Who's Who - Lord Derby

Lord Derby (1865-1948), formerly Edward George Villiers Stanley, served as British Minister of War from 1916-18 during World War One.

Coming from an aristocratic Conservative family Edward Stanley became the 17th Earl of Derby in 1908.  Derby used his newly gained seat in Parliament to air his distinctly right-wring views in the House of Lords, notably as an opponent of the Liberal administration's pre-war reforms.

Notwithstanding his opposition to Asquith's policies, the Prime Minister brought Derby into his wartime coalition government in 1915 given the latter's public stance on the issue of conscription.

A notable supprter of national service Derby had originated, in Liverpool in August 1914, the notion of so-called "Pal's Battalions", whereby men from a given area could enlist and serve together in the same army battalion, an idea that quickly gained widespread support (although the downside to the policy became starkly apparent as virtually whole villages were extinguished during the 1916 Battle of the Somme).

Thus Asquith appointed Derby Director-General of Recruitment in 1915.  It was Derby who unveiled what came to be known as the Derby Scheme, a recruitment policy under which men could give their voluntary 'assent' to being called up if necessary; the government in turn promised to call up married men last.

In the event the Derby Scheme did not produce nearly enough men to satisfy army recruitment demands - fewer than 350,000 men in total.  Consequently the scheme was dropped in December the same year in favour of the introduction of conscription via means of the Military Service Act of January 1916.

With David Lloyd George's rise to Prime Minister, replacing Asquith in December 1916, Derby took the former's place as Minister of War.  This did not indicate any great confidence on Lloyd George's part however.

Derby's close relations with the army high command, including Sir Douglas Haig and Sir William Robertson, engendered deep suspicion within Lloyd George, with the consequence that Derby was excluded from most inner council meetings (and was only restrained from resigning by counsel from the military high command).

In part Lloyd George's hostility to Derby was on account of the latter's position as a committed 'Westerner', i.e. in favour of placing Western Front considerations above all others; Lloyd George was however a keen 'Easterner'.

In early 1918 Derby's continuing opposition to the creation of an inter-Allied command structure under Ferdinand Foch within the Supreme War Council led to Lloyd George's decision to remove him from the war ministry in April, replacing him with Lord Alfred Milner.

Derby was instead despatched to Paris as British ambassador to France, where he remained until 1920.

He died in 1948.

A Battery was a group of six guns or howitzers.

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