Continuing our series on MPs who died while serving in the First World War, Dr. Kathryn Rix looks at an unlikely former MP for Manchester South…
On 7th March 1918 Philip Kirkland Glazebrook was killed in action while serving with the army in Palestine. Six years earlier, to the very day, he had taken his seat in the Commons as the newly elected Conservative MP for South Manchester.
Unlike many of the MPs we have looked at in this series, Glazebrook did not come from a family with a tradition of parliamentary service. His grandfather, James Kirkland Glazebrook, was an Anglican clergyman, who served for more than 40 years as vicar of St. James’s, Lower Darwen, Lancashire. Born at Swinton Park, Salford on Christmas Eve 1880, Glazebrook was baptised in his grandfather’s church in February 1881. His father, John Knowles Glazebrook, was an oil merchant at Manchester. Tragically, he committed suicide at his residence at Lymm Hall, Cheshire, in 1897, having been suffering from acute insomnia for more than a year, and concerned about his failing eyesight. At the time of his father’s death, Glazebrook was a pupil at Eton. He subsequently attended New College, Oxford, graduating in 1903, and became a partner in the Manchester firm of Spurrier, Glazebrook and Co., oil merchants. Alongside his business interests, he travelled extensively, having a particular passion for big-game shooting in Africa. One report of his death carried the headline ‘M.P. and lion hunter’.
Glazebrook’s efforts to win a parliamentary seat did not run smoothly. Encouraged by Lord Derby, he abandoned a planned trip to Burma in order to stand as the Conservative candidate for South Manchester at the second general election of 1910, held in December. He accidentally missed the meeting at which the constituency’s Unionist council assembled to select him as their candidate. Having overcome that hurdle, he campaigned actively against the sitting Liberal MP, Arthur Haworth. However, due to an error by his election agent, Glazebrook arrived at Manchester town hall to lodge his nomination papers with the lord mayor six minutes after the deadline for nominations had closed. (His agent thought that nominations were to be made between noon and 2 p.m., but in fact it was between 10 a.m. and noon.) Haworth was therefore re-elected unopposed. He offered to resign his seat so that a contest could take place, but Glazebrook declined.
Haworth’s appointment by Asquith as a junior lord of the treasury in February 1912 meant that a by-election had to take place, giving Glazebrook the opportunity to challenge for the seat. In another case of unfortunate timing, when the vacancy was announced, Glazebrook was en route to Tenerife. His brother-in-law recollected that they had only just arrived on the island when Glazebrook received a telegram announcing the by-election. Not stopping to wait for his luggage, he ‘just managed to catch a returning steamer’, leaving for England with ‘nothing at all but the flannels he stood up in’. When he arrived at Southampton on the eve of the nomination he was ‘wearing the clothes of a fellow voyager’.
Glazebrook had already sent his election address to South Manchester from on board the SS Henry Woermann, its communication by wireless telegraphy being something of an electioneering novelty. He declared his support for ‘a reformed and efficient’ House of Lords and his opposition to Irish Home Rule and the disestablishment of the Welsh Church. He was critical of the Liberal ministry’s National Insurance Act and urged the need for Tariff Reform to protect industry. He used the telegraph to keep in touch with the progress of the campaign, during which several Conservative MPs came to speak on his behalf.
Alongside the subjects mentioned in Glazebrook’s address, women’s suffrage was another important election issue. Glazebrook opposed female enfranchisement, whereas Haworth approved of it in principle and had pledged to support the conciliation bill. Haworth was therefore endorsed by the Manchester Society for Women’s Suffrage (which was affiliated to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies), but the militant wing of the women’s suffrage movement (linked with the Women’s Social and Political Union) opposed him as a member of the Liberal government. It was, however, the Conservatives’ successful efforts to play up the unpopular aspects of the National Insurance Act which were considered to be decisive in allowing Glazebrook to win the seat with a majority of 579 votes. His victory was, according to one account, ‘probably as big a surprise to himself as to everybody else’.
Having achieved his ambition of entering Parliament, Glazebrook ‘did not find his new duties very congenial’. One obituary suggested that he was ‘perhaps, altogether too modest and unassuming to make a great figure as a Parliamentarian’. Aside from questions to ministers, he did not contribute to debate until January 1913, when he spoke on conditions in Somaliland, which he had visited on hunting expeditions. Glazebrook had served in the Cheshire yeomanry since 1901, and when the First World War broke out, he enthusiastically mobilised for service, and was promoted to the rank of major. He was stationed at Great Yarmouth in November 1914 when it was bombarded by the German navy. In March 1916 the Cheshire yeomanry sailed for Egypt, and the following year they merged with the Shropshire yeomanry to form the 10th Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Glazebrook served for two years in Egypt and Palestine, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The citation praised ‘his courageous bearing and great coolness’ which enabled the safe withdrawal of two companies which had come under enemy machine-gun fire. Said to be ‘passionately devoted to his soldierly duties’, he refused to take leave on several occasions in order to remain with his men, Only a week before his death he was in hospital in Cairo ‘completely worn out after much hard fighting’. He was killed on 7th March 1918 when his battalion came under shell-fire while advancing northwards at Bireh, near Jerusalem. He was buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery, with the inscription ‘All that he hoped for and all that he had he gave’ on his headstone. The same words were on the memorial which his mother erected to him at St. Luke’s Church, Goostrey, Cheshire, where his brother-in-law was vicar.