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John Edward Bernard Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone CB, CMG, DSO, PC, TD (31 May 1868 – 7 November 1947) was a Britishmarker soldier and politician. He was a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) from 1900 to 1904 and a Liberal MP from 1904 to 1922 and from 1923 to 1924. He was Secretary of State for War for the two years prior to World War I

Early life

Jack Seely was the son of Sir Charles Seely, 1st Baronet. He was educated at Harrow Schoolmarker, where he met an older Stanley Baldwin and a younger Winston Churchill, and at Trinity College, Cambridgemarker. Churchill became a lifelong friend. He was later called to the Bar, Inner Templemarker. Seely also served with the Imperial Yeomanry in the Second Boer War, where he was mentioned in despatches, awarded a medal with four clasps as well as the DSO in 1900. He was known as "Colonel Seely" during his time as a politician before the First World War.

Political career

Seely was elected Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wightmarker in 1900, a seat he held until 1906, and again from 1923 to 1924; he also sat for Liverpool Abercromby between 1906 and 1910 and for Ilkeston between 1910 and 1922. He served as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies under H. H. Asquith between 1908 and 1911, as Under-Secretary of State for War from 1911 to 1912, and became a member of the Privy Council in 1909. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, "Since his chief, Lord Crewe, was in the Lords, important work fell to the under-secretary, in particular the introduction of the measure which brought about the Union of South Africa." In 1912, Seely was appointed Secretary of State for War, with a seat in the Cabinet, a post he held until 1914. With Sir John French he was responsible for the invitation to General Foch to attend the Army Manoeuvres of 1912 and was active in preparing the army for war with Germany. The mobility of the proposed Expeditionary Force, and in particular the development of a Flying Corps (the origin of modern day Air Force) were his special interests. According to The Times, these developments played a significant role in the victory during World War I.

When the Curragh incident in Ireland in 1914 forced him to resign, he left England to fight in the First World War, becoming a Major General and commander of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. Seely won several medals and merited mention in dispatches five times, enhancing his reputation for bravery in battle. After being gassed in 1918, he returned to England as the only member of the Cabinet, besides Churchill, to see active service in the war. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions and Deputy Minister of Munitions in 1918, and Under-Secretary of State for Air and President of the Air Council in 1919. However, he resigned both posts at the end of 1919 after the Government refused to create a Secretary of State for Air (as it later did).

Later career

He was made Chairman of the National Savings Committee in 1926, a post he served in until 1943, the same year he became Vice-President. During this time he was asked by the Government to conduct the publicity in regard to the conversion of the 5% war loan. According to The Times, "in the Second World War the activities of the National Savings Committee were largely extended and became a vital part of the national war effort." He continued to have an influential role in domestic politics; in fact, due to his influence in the formation of the all-party Government of Co-operation in 1931, Lloyd George called him the "Father of National Government." He died in Westminstermarker aged 79.

Other posts

Seely was also an Honorary Major-General, a Colonel of the Territorial Army, an Honorary Colonel of 72nd (Hampshire), an Honorary Air Commander Auxiliary Air Force, and Vice-President of the RNLI. Moreover, he served as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire from 1918 to 1947, as a Justice of the Peace for Hampshire and the Isle of Wightmarker, as the first Chairman of Wembley Stadiummarker, and as a director of Thomas Cook. On 21 June 1933 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Mottistone, of Mottistone in the County of Southampton.


The Times called him a "Gallant Figure in War and Politics" and F. E. Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead, wrote, “In fields of great and critical danger he has constantly over a long period of years displayed a cool valour which everybody in the world who knows the facts freely recognizes.” Ferdinand Foch, better known as Marshal Foch, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies in the final year World War I, gave him a cigarette case inscribed, “Au Ministre de 1912: au Vaillant de la Grande Guerre.”


Seely was a member of a family of politicians, industrialists and significant landowners. His father Sir Charles Seely, 1st Baronet, brother Sir Charles Seely, 2nd Baronet, nephew and grandfather were all Members of Parliament. His grandfather Charles Seely (1803-1887) was a noted philanthropist and famous for hosting Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary hero, in London and the Isle of Wight in 1864. Seely's nephew Sir Hugh Seely, 3rd Baronet and 1st Baron Sherwood, was Under-Secretary of State for Air during the Second World War. His eldest son from his second marriage, David Peter Seely, 4th Baron Mottistone, was the last Governor of the Isle of Wight; he was baptised with Winston Churchill and the then Duke of Cornwall (subsequently Edward VIII, and then later HRH Duke of Windsor) as his godparents.

The family had homes in Nottinghamshiremarker and the Isle of Wightmarker as well as extensive property in London. It is with the Isle of Wight that Jack Seely will always be associated. His Aunt's husband, Col. Harry Gore Browne, won the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny. Gore Browne was manager of the extensive Seely estates on the Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria lived nearby at her favourite residence, Osborne House.

Medals and awards

He received the following awards and medals: CB Companion in The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (1918), CMG Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (1918), DSO Distinguished Service Order (1900) and TD. He was also awarded the Order of the Crown , the Croix de guerre, the Légion d'honneur, which is France's highest honour, and the Freedom of the City of Portsmouth in 1927 (UK)[159579].


In 1895, Seely married Emily Florence, daughter of Colonel Honourable Sir Henry George Louis Crichton, KCB. After her death, he married Hon. Evelyn Izme Murray, JP (d. 11th Aug 1976) on 31 July 1917. She was the widow of George Crosfield Norris Nicholson and daughter of Montolieu Oliphant-Murray, 1st Viscount Elibank. His first son, 2Lt Frank Reginald Seely was killed in action with the Hampshires on 13 April 1917. His heir John Seely (1899-1963) was an architect whose work included the interior of Eltham Palacemarker in the Art Deco style. His grandson Brough Scott who presented horseracing television programmes, wrote a biography of Seely, Galloper Jack.


  • Adventure
  • Fear and Be Slain
  • My Horse Warrior - a biography of his charger

Representation in art

According to the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museummarker (Alfred Munnings was a former president of the Royal Academy of Artsmarker and famous horse painter) "Without doubt his most important painting was that of 'General J. E. B. Seely (later Lord Mottistone) on his charger Warrior' which led to his commission to paint the Earl of Athlone, brother of Queen Mary."


A screen was erected in St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Mottistonemarker in his memory.


Jack Seely was featured in the HBO film Into the Storm in 2009. At the end of the film Churchill reads a sympathetic post-election note from his old friend Jack Seely: “I feel our world slipping away.” Churchill thinks back: “I met him in South Africa, riding across the veldt. He was Col. Seely then. I saw him at the head of a column of British cavalry, riding twenty yards in front, on a black horse. I thought of him as the very symbol of Imperial power.”


  1. Sir Alfred Munnings Equestrian Prints, Paintings & Art Museum -UK
  2. Painted in 1918 for the Canadian War Memorial when Seely was commander of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. Held in the Canadian National Gallery, Ottawa


  • Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition Volume III [159580]
  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-1950.

External links

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