Galloper Jack Seely, Churchillian

Galloper Jack Seely, Churchillian

A col­league asks if it’s true that Churchill com­rade Jack Seely was “arrest­ed for arro­gance” in the Boer War! It doesn’t sound to either of us like an arrestable offense, but fits the character—a lord­ly aris­to­crat-adven­tur­er, and thus almost inevitable Friend of Winston.
Churchill and Seely, cir­ca 1912.

A Churchill biog­ra­ph­er, Esme Wing­field-Strat­ford, agreed: “Gal­lant Jack Seely, from the Isle of Wight…a light-heart­ed gam­bler with death, was about the one man who could claim a record to com­pare with that of Win­ston himself.”

C.N True­man thinks that Jack Seely could not have lived in the 21st cen­tu­ry. “He tru­ly belonged to an era asso­ci­at­ed with the British Empire and the atti­tudes embed­ded into a soci­ety that at one point had a gov­ern­ment that con­trolled a quar­ter of the world.”

Dig­ging in, we find Seely a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter, enough to encour­age  an arti­cle. It will appear short­ly in the “Great Con­tem­po­raries” series on the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project web­site.

Galloper Jack

Like Churchill, “Gal­lop­ing Jack” Seely, lat­er Lord Mot­ti­s­tone (1868-1947), was a sol­dier-states­man. Aboard his famous horse “War­rior,” Seely led Cana­di­ans in the last major cav­al­ry charge, at Moreuil Wood in 1918. (That was twen­ty years after Omdur­man, in which Churchill par­tic­i­pat­ed, and is often erro­neous­ly described as the last of its kind). “War­rior” has been cit­ed as the mod­el for the nov­el and motion pic­ture War Horse.
Seely met Churchill at Har­row. He lat­er recalled the aston­ish­ing scene of young Win­ston show­ing his aged nan­ny, Mrs. Ever­est, around the school—risking the deri­sion of fel­low pupils. It was, Seely recalled, the bravest act he’d ever seen. Like Churchill, he served in the Sec­ond Boer War, though as a sol­dier not a war cor­re­spon­dent. Men­tioned four times in despatch­es, he was award­ed the DSO in 1900.
Again like Churchill, Seely entered Par­lia­ment as a Con­ser­v­a­tive and harassed his par­ty as a mem­ber of the “Hooli­gans,” the young bloods who often crit­i­cized the Estab­lish­ment. A free-trad­er like WSC, Seely resigned from the Tories in 1904, and was reelect­ed unop­posed as an inde­pen­dent Con­ser­v­a­tive. In 1906 he joined the Lib­er­al Par­ty, where he remained until 1922.  Seely and Churchill were called “rats” by their for­mer par­ty.  In 1912 dur­ing a hot debate on Irish Home Rule, Churchill waved his hand­ker­chief at the Tory oppo­si­tion. Infu­ri­at­ed, an Ulster Union­ist threw the Speaker’s copy of the stand­ing orders at Churchill, draw­ing blood. Seely escort­ed Churchill from the House.

Seely’s Later Life

​Jack Seely suc­ceed­ed Churchill as Colo­nial Under­sec­re­tary in 1908 and Air Min­is­ter in 1921. He served betimes as Min­is­ter of War, with­out dis­tinc­tion; the Cur­ragh Mutiny occurred on his watch.​ Churchill was once accused of being the worst War Min­is­ter in his­to­ry. He replied, not while Jack Seely was still alive.
The two of them enjoyed some mem­o­rable ban­ter. It was to Seely  that Churchill quipped:

Jack, when you cross Europe you land at Marsay, spend a night in Lee-on and anoth­er in Par-ee, and, cross­ing by Callay, even­tu­al­ly reach Lon­dres. I land at Marsales, spend a night in Lions, and anoth­er in Paris, and come home to LONDON!

(Angli­ciz­ing for­eign names was typ­i­cal of Churchill. When, dur­ing World War II, a staffer pro­nounced the Ger­man place name Wal­shavn as “Var­ll­sharvern.” WSC remon­strat­ed: “Don’t be so B.B.C.—the place is WALLS-HAVEN.”)
All this is won­der­ful grub, though we found no answer to our orig­i­nal ques­tion: was Seely arrest­ed for arro­gance? The sto­ry might be in his grandson’s book Gal­lop­er Jack, or in Seely’s own auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Adven­ture—which his grand­son describes as “not exact­ly understated.”
Jack Seely was cer­tain­ly no shrink­ing vio­let. It’s worth learn­ing more about him.

3 thoughts on “Galloper Jack Seely, Churchillian

  1. I am a reg­u­lar read­er and I often post your con­nec­tions on the Gilbert High­et Soci­ety on FB. We get between 25-100 likes there and more over time. Churchill has to be my favorite his­tor­i­cal fig­ure along with Lin­coln, TR, FDR and JFK. Among the ancients I love Cicero and Per­i­cles. King Arthur, Alfred the Great and George Wash­ing­ton are right up there too.

  2. Won­der­ful stuff. I always find out some­thing new about Churchill and his con­tem­po­raries. Car­ry on!

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