As a cabinet minister during the Second World War, Lord Woolton became “the face, voice and spirit of the Ministry of Food.” His regular radio broadcasts brought him wide attention and it has been claimed that, after Churchill, he was the “most popular and identifiable government minister.” He even had the honor of having a pie named after him, the Woolton Pie which was made mostly from vegetables.
Frederick Marquis, ennobled as Lord Woolton in 1939, was appointed to the Ministry of Food by Neville Chamberlain in April 1940, and was retained in the position by Churchill on his becoming prime minister and forming a cabinet the next month. In November 1943, Woolton was moved to the Ministry of Reconstruction, where he directed post-war planning. Although a non-party minister, he remained in the cabinet after the coalition dissolved in 1945, serving as Lord President of the Council in Churchill’s caretaker government.
The Diaries and Letters of Lord Woolton, 1940-1945 edited by Michael Kandiah and Judith Rowbotham provides selections from Woolton’s diary and correspondence as well as excerpts from the cabinet papers, official memorandum, and his speeches. These documents are accompanied by a 100-page biographical essay on Woolton including an overview of his contribution at the ministries of Food and Reconstruction.
Woolton was never an intimate of Churchill and as the editors note his relationship with the prime minister was “always challenging.” He was often frustrated with Churchill but “when in a cooler frame of mind, Woolton was always able to better judge Churchill’s capabilities in a positive light.”
The Diaries and Letters of Lord Woolton, 1940-1945 is an excellent addition to the published collections of primary documents. The diary and correspondence provide further insight on the deliberations and decision-making in Churchill’s cabinet.