Archibald Henry Macdonald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso KT, CMG, PC, lived from 22 October 1890 to 15 June 1970. He was a politician who served in the government in the Second World War and was leader of the Liberal Party. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Archibald Sinclair was the son of a Scottish father and an American mother. He was educated in England at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and became an officer in the Life Guards in 1910. He served on the Western Front during the First World War and rose to the rank of Major in the Guards Machine Gun Regiment. During this time he came to know Winston Churchill well during the latter's service on the Western Front after the defeat at Gallipoli. Between 1919 and 1922 he served as Churchill's Private Secretary, first in the War Office and then in the Colonial Office.
In 1918 Sinclair married Marigold Forbes and they had four children. Sinclair had inherited his father huge estates in Caithness, totalling some 100,000 acres, making him one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom.
In 1922, Sinclair became the Liberal Member of Parliament for Caithness and Sutherland, in terms of area the largest constituency in the UK at the time. In 1930 he became the party's Chief Whip and in 1931, after the Liberal Party joined the National Government of Ramsay MacDonald, Sinclair was made Secretary of State for Scotland. He resigned the following year over tariff agreements. After the 1935 General Election, Sinclair became leader of a party with only 20 MPs. When Winston Churchill formed an all-part government at the beginning of the Second World War, Sinclair became Secretary of State for Air, taking control of the bombing offensive against Germany, including the controversial firebombing of Dresden.
He remained a minister until the coalition ended in May 1945. In the General Election that followed, he lost his parliamentary seat in one of the closest contests ever recorded, coming third despite having only 59 votes fewer than the winner. In the 1950 General Election, Sinclair again failed to take his old seat, coming second by 269 votes. In 1952 he was ennobled and elevated to the House of Lords as 1st Viscount Thurso. His aim of taking up the leadership of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords was thwarted by ill health, and he died in 1970.
In 2001 one of Archibald Sinclair's grandsons, John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso was elected to the House of Commons to represent the seat of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, thus becoming the first hereditary peer of the United Kingdom to enter the House of Commons without renouncing his title. One of Archibald's granddaughters is Veronica Linklater, Baroness Linklater of Butterstone, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.