About John Anderson
John Anderson, 1st Viscount Waverley, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, PC, PC (Ireland) (8 July 1882 – 4 January 1958) was a British civil servant and politician who is best known for his service in the Cabinet during World War II, for which he was nicknamed The Home Front Prime Minister. He served as Home Secretary, Lord President of the Council and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Anderson shelters are named after him.
He was born in Eskbank, part of Dalkeith in Midlothian and studied mathematics and geology at the University of Edinburgh and chemistry at the University of Leipzig where he wrote a thesis on the chemistry of uranium. He was a brilliant student, winning numerous prizes, but at the age of 22 he decided to forsake a career in science and sat for the British civil service examinations, coming first, while also taking a degree in economics. In later life he was elected an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.
He was appointed to the Colonial Office in 1905.
Aged only thirty-four, Anderson headed the Civil Service staff of the new Ministry of Shipping in 1917. Later, he served as Under-Secretary for Ireland, and became Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office in 1922, where he had to deal with the General Strike of 1926. His career in the civil service was capped by a posting as Governor of Bengal from 1932 to 1937.
In early 1938, Anderson was elected to the House of Commons for the Scottish Universities as a National Member of Parliament (MP), a nominal non-party supporter of the National Government. In October that year he entered Neville Chamberlain's Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. In that capacity, he was put in charge of air raid preparations. He initiated the development of a kind of air-raid shelter named the "Anderson shelter", a small sheet metal cylinder made of prefabricated pieces which could be assembled in a garden.
After the outbreak of war in 1939, Anderson returned to hold the joint portfolio of Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security, a position in which he served under Winston Churchill, often attending his War Cabinet. He retained responsibility for civil defence. In October 1940, he was replaced by Herbert Morrison in a reshuffle precipitated by Chamberlain's resignation over ill-health. He became Lord President of the Council and full member of the War Cabinet.
In 1941, he married Ava (Bodley) Wigram, widow of Ralph Wigram, a senior civil servant who had provided Winston Churchill with confidential military information during the 1930s.
Following the unexpected death of Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Anderson was appointed to that office. As Chancellor, in a written Commons answer of 12 June 1945, he announced the creation of the Arts Council of Great Britain, a successor body to the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA). He remained in the post until the Labour victory in the general election early in July 1945 (not announced until August)
He left the Commons when the University constituencies were abolished at the 1950 general election. Meanwhile he became Chairman of the Port of London authority in 1946 and Chairman of the Royal Opera House in March the same year. He remained in the latter post for eleven years.
He rejected an offer to join Churchill's peacetime administration when it was formed in October 1951, and was created Viscount Waverley, of Westdean in the County of Sussex, in 1952, dying six years later.