Montagu of Beaulieu

MONTAGU of Beaulieu, 2nd Baron (cr. 1885), John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, K.C.I.E., cr. 1919; C.S.I. 1916; C.C.; J.P.; V.D.; D.L.; Verderer the New Forest; Brig.-Gen; commanded 7th Batt. Hants Regt. (Terr.); Adviser on Mechanical Transport Services to Government of India 1915-19; b. 10 June 1866; e. s. of 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu and Hon. Cecily Susan Montagu, Stuart-Wortley, d. of 2nd Baron Wharncliffe; S. father, 1905; m. 1st, 1889, Cecil (d. 1919), e. d. of 9th Marquis of Lothian; two d.; 2nd, 1920, Pearl, d. of late Major E. B. Crake, Rifle Brigade, and Mrs. Barrington-Crake; two d. Educ.: Eton; New College, Oxford. Prominent in atheltics, engineering, and science, Eton and Oxford; stroked winning College Eight, 1887; travelled in America, Japan, China, India, Egypt; in South Africa also; interested in aviation, railway, and all transport matters, also in sport, especially wild fowling and automobilism; Member Road Board, 1909-19; Vice-President of the R.A.C.; F.R.M.S.; Companion of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and Associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers; M.P. (C.) New Forest Div. Hants, 1892-1905. Publications: founder and late editor of The Car; magazine articles in various publications, 1890-1914; numerous press articles. Recreations: shooting, fishing, yachting, cycling, rowing, and all country pursuits; music, literature. Owns about 10,000 acres. Heir: none. Address: Beaulieu, Hampshire; 62 Pall Mall, S.W.1. T. Regent 2289. Clubs: Carlton, Beefsteak, Royal Automobile, Royal Aero; Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes.

Who's Who 1927. London: A & C Black, 1927.

John Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (1866-1929) and a Conservative MP (1892-1905), is best remembered today for his early interest in motor cars. In 1899 he came third in the Paris-Ostend road race, and also introduced the future Edward VII to the pleasures of driving. Three years later he started an influential magazine, Car Illustrated, and introduced a bill into Parliament to abolish the speed limit (12 m.p.h.) in return for compulsory registration of all motor vehicles. (Ultimately, a different bill was passed, which set the speed limit at 20 m.p.h.) He was a key figure in the Royal Automobile Club and was involved with Brooklands and Rolls-Royce. Indeed, his own Silver Ghost was the first to sport the Rolls-Royce mascot, the Spirit of Ecstasy, for which his mistress, Eleanor Thornton, may have been the model. Trains and motor-boats also attracted his attention.

Montagu's other main transportation passion was aeroplanes. As early as November 1906, he offered a prize of £1000 to the first aviator to fly from London to Manchester (in addition to Lord Northcliffe's £10000 prize). In 1908 he saw Wilbur Wright flying in France. The following year, he helped to found the Aerial League of the British Empire (now the Air League). Most significantly, perhaps, he developed an early and important theory about strategic bombing, which posited that cities like London were national 'nerve centres' which could be incapacitated by air attack: see Montagu of Beaulieu, Aerial Machines and War (1910), a reprint of a lecture he gave to the Aldershot Military Society on 22 February 1910. During the First World War -- when not in India inspecting the Indian Army's motor vehicles -- Montagu took part in the agitation for an independent air force resulting from the Zeppelin and Gotha raids, mainly on behalf of the Navy League, and circulated his proposals for an Imperial Air Service. He gave evidence to the Bailhache committee, which investigated allegations of inefficiency at the Royal Aircraft Factory, served briefly on the Derby Air Board, and was then on the Civil Aerial Transport Committee.

On 30 December 1915, the ship Montagu was travelling to India on, the S.S. Persia, was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean by a German submarine. He survived, but Thornton, who was traveling with him as his secretary, did not, an experience which seems to have marked him deeply. His wife of thirty years died in 1919, and he soon remarried. His son and heir, Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, was only 3 years old when his father died, and founded the National Motor Museum in his memory.

See also Alfred Gollin, No Longer an Island: Britain and the Wright Brothers, 1902-1909 (London: Heinemann, 1984), 449-52, 455-60; and Alfred Gollin, The Impact of Air Power on the British People and their Government, 1909-14 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), especially 126-9; Oxford DNB. A list of archival sources is available at the National Register of Archives.

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