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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Clement Attlee

Clement Atlee was born in Putney, London, the seventh of eight children on January 3, 1883. His father was Henry Attlee , a solicitor, and his mother was Ellen Bravery Watson.

In 1911 Atlee took up a government job as an 'official explainer', touring Britain to explain David Lloyd George's National Insurance Act. He spent the summer of that year touring Essex and Somerset on a bicycle, explaining the Act at public meetings.

During World War I, Attlee was given the rank of captain and served with the South Lancashire Regiment in the Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey. After a spell in a Maltese hospital to recover from dysentery he returned to the front, and was informed that his company had been chosen to hold the final lines when Gallipoli was evacuated. He was the last-but-one man to be evacuated from Suvla Bay (the last being General F.S. Maude).

His decision to fight in the war caused a rift between him and his older brother Tom Attlee, who as a pacifist and a conscientious objector spent much of the war in prison.

Attlee met Violet Millar on a trip to Italy in 1921. Within a few weeks of their return they became engaged and were married at Christ Church, Hampstead on January 10, 1922. They remained wed until her death in 1964 and had four children together.

At the 1922 general election, Attlee became the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Limehouse in Stepney.

The story goes that when Attlee visited King George VI at Buckingham Palace to kiss hands after winning the 1945 General Election, the notoriously laconic Attlee and the notoriously tongue-tied George VI stood for some minutes in silence, before Attlee finally volunteered the remark "I've won the election." The King replied "I know. I heard it on the Six O'Clock News."

Attlee meeting King George VI after Labour's 1945 election victory

His government presided over the decolonisation of a large part of the British Empire when India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon and Jordan were granted independence.

Attlee's government carried out their manifesto commitment for nationalisation of basic industries and public utilities. By 1951 about 20% of the British economy had been taken into public ownership.

Although one of his brothers became a clergyman and one of his sisters a missionary, Attlee himself is usually regarded as an agnostic. In an interview he described himself as "incapable of religious feeling", saying that he believed in "the ethics of Christianity" but not "the mumbo-jumbo". When asked whether he was an agnostic, Attlee replied "I don't know".

Attlee died of pneumonia at the age of 84 at Westminster Hospital on 8 October 1967.

When Attlee died, his estate was sworn for probate purposes at a value of £7,295, a relatively modest sum for so prominent a figure.

In 2004, Atlee was voted the greatest British prime minister of the 20th century in a poll of 139 academics organised by MORI.

Source Wikipedia

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