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Brendan Bracken, 1st Viscount Bracken

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Title: Brendan Bracken, 1st Viscount Bracken  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Paddington North (UK Parliament constituency), A. V. Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough, List of MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1929, History Today, Bernard Sendall
Collection: 1901 Births, 1958 Deaths, British Businesspeople, British People of Irish Descent, British Publishers (People), Cancer Deaths in England, Conservative Party (Uk) Hereditary Peers, Conservative Party (Uk) Mps, Conservative Party (Uk) Peers, Deaths from Esophageal Cancer, First Lords of the Admiralty, Former Roman Catholics, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, People Educated at Sedbergh School, Politicians from County Tipperary, Uk Mps 1929–31, Uk Mps 1931–35, Uk Mps 1935–45, Uk Mps 1945–50, Uk Mps 1950–51, Viscounts in the Peerage of the United Kingdom
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Brendan Bracken, 1st Viscount Bracken

The Right Honourable
The Viscount Bracken
Brendan Bracken in 1947
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
25 May 1945 – 26 July 1945
Monarch George VI
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by A. V. Alexander
Succeeded by A. V. Alexander
Minister of Information
In office
20 July 1941 – 25 May 1945
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Duff Cooper
Succeeded by Geoffrey Lloyd
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Lord Dunglass
Succeeded by George Harvie-Watt
Personal details
Born 15 February 1901 (1901-02-15)
Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 57)
Nationality United Kingdom
Political party Conservative

Brendan Bracken, 1st Viscount Bracken, Bracken's department during the war years.


  • Early life 1
  • Business and political career 2
    • Assists in selection of Churchill 2.1
    • Support from USA 1940–41 2.2
  • Post-war years 3
  • Death 4
  • 2010 and 2015 television documentaries 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Brendan Rendall Bracken was born in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland, the second son and third of the four children of Joseph Kevin Bracken (1852–1904), builder and monumental mason, and his second wife, Hannah Agnes Ryan (1872–1928). His father had belonged to the IRB and was one of the seven founders of the GAA.

Widowed in 1904, by 1908 Hannah Bracken had moved her family (including two stepdaughters) to Dublin, where Brendan attended St Patrick's National School, Drumcondra, until 1910, when he was transferred to the O'Connell School, run by the Irish Christian Brothers. Distressed by his misbehaviour, his mother sent him in 1915 to Mungret College, a Jesuit boarding school in County Limerick, but he bolted in 1915 and ran up hotel bills. She then sent him to Australia to live with a cousin who was a priest in Echuca, Victoria. The young man led a nomadic existence in Australia, moving often but reading avidly and acquiring a self-education.[3]

In 1919 Bracken returned briefly to Ireland, finding his mother settled in County Meath. He distanced himself from his siblings who were in revolt over their father's inheritance, moving instead to settle in Liverpool. In 1920 he appeared at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, claiming to be 15 years old, an Australian, to have been orphaned in a bush fire, and to have a family connection to Montagu Rendell, the then-headmaster of Winchester College. Without fully believing this story, Sedbergh's headmaster, impressed by the depth of knowledge and eagerness to progress by the young Bracken, accepted him. By the end of one term he emerged having succeeded in blending his Irish republican heritage and his five formative years in Australia, with the elements and trappings of a British public school man. He might have had good reason for seeking to hide his Irish heritage as the War of Independence (1919–1921) aroused great hostility towards the Irish living in Great Britain.

For whatever reason this denial became a regular feature of his personal strategy in life. A second example occurred in 1926 when he met Major-General Emmet Dalton, a former senior commander in the new Irish Army, in London. This former British Army officer turned IRA confidant, who was one of General Michael Collins's right-hand men, recalled meeting Bracken at national school in Dublin. Bracken denied this, but Dalton insisted that he remembered the smell of Bracken's corduroy trousers. A third example occurred during the Second World War when Bracken told people that his brother had been killed in action at Narvik, when in fact his brother was alive, well, and asking Brendan for money, from Ireland.

Business and political career

After Sedbergh, whose "old boy" tie he used to good effect, Bracken was briefly a schoolmaster at Bishop's Stortford College. He then made a successful career from 1922 as a magazine publisher and newspaper editor in London. His initial success was based on selling advertising space to at least cover the cost of each number. In the 1923 election he assisted Winston Churchill's unsuccessful attempt to be elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester West, which started their political affiliation. Bracken himself stood for Parliament, being elected to the House of Commons in 1929 for the London constituency of North Paddington. Stanley Baldwin described Bracken as Churchill's "faithful chela", the Hindi word for disciple.[4]

Many of his early magazine stories included a political flavour and he commissioned articles from a wide range of politicians such as Churchill and Mussolini. Business and politics permanently overlapped in his life, in a similar way to the career of his occasional friend Lord Beaverbrook. He needed politicians for stories and they needed the publicity given by his publications. A supporter of Winston Churchill from 1923, when Churchill was out of Parliament and in the political wilderness, in the 1930s he was invited to join Churchill's "Other Club". Their lives changed from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. When Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, Bracken helped in moving him into Downing Street. Bracken was sworn of the Privy Council in 1940, despite his lack of ministerial experience. He served as, and was regarded as an excellent, Minister of Information from 1941 to 1945, after a short stint as Churchill's Parliamentary Private Secretary.[5]

He was reportedly unpopular with his civil servants, including a BBC's Indian Service. He was customarily referred to by MOI employees by his initials, B.B., the same initials as the character Big Brother. Orwell also resented the wartime censorship and need to manipulate information which he felt came from the highest levels of the MOI and from Bracken's office in particular. Many of the attempts to manipulate the media actually came from Government departments aside from that of Bracken, who constantly resisted his Prime Minister's desire to control the press. He was particularly vociferous in his support for the independence of the BBC, having re-structured the financial basis of the broadcaster and streamlined wartime foreign propaganda activities away from domestic reporting and news functions. His inside track with the Prime Minister was the source of intense envy and anger within both the civil service, and senior Conservative ranks. Churchill's son Randolph, also possibly envious of Bracken's close personal and political relationship with his father, summarized the jealous antipathy towards Bracken when he dismissed him as "the fantasist whose fantasies had come true".

Assists in selection of Churchill

In two matters relating to Churchill, Bracken can be said to have played a key part behind the scenes. When Neville Chamberlain prepared to resign in May 1940, his successor would be Churchill or Lord Halifax. The political issue at stake at the time was the formation of a British National Government, and the particular dilemma surrounded which of Chamberlain's potential successors would be acceptable to the Labour Party. The view in Churchill's mind was that the Labour Party would not support him, and he had therefore agreed with Chamberlain to nominate Lord Halifax. When Bracken became aware of Churchill's agreement to nominate Lord Halifax, he moved heaven and earth to convince Churchill that the Labour Party would indeed support him as Chamberlain's successor, and that Lord Halifax's appointment would hand certain victory to Hitler. Bracken advised Churchill tactically to say nothing when the three met to arrange the succession. After a deafening silence during which Churchill was expected to nominate Halifax, the latter obligingly ruled himself out and Churchill was put forward as Britain's wartime Prime Minister, having avoided any appearance of disloyalty to Chamberlain.[2]

Support from USA 1940–41

An interesting insight into the nature of the relationship between Churchill and Bracken is found in Churchill's history of World War II. Churchill writes that he had received telegrams from Washington about Lysaght's biography, Bracken and Hopkins had met in America in the late 1930s, and this personal tie helped speed the decision to assist Britain nearly a year before the USA actually entered the war.[7]

Churchill made remarkably few references to Bracken's role in his political and personal life. Several intriguing explanations exist for this, ranging from a situation where Bracken merged with the fabric of Churchill's life to the extent of becoming invisible, to the more likely situation in which Churchill agreed to comply with Bracken's unique quest for no personal glory. The latter might be summarized by Bracken's apparent motive: "True hero worship is an entirely selfless process."

Post-war years

In 1945 Bracken was briefly made First Lord of the Admiralty but lost the post in the fall of the Churchill government to Clement Attlee's Labour Party. He himself lost his North Paddington seat but soon returned to the Commons, as member of parliament for Bournemouth in a November 1945 by-election. He was a relentless critic of the Labour Government's policy of nationalisation and the retreat from Empire.[8] At the 1950 general election he was returned for Bournemouth East and Christchurch, a seat he held until the general election the following year. In early 1952 he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Bracken, of Christchurch in the County of Southampton,[9] but never used the title nor sat in the House of Lords. He retired from publishing in 1956.

His best-known business accomplishment was merging the Financial News into the Financial Times in 1945. The latter was published from Bracken House, London, clad in pink stone to match the colour of the paper, just east of St. Paul's Cathedral, which was remodelled in 1989. At this stage he was also publishing The Economist. In 1926, he was the founding editor of The Banker magazine and they still name their respected annual Bank of the Year awards "Brackens" in his honour.[10] The Banker featured a regular column called "Bracken",[11] focusing on providing views and perspectives on how to improve the global financial system.


Bracken died of esophageal cancer on 8 August 1958, aged 57, in London.[12] Although raised a Catholic, he refused the last rites of the Church despite efforts by his nephew, Rev Kevin Bracken, a Trappist monk at Bethlehem Abbey, Portglenone, County Antrim, to persuade him.

He was cremated without ceremony at Golders Green Crematorium.[13] Unmarried, the viscountcy died with him.[3]

2010 and 2015 television documentaries

On 21 December 2010, RTÉ One broadcast an hour-long TV documentary about his life entitled Brendan Bracken – Churchill's Irishman. The programme was made by Spanish production company, Marbella Productions, in association with RTÉ, and examined Lord Bracken's life through photographs, interviews, rare archive footage and dramatic reconstructions, and told of his importance in the areas of British political and journalistic life, despite his attempt to hide from history by having all his papers burned after his death.

The 2015 Television Documentary - "Churchill's Secret Son" is the 90 minute version of the previous documentary "Churchill's Irishman" -updated by the producers including additional images, stories about Lord Bracken's life and additional footage. The programme was telecast on Discovery UK's History Channel on Saturday, 24 January 2015 at 10pm, as part of the British History week, and coincided with the 50th Anniversary of Churchill's death in 1965.


  1. ^ Banking With Hitler on YouTube, BBC, 16 February 2006. Retrieved 31 July 2011
  2. ^ a b Lysaght, pp. 172–173
  3. ^ a b Bracken profile at Oxford DNB; accessed 26 February 2014.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Brendan Bracken Press Conference" 1943 photo,; accessed 26 February 2014.
  6. ^ Churchill, W. (2005) The Second World War, Vol. 3, Ch. 2. Penguin Classics. ISBN 0141441747. pp. 22–23
  7. ^ Lysaght, pp. 183–184.
  8. ^ Irish Times, 9 August 2008
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 39435. p. 194. 8 January 1952.
  10. ^ The Bank of the Year Awards", The Banker
  11. ^ "The Bracken Column" The Banker
  12. ^ His article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Volume 7, page 147) simply states his death cause as "throat cancer".
  13. ^ Note cremation was formally banned by the Catholic Church until 1963, and until 1966 Catholic priests were forbidden to officiate at cremation services.


  • Charles Lysaght (1979) Brendan Bracken. Allen Lane, London. ISBN 0-7139-0969-2.

External links

  • The Churchill Centre's review of Bracken's life, 2002
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Brendan Bracken
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Perring
Member of Parliament for Paddington North
Succeeded by
Sir Noel Mason-Macfarlane
Preceded by
Sir Leonard Lyle, Bt
Member of Parliament for Bournemouth
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East & Christchurch
Succeeded by
Nigel Nicolson
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Duff Cooper
Minister of Information
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Lloyd
Preceded by
Sir A. V. Alexander
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
Sir A. V. Alexander
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Bracken
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