Papers of Albert Victor Alexander

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of items relating to A.V. Alexander, predominantly focussing on his relationship with the co-operative movement. The items include newspaper cuttings, photographs, cartoons, congress and commemorative memorabilia, Rambling Club syllabus, a letter and copy of a journal article.

Administrative / Biographical History

Albert Victor Alexander was born 1 May 1885 in Weston-super-Mare, but was known as 'A.V.' from a young age. Following his father's death in August 1886 the family of four children returned to his mother's family home in Bristol where she supported them by building a successful business making surgical belts and corsets. A.V. Alexander attended Barton Hill elementary school in Bristol until leaving, aged thirteen, in order to help provide for the family, despite his mother's wishes for him to continue his education. Following jobs in a leather merchant's office and as a boy clerk in the Bristol school board office he returned to Weston-super-Mare in 1903 to work for Somerset county council in the school management department. Aside from the war, he remained in educational administration until 1920.

Football and music were leisure passions that A.V. Alexander developed, including teaching himself to play the piano which he was known to use as an ice-breaker. At a farewell dinner before a Cabinet Mission to India given by the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, A.V. Alexander performed a number of musical hall songs and, following a dare, 'The Red Flag'.

Following an invitation to sing with the Bristol Road Baptist Church choir in 1908 he met, and shortly after, married Esther Ellen Chapple. Also that year he became a Baptist, joined the Weston Co-operative Society and developed an active interest in politics while continuing his education at evening classes. A.V. Alexander and Ethel's daughter Beatrix, known as Trixie, was born in 1909. Their son, Ronald, born in 1911 died aged two. Trixie later went on to marry William Bernard Evison a selection of whose papers can be found at GB 1499 WBE

A.V. Alexander volunteered at the beginning of the First World War, but due to his marital status he was not called up until 1916. During his time with the Artists Rifles, the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment he did not see active service due to health issues caused by the training. Most of his war service was spent in Warrington as posting officer for South Lancashire. In November 1918 he became an Army education officer assisting the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers in the South West and their preparation for civilian life. Following his demobilisation in 1919 he became the vice-president of Weston Co-operative Society and secretary of the Somerset officers' branch of the National Association of Local Government Officers in June 1920. An advert for a parliamentary secretary to the Co-operative Congress seen in the 'Daily Telegraph' during a family trip to London provided A.V. Alexander with his next challenge. He took on the post in November 1920, moving on to being an M.P. within two years and a Government Minister a year later.

A.V. Alexander's lobbying of the back-benchers of Lloyd-George's coailition on the proposed imposition of a corporation profit tax on the undistributed dividends of co-operative societies aided its narrow defeat in 1921 and raised his political status. Following an approach from the Co-operative Party in Sheffield A.V. Alexander was returned as the Labour and Co-operative member for Sheffield Hillsborough in the general election of November 1922 which led to a junior post in the first Labour government in January 1924. In June 1929 he entered the cabinet as first lord of the Admiralty.

The general election of October 1931 saw A.V. Alexander lose his seat. He concentrated on the affairs of the co-operative movement until his re-election in 1935. May 1940 saw a return to the Admiralty for A.V. Alexander under the Churchill coalition finally leaving in October 1946. Until December of that year he was minister without portfolio, but then took charge of a new department created to reorganize the direction of defence policy as minister of defence.

The New Year's honour list of 1950 saw Alexander raised to a peerage, becoming chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster until the government lost office in the 1951 election. In 1963 he was created Baron Weston-super-Mare, of Weston-super-Mare in the County of Somerset, and Earl Alexander of Hillsborough and a Knight of the Garter in 1964. He retired from the Lords in October 1964 and died in Manor House Hospital, Hendon, Middlesex, on 11 January 1965.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._V._Alexander,_1st_Earl_Alexander_of_Hillsborough http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30368?docPos=1 John Tilley, Churchills' Favourite Socialist

Arrangement

The collection comprised items relating to A.V. Alexander and W.B. Evison and these have subsequently been catalogued separately. Where an order was obvious this has been maintained, but in most cases similar items have been placed together and sorted into chronological order to aid accessibility. Information from the depositor indicates that the badges and medallions belonged to A.V. Alexander so have been placed in this collection.

Conditions Governing Access

All open materials can be viewed by prior arrangement, Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm. Contact the Archivist at: National Co-operative Archive, Co-operative College, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS. Email: archive"co-op.ac.uk., www.archive.coop

Acquisition Information

The collection was deposited April 2010 and 2011 by Jenny Hunt, the grand-daughter of A.V. Alexander. Accession No: Arc/2010/12 and Arc/2012/14

Other Finding Aids

Box list compiled on deposit

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Carol Walden, University of Liverpool MARM Placement, Jan 2013

Appraisal Information

Duplicates and items already held in other collections were removed

Accruals

It is possible that more items may be deposited.

Related Material

The National Co-operative Archive also hold:

  • GB 1499 CPY Co-operative Party Papers Dec 1917- 11 Mar 1998
  • GB 1499 CUP Co-operative Union Photographic Collection c.1930 - 1980
  • GB 1499 NCRS Co-operative Retail Services (Northern Region) 1856- 4 Jul 1996
  • GB 1499 ROC Robert Owen Collection 1805-1858
  • GB 1499 SMID Co-operative Wholesale Society South Midlands Region 1890-1998
  • GB 1499 TWM Papers of T W Mercer 1833-1961
  • GB 1499 WBE Papers of W B Evison, (Royal Arsenal, Brighton, Luton Industrial and Enfield Highway Co-operative Societies)

Further material relating to Alexander includes items held in the Churchill Archive http://www.churchillarchive.com/index, the National Archive http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ and the Imperial War Museum http://www.iwm.org.uk/. Clips of Alexander are available at http://www.britishpathe.com/