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The Papers of Sir Patrick Nairne

Reference Code: GBR/0014/NRNE

Scope and Contents

Comprising correspondence, working papers, speeches, diaries and audio tapes


  • 1939 - 2013


Conditions Governing Access

Closed until catalogued.

Conditions Governing Use

When the collection is opened, researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

Patrick Dalmahoy Nairne was born in London, 15 August 1921, the son of Charles Sylvester Nairne and Edith Dalmahoy Nairne (née Kemp). He was educated at Hordle House School, 1930-5, Radley College, 1935-40, and University College, Oxford, 1940 and 1946-7. He married Penelope Chauncy Bridges in 1948, with whom he had three sons and three daughters.

During the Second World War, he served with the Seaforth Highlanders, 1941-5; saw action in North Africa, Sicily, and North West Europe; and was awarded the Military Cross, 1943. On completing his degree, he entered the Civil Service and was posted to the Admiralty, 1947-63, where he was Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, 1958-60, and Assistant Secretary, 1960-63. After the reorganisation of the Service Departments into one Ministry of Defence, he became Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence, 1965-7, and then Assistant Under-Secretary, 1967-70, and Deputy Under-Secretary, 1970-3. He was appointed Second Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office, where he headed the Civil Contingencies Unit, 1973-5, and Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health and Social Security, 1975-81.

After his retirement from the Civil Service, he became Master of St Catherine's College, Oxford, 1981-8, and Chancellor of Essex University, 1983-97.

He was also a member of the Falkland Islands Review Committee (the Franks Committee), 1982; a Government Monitor in Hong Kong, 1984; Chairman of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 1991-6; and Chairman of the Commission on the Conduct of Referendums, 1996. He became involved with the campaign for the repeal of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act and for a Freedom of Information Act.

He was appointed CB, 1971, KCB, 1975, and GCB, 1981, and became a member of the Privy Council, 1981. He was also an Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford, from 1981, and St Catherine's College, Oxford, from 1988.

He died in Oxfordshire on 4 June 2013.


61 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were transferred to Churchill Archives Centre by his son, Sandy Nairne, 2018.


This collection level description was created by Sophie Bridges, February 2018. Biographical information was obtained from Wikipedia, Who's Who and a chronology compiled by Sir Patrick Nairne and his family.


Nairne, Sir Patrick Dalmahoy, 1921-2013, Knight, civil servant

2018-02-14 16:40:47+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087