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Tufton Victor Hamilton Beamish, Baron Chelwood MC (27 January 1917 – 6 April 1989) was a British Army officer and Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Lewesmarker (1945-1974).

During the Second World War, he served in France, Belgium (1940), Malaya (1942), India and Burma (1942-43), North Africa and Italy (1943-44). In 1940 he was awarded the Military Cross; was knighted in 1961 and upon his retirement from the House of Commonsmarker was created a life peer as Baron Chelwood, of Lewes in the County of East Sussexmarker in May 1974.

Beamish's father was Tufton Percy Hamilton Beamish who served in the Royal Navy until 1925 when he retired with the rank of Rear Admiral. He had followed his career in the Navy by entering politics and served as the member of Parliament for Lewesmarker from 1924 until 1931 and again from 1936 until 1945.

Military career

Beamish was educated at Stowe Schoolmarker and the Royal Military College Sandhurstmarker. He received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers in 1937. In 1938 Beamish served in Cairo and Palestine and developed a lifelong interest in the Arab people of the region. After the outbreak of the Second World War, he was transferred to France as a company commander with the British Expeditionary Force. Beamish was wounded on the retreat to Dunkirkmarker and managed to secure his evacuation. In 1941, he was transferred to the far-east and was serving in Singaporemarker when the Japanese began their assault of the Malayan peninsular. He avoided being captured at fall of Singaporemarker by taking to a rowing boat with seven other men. The men rowed to Sumatramarker but upon reaching their destination the found that it too had fallen to the Japanese and so the laid a new course for Ceylon which they eventually reached in safety. Beamish now worked as an intelligence officer in India before transferred to the Eighth Army in North Africa in 1943, taking part in the invasion of Italy later that year. He left the Army in 1945 with the rank of Captain.

Political career

In 1945, his father retired from politics, and Beamish was chosen to replace him as the Conservative candidate for the 1945 general election. He was elected, and continued to serve as the constituency Member of Parliament until he retired from the Commons at the 1974 general election.

From 1947 to 1953, Beamish served on the executive of the 1922 Committee, and from 1965 to 1967 as opposition spokesman on defence. He never sought, and actively refused, the offer of a ministerial position. Beamish was a firm believer in the creation of European harmony through the promotion of a strong European Economic Community (serving on the Monnet Action Committee for United States of Europe, 1971-76). He was strongly opposed to the Soviet Union's domination of Eastern Europe to which he addressed himself in his 1950 book Must Night Fall?. In 1970, he published a book entitled Half Marx, warning against the rise of the extreme left in the Labour Party. His other noted publication was a book on the Battle of Lewesmarker (1264) between King Henry III and Simon de Montfort, but he is most noted for his interest in nature conservancy. He was an active member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and, from 1978, a member of the Nature Conservancy Council. He fought hard for the passing of a private members bill that was enacted as the Protection of Birds Act 1954, and the subsequent amendments in 1964 and 1967. As a member of the House of Lordsmarker, he campaigned vigorously for the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Beamish was married twice: first to Janet McMillan Stevenson of New York in 1950 (dissolved in 1973); and secondly to Pia "Maria" McHenry (also a divorcee [née Von Roretz]) in 1975. Beamish died on 6 April 1989 and was survived by his second wife and by two daughters from his first marriage.

Although Beamish's name inspired the Private Eyemarker character Sir Bufton Tufton, he was not actually as far to the right of the Tory party as that character (who bore a closer resemblance to the likes of Gerald Nabarro, Patrick Wall, Marcus Fox and the general attitudes associated with the Monday Club and its supporters) might have suggested. As a member of the House of Lordsmarker he moved an amendment to the Community Charge ('Poll Tax') legislation to have the charge vary by income rather than being the same rate for all.

Beamish's daughter, Claudia Beamish, is a leading activist in the Scottish Labour Party. She topped Labour's list for the South of Scotland in the 2003 and 2007 Scottish Parliament election and is Labour Co-operative candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddalemarker at the next general election.


  1. David Butler, Andrew Adonis, Tony Travers, "Failure in British Government: The Politics of the Poll Tax" (Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 123.

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