed ever more imminent, staff talks were begun with the French, who were understandably not impressed with the British offer of providing just two armoured divisions, as the Mobile Divisions were redesignated, especially since neither was yet complete or trained. The opinion of the Government gradually changed and finally, in February 1939, it was agreed that four Regular infantry divisions and the UK-based armoured division should be equipped for the Continent, as would four Territorial divisions. At the end of March Hore-Belisha suddenly announced that the size of the Territorial Army was to be doubled. A few weeks later a form of conscription was introduced, all 20-year-olds being called up for six months service with the Regular Army, and then to go on to serve a further three and a half years in the newly created Territorial divisions. They were given the name of "Militiamen", thus reintroducing this ancient form of military service. At the same time military guarantees were given to Poland, Rumania and Greece. War was now inevitable and the Chiefs of Staff were horrified at the timing of these commitments. The Army had been caught at the beginning of a major reorganisation for which there had been no chance of carrying out any pre-planning. Twenty years of virtual neglect were coming home to roost.

ww2dbase During 1939-40, the worst winter on recent record, the BEF under the command of Hore-Belisha's protégé, Lord Gort VC, a man of immense personal courage and patriotism, prepared defensive positions in France on a line they were never meant to defend. If the Germans attacked it was certain that the the thrust would come through Belgium. The plan was to move forward to engage them there, well clear of French soil and the French industries in Flanders. Uselessly the British Army heartily dug trenches and built strongpoints and laid wire entanglements along a line it was to abandon as soon as the first shots were fired. Three of the new territorial divisions were put to work to build a railhead of 1916 propotions near Rouen - a task that seriously interrupted any continuation of the limited amount of Military training they had been able to achieve since their creation.

ww2dbase This work had no effect on the enemy, but caused a prominent casualty in London. Hore-Belisha visited the "front" in November 1939. He was keen to push on with the construction of concrete machine-gun nests, known as pill-boxes. He expressed concern that there were not enough of them. The main reasons for the deficiency were that the frost broke up the concrete as soon as it was laid, and local contractors cheated on the supply of gravel. Hore-Belisha's words were misinterpreted as a criticism of Lord Gort and his army for slackness. The soldiers retorted that they were building large numbers of pill-boxes very fast, and the absurd wrangle ended with pressure mounting on Chamberlain to remove Hore-Belisha from the Cabinet at the earliest opportunity. The French meanwhile were seen, in their sector, to be doing as little as they decently could to fortify the line concentrating mainly on trying to keep warm and comfortable. British officers complained bitterly of being made to eat vast meals at lunchtime when visiting their allies.

ww2dbase In January 1940, the government caved-in to popular opinion and Hore-Belisha was dismissed from the War Office. His impulsiveness, showmanship and Jewish background, had not endeared him to either to the military hierarchy nor to the Conservative Party in government. Prime Minister Chamberlain initially considered appointing him to the post of Minister of Information - he had a talent for publicity - but, after objections from the Foreign Office (who thought that because he was Jewish the Germans might sneer), offered him the post of President of the Board of Trade instead (which Hore-Belisha declined). The newspapers were rightly enraged).

ww2dbase The former Minister attempted to rebuild his political career under Winston Churchill but his wounded intransigence blocked any hope of a return to a Cabinet post. He resigned from the Liberal Nationals in 1942, sitting as a National Independent MP, and was briefly appointed Minister for National Insurance in Churchill's caretaker governmemt of 1945. However, in the 1945 General Election, he was defeated by the Labour candidate, Michael Foot, after which he joined the Conservative Party and, in 1947, was elected to Westminster City Council. He fought unsuccessfully in both the 1950 and 1954 elections, and was eventually raised to the peerage as Baron Hore-Belisha, of Devonport. In February 1957, whilst leading a parliamentary delegation to France, he collapsed and died from a cerebral haemorrhage while making a speech at Rheims town hall.

ww2dbase Sources:
Charles Messenger, History of the British Army (Bison Books, 1986)
Nicholas Harman, Dunkirk - The Necessary Myth (Coronet Books, 1981)
A. J. Smithers, Rude Mechanicals (Grafton Books, 1989)
Andrew Marr, The Making of Modern Britain (Macmillan, 2009)

Last Major Revision: Feb 2015

Leslie Hore-Belisha Timeline

7 Sep 1893 Leslie Hore-Belisha was born in Devonport in southern England, United Kingdom.
28 Jun 1938 British Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha, announced in the House of Commons that the two existing Territorial Army anti-aircraft Divisions would be expanded to five, raising their strength from 43,000 to 100,000. These five divisions would be under a Corps Commander with the rank of Lieutenant-General and, at the War Office, there would be another Lieutenant-General with the title of "Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff for Anti-Aircraft and Coast Defence". The latter would be responsible for co-ordinating all aspects of organisation and equipment, whilst the former would be responsible for training and the acquisition and siting of guns and searchlight equipment.
16 Feb 1957 Leslie Hore-Belisha, whilst leading a parliamentary delegation, collapsed and died from a cerebral haemorrhage while making a speech at Rheims town hall in France.

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Hore-Belisha nació como Isaac Leslie Belisha en Hampstead, Londres, el 7 de septiembre de 1893. Era el único hijo de la familia judía de Jacob Isaac Belisha, gerente de una compañía de seguros, y su esposa, Elizabeth Miriam Myers. Su padre murió cuando tenía menos de un año. En 1912, en Kensington, su madre viuda se casó con el Sir Charles F. Adair Hore, Secretario Permanente del Ministerio de Pensiones. Leslie Belisha adoptó el apellido de dos cañones. La teoría de que cambió su nombre de Horeb-Elisha (para no parecer judío) parece carecer de fundamento Es probable que el nombre Belisha se haya originado como D'Elisha o como una variante del apellido albanés Berisha.

Hore-Belisha fue educado en Clifton College donde estaba en la casa de Polack. Continuó sus estudios en París y Heidelberg, antes de asistir al St John's College, Oxford, donde fue presidente de la Oxford Union Society. Mientras estaba en Heidelberg, se convirtió en miembro de Die Burschenschaft Frankonia Heidelberg en 1912. Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, se unió al ejército británico y sirvió en Francia, Flandes y Salónica y terminó la guerra con el rango de mayor en el Cuerpo de Servicio del Ejército. Después de la guerra y de abandonar el ejército, regresó a Oxford y, en 1923, se calificó como abogado.

En 1944, a los 51 años, en el noreste de Surrey, se casó con Cynthia Elliot, hija de Gilbert Compton Elliot. No tuvieron hijos.

Mientras dirigía una delegación parlamentaria británica a Francia en febrero de 1957, colapsó mientras pronunciaba un discurso en el ayuntamiento de Reims y murió unos minutos después. La causa de la muerte se dio como una hemorragia cerebral. La baronía murió con él porque no tenía hijos. Lady Hore-Belisha murió en julio de 1991, a la edad de 75 años.

H. G. Wells en The Shape of Things to Come, publicado en 1934, predijo una Segunda Guerra Mundial en la que Gran Bretaña no participaría, pero trataría en vano de lograr un compromiso pacífico. En esta visión, Hore-Belisha fue mencionado como uno de varios británicos prominentes que pronunciaron "brillantes discursos pacíficos" que "resonaban en toda Europa" pero no terminan la guerra. Los otros posibles pacificadores, en la visión de Wells, incluían a Duff Cooper, Ellen Wilkinson y Randolph Churchill.

Leslie Hore-Belisha, 1. Baron Hore-Belisha

Hore-Belisha wurde 1893 als Isaac Leslie Belisha im Plymouther Stadtteil Devonport als Sohn des aus Marokko stammenden Versicherungsgeschäftsmannes Jacob Isaac Belisha und seiner Ehefrau Elizabeth Miriam Miers geboren. Belishas Abstammung – der Vater entstammte einer Familie sephardischer Juden – war Zeit von Belishas Leben immer wieder Anlass heftiger antisemitischer Anfeindungen im Umfeld, aber auch bei Gegnern des Königreichs: So nannte etwa Adolf Hitler „den jüdischen Kriegsminister Hore-Belisha“ in seinen Monologen im Führerhauptquartier neben Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden und Lord Vansittart den Hauptverantwortlichen für die britische Kriegserklärung an Deutschland (Werner Jochmann: Monologe im Führerhauptquartier, Hamburg 1980, S. 93).

Nach dem Tod seines Vaters 1894 wurde Belisha alleine von seiner Mutter aufgezogen. Nachdem seine Mutter sich 1912 mit Sir Adair Hore neu verheiratete, adoptierte dieser Belisha der daraufhin dessen Nachnamen in seinen eigenen aufnahm und diesen zu Hore-Belisha ergänzte.

Seine Ausbildung absolvierte Hore-Belisha zunächst am Clifton College und später an den Universitäten von Paris und Heidelberg sowie am St John’s College der Universität Oxford. In Heidelberg wurde er 1912 Mitglied der Burschenschaft Frankonia. Am Ersten Weltkrieg nahm Hore-Belisha als Major teil, wobei er vorwiegend in den britischen Überseebesitzungen zum Einsatz kam. Nach dem Krieg begann er als Barrister, als Anwalt mit eingeschränktem Tätigkeitsfeld zu arbeiten.

Politische Karriere (1922–1942) Bearbeiten

Nachdem Hore-Belishas erster Kandidatur als liberaler Abgeordneter für das britische Parlament im Wahlkreis Plymouth Devonport bei der britischen Unterhauswahl 1922 noch erfolglos gewesen war, gelang es ihm bei der Wahl von 1923 als Kandidat für denselben Wahlkreis ins Unterhaus einzuziehen. Dort tat er sich zunächst durch sein extravagantes Auftreten und seine brillanten Reden hervor. Gemeinsam mit Sir John Simon avancierte Hore-Belisha allmählich zum Führer des rechten Flügels seiner Partei, deren Unterstützung der Labour-Minderheitenregierungen unter Ramsay MacDonald er entschieden ablehnte.

Nach der Unterhauswahl von 1931 zog er als Mitglied der Allparteien-Regierung unter MacDonald und Stanley Baldwin als Unterstaatssekretär ins Board of Trade ein. Nach dem Rückzug seiner Partei aus der Regierung infolge des regierungsinternen Konfliktes über die Freihandelsfrage 1932 verblieb er in dieser und wurde zum Finanzsekretär im Schatzamt befördert.

1934 zog Hore-Belisha als Verkehrsminister ins Kabinett ein und war in dieser Eigenschaft in führender Funktion mitverantwortlich für die in den 1930er Jahren einsetzende Massenmotorisierung der britischen Bevölkerung: Er passte nicht nur den Highwaycode, die britische Straßenverkehrsordnung, den gewandelten Gegebenheiten an, sondern führte auch erstmals in Großbritannien Fahrprüfungen für neue Autofahrer und das nach ihm benannte Leuchtsignal zur Verkehrsregulierung, den Belisha Beacon, ein.

1937 wurde Hore-Belisha vom neuen Premierminister Neville Chamberlain als Nachfolger von Alfred Duff Cooper zum Kriegsminister ernannt (Sec. of state for war). Diese Entscheidung rief vor allem in konservativen Kreisen heftige Kritik hervor: Zum einen da man meinte, ein derart bedeutsamer Posten sollte nicht von einem Mitglied der Partei des schwächeren Koalitionspartners gestellt werden, zum anderen aufgrund von Belishas jüdischer Abstammung und zuletzt aufgrund von Bezichtigungen, die ihn einen „Kriegstreiber“ und „Bolschewiken“ hießen. Ein wiederkehrender Vorwurf in der britischen Öffentlichkeit war dabei die Verdächtigung, Hore-Belisha erstrebe einen Krieg, obwohl dieser dem britischen Volk schaden würde, um die Interessen der Juden des europäischen Kontinentes zu wahren.

Obwohl Hore-Belisha sich um eine Verbesserung der Lebensbedingungen der britischen Soldaten (bessere Bezahlung, Unterbringung und Aufstiegsmöglichkeiten, zumal der aus der Arbeiterklasse stammenden Rekruten) verdient machte und den britischen Streitkräften eine bessere Armierung und Ausrüstung zukommen ließ als diese vor seinem Amtsantritt gehabt hatten, brachte ihm seine jüdische Abstammung auch in der Truppe zahlreiche Anfeindungen ein: So lautete eine Liedzeile in einem beliebten britischen Soldatensong der ersten Kriegsmonate etwa „Die for Jewish freedom / As a Briton always dies“.

Im Januar 1940, knapp viereinhalb Monate nach Beginn des Zweiten Weltkrieges, wurde Hore-Belisha als Kriegsminister von Chamberlain entlassen. Den ihm ersatzweise angebotenen Posten des Handelsministers lehnte er ab, ebenso wie das Angebot von Chamberlain, ihn zum Informationsminister zu machen, aus Angst, der NS-Propaganda „durch die Ernennung eines Juden Munition zu liefern“.

1942 verließ Hore-Belisha die Liberal Nationals und saß fortan als unabhängiger Abgeordneter im Parlament. 1944 heiratete er Cynthia Elliot (1916–1991). Unter der konservativen Übergangsregierung, die von Mai bis August 1945 die Staatsgeschäfte interimistisch besorgte, fungierte Hore-Belisha als Minister of National Insurance, allerdings nicht im Rang eines Kabinettmitglieds.

Bei der Unterhauswahl von 1945 unterlag Hore-Belisha gegen den Labour-Gegenkandidaten Michael Foot und schied aus dem Parlament aus, kehrte aber – nachdem er 1947 in die Konservative Partei gewechselt hatte – nach der Wahl 1950 in dieses zurück, bevor er 1954 von Königin Elisabeth II. in den Adelsstand erhoben wurde und ins Oberhaus einzog.

Hore-Belisha starb im Februar 1957 in Reims, während er in seiner Funktion als Leiter einer Delegation des britischen Parlaments Frankreich einen Besuch abstattete: er kollabierte während einer Ansprache im Rathaus und starb wenige Minuten später an einer Hirnblutung.

Ministr dopravy a války [ editovat | editovat zdroj ]

Zásluhy si získal především ve funkci ministra dopravy (1934–1937) [pozn. 2] . Ve 30. letech došlo v Británii k obrovskému rozmachu automobilismu a s tím také stoupal počet obětí (jen v roce 1934 zahynulo při autonehodách přes 7 000 lidí). Hore–Belisha inicioval změnu pravidel silničního provozu, zavedl povinné zkoušky pro řidiče a přechody pro chodce. Od roku 1935 byl členem Tajné rady. V Chamberlainově vládě se stal ministrem války (1937–1940). V této funkci měl od počátku ztíženou pozici už jenom prostým faktem mimořádné popularity jeho předchůdce A. D. Coopera, svými záměry se také dostával do konfliktů s vrchním velením armády. Hore–Belisha byl v Británii předním mluvčím židovské komunity a zapřisáhlým odpůrcem fašismu, což ale bylo v rozporu s tehdejším prosazováním politiky appeasementu. I z řad konzervativních poslanců byl označován jako válečný štváč a bolševik, byly v tom skryty i antisemitské nálady. Z funkce ministra války byl odvolán v lednu 1940, přičemž tímto krokem chtěl Chamberlain zamaskovat vlastní neschopnost čelit narůstajícím problémům. Krátce poté Chamberlainova vláda padla a nabídku na post ministra obchodu Hore–Belisha odmítl.

Po celou dobu druhé světové války byl v opozici proti Churchillovi a v roce 1942 byl jedním z mála, kdo nepodpořil hlasování o důvěře vládě. Po válce byl krátce členem Churchillovy úřednické vlády jako ministr národního pojištění (Minister for National Insurance, 1945), téhož roku ale ve volbách ztratil poslanecký mandát. Neúspěšně kandidoval i v dalších volbách v roce 1950, kdy byl již členem Konzervativní strany. Od roku 1947 byl členem městské rady londýnského obvodu Westminster. V roce 1954 byl povýšen na barona a vstoupil do Sněmovny lordů, kde nadále patřil ke Konzervativní straně.

Zemřel náhle ve Francii na mozkové krvácení jako člen britské parlamentní delegace krátce po přednesení projevu na radnici v Remeši.

V roce 1944 se jeho manželkou stala Cynthia Elliot (1916–1991), pravnučka indického generálního guvernéra hraběte z Minto, která za druhé světové války působila jako sestra Mezinárodního červeného kříže. Manželství bylo bezdětné.

Watch the video: JLWW GMB (July 2022).


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