Oliver Shewell Franks

Oliver Franks, Baron Franks

Oliver Shewell Franks, Baron Franks OM GCMG KCB CBE (16 February, 190515 October, 1992) was an English public servant and philosopher who has been described as 'one of the founders of the post-war world'.

Educated at Bristol Grammar School, a private school in Bristol, Oliver Franks was an Oxford academic, and Provost of Worcester College. He was a moral philosopher by training, serving as Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow between 1936-1946. Franks was involved in Britain's recovery after the Second World War. The knighted, Sir Oliver was the British Ambassador to the United States of America from 1948 to 1952. As ambassador, he strengthened the special relationship between the two countries. He was given a life peerage on 10 May 1962 as Baron Franks, of Headington in the County of Oxford.

Lord Franks was regularly called upon by the government of the day to chair important inquiries, and he is best known for his report in the aftermath of the Falklands War which ultimately exonerated Margaret Thatcher and her government from charges of having failed to heed warning signals of an Argentine invasion.

Early Biography

Oliver Shewell Franks married Barbara Tanner in 1932. She gave birth to two daughters and died in 1987.

WWII Biography

At the beginning of the war he was employed by the Ministry of Supply. During the war he achieved fame by replacing the supplies after Dunkirk, and also replaced supplies from losses in the Battle of the Atlantic.After the war he became Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, and was involved in a lecture entitled Central Planning and Control in War and Peace

Post War and Political Biography

Franks was a Liberal and a great supporter of Clement Attlee. And hated Ernest Bevin. He had frequent conversations with Winston Churchill and Nehru. In 1947 he joined George Marshall's team in their response to proposals of aid. He gave birth to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), and became chairman of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation. He also had the dubious distinction of having on his staff at various times Kim Philby and Guy Burgess and Donald Duart Maclean. It is said that there was one minor embarrassment early in his term. In 1948, a Washington radio station contacted ambassadors in the US capital, asking what each most wished for Christmas. The French ambassador said he would like to see peace throughout the world. The Russian ambassador wanted freedom for all people enslaved by imperialism. Sir Oliver Franks mistook the request, saying: “Well, it’s very kind of you to ask. I’d quite like a box of crystallised fruit.” When he returned to England from Washington he took up the post of Chairman of Lloyds Bank which he held from 1954 to 1962, although he remained a director until 1975. Between 1960 to 1962 he was also chairman of Friends Provident.

Later Biography

Franks gave the Reith Lecture in 1954 which was entitled Britain and the Tide of World Affairs. In 1960 he came a close second to Harold Macmillan who took up the Chancellorship of Oxford University. There was 1,697 votes for Macmillan, and 1,607 votes for Franks. Between 1965 and 1984 he was the Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.

Aged 77, in 1982 he conducted an enquiry into the events leading to the Falklands War. He was Chairman of the Board of Governors, of the United Oxford Hospitals, and of the Wellcome Trust, and of the Committee on Ministerial Affairs, of the Honours Scrutiny Committee, the President Kennedy Memorial Committee, the Rhodes Trust and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1962 he was appointed a CBE in 1942, KCB in 1946, a GCMG in 1952, Deputy Lieutenant for Oxfordshire in 1978, and was given a life peer as Baron Franks in 1962, and received the Order of Merit in 1977. - Franks died aged 87.



  • Danchev, Alex, 2004, 'Franks, Oliver Shewell, Baron Franks (1905-1992)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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