The unknown scaremonger

On this day in 1922, Andrew Bonar Law, the "unknown Prime Minister", began his premiership - the shortest of the twentieth century.

Here's a minor footnote to Bonar Law's career. Some time before the end of March 1913, while leader of the Unionist Party (as the Conservatives were then called), he told Charles à Court Repington, The Times's military correspondent, that the aerial threat to Britain had convinced him of the need for conscription.1 This coincided with agitation by both the Navy League and the Aerial League of the British Empire, amplified by the Conservative press, for a million pounds to be spent immediately on a British aerial fleet to counter the Zeppelin menace - which itself followed hard on the heels of a wave of sightings of mysterious airships in British skies.

This seems a bit odd - I don't understand how conscription would have helped defend against airships. Nor does it seem that it was a political tactic of some sort, for even though many conservatives supported conscription, he did not propose to make it part of his party's platform. Maybe he was just trying to convince the influential Repington of his soundness on defence matters!


  1. A.J.A. Morris, The Scaremongers: The Advocacy of War and Rearmament 1896-1914 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 429-30. 

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