Harry Crookshank

The Right Honourable
The Viscount Crookshank

Harry Crookshank in 1932.
Minister of Health
In office
30 October 1951  7 May 1952
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded by Hilary Marquand
Succeeded by Iain Macleod
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
30 October 1951  20 December 1955
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded by James Chuter Ede
Succeeded by R. A. Butler
Personal details
Born 27 May 1893
Cairo, Egypt
Died 17 October 1961 (1961-10-18) (aged 68)
Chelsea, London
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Unmarried
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford

Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank, 1st Viscount Crookshank CH PC (27 May 1893 – 17 October 1961), was a British Conservative politician. He was Minister of Health between 1951 and 1952 and Leader of the House of Commons between 1951 and 1955.

Background and education

Crookshank was born in Cairo, Egypt, the son of Harry Maule Crookshank and Emma, daughter of Major Samuel Comfort, of New York City. On his father's side, he descended from Alexander Crookshank, of County Longford, Ireland, who represented Belfast in the Irish House of Commons and served as a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland. He was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. In the First World War, he joined the Hampshire Regiment and served as a captain in the Grenadier Guards.[1] On one occasion he was buried alive by an explosion for twenty minutes, and on another in 1916 he was castrated by shrapnel, requiring him to wear a surgical truss for the rest of his life.[2] He was awarded by Serbia the Order of the White Eagle and Gold Medal for Valour.[3]

He joined the Diplomatic Service in 1919 and worked at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. until 1924.

Political career

Crookshank was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Gainsborough in 1924, a seat he held for the next 32 years.[1][4] He entered the government as Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1934 under Ramsay Macdonald. When Stanley Baldwin became prime minister in 1935 Crookshank was appointed Secretary for Mines, a post he retained when Neville Chamberlain became prime minister in 1937 until February 1939. In the latter year, he was sworn of the Privy Council[5] and made Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He continued in this post also when Winston Churchill came to power in 1940,[6] and was then Postmaster General under Churchill between 1943 and 1945.[1]

When the Conservatives returned to office under Churchill in 1951, Crookshank was appointed Minister of Health and Leader of the House of Commons, with a seat in the cabinet. In 1952 exchanged his post at the Ministry of Health for the sinecure post of Lord Privy Seal, while he remained as Commons Leader. He continued in these two positions until December 1955, the last year under the premiership of Sir Anthony Eden.[1] In 1955 he was made a Companion of Honour.[1][7] He retired from the House of Commons in 1956[1][4] and was raised to the peerage as the Viscount Crookshank, of Gainsborough in the County of Lincoln, in January of that year.[8] He had been offered a peerage by Churchill in February 1940 but considered it at the time an insult as his First World War wounds had left him incapable of fathering any heir to a title.[9]

Papers released by The National Archives, London, November 2007, show that Crookshank, with Harold Macmillan, led a faction within the Cabinet of Sir Winston Churchill's government, who opposed what they perceived to be an attempt to bounce the Cabinet into a premature decision to authorise a British thermonuclear bomb programme in July 1954.

Personal life

Lord Crookshank was a 33rd degree Freemason.[10]

Incapable as result of his First World War wounds of fathering children, Crookshank was a lifelong bachelor. He was also (not publicly) known as a homosexual and caused a near scandal when a male lover of his was adopted as Conservative candidate for the Grimsby constituency in 1958 but later withdrawn.[9][11]

His home from 1937 was at 51 Pont Street, Kensington, London, where in 1947 he hosted a meeting of like-minded backbench MPs who unsuccessfully demanded Churchill's removal as Conservative Party leader.[9]

He died of cancer[9] at Chelsea, London, in October 1961, aged 68. The viscountcy died with him.[1] Having been since 1960 High Steward of the City of Westminster, his funeral service took place at Westminster Abbey, followed by burial at Lincoln Cathedral.[9]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank, 1st and last Viscount Crookshank
  2. Ball 2004, p. 41, 60
  3. Dictionary of National Biography, 1961-1970. Oxford University Press. 1971. p. 249. ISBN 0-19-865207-0.Article by Viscount Chandos.
  4. 1 2 leighrayment.com House of Commons: Gainsborough to Goole
  5. The London Gazette: no. 34595. p. 751. 3 February 1939.
  6. leighrayment.com Peerage: Cowper to Cutts of Gowran
  7. leighrayment.com Companions of Honour
  8. The London Gazette: no. 40684. p. 278. 13 January 1956.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 14. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 403.Article by S.J. Ball.
  10. Walton Hannah, Christian by Degrees (London: Britons Publishing Company, 1954), 211.
  11. The Conservative candidate for Grimsby at the 1959 and 1964 elections, Wilfred Pearson, was not the same man.

Books cited

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Richard Winfrey
Member of Parliament for Gainsborough
1924 – 1956
Succeeded by
Marcus Kimball
Political offices
Preceded by
Douglas Hacking
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
Succeeded by
Euan Wallace
Preceded by
Ernest Brown
Secretary for Mines
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Lloyd
Preceded by
Euan Wallace
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Ralph Assheton
Preceded by
William Morrison
Postmaster General
Succeeded by
The Earl of Listowel
Preceded by
Hilary Marquand
Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Iain Macleod
Preceded by
James Chuter Ede
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Rab Butler
Preceded by
The Marquess of Salisbury
Lord Privy Seal
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Crookshank
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