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Leopold Amery MP

1 Kislev 5634 (21 November 1873)
29 Elul 5715 (16 September 1955)

Basic Information

Unique reference:
Other first name:
Charles Maurice Stennett


Date of birth:
1 Kislev 5634 (21 November 1873)
Place of birth:
Gorakhpur, India


Date of death:
29 Elul 5715 (16 September 1955)
Died in combat?:
Place of death:
Westminster, London



10 Bouverie Gardens, Follkstone, Kent (1891)
2 Temple Gardens, London (1911)
9 Embankement Gardens London (1918)
The place where he died:
115 Eaton Square London (1955)


Harrow School
Year started:
Balliol College
Year left:
 < Close personal journey map
Personal Journey map
Leopold Amery MP

Amery's mother Elisabeth Leitner (née Saphir) was Jewish. Amery went to extraordinary lengths to conceal his Jewish background

Career prior to World War 1

During the Second Boer War Amery was a correspondent for The Times. In 1901, in his articles on the conduct of the war, he attacked the British commander, Sir Redvers Henry Buller, which contributed to Buller's sacking. Amery was the only correspondent to visit Boer forces and was nearly captured with Churchill.
He became a Barrister, Inner Temple in 1902
Amery later edited and largely wrote The Times History of the South African War (7 vol., 1899–1909).

Parliamentary Career

He contested Wolverhampton (East) as Unionist and Tariff Reformer (1906, 1908, and January 1910) then Bow and Bromley (1910). From 1911-45, he was Unionist MP for the Sparkbrook (formerly South) Division of Birmingham.


During the First World War, Amery saw active service in Flanders and the Near East (1914-1916) then held the position of Assistant Secretary War Cabinet and Imperial War Cabinet (1917); he was on the staff of the War Council for the negotiations at Versailles, and served on the personal staff of Lord Milner, the Secretary of State for War, (1917-1918).


Amery was opposed to the Constitution of the League of Nations because he believed that the world was not equal and so the League, which granted all states equal voting rights was absurd. He instead believed that the world was tending towards larger and larger states that made up a balanced world of inherently stable units. He contrasted that idea with what he called US President Woodrow Wilson's "facile slogan of self-determination".


During World War I, Amery's knowledge of Hungarian led to his employment as an Intelligence Officer in the Balkans campaign. Later, as a parliamentary under-secretary in Lloyd George's national government, he helped draft the Balfour Declaration, 1917. He also encouraged Ze'ev Jabotinsky in the formation of the Jewish Legion for the British Army in Palestine.
Amery supported Zionism for two main reasons. He hoped to see the establishment in Palestine of ‘a prosperous [Jewish] community bound to Britain by ties of gratitude and interest. Secondly, he believed that the creation of a Jewish state would greatly diminish anti-semitism which is founded on fears of mass Jewish migration or upon instinctive hostility to an apparently international community. Amery’s views here were very close to the thought of the classical theorists of early Zionism, who believed that anti-semitism stemmed largely from the wholly ‘abnormal’ socio-economic and political structure of European Jewry, which would radically alter the negative perception of Jews by the majority. Amery here showed a sympathetic affinity to the nationalistic basis of Zionism rare in Britain. While Amery hailed the ‘spiritual forces which have always inspired the Zionist movement’, his support for Zionism was chiefly based on the fact that it was a nationalistic movement which aimed to normalize the status of Jews, and had little basis in any Judaic religious conception of Zionism. In addition, he obviously had very little affinity to the ideology of socialist Zionism to which many Zionist pioneers adhered. Amery’s Jewish nationalism also closely paralleled his British nationalism.
He is reported to have said, many years later:
You see, long before I became a politician and minister in various Conservative administrations, I used to be a kind of civil servant. I worked at the Cabinet Office in the First World War... The Balfour Declaration...was actually written by me on the back of an old memo. I wrote it in a great hurry... But I had no choice. There was no time for stylistic considerations.

Leo Amery, speech in the House of Commons

Germany wants to rearm. Germany means to rearm. Germany is going to rearm, and nobody is going to stop her. The Disarmament Convention is dead and no one is going to be able to galvanize it into life.
That being so, had we not better ask ourselves: Is there not an alternative policy more worthy of following than one which is leading to nothing but irritation and failure? I believe there is. I believe that if only we would stop this wild-gooseschase after mechanical, reach-me-down schemes of world disarmament and peace, and leave Europe to settle her own affairs, the profound desire of the peoples of Europe for peace, the economic forces which are bringing them together, will themselves, through the ordinary flexible adjustments of international intercourse, bring about a much more lasting and real solution.

Leo Amery made a devastating attack on Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons during the debate on the Norwegian Campaign. , 07 May 1940

The Prime Minister gave us a reasoned, argumentative case for our failure. It is always possible to do that after every failure. Making a case and winning a war are not the same thing. Wars are won, not by explanation after the event, but by foresight, by clear decision and by swift action. I confess that I did not feel there was one sentence in the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon which suggested that the Government either foresaw what Germany meant to do, or came to a clear decision when it knew what Germany had done, or acted swiftly or consistently throughout the whole of this lamentable affair.
The Prime Minister, both the other day and today, expressed himself as satisfied that the balance of advantage lay on our side. He laid great stress on the heaviness of the German losses and the lightness of ours. What did the Germans lose? A few thousand men, nothing to them, a score of transports, and part of a Navy which anyhow cannot match ours. What did they gain? They gained Norway, with the strategical advantages which, in their opinion at least, outweigh the whole of their naval losses. They have gained the whole of Scandinavia. What have we lost? To begin with, we have lost most of the Norwegian Army, not only such as it was but such as it might have become, if only we had been given time to rally and re-equip it.
We must have, first of all, a right organization of government. What is no less important today is that the Government shall be able to draw upon the whole abilities of the nation. It must represent all the elements of real political power in this country, whether in this House or not. The time has come when hon. and right hon. Members opposite must definitely take their share of the responsibility. The time has come when the organization, the power and influence of the Trades Union Congress cannot be left outside. It must, through one of its recognized leaders, reinforce the strength of the national effort from inside. The time has come, in other words, for a real National Government. I may be asked what is my alternative Government. That is not my concern: it is not the concern of this House. The duty of this House, and the duty that it ought to exercise, is to show unmistakably what kind of Government it wants in order to win the war. It must always be left to some individual leader, working perhaps with a few others, to express that will by selecting his colleagues so as to form a Government which will correspond to the will of the House and enjoy its confidence. So I refuse, and I hope the House will refuse, to be drawn into a discussion on personalities.
What I would say, however, is this: Just as our peace-time system is unsuitable for war conditions, so does it tend to breed peacetime statesmen who are not too well fitted for the conduct of war. Facility in debate, ability to state a case, caution in advancing an unpopular view, compromise and procrastination are the natural qualities - I might almost say, virtues - of a political leader in time of peace. They are fatal qualities in war. Vision, daring, swiftness and consistency of decision are the very essence of victory. In our normal politics, it is true, the conflict of party did encourage a certain combative spirit. In the last war we Tories found that the most perniciously aggressive of our opponents, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, was not only aggressive in words, but was a man of action. In recent years the normal weakness of our political life has been accentuated by a coalition based upon no clear political principles. It was in fact begotten of a false alarm as to the disastrous results of going off the Gold Standard. It is a coalition which has been living ever since in a twilight atmosphere between Protection and Free Trade and between unprepared collective security and unprepared isolation. Surely, for the Government of the last ten years to have bred a band of warrior statesmen would have been little short of a miracle. We have waited for eight months, and the miracle has not come to pass. Can we afford to wait any longer?
Somehow or other we must get into the Government men who can match our enemies in fighting spirit, in daring, in resolution and in thirst for victory. Some 300 years ago, when this House found that its troops were being beaten again and again by the dash and daring of the Cavaliers, by Prince Rupert's Cavalry, Oliver Cromwell spoke to John Hampden. In one of his speeches he recounted what he said. It was this:
'I said to him, "Your troops are most of them old, decayed serving men and tapsters and such kind of fellows." You must get men of a spirit that are likely to go as far as they will go, or you will be beaten still.'
It may not be easy to find these men. They can be found only by trial and by ruthlessly discarding all who fail and have their failings discovered. We are fighting today for our life, for our liberty, for our all; we cannot go on being led as we are.
I have quoted certain words of Oliver Cromwell. I will quote certain other words. I do it with great reluctance, because I am speaking of those who are old friends and associates of mine, but they are words which, I think, are applicable to the present situation. This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation:
"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go".

Quote from 'Towards The Balfour Declaration' by Chaim Weitzmann P231,

"Of larger stature and superior abilities was Leopold Amery, later Colonial Secretary. Amery got his enlightened imperialist principles from Milner. He was the most open-minded of all that group. He realized the importance of a Jewish Palestine in the British imperial scheme of things more than anyone else. He also had much insight into the intrinsic fineness of the Zionist movement. He gave us unstinted encouragement and support. He, in particular, was incensed when the leading Jews attacked the scheme openly in 1917."

Jewish Chronicle Obituary, 23 September 1955

By the death of the Rt. Hon. Leopold S. Amery, C.H.,' which occurred in London last Friday at the age of 81, Jewry has lost one who, particularly in the development of Zionist aims since the Balfour Declaration, was among its staunchest friends. "..-..... ' He played an important part in drafting the Declaration—as Assistant Secretary of the War Cabinet and Imperial War Cabinet in 1917—and was greatly attracted to Zionism because of his conviction that a prosperous Jewish Palestine would be an asset in the defence of the Suez Canal and as a station on future air routes. In those early days of negotiation between the Government and the Jewish community Mr. Amery was very puzzled and annoyed by the obstructionist policy of those Jewish leaders who were opposed to Zionism, but he, nevertheless, patiently gave his help in achieving the final Declaration. Throughout the years that followed, he pressed for strict adherence to the spirit of the Declaration and to the terms of the Mandate whenever crises arose and White Papers were issued threatening the development of, or immigration into, the Jewish National Home. From 1924 to 1929 he was responsible for the administration of Palestine: he held the office of Colonial Secretary Giving evidence before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on European Jewry and Palestine in January, 1946, Mr. Amery declared that at the time the Cabinet issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917 they regarded Trans Jordan as being within Palestine. But in March, 1946, the British Government signed the Treaty recognising Emir Abdullah as head of an independent Trans Jordan. Occasionally Mr. Amery attended Zionist and other Jewish gatherings. A year ago he performed the opening ceremony in Manchester of the exhibition called ‘Manchester and Israel' which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the arrival in Manchester of Dr. Weizmann, of whom Mr. Amery was a very great admirer. He addressed the annual dinner of the Anglo-Jewish Association in 1952 and spoke of its past work in the Middle East and its present task of preaching civic loyalty, patriotism, and the maintenance of abiding spiritual faith. He was born in India, the son of Charles F. Amery, of South Devon (who held a post in the Indian Forest Department), and Elizabeth Leitner, a member of a Jewish family of Budapest. The following statement has been issued by the Jewish Agency representative in London, Dr. S. Levenberg: “The Jewish Agency mourns the death of Mr, L. S. Amery, one of the architects of the Balfour Declaration and a staunch, supporter of the Zionist cause He never wavered, in his sympathy for Jewish national aspirations and continued, to his very last days, to take a keen interest in the progress of the new State of Israel. He will be remembered by Jews all over the world as one of the British pioneers of Zion Reborn” . The Board of Deputies has sent a letter of condolence to the family of Mr. Amery.



Geoffrey Amery (male)
Harold Amery (male)


Mother: Elizabeth Johanna Leitner, Saphir (female)
Father: Charles Frederick Amery (male)
Father: Charles Frederick Amery (male)

Military Record

Military service:
British Army
Rank at discharge/death:
Temp. Lt. Col.
Army Council
Attached., Special Appointment., Class X., temp. 27 Nov. 1917
During the First World War, Amery saw active service in Flanders and the Near East (1914-1916) then held the position of Assistant Secretary War Cabinet and Imperial War Cabinet (1917); he was on the staff of the War Council for the negotiations at Versailles, and served on the personal staff of Lord Milner, the Secretary of State for War, (1917-1918).
Order of the White Eagle 4th Class (with Swords)
Gazette Issue 30891. Order of the White Eagle, 4th Class (with Swords). His Majesty the King of Serbia has awarded the Decoration of the Order of the White Eagle, 4th Class (with Swords) for distinguished service rendered during the course of the campaign. Decorations and Medals were awarded by the Allied Powers at various dates to the British Forces. His Majesty the King has given unrestricted permission in all cases to wear the Decoration in question.

Order of the Redeemer – Officer
Award received from Greece during First World War.


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