Principal donors

Sir Howard Vincent, KCMG, CB, MP (1849-1908)

Sir Howard Vincent had a distinguished career as one of the founding fathers of the modern Metropolitan Police before becoming a Conservative MP, for Sheffield Central, in 1885. He published widely on police and legal matters, including, in 1882, his Police Code and Manual of Criminal Law which remained a classic police textbook until well into the 20th century.

Sir Arnold Wilson KCIE, CSI, CMG, DSO, MP (1884-1940)

Sir Arnold Wilson served in the Persian Gulf as a talented and highly respected political officer, soldier and senior administrator between 1909 and 1920. In 1918 he became acting civil commissioner for British-controlled Mesopotamia - the present-day Iraq - with the unenviable task of establishing firm rule within this volatile region. After a major rebellion in Iraq in 1920, Wilson, who might well have gone on to a distinguished pro-consular career, felt compelled to step down from government service. After a period in business he was elected MP for Hitchin, Hertfordshire in June 1933, as a National Conservative, and retained the seat until his death.

He was a popular and indefatigable backbencher, with wide-ranging interests. One of his pressing concerns was the infrequency with which instances of gallantry in civilian life were recognised at this time through the award of official honours. All too frequently, he showed, it was left to the initiative of life-saving and other such bodies to honour those who had performed courageous deeds in civilian walks of life. As well as addressing the problem in the Commons and the press, he collected examples of the many different medals given unofficially by life-saving and other societies and institutions. These medals formed the core of the collection which he presented to the Speaker in 1938.

He was also in the process of completing Gallantry: Its Public Recognition and Reward in Peace and War, an exhaustive chronicle of bravery in non-combatant situations, and in which he was able to highlight the restrictiveness of official recognition. Its publication in 1939 was undoubtedly a major influence in George VI's initiative to institute two new civilian awards in 1940: the George Cross and the George Medal, which now rank as Britain's premier awards for civilian gallantry.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Sir Arnold Wilson, though aged 55, told his constituents that he would not 'shelter behind the bodies of young men' but would serve with them. He enlisted with the RAFVR as a pilot officer, becoming a rear-gunner with a bomber squadron and on account of his knighthood was affectionately known as 'Sir Gunner'. He was killed when his plane was shot down behind German lines near Dunkirk on 31 May 1940, one of the few serving MPs to die on active service.

Sir William Brass, MP (1886-1945), later Lord Chattisham

Sir William Brass had a varied career as a backbencher - he was Conservative MP for Clitheroe, Lancashire, 1929-45 - and was Parliamentary Private Secretary to several ministers including Leo Amery during his term as Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1924-29. He was a keen photographer and cinematographer, and was an early chairman of the British Film Institute. The extensive collection of military decorations and medals which he donated includes many examples of the long service medals awarded to local forces in the dominions and colonies, and reflected his strong interest in, and attachment to the emerging Commonwealth.

Also in this section

Also within Living Heritage

Memorials on the Parliamentary estate commemorate MPs, Peers and Parliamentary staff killed whilst serving in the two World Wars