The Right Honourable Frederick William Mulley, P.C., M.P. (PoW in 1940)
Frederick William Mulley was born on 3rd July, 1918, son of a factory labourer. In 1929 he won a scholarship from his elementary school to Warwick School where he stayed till 1936. He enlisted as a Militia man into the Worcestershire Regiment in July, 1939, at Norton Barracks, and went to France with the 7th Battalion in December, 1939. He was promoted to Sergeant and was Intelligence Sergeant to the 7th Battalion during the retreat to Dunkirk in May, 1940. He was wounded and captured at Dunkirk, and spent five years as a prisoner-of-war in Germany. He used this period to continue his education, and studied for and passed various examinations, including the B.Sc. (Economics) of London University and became a Chartered Secretary. He also acted as welfare representative in his camp. 

On returning to Britain he won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a first-class honours degree in Modern Greats (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), and then won a post-graduate research studentship to Nuffield College. From Oxford he went to Cambridge, where from 1948 to 1950 he was Research Fellow in Economics at St. Catherine's College. He was an M.A. of both Universities—in itself a most unusual distinction.

Mr. Mulley next read for the Bar and was called in 1954. He has practised at the Chancery Bar. He had been a member of the Labour Party since 1936, and has served on its National Executive Committee from 1957 to 1958 and from 1960.

He unsuccessfully contested the constituency of Sutton Coldfield Division of Warwickshire in the Parliamentary General Election in 1945.

In 1948 he married Doris D. French and they had two daughters.

Formerly a clerk with the National Insurance Committee in Warwickshire, he later became an economist and research worker in economics and industrial problems. In 1950 he won the Parliamentary seat at Sheffield Park
, a position he held until retiring at the 1983 General Election.

During his time as an M.P. he became an active member of the House of Commons, served on the Select Committee on Estimates, was a member of a Parliamentary delegation which visited Germany in 1951, and during the same year Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Works. In 1957 he was a member of a Parliamentary delegation to Kenya.

From 1958 to 1961 he was a British representative to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe and the assembly of the Western European Union, and he has served as Vice-President of the Council of Europe's Economic Committee and as Vice-President of the W.E.U. Assembly and its Defence and Armaments Committee. He was rapporteur of the Defence Committee and is author of a book, "The Politics of Western Defence" (published in London and New York in 1962 and in Germany in 1963).

Mr. Mulley has travelled widely on Parliamentary missions in Europe, the U.S.A. (six visits), U.S.S.R., Africa and Asia.

During a long career in politics he held a variety of ministerial positions including Deputy Defence Secretary and Minister for the Army (1964-1965) and Privy Councillor, Minister of Aviation (1965-1967), Minister for Disarmament (1967-1969), Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1967-1969), and Minister of Transport (1969-1970 and 1974-1975). In 1975 Harold Wilson brought him to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education and Science, and in 1976 became Secretary of State for Defence a position he held until 1979.

After retiring from the House of Commons in 1983, he was awarded a life peerage on the 30th January 1984, becoming Baron Mulley of Manor Park in the City of Sheffield, and held a variety of directorial positions.

There is a main road named after him in the Lower Don Valley in Sheffield.

He has been author of many articles in economic and socialist publications, and a member of the editorial board of "Socialist Commentary." Adult education is still one of his great interests. He is a former lecturer for the Workers' Educational Association and other educational bodies.

Baron Mulley died at the age of 76 on the 15th March 1995. The Peerage became extinct on his death.


In 1965 Captain T. J. W. Seabrook an old friend of Frederick William Mulley's, , wrote of him:

"My last conversation with the Rt. Hon. Frederick Mulley, M.P., Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Minister of Defence for the Army, was from the floor of a school building in Bethune, which the Germans were using as a Forward Field Dressing Station.

It was the early morning of 28th May, 1940. He came into the room to see me; his head was swathed in heavily blood-soaked bandages. However, he was readily recognisable by his glasses, through which he peered at me. As I was wondering what had happened to him, he cheerfully told me that he was well, but that a bullet had taken a piece out of his ear. At that time the blood had not stemmed and he probably looked much worse than he felt.

After the hammering which the 5th Brigade had survived he, like many others in enemy hands, must have felt happy to be alive. With his customary courtesy, he asked if he could help me; but before we could finish our conversation he was hustled out by the orderlies who had arrived to move the stretcher cases. For him it was the start of five years of captivity; I was fortunate in being able to return home, in October, 1943.

In the preceding six months I had been intimately connected with him as the Intelligence N.C.O. of the 7th Battalion; during which time I had been intrigued by his mental capacity, his attention to detail and his evident organising ability. He had joined the Battalion with one of the best drafts which we could have hoped for, from Norton Barracks in October, 1939, where he had joined the Regiment with the first Militia intake, some three months earlier. In my opinion this was an outstanding draft of about 120; a very able body of fine young men—physically and mentally—and all of 21 years of age. Fred Mulley was one of six of the party who had been made Lance Corporals, whilst still under Recruit training.

Almost immediately after reaching Marlborough he became the Battalion Intelligence N.C.O. and just before going to France with the Vehicle party, on 1st January, 1940, he was appointed Lance Sergeant. In our area of Northern France he became a familiar figure skidding along the icy roads, within the confines of the 5th Brigade, and it was on a motor cycle that he went, with his Intelligence Section, to our forward positions on the River Dyle, in Belgium, on 10th May, 1940.

When the 2nd Division were ordered to hold the German advance on the Le Bassee Canal on 24th May 1940, the Battalion H.Q. soon became no more than a Platoon Post in this very far strung line. There was no depth at all as all the Rifle Companies were forward in all the Battalions of the Brigade.

By the night of Saturday, 25th May 1940, our casualties were very heavy and "A" Company on the left flank, adjoining the 1st Cameron Highlanders, had suffered considerably. Only one Subaltern, the late Pat Monahan, remained, and its C.S.M. had been killed. Sergeant Mulley went to "A" Company as C.S.M.; he was wounded two days later. There is no doubt that the stand of the 2nd Division, on the La Bassee Canal, was a major factor in making the miraculous evacuation of the B.E.F., via Dunkirk, a reality. Because of the confusion leading up to the withdrawal from Dunkirk, it would appear that credit has never really been accorded to the 2nd Division for its magnificent action, during those furious four days and nights holding the La Bassee Canal."