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George Tomlinson

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George Tomlinson

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, April 1945
5 3/4 in. x 4 3/8 in. (146 mm x 112 mm) image size
Commissioned, 1945
Photographs Collection
NPG x185714

Sitterback to top

  • George Tomlinson (1890-1952), Politician; Minister of Works and Education. Sitter in 5 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Walter Stoneman (1876-1958), Photographer. Artist associated with 18527 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

Events of 1945back to top

Current affairs

Despite Churchill's popularity during, and indeed after, the War, Clement Attlee wins a landslide Labour victory in the general election. Labour's success was due to its promise of a better society through the Welfare state, and was demonstrative of the public's desire for a new and better post-War society.

Art and science

Noel Coward's Brief Encounter is released. The film, based on Coward's play, Still Life, is about the love affair between two married people who meet at a railway station. Conscious of the risk of being caught the couple decide to break off their relationship to protect their marriages.
George Orwell publishes his satirical novel Animal Farm, as an allegorical critique of Soviet Totalitarianism.


A war on two fronts finally proves too much for Germany as allied forces push from the East and West. On the 30th April Hitler committed suicide and Germany soon surrendered to Soviet troops. Victory in Europe was announced on the 8th May. War in the Pacific continued until America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 214,000 people, and ending the war with Japan.

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David Innes

14 April 2019, 23:02

Biography by Fred Blackman, Heinemann

George Tomlinson was the Education Minister in Atlee’s post war UK Labour government, yet he left school aged 12. He’d served as a junior minister in Churchill’s wartime coalition and had notable success in the unanimous passing through parliament of a bill to assist the disabled in gaining access to employment.

Tomlinson was a cheeky chappy from Lancashire. Turned down for ordination to the Methodist ministry, he kept his faith, but devoted his energy to his trade union as a cotton worker and to serving as a Labour councillor with a special interest in education.

He is known for his wit and his biographer claims him as the originator of a couple of classic jokes. Boy to doctor, when my hand recovers, will I be able to play the piano? Yes. That’s funny, I couldn’t play it before. And the one about the man who was grateful for his full recovery so that he could return to his a burglar.

When Attlee came to power as the war ended, Tomlinson drew the short straw and became Minister of Works, responsible for the supply of building materials at the time that there weren’t any. He did have an able young assistant in future prime minister, Harold Wilson.

The role brought Tomlinson into an unlikely close relationship with the royal family. He joked that he was the king’s landlord. The surprising closeness is shown by a letter written by the queen to him (remembered now as the later Queen Mother) whilst he was seriously ill in hospital even though her own husband was in the same situation. Neither would recover.

The course for Education had already been set by the 1944 Education Act and the later increase in the school leaving age to 15. Tomlinson’s job was to recruit the extra teachers and build the new schools. He never tired of laying foundation stones. He appears to have been hugely popular in this role. The heads of Grammar Schools, after one of his speeches, sang “For he’s a jolly good fellow”. Education in the UK has suffered from constant change. Tomlinson gave it a rare period of 4.5 years of stability and encouragement.

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