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Richard Rapier Stokes

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Richard Rapier Stokes (1897-1957) of Ransomes and Rapier

Second son of Phillip Folliot Stokes, who was a brother of Wilfrid Stokes, previous chairman and MD of Ransomes and Rapier



1957 Obituary [1]

MR. RICHARD RAPIER STOKES, M.P., died in London on August 3, at the age of sixty. He had broken three ribs when his car overturned in a ditch on July 21, and had been ill with bronchitis since the accident.

Mr. Stokes was born on January 27, 1897, and was the second son of a barrister, Phillip Folliot Stokes. He was captain of the school at Downside, the first under the newly introduced prefectorial system. His uncle was the inventor of the Stokes mortar, and the young man saw the weapon in use while serving with the Royal Artillery on the Western Front in the war of 1914-18. He won the M.C. with bar, and the Croix de Guerre, and was gazetted major when twenty years old.

After obtaining his degree and a Rugby Blue at Trinity College, Cambridge, he entered the family business of Ransomes and Rapier, Ltd., and became its chairman in 1927 at the age of thirty. In addition, he was managing director both of Ransomes and Rapier, Ltd., and of Cochran and Co. (Annan), Ltd.

But as well as being an industrialist, Mr. Stokes was a prominent politician. After joining the Labour Party he contested Central Glasgow, but suffered defeat. He won Ipswich in a by-election in 1938, however, and retained it for the rest of hts life. Outspoken and without fear, he would say what he thought, with forceful clarity, and, in spite of his good humour, he would pay little regard to any embarrassment he might cause. He was active in opposition to the Coalition Government all through the war years, and was particularly critical of the situation that arose over the supply of tanks. He criticised the Labour Government of 1945-50 with equal vigour when he differed on policy, notably in connection with the Middle East, the American loan, and the administration of Western Germany.

In 1950, R. R. Stokes became Minister of Works; he was appointed Lord Privy Seal in April, 1951, and Minister of Materials in July of the same year. In the latter capacity he was sent to negotiate with Dr. Mossaddek when the Persian oil crisis arose. The apparent failure of this mission was never attributed to the fact that Stokes was the emissary, and it was generally agreed that he performed his task as well as anybody could have done. He was certainly a unique member of the Labour Cabinet a business man possessing both wealth and ability in full measure. His last charge was to set in hand and fulfil an armament programme the projection of which had led to two Cabinet resignations, those of Mr. Aneurin Bevan and Mr. Harold Wilson. The Government fell shortly afterwards and it has been suggested that Stokes lost the chance to prove himself in a commission upon which he had entered with energy and skill. Last autumn he was defeated in elections for the Labour Party's "shadow Cabinet," and a few months ago he was associated with Sir Hartley Shawcross in public criticism of plans for further nationalisation.

Throughout his political career, Stokes enjoyed the role of the hard-hitting critic, though he always delivered his blows without malice - essentially he was a generous and likeable man. He won a reputation for efficiency during his ministerial days, and the Conservative opposition recognised this not without allusion to its supposed origin in his business experience. His brief stay at or around the summit did not spoil him, and he is said to have claimed never to have been other than "a back-bencher at heart." He fretted under political discipline, and did not suffer gladly the restraint of the party line. A deeply religious man, he was alone in his protest against the bombing of Cologne during the last war: He had distinguished himself in the field in 1914-18, but he returned from the war with a deep and lasting hatred of it. His generosity coloured both his public and his personal relationships. When rearmament was first suggested by the Government in the early 'thirties, Stokes offered that all work by his firm for this purpose should be done at no more than cost price. It was, however, an offer that was rejected.



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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1957/08/09