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News > Deaths & Obituaries > IRONSIDE, Edmund Oslac

IRONSIDE, Edmund Oslac

You are warmly welcomed to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of The 2nd Baron Ironside, who we sadly lost in 2020
LORD IRONSIDE, Edmund Oslac, (The 2nd Baron)

Died on 13 January, aged 95. Husband of the late Audrey, father of Charles and Fiona and grandfather of Oliver, Anthea, Emily, Alice, Freddie and Alexandra.

The following obituary was published in The Telegraph on 23 January 2020:

The 2nd Baron Ironside, the son of the wartime field marshal, who has died aged 95, carved out a career as a defence sales engineer and a campaigner for electric vehicles, a then unfashionable cause.

Unlike his father, who did not speak in the House of Lords in the 20 years he held a peerage, Ironside was an active participant from the Conservative benches until his exclusion with most of the hereditaries in 1999.

Edmund Ironside made the biggest headlines of his life in January 1940 when, aged 15, he was taken out of school to visit the front line to see his father receive the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur from General Gamelin, Supreme Commander of the Allied armies.

Standing beside Churchill – then first Lord of the Admiralty – outside a chateau “somewhere in France”, he told reporters: “I’ve never been so thrilled in my life.” Young Edmund was taken to a fort on the Maginot Line, and saw anti-aircraft guns firing at a German spotter plane; he confessed himself “otherwise not deeply impressed”, adding that he was “really keen on the Navy”.

Several newspaper readers wrote in to ask why this schoolboy, of all others, had been allowed to visit the front line, and who had paid for the trip.

Ironside was replaced as Chief of the Imperial General Staff just before Dunkirk, and his son in due course joined the Navy, serving for nine years before going into industry.

Field Marshal Ironside died in 1959, his funeral being held in Westminster Abbey. Edmund succeeded him as 2nd Baron the day after his 35th birthday.

In 1972 Ironside published High Road to Command: The Diaries of Maj-Gen Sir Edmund Ironside 1920-22, set largely in the Near East during the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. He aroused some controversy by repeating the story that Lord Curzon, seeing his troops bathing behind the lines in Flanders, commented: “Dear me, I had no conception that the working classes had such white skins.”

Pressed by supporters of Curzon, Ironside said the comment had not come from his father’s day-to-day diaries but was a later recollection.

Edmund Oslac Ironside was born on September 21 1924, the son of William Edmund Ironside and the former Mariot Cheyne. As a child he acquired the nickname Bing, after his godfather Lord Byng of Vimy.

He joined the Royal Navy straight from Tonbridge School, spent time post war with the Mediterranean Fleet, then served in HMS Howe at Plymouth and Excellent at Portsmouth. He was invalided out as a lieutenant in 1952.

Ironside took a job with Marconi selling radar equipment, then in 1959 joined English Electric, negotiating government contracts for its Leo computer. Spells followed with Cryosystems and International Research and Development.

During this time he became president of the Electric Road Vehicle Association, criticising the “negative attitude” toward electric power of the AA, the RAC and the motor industry.

In 1984 Northern Engineering Industries recruited him to manage their defence sales. When five years later Rolls-Royce acquired NEI they kept him on as a consultant; he finally retired from industrial work in 1995.

It was 1965 before Ironside spoke in the Lords, in support of the European space programme. Two years later, with the Conservative MP John Osborn, he launched a campaign for a National Library of Parliament, to which MPs and the public would have access.

Ironside served on the Lords’ European Community Select Committee, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee and the All-Party Energy Studies Group, and spoke mainly on scientific issues. In the 1990s, when he no longer had an interest to declare, he specialised in defence procurement and chaired the All-Party Defence Study Group.

When in 1999 all but 92 hereditaries lost their seats, he put his name forward for one of the 42 ballotted places for Conservative peers, finishing 68th with a creditable 56 votes.

In the 1980s Ironside had to sell Broomwood Manor, near Chelmsford, and move to a smaller home after cancer treatment left his wife in constant pain, with a useless left arm. Lady Ironside sued the consultant radiotherapist, but after a High Court hearing in 1991 she dropped the case.

Lady Ironside then founded Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure (Rage), a charity for women who have suffered excessive radiation during cancer treatment.

Ironside was master of the Skinners’ Company in 1982. He was also at various times president of Chelmsford Sea Cadets, vice-president of the Institute of Patentees and Inventors, and a member of the court and council of City University and the University of Essex.

Lord Ironside married Audrey Morgan-Grenville in 1950; she died in 2015. He is survived by their son and daughter, and succeeded as 3rd Baron by his son, the Hon Charles Edmund Grenville Ironside, born July 1 1956.

(MH 1938-1940)

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