Aidan Crawley

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Aidan Merivale Crawley
Born (1908-04-10)10 April 1908
Benenden, Kent, England, UK
Died 3 November 1993(1993-11-03) (aged 85)
Banbury, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Nationality English
Occupation Journalist, television executive and editor, and politician

Aidan Merivale Crawley, MBE (10 April 1908 Benenden, Kent – 3 November 1993 Banbury, Oxfordshire)[1] was a British journalist, television executive and editor, and politician. He was a member of both of Britain's major political parties: the Labour Party and Conservative Party, and was elected to the House of Commons as a Labour MP from 1945 to 1951, and as a Conservative MP from 1962 to 1967.


Crawley was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Oxford. He played cricket for Oxford University Cricket Club and Kent.

Life and career

The bulk of Crawley's cricket career was in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but he played a few first-class games after the Second World War, while a sitting MP.[2]

He joined the Auxiliary Air Force in 1936, and was a trained fighter pilot at start of the Second World War. After serving on night patrols over the English Channel he was sent ostensibly as an assistant air attaché to Turkey in April 1940, cover for intelligence work in the Balkans in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, being smuggled out of Sofia when the Germans invaded the latter country in March 1941. Subsequently assigned to 73 Squadron in Egypt, he was shot down in July 1941 near besieged Tobruk and was taken prisoner of war. He remained in Germany, despite escape attempts, latterly at Stalag Luft III.[3]

He was Labour Member of Parliament for Buckingham from 1945 to 1951, when he lost to the Conservative candidate Frank Markham, himself an ex-Labour MP. He was Under-Secretary of State for Air in Clement Attlee's Labour Government.

In 1955, he was the first editor-in-chief of Independent Television News and was responsible for introducing American-style newscasters to British media and pledged to transform television's attitudes to politicians.[4] He left ITN after a row when the company tried to trim down the news operations and rejoined the BBC.[5]

Having left the Labour Party in 1957,[3] in 1962, he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative, winning the by-election in West Derbyshire. He held the seat through two general elections,[6] before resigning in 1967 to become Chairman of London Weekend Television where he remained until 1973. He became President of the M.C.C. in 1972.

Crawley authored several books, including biographies of Konrad Adenauer and Charles De Gaulle.

  • De Gaulle: A Biography (London: Collins, 1969)
  • Escape from Germany 1939-1945
  • Spoils of the War: The Rise of Western Germany 1945-1972
  • Patterns of Government in Africa
  • Leap before you look: a memoir, 1988.


Aidan Crawley was the second son (of three sons and two daughters) of the Rev. (Arthur) Stafford Crawley, Canon of Windsor, himself the youngest son of a successful railway contractor, George Baden Crawley (1833–1879),[7] and his wife Inez, who married as her second husband Rear-Admiral JE Pringle. His mother was the former Anstice Katherine Gibbs (usually known as Nancy),[8] sixth of the ten children of Antony and Janet Gibbs of Tyntesfield, Somerset. Stafford Crawley was the brother-in-law of the Earl of Cavan who was first married to his sister Caroline Inez Crawley (dsp 1920). His own wife Nancy was related to the Lords Wraxall, of Tyntesfield and the Lords Aldenham and Hunsdon. Stafford Crawley was chaplain to the Archbishop at Bishopthorpe and later Canon of St George's Chapel, Windsor. The Crawleys had three sons and two daughters, of whom Aidan was the middle son. A daughter Anstice, Lady Goodman (see below), was also prominent in public life.[9]

Marriage and issue

In 1945, he married the sometime war correspondent Virginia Cowles (24 August 1910 Brattleboro, Vermont-6 September 1983 near Biarritz in a car crash),[10][11] daughter of the controversial[12] society doctor, Edward Spencer Cowles MD.[13] with whom he had 3 children.

However, Crawley suffered several tragedies. His wife died in 1983 in a road accident in France. Five years later, he lost both his sons in a plane crash (they were travelling together to their sister's 40th birthday party), leaving young children and widows who were seven months pregnant. He then lost heavily in the Lloyd's crash and at the time of his death, Crawley was virtually penniless.[14]

He was survived by his daughter Harriet, his two widowed daughters-in-law and six grandchildren (two children from his elder son Andrew, three from his younger son Randall, and one from his daughter).


  • Andrew Hayward Crawley (1947-11 September 1988[15]); md 1986 Sarah Lawrence, and had issue, one son and a posthumous daughter.[16] Andrew and Randall were killed when their private plane hit a mountain on the way to their sister's 40th birthday party.[17]
  • Randall Stafford Crawley (14 July 1950[18] - 10 September 1988 Italy), who was married 3 November 1982 to Marita Georgina Phillips, now Mrs Andrew Knight (b. 28 May 1954), third daughter of Lt.-Col. Harold Pedro Joseph Phillips, by his wife Georgina Wernher, and sister of the Duchess of Abercorn and the Duchess of Westminster. Randall left issue, two sons (the younger Galen born after his death, and godson of HRH The Prince of Wales) and a daughter.[19] His widow Marita, recently remarried in 2006 Andrew Knight (b. 1939), former journalist and editor.
  • Harriet Spencer Crawley (b. 1948), a successful author and former television presenter of "Collecting Now", married firstly Gleb Chestekov in 1993. She married 2ndly circa 2001 Julian Ayer[20] (1939-26 December 2004, died Galle, Sri Lanka in the Boxing Day Tsunami[21]), the adoptive son of the philosopher Sir Alfred Jules Ayer, or "Freddie" Ayer. Julian Ayer, whom she met in 1999, was the adoptive son of the philosopher Sir Alfred Jules Ayer, or "Freddie" Ayer (1910–1989). According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Julian was born the elder child of philosopher Sir Stuart Newton Hampshire (1914–2004) by (Grace Isabel) Renée Ayer, née Orde-Lees (d. 1980), who was Ayer's wife at the time. Hampshire married Renee in 1961, twenty years after her first husband divorced her. However, Ayer acknowledged the child Julian as his.[22][23] They had no issue. Harriet also has issue one son
    • Spencer Henry Crawley now a promising cricketer ("Spencer Henry Crawley". Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>).[24][25][26]

Notable relatives

  • Crawley's sister was Anstice, Lady Goodman (7 December 1911 - 4 January 2001), whose marriage to Sir Victor Goodman was childless.[27]
  • Crawley's niece Penelope Anstice Crawley (b. 1950) married 1971 Lord Guernsey, now 12th Earl of Aylesford (b. 1947), the heir to the 11th Earl of Aylesford and has issue, including one son. Her husband succeeded to the earldom on 12 February 2008, and her son is now styled Lord Guernsey. This is not the first notable marriage for a Crawley female; her great-aunt Caroline Inez Crawley (d. 1920, without issue) was first wife of Field Marshal the 10th Earl of Cavan.
  • An ancestress Matilda Crawley-Boevey (1817–1877), of the Crawley-Boevey baronets married William Gibbs of Tyntesfield and Clyst St. George, and had issue, seven children, of whom four are listed in the Plantagenet Roll.[28] Her granddaughter Anstice Katharine Gibbs married a Crawley cousin (Arthur Stafford Crawley) in 1903, and was mother of Aidan Merivale Crawley. Anstice's brother was 1st Baron Wraxall, while close relatives patrilineally were the Lords Aldenham and Hunsdon (now united as of 1939).


  1. Aidan Merivale Crawley entry in Cricinfo database online "Spencer Henry Crawley". Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  2. "Aidan Crawley was elected as the first Labour Member of Parliament for Buckingham in 1945. He lost the seat and was elected elsewhere as a Conservative Member of Parliament."(Members of Parliament (22 May 1997). "Hansard". UK Parliament. Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bishop, Edward (2002). The Daily Telegraph Book of Airmen's Obituaries. Grub Street. pp. 269–270. ISBN 1-902304-99-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Boring old blokes on TV - an A to Z: The changing culture of the political interview". The Guardian. 11 November 2000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>; [1][dead link]; "A Brief History of Broadcast Journalism: The Early Years", Retrieved 18 September 2007[dead link].
  5. Aidan Crawley profile. "He appeared on 'In the News' and 'Viewfinder' on BBC, and became Independent Television News's first editor-in-chief, but later rejoined the BBC. "Radio and Television Personalities C". Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>. See also "Prominent People in British Television 1950-59". Retrieved 18 September 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Phillip Whitehead obituary in The Independent notes that he was defeated by the former Labourite, now Conservative, Aidan Crawley in 1966. "Whitehead's first attempt at Parliament was in the 1966 general election when as vice-chairman of the Young Fabian Group he was selected to take on Aidan Crawley in West Derbyshire. It was a particularly acrimonious campaign. Crawley was well known on the television screen and had been a much-favoured young minister in the Attlee government when he was a Labour MP for Buckingham, 1945-51, as Under-Secretary for Air. In 1957 he had resigned from the Labour Party and had been adopted as Conservative candidate in 1959. Crawley won by 18,383 votes to Whitehead's 13,791 with Mrs M.V. Edwards for the Liberals gaining 4,874." (Dalyell, Tam (3 January 2006). "Obituary: Phillip Whitehead: Television producer who made an effective second career as Labour MP and MEP". The Independent. Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>).
  7. He was descended from the younger brother of Sir Thomas Crawley-Boevey, 2nd Baronet (1744-1818), who inherited 1789 by special remainder as husband of the granddaughter of the first Baronet's brother, a rare remainder. The Crawley family itself was landed. The name of Crawley-Boevey dates to 1726, when the 2nd Baronet's grandfather Thomas Crawley (1709-1769) inherited Flaxley Abbey and changed his name from Crawley to Crawley-Boevey. However, the junior branches of his descendants used the name of Crawley alone.
  8. Lundy, Darryl. "Anstice Katherine Gibbs". The Peerage. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?]
  9. Roberts, S (November 1996). "Summary report on the papers of Arthur Stafford Crawley (1876-1948), canon of Windsor and Anstice Katharine Crawley (1881-1963) in the muniments of St George's Chapel, Windsor (reference: GB-0260-M.126)". Historical Manuscripts Commission. UK National Archives. Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  10. "Virginia Cowles b. 24 August 1910, d. 16 September 1983" The Peerage database, last edited 31 January 2005. Lundy, Darryl. "Virginia Cowles". The Peerage. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?], Retrieved 18 September 2007; Also see Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value). (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  11. Virginia Cowles
  12. "Body & Mind Raid" Time magazine, 4 May 1942. In 1941, he was Director of the Park Avenue Hospital, New York; Director of the Body and Mind Foundation and of the Body and Mind Clinic, New York; Staff Physician and Psychiatrist to the Bloodgood Foundation, Johns Hopkins University; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Source:
  13. Dr Cowles was a cousin of Rear-Admiral William Sheffield Cowles (d. 1923), himself married to Anna Roosevelt (d. 1931), sister of President Theodore Roosevelt. Edward Spencer Cowles and his first wife Florence Wolcott Jacquith had at least one other daughter Mary Howard Cowles whose husband Captain Willard Reed Jr, US Marine Corps, was killed in action in 1942. He later married 1928 Nona Hazelhurst McAdoo,
  14. Harriet Crawley loses her husband Julian Ayer, adoptive son of the philosopher Freddie Ayer, in the 2004 tsunami. (Telegraph staff (31 December 2004). "Ayer's adopted son dies". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>)
  15. Lundy, Darryl. "Andrew Crawley". The Peerage. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?] says 11 September, other sources, notably the Harrow page, say 10 September. Retrieved 10 December 1988.
  16. Andrew. Retrieved 10 December 2008. His wife's name is obtained from Lundy, Darryl. "Andrew Crawley". The Peerage. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?].
  17. "After the flood: England witness a triumph of the spirit in Sri Lanka" The Independent, 18 December 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
  18. Lundy, Darryl. "Randall Crawley". The Peerage. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?] Retrieved 10 December 1988.
  19. "Randall Crawley". Harrow Association. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  20. Lundy, Darryl. "Julian Ayer". The Peerage. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?]
  21. "British Tsunami Toll Around 349 17 January 2005, SkyNews
  22. Ryan, A. (Jan 2012) [2004]. "Hampshire, Sir Stuart Newton (1914–2004)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  23. "14 ordinary lives remembered from the 125,000 who perished". The Times. 31 December 2004.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[verification needed] (subscription required)
  24. Harriet Crawley speaks about the Crawley Gap Year Scholarships in memory of her brothers ("The Crawley Gap Year Scholarship". The Harrow Association. Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>).
  25. Telegraph staff (31 December 2004). "Ayer's adopted son dies". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Spencer Crawley's father is allegedly Douglas Percy Codrington Nation (1942-2001), father of Tanya Marie Nation, now married to the Marquess of Hamilton. Hamilton is the nephew of Harriet's sister-in-law Marita Crawley, nee Phillips.
  27. Anonymous. "Lady Goodman The Daily Telegraph. 30 January 2001. Retrieved 18 September 2007. Her husband Sir Victor Goodman (d. 29 September 1967), of the Goodman family was first husband of Julian Morrell, daughter of Philip Morrell and Lady Ottoline Morrell, by whom he had issue
  28. Marquis de Ruvigny de Raineval et al.Plantagenet Roll: Clarence Volume p. 150. Originally published: London : T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1905. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Com, 1994. Retrieved 10 December 2008


External links

Further reading

Aidan Crawley. Leap before you look: a memoir, (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 7 April 1988)

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lionel Berry
Member of Parliament for Buckingham
Succeeded by
Frank Markham
Preceded by
Edward Wakefield
Member of Parliament for West Derbyshire
Succeeded by
James Scott-Hopkins