Godfrey Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern bigraphy, stories - Rhodesian Prime Minister

Godfrey Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern : biography

6 July 1883 - 8 May 1971

Godfrey Martin Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern, CH, KCMG, PC (6 July 1883 – 8 May 1971) was a Rhodesian politician and physician. He served as the fourth Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1933 to 1953 and remained in office as the first Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland until 1956, becoming the longest serving prime minister in British Commonwealth history. British Medical Journal, 20 November 1971, pp.497.

Practice in Rhodesia

He returned to Southern Rhodesia at the end of the war, just in time to deal with the influenza epidemic, and bought Craig Farm on the outskirts of Salisbury, now Harare, which was to remain his home for the rest of his life. He began again as a surgeon, quickly becoming the best known, albeit in a small field, in Rhodesia. He married in 1921 to Blanche Slatter of Pietermaritzburg, the daughter (some sources say stepdaughter) of a Major in the South African Constabulary. He and his wife had two sons, born in 1922 and 1928.

Having become a spokesman for the local Comrades of the Great War Association, he began to have contact with government, intervening for the Association with the then Administrator, Sir Drummond Chaplin. Although he was on the side of union with South Africa when there was a referendum on the matter in 1922, he accepted the Rhodesian decision to 'go it alone' and accept responsible government.

Political career

He entered politics in 1924 and was elected, unopposed in the Salisbury North constituency, to the legislative council of the newly created self-governing colony. He became Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia in 1933 when his Reform Party won that year's general election. (The Reform Party subsequently merged with the Rhodesian Party to form the United Party). Huggins won successive elections and was knighted in 1941 by King George VI. He was a leading guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.Royal Collection: Seating plan for the Ball Supper Room http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/royalwedding1947/object.asp?grouping=&exhibs=NONE&object=9000366&row=82&detail=magnify

Huggins became an advocate of federating Southern Rhodesia with some of the neighbouring British colonies in the region so that they would become an independent state within the British Empire while maintaining white minority rule with only a small number of educated Blacks having the vote in addition to white settlers. As a result of his effort the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was created in 1953 uniting Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland with Huggins as the federation's first prime minister after his new United Federal Party won the federation's first general election. Huggins remained in office until 1956 and was elevated to the British peerage as Viscount Malvern prior to his retirement. He was succeeded as prime minister by Sir Roy Welensky. The biggest political issue of his tenure as Federal Prime Minister was the question of race relations. Huggins and other proponents of Federation claimed to stand for a policy of partnership, which was claimed to be much more enlightened than the apartheid that the new Nationalist Party Government was then installing in South Africa. He compared it to "the partnership of rider and horse." Huggins' successor, Welensky, spent his time in office trying to prevent an inevitable break-up of the Federation.

Having served 23 years as Prime Minister, Huggins became the longest serving Prime Minister in British Commonwealth history, beating the records of Mackenzie King of Canada and Sir Robert Walpole of Great Britain and Ireland, until his record was surpassed by Sir Thomas Playford, Premier of South Australia 1938–65.

He lived out the remainder of his life in Southern Rhodesia, continuing his quiet retirement under the territory's UDI administration.


  • Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine at the University of Rhodesia and of Salisbury, Rhodesia were named in his honour.

Early life and education

Huggins was born at 'Dane Cottage', Knoll Road, Bexley in north Kent (now a borough of London), the second child, but eldest son of a stockbroker. The family later moved to a property his father built, 'Shore House' in Sevenoaks, a town about 27 miles from London. He was educated at Brunswick House, a preparatory school in Hove and then moved to Sutherland House, a similar school in Folkestone.

He suffered a severe infection of the left middle ear at the age of 11, which left him deaf on that side and delayed his move to Malvern College in 1898,. The Malvern Register 1865–1904, 1905. p. 414. a school from which he later took part of his title. From there he moved on to study medicine at St. Thomas's Hospital, London after some difficulty obtaining the necessary entrance examinations.

After practising medicine and training as a surgeon in London, spending some time as a Resident Superintendent at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Huggins travelled to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia in 1911, initially to act as a locum to some doctors there, but eventually deciding to stay on.

World War I

Huggins returned to the UK in late 1914 following the outbreak of war and joined the RAMC with the rank of Captain, stationed at Colchester Hospital which had become a casualty clearing station. Although he wanted to go to France he was sent to Malta where he dealt with incoming casualties from Gallipoli.

Doctors only had to serve for a year at that point in the war so in 1916 Huggins went out again to Southern Rhodesia but returned to the UK within a few months. This time he was posted to the Hammersmith Orthopaedic Hospital and then the Pavilion Hospital in Brighton. In 1917, he finally got to go to France with the 5th Cavalry Field Ambulance, attached to the 2nd Cavalry Division near Amiens. His surgical work at this time led to his writing a book, Amputation Stumps: Their Care and After Treatment (Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1918).

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