A Parliametary Lot
Colonel Alan Vincent Gandar-Dower 2nd Dragoon Guards, RE & MDC KStJ TD DL MP FRGS MFH
The Man Alan Vincent Gandar-Dower was born on 28th March 1898 at his parents’ home 17 Sussex Place, Regent’s Park London, the second son of independently wealthy Joseph Wilson Gandar-Dower, a Colonial Broker Agent, and his wife Amelia Frances Germaine. He was one of six sons, Leonard Frances born in 1890, Ronald Willie 1892, Eric Leslie 1894, Harold 1900 but died the same year and Kenneth Cecil 1908; all of whom seemed to have led a colourful life. At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 15 Sussex Place, Regent’s Park, together with Mary Kennedy a Cook and Domestic Servant, Anna Parker an Under Nurse, Edith Jones a House Maid and Annie George a Nurse. By 1911 they were at the same address although Alan and Eric were living with their Grandmother Harriet Germaine at 37 Brunswick Terrace, Hove in Brighton attending Brighton College, and later Oxford University. On 22nd July 1915 aged 17 Alan was appointed as Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in The Second Reserve, 9th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), relinquishing the Commission two months later on 17th September and joining the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a Gentleman Cadet. He passed out on 7th April 1916 and was appointed as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), a Cavalry Regiment, and with service number 33876. Alan was posted to the Western Front entering France on 21st October 1916 and promoted to Lieutenant on 17th October 1917. During the latter part of the War The Bays saw action in all the major battles, Messines, Ypres, Somme, Cambrai, the Scarpe, and the final victorious advance of 1918. On the last day of the Great War, 11 November 1918, they successfully chased off the German cavalry at Montigny-les-Lens. In 1918 Alan was attached for a short time to the newly formed Royal Air Force and on 4th July 1919 resigned his Commission and transferred to the General Reserve of Officers. He was awarded the 1914-18 British War and Victory Medals for his World War I service and they were sent to his address at 1 Wilton Street, Grosvenor Place in August 1923. On 29th October 1919 Alan was living at 30 Collingham Gardens, Kensington, and applied to be admitted as a Freeman of the City of London, by redemption, as a member of the Company of Barbers, stating on his application that he had no business or profession at that time.
During the first quarter of 1922 aged 24 Alan married Marjorie R S Mulliner at St. Martins in London, although they divorced during the next few years. On 25th November 1925, he transferred from the Reserve of Officers into the Territorial Army (TA), enlisting into the 64th (7th London) Field Brigade as 2nd Lieutenant, resigning the Commission one year later on 3rd November 1926 and moving back to the Reserve of Officers. Two years later during the first quarter of 1928, he re-married in Chelsea to Aymee Lavender Clerk, a Radionic Therapist, and later Senior Commandant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and daughter of Sir George James Robert Clerk, 9th Baronet They had two daughters, Susan and Natalie Gay Stuart Dower. On 7th April he was appointed a Captain in the Bays. Alan had an interest in politics and at the General election of 1931 was elected to serve in Parliament as Member for the Borough of Stockport as a Conservative and was formally sworn in on 5th December. He was returned again in the 1935 election representing the Division of Penrith & Cockermouth. On 15th December 1936, Alan was again transferred from the reserve into the Royal Engineers, 21st London Anti Aircraft Battalion TA as a Captain with his seniority backdated to 2nd January 1932, and transferred yet again on 16th April 1937 to the 35th (First Surrey Rifles) AA Battalion and promoted to Major. According to the House of Commons Parliamentary Directory of 1938, Alan lived at 35 Lowndes Street, SW1 and his clubs were, The Carlton, Naval & Military, and Prince's in London and The Highland Castle in Cumberland.On 23rd November 1938 with World War II looming, Alan was transferred a further time to the 36th (Middlesex) AA Battalion and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel as Commanding Officer and during the war commanded the 39th (Lancashire Fusiliers) and 84th Search Light Regiments Royal Artillery as well as taking an active part in Parliament.
He served at home for the duration of the war and was awarded the Defence and War Medal 1939-45. He was elected for a third term to Parliament in August 1945 when the Labour Party won a landslide victory and Clement Atlee replaced Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. He was a member of the Select Committees on Estimates and Public Accounts. .On 18th June 1947 Alan was appointed as Honorary Colonel to 609 (M) Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment and on 21st April 1948 aged 50 relinquished his Commission from the Regular Army Reserve of Officers as he had exceeded the age limit of liability for recall. He was awarded the Efficiency Decoration ‘Territorial’ on 9th December 1949 and did not stand in the 1950 General Election his seat having been disbanded following post war boundary changes and having served as an MP for 15 years. He was awarded the Coronation Medal during 1953, followed on 4th January 1954 by appointment as a Serving Brother in the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. He also ceased to belong to the TARO on 31st July due to age. On 16th May 1956, he relinquished his appointment as Honorary Colonel of the HAA Regiment and became Honorary Colonel of No 4 Middlesex Battalion Mobile Defence Corps, as part of the Army Emergency Reserve of Officers and relinquished that appointment on 28th February 1959 on disbandment of the Battalion, retaining the rank of Honorary Colonel. He remained a member of the Middlesex Territorial Army Association and was promoted to Commander Brother of the Order of St. John on 6th January the same year. In later life he was invested as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical society, remained a Freeman of the City of London, A Liveryman and a member of the Barber’s Company and was a Master of the Fox Hounds in the South Oxfordshire Hunt and Joint Master of the Old Berkeley Hunt. He was President of the Oxfordshire St. John Ambulance Brigade and Association, executive member of the Royal Society of St George, Patron to the SSAFA Middlesex appeals committee and maintained his membership of Carlton, Naval and Military, Princes, Hurlingham, Queen’s and Muthaiga (Nairobi) Clubs. He had numerous staff including a Private Secretary, a Stud Groom and two house keepers. Alan also owned properties at Belgrave Mews South and Parkway both in London, Newington House in Oxfordshire and High Head Castle, Cumbria, his recreations were given as hunting, big game shooting, polo, tennis and golf. On 6th June 1961 Alan was Commissioned as a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Middlesex and lived at 35 Lowndes Street, Chelsea, London. He was further promoted to a Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem in the London Gazette of 15th January 1963. Alan died on 6th May 1980 aged 82 leaving £505,675.00. Ayme outlived him and died in 2003 aged 96.
The Story The group of medals awarded to Alan Vincent Gandar--Dower were won at auction on 11th March 2014. They were of interest as the recipient had fought on the Western Front during World War I and been a Member of Parliament during World War II. They came with no information at all, and although there is a lot of detail on the internet about two of his his brothers Eric and Kenneth, there is little readily available about Alan. Searches on Google, Ancestry.com, The London Gazette, Who was Who and at the Royal Courts of Justice to extract his will and The National Archives both in London, helped build up quite a detailed biography. Additionally The National Portrait Gallery were very helpful as they digitised and made available a portrait photograph they held of him under licence. Interestingly a misspelling of his surname, an E instead of an A in Gandar in the London Gazette enabled further detail to be located including his appointment as a Deputy Lieutenant and promotions in the Order of St John to Commander and Knight. A historically important group covering both conflicts from different perspectives.
The Worshipful Company of Barbers The organisation's records date from as early as 1308, recording Richard le Barber as holding the office of Master. Barbers originally aided monks, who were at the time the traditional practitioners of medicine and surgery, because Papal decrees prohibited members of religious orders themselves from spilling blood. In addition to haircutting, hairdressing, and shaving, barbers performed surgery: neck manipulation; cleansing of ears and scalp; draining/lancing of boils, fistulae, and cysts with wicks; bloodletting and leeching; fire cupping; enemas; and the extraction of teeth. Soon surgeons with little expertise in the haircutting and shaving arts of the barbers began to join the Company, but in 1368, the surgeons were allowed to form their own, unincorporated Fellowship or Guild. However, the Barbers' Guild retained the power to oversee surgical practices. The Barbers' Guild continued this oversight after it became, by Royal Charter of 1462, a Company. The Fellowship of Surgeons merged with the Barbers' Company in 1540 by Act of Parliament to form the Company of Barbers and Surgeons. The Act specified that no surgeon could cut hair or shave another, and that no barber could practice surgery; the only common activity was to be the extraction of teeth. The barber pole, featuring red and white spiralling stripes, indicated the two crafts (surgery in red and barbering in white). Barbers received higher pay than surgeons until surgeons were entered into British war ships during naval wars. The first Master of the Company of Barbers and Surgeons was the superintendent of St Bartholomew's Hospital and royal physician, Thomas Vicary. The presentation of the charter is the subject of a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. However, with the rising professionalism of surgery, in 1745 the surgeons broke away from the barbers to form the Company of Surgeons, which became the Royal College of Surgeons in 1800. The Company no longer retains an association with the hairdressing profession. It does however retain its links with surgery, principally acting as a charitable institution to the benefit of medical and surgical causes. In modern times, between one-third and one-half of the Company's liverymen are surgeons, dentists or other medical practitioners.
Mobile Defence Corps In the early 1950s, the Home Office set up a Mobile Civil Defence Column to experiment with the idea of moving large bodies of Civil Defence personnel and their equipment to affected areas following a nuclear attack on Britain. By 1955, plans were made on the assumption that the country would be hit by 132 atomic bombs, targeted on seats of government & centres of industry and population with London receiving 35 bombs. Calculations were based on a nominal bomb roughly equivalent to those dropped on Japan. The prediction was that 1680000 people would be killed & 957000 injured. Two-fifths of national housing and half of the manufacturing industry would be destroyed, but based on British & German experience from the recent world war, the attacks would not result in the breakdown of society or system of government. Civil defence measures were only needed to help the survivors in the immediate post attack period & to deal with the immediate and localised effects. A self contained body of 180 personnel, The Mobile Civil Defence Column was disbanded in 1954, but the emergence of the hydrogen bomb caused a greater need to reinforce with "a disciplined body under direct military control" the countries Civil Defence forces in areas affected by such a bomb Thus the formation in 1955 of the Mobile Defence Corps, trained and equipped for fire fighting, rescue and ambulance duties. Manned by army and RAF reservists who received some basic training at the end of their period of national service, in time of war they would form 48 Mobile Defence Battalions each consisting of about 600 men. These battalions would come under direct Army or RAF command. Trained in rescue, fire fighting and first aid during their active service, the personnel would then have a duty to train with and if necessary serve in one of the battalions as part of their reserve obligations. In practice, most of the men came from units of the recently disbanded Anti-Aircraft Command. The end of National Service meant that there would not be enough reservists to man the Corps, & it was disbanded in 1959. Attempts around this time to re-establish the Home Guard failed due to lack of public support.
Thanks are extended to the National Portrait Gallery for allowing the use of Alan Vincent Gandar-Dower's portrait and this remains copyright and is licensed under their terms
- Knight of Grace of the Order of St. John: Unnamed as issued
- 1914-18 British War Medal: LIEUT. A.V.GANDAR-DOWER
- Victory Medal: LIEUT. A.V.GANDAR-DOWER
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as issued
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as issued
- Coronation Medal 1953: Unnamed as issued
- Efficiency Decoration: 1949
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This page last updated 3 Oct 14