Walter Edward Guinness

01/04/04

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Walter Edward Guinness

Walter Edward Guinness was born in Dublin on 29 March 1880, the 3rd son of the 1st Earl of Iveagh. From Eton he volunteered for service in the South African war, where he was wounded and mentioned in despatches. In 1907 he was elected to Parliament as conservative member for Bury St Edmunds, which he continued to represent until 1931. During World War One Guinness again served with distinction in the Suffolk Yeomanry in Egypt, and at Gallipoli. In 1922 he was appointed Under Secretary for War, the first of several political appointments which culminated in his term of office as Minister of Agriculture, Nov 1925 - June 1929.

After the Conservative defeat in 1929 he retired from office and was created Baron Moyne of Bury St Edmunds. He was now able to indulge his love of travel and exploration, and he was also frequently called upon to chair commissions of enquiry - the Financial Mission to Kenya, 1932, the Departmental Committee on Housing, 1933, the Royal Commission on the University of Durham, 1934 and the West India Royal Commisson, 1938-1939.

Between 1908-1933 he owned the famous Manor House in St Edmonds.  His elder son was the author Bryan Guinness, who married Diana Mitford in 1929. She is known to have stayed in the Manor House in that year. In 1947, West Suffolk County Council bought the house and used it as offices. In 1985 it was bought by Bristol Estates. Finally, St. Edmundsbury Borough Council bought the house in 1988 and, after restoration, it was opened as a museum in January 1993.

Rumored to be the father of Alec Guinness.

Artist's impression of the Manor House c. 1770 by Lillias August

During World War Two he again took political office, becoming Secretary of State for the Colonies and Leader of the House of Lords in 1941. In August 1942 he was appointed Deputy Minister of State in Cairo, and in January 1944 Minister Resident in the Middle East. On 6 November 1944 he was assassinated in Cairo. The premeditated murder was meant to send a clear message from various Zionist terrorist organizations operating inside British Mandated Palestine, directly to the highest echelons of the alleged pro-Arab British Foreign Office. The assassins Eliahou Bet-Zouri and Eliahou al-Hakim, both in their early twenties, were members of the Stern/LHI Jewish terrorist group controlled of Yitzhak Shamir, the same man who, years later, would become Prime Minister of Israel. It was Shamir who reportedly organized and gave the orders for the murder.

Memorial plaque from Cairo Cathedral
(Above): Memorial plaque from Cairo Cathedral, It reads:

"In Memory Of Walter Edward Guinness. Lord Moyne. Born 29 March 1880. Died 6 November 1944. British Minister Resident in the Middle East 1944. Erected by His Britannic Majesty's Government"
 

 

The Death of Lord Moyne

On November 7, 1944 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood up in the House of Commons to announce the death of Lord Moyne "at the hands of foul assassins." Lord Moyne, one Walter Edward Guinness, was the British Resident Minister in the Middle East based in Cairo. Churchill added that Moyne's death meant that the Jews had lost a "well informed friend" who devoted himself to the solution of the Zionist question.vi Some friend, some solution! In December 1941, Lord Moyne was responsible for telling the Turks to force a refugee ship named Struma back into the Black Sea after refusing to permit its passengers to enter Palestine even en route to Mauritius. Five miles beyond the coastline the ship sank, drowning 428 men, 269 women, and 70 children. Amongst them were a doctor and his wife who had escaped Ghetto Warsaw, and made their way to the Romanian town of Arad where my parents risked their lives to hide them and then to transport them to Constanza where they embarked on the doomed boat. Moyne's motivation can be discerned by his subsequent response to Joel Brand, Adolf Eichmann's emissary, who sought to explore the possibility of exchanging a million Hungarian Jews for trucks and other equipment. "What would I do with a Million Jews?" Moyne asked. Eichmann, of course, knew precisely what to do. He sent them to burn in the Auschwitz crematorium. Amongst those going up in ashes were my aunt and her miraculous baby, the one born with a tooth in his mouth. Joel Brand joined the Stern Gang. The Stern Gang took credit for the execution and announced:

We accuse Lord Moyne and the government he represents, with murdering hundreds and thousands of our brethren; we accuse him of seizing our counry and looting our possessions... We were forced to do justice and to fight. vii

The assassination of Lord Moyne led Jewish leadership to decide that it was time to act. The Jewish Agency Executive convened and not only issued a fierce condemnation of the murder but called on the Yishuv to banish the evildoers from their midst. This was the official Histadrut announcement on the matter:

Jewish youth must fight terror and its perpetrators! [...] The perpetrators of terror, who call themselves the 'Irgun Zvai Le'umi' and 'Lohamei Herut Israel' are traitors! ... They must be removed from our classrooms, banished from our workshops! Their propaganda, whether written or spoken, must not be permitted... No refuge must be given to these malefactors in the homes of your parents, relatives and acquaintances! The incorrigible despoilers must be isolated and abandoned, until they are spewed out of the ranks of the Yishuv, until terror ceases and its organization is eradicated.

The Jewish leadership went on to call on the Yishuv not only to cooperate with the British occupier but also vouched for its future treatment of the offenders. Evil is evil even if the perpetrator is a Jew:

The Jewish Agency proposes herewith that all persons who are acquainted with any of the terrorists, should immediately inform the police by word of mouth, in writing or by telephone and observe the injunction: 'And thou shalt root out the evil from thy midst'. Fathers who have sons in these organizations should, in the same fashion, inform the police and observe thereby the injunction: 'If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, he must take him out to the elders and say to them: This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice. And all the men of the city shall stone him with stones.' Particularly since the English do not intend to do the terrorists any harm. They will hold them for a year or two apart from other people until their surplus energy, which apparently results from overeating and from inactivity and sloth, has cooled down [...] It is time to act for the sake of the Jewish people and the homeland.

Begin's response demonstrated both his strategic acumen and his moral fiber. Indeed, the good will it generated saved his future political viability.
 

THERE WILL BE NO FRATERNAL WAR [...] It is with gloomy face that the loyal Jew asks himself and his neighbor: Are we to suffer this as well? Will a civil war break out in Eretz Israel? . . . Orators and leaders do not cease to speak of the internal strife. One of them has said that it has already begun; the second - even more loudmouthed - has profaned his lips with the hysterical cry: blood for blood, an eye for an eye! A third has labored and labored until he has finally devised a plan to save the Jewish people. And this is the plan: to expel from their homes, to expel from schools, to starve and to hand over our fighting youths to the British Police. 'It is them or us,' it declared, 'and all means are acceptable in order to liquidate them.' (From Ben-Gurion's speech at the Histadrut Conference). . . . - on our own behalf and on behalf of the Irgun Zvai Le'umi in Eretz Israel - to provide an answer. And this is our answer: you may stay calm, loyal Jews; there will be no fraternal strife in this country...

It was not easy for Begin to restrain his subordinates, nor was it easy for Ben Gurion to convince his people to hunt fellow Jewish fighters. The precise number is still in dispute but the Haganah delivered into British hands 700 to 1,000 Jewish terrorists during the 1944-45 period which came to be known as "saison" (the hunting season).

 

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This site was last updated 01/04/04