Ronald Cartland

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John Ronald Hamilton Cartland
Member of Parliament
for Birmingham King's Norton
In office
14 November 1935 – 30 May 1940
Preceded by Lionel Beaumont Thomas
Succeeded by Basil Arthur John Peto
Personal details
Born (1907-01-03)3 January 1907
Birmingham, England, UK
Died 30 May 1940(1940-05-30) (aged 33)
near Cassel, France
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Relations Barbara Cartland (sister)
Alma mater Charterhouse School

Major John Ronald Hamilton Cartland (3 January 1907 — 30 May 1940)[dead link][1] was a British Conservative Party politician. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for King's Norton in Birmingham from 1935 until he was killed in action in 1940, aged 33. He was the brother of prolific romance author, Barbara Cartland.


Ronald Cartland was the son of Major Bertram Cartland and Mary Hamilton Scobell, and the younger brother of novelist Barbara Cartland. His paternal grandfather was a wealthy Birmingham brass founder, who died four years before Ronald's birth. When the family's wealth diminished following the death of Ronald's grandmother, his father and his family moved to a rented farmhouse near the town of Pershore, in Worcestershire. In 1910 Bertram Cartland then went to work for the local Conservative Party office, where he managed the election of the Tory MP candidate. When the candidate won the election, he offered Bertram the post of private secretary. When the First World War broke out in 1914, Bertram volunteered for military duty, and was sent to France. He was killed near Berry-au-Bac, France, in 1918, just five months before the Armistice.[2]

In 1919 Mary Cartland – along with Ronald, her 18-year-old daughter Barbara and 8-year-old son Anthony – moved to London, and Ronald gained a scholarship to Charterhouse School, a public school in Surrey. While there he expressed his desire to become a Conservative MP – but at the same time, he held progressive views that were at odds with the Tory party, and the prevailing social norms at Charterhouse. When Ronald was a child, Mary Cartland would take him with her on her trips to some of the more poverty-stricken areas of Pershore, giving him a first-hand look at their dire economic straits. After he left Charterhouse, Mary Cartland could not afford to send her son to university, so Ronald went to work at the Conservative Party Central Office in London.

Parliamentary career

After Lionel Beaumont Thomas's decision to retire on health grounds in 1933, Cartland was chosen to replace him in Herbert Austin's former constituency of King's Norton, Birmingham. His selection was supported by the Chamberlain family, long the most powerful force in Birmingham Conservative circles. He won in the 1935 election, becoming one of the youngest MPs in the House of Commons.[citation needed]

Cartland's maiden speech to the Commons, in May 1936, attacked the Government of then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, for its less-than-enthusiastic attitude in aiding 'distressed areas' – those parts of the UK that were suffering from extreme economic difficulties, with unemployment rates as high as 40%.[citation needed] In 1936, he delivered a stinging rebuke to the Treasury for balancing the budget on the backs of Britain's poor, attacking Neville Chamberlain, then serving as Baldwin's Chancellor of the Exchequer, despite Chamberlain's role in Cartland's selection as a Conservative candidate.[citation needed]

After Chamberlain succeeded Baldwin as Prime Minister, Cartland earned the wrath of the Conservative Party's hierarchy by taking a stand against the British Government's policy of appeasement of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy – which brought him to the attention of other Tory dissident backbenchers, as well as Winston Churchill. Before Cartland's election in 1935 he and his sister Barbara visited Germany, where Ronald was appalled at the Nazis' persecution of the Jews.[citation needed]

On his return, he warned his fellow MPs of Hitler's expansionist plans for Austria and other Central European countries – and that, sooner or later, Britain would be at war with Germany.[citation needed]

He served as a back-bench MP in Neville Chamberlain's government. He is most famous for a speech that he gave to the house in August 1939, in which he accused the Prime Minister of having "ideas of dictatorship". Chamberlain had decided to adjourn the house until 3 October, and instructed the Conservative MPs that a majority vote in favour of adjournment would be seen as a vote of confidence. This caused outrage in the house, and it was this that prompted the young MP to stand up and make his famous speech, which also included what turned out to be prophetic words for himself: "We are in a situation that within a month we may be going to fight – and we may be going to die."[3]

Military career

Ronald Cartland achieved the rank of Major in the British Army. In 1937, he joined the Territorial Army. By August 1939, he was a lieutenant in the Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry. When the Nazis invaded Holland, Belgium and France in May 1940, the now Major Cartland was serving in the 53rd Anti-Tank Regiment, (The Worcestershire Yeomanry) Royal Artillery. The unit was assigned to defend the town of Cassel, a hilltop site near one of the main roads leading to the Channel port of Dunkirk, France. Cartland and his men held off the Germans for nearly four days, from 27 to 29 May.[citation needed]

On the evening of 29 May 1940, Cartland and his unit split up, and joined the retreating British Expeditionary Force heading towards Dunkirk. On 30 May 1940, while reconnoitring his position from a ditch, he was shot and killed during the retreat to Dunkirk.[3]

Major. Cartland was initially listed as Missing In Action, and his family in England did not learn of his true fate until January 1941. His mother received a letter from one of Cartland's men, now in a German POW camp where the soldier described Cartland's death in detail. His brother, James A.H., died the previous day and is buried at Zuidschote.[4] A memorial service was held for Ronald Cartland on 18 February 1941, at London's St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church. He is buried at Hotton War Cemetery, in Hotton, Belgium.


  1. "Index of royal genealogical data". Retrieved 15 September 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. CWGC entry
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Campblog Archive". Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. CWGC entry


  • Olson, Lynne: Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, Farrar, Strous, Giroux, 2007

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lionel Beaumont Thomas
Member of Parliament for Birmingham King's Norton
Succeeded by
Basil Peto