Monday 25 April 2022

Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865 –1922)

With thanks to AC Benus* for suggesting I research Alfred and for finding Alfred's WW1 book.

Born in Chapelizod, County Dublin, Ireland, on 15th July 1865, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth ‘s parents wereAlfred and Geraldine Harmsworth.   He was educated at Stamford School in Lincolnshire, England, from 1876 and at Henley House School in Kilburn, London from 1878.  One of the masters at Henley House who was to prove important to his future was J. V. Milne, the father of A. A. Milne, who according to H. G. Wells was at school with him at the time and encouraged Harmsworth to start the school magazine.

Alfred began his newspaper career as a freelance journalist and started his own newspaper.  He seemed to have a sense for what people wanted to read and during the 1890s set up a series of cheap magazines, among them “Comic Cuts” and “Forget-me-Not”. On 4th May 1896, Alfred published the first edition of “Daily Mail” newspaper in London. It was an instant success and held the world record for daily circulation until his death on 14th August 1922.

Created a Baronet, of Elmwood, in the parish of St Peters in the County of Kent in 1904, during 1905 Alfred was raised to the peerage as Baron Northcliffe, of the Isle of Thanet in the County of Kent.  During the First World War, Alfred criticized the British government in 1915 over the lack of shells to send to the Fronts. He was in charge of a mission to the United States during 1917, and was director of enemy propaganda during 1918. Alfred’s influence on anti-German propaganda during WW1 was so great that a German warship was sent to shell his house – “Elmwood” in Broadstairs, Kent, in an attempt to assassinate him. The house still bears a shell hole because the wife of the gardner was killed during the attack.

In 1918, Alfred was made Viscount Northcliffe of St Peter's in the County of Kent, for his service as the director of the British war mission in the United States.   He died on 14th August 1922.

"Lord Northcliffe's War Book - with chapters on America at war, was published in 1916 by George H. Doran & Co. and was sold in aid of the Red Cross. This is from the Introduction:


This assembly of some of my letters, telegrams,

cablegrams, and other writings about the war,

and kindred matters, has been made at the re

quest of the British Red Cross Society and Order

of St. John.

The generosity of the publishers will permit

any profit that may arise to pass to the Joint

Committee of those Societies.


The Portrait of Alfred Charles William Harmsworth in 1895 is by  Sir Leslie Matthew Ward (1851 – 1952).

*AC Benus is the author of a book about German WW1 poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele : “The Thousandth Regiment: A Translation of and Commentary on Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele’s War Poems” by AC Benus (AC Benus, San Francisco, 2020). Along with Hans's story, the book includes original poems as well as translations.    ISBN: 978-1657220584