Spender, Wilfrid, Sir (1876-1960)


Born on 6 October, 1876, Spender belonged to a family distinguished in journalism and politics. Breaking with family tradition, he chose to make the Army his career and went through the staff college at Camberley, joining the Devon Artillery in 1897 and soon afterwards transferring to the Royal Artillery. Promoted to the General Staff and working on national defence, he became concerned with the strategic importance of Ireland and subsequently Home Rule. He resigned his commission after signing the Covenant without permission. Sir Edward Carson invited him to join the HQ staff of the UVF and he was appointed secretary to three committees dealing with supplies, equipment and transport. He masterminded the gun-running episode at Larne in 1914. During World War I he became GSO with the 36th Ulster Division and rose to Lt Colonel at GHQ. At the end of World War I he was selected by Lord Haig as Officers' Friend at the Ministry of Pensions and he served on Lord Haig's Committee of Five which founded the British Legion. In 1921, when the Government of Northern Ireland was established, he was invited by Lord Craigavon to return to Ulster to assist in the administration of the Ulster Volunteer Force. He was appointed the first Secretary to the Northern Ireland Cabinet and in 1926 was appointed Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. He became Sir Wilfrid Spender in 1929, retired in 1944 and died in 1960.

Military and Politics