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The Papers of Edward Spears and Mary Borden

Reference Code: GBR/0014/SPRS

Scope and Contents

The papers include: correspondence; domestic and personal papers; early family correspondence, particularly among ELS's mother's relatives; diaries, including ELS's journals as a liaison officer with the French from the First World War and as Head of the British Mission to de Gaulle during the Second World War; some political papers and military maps; speeches and articles; manuscripts of books and short stories, with literary correspondence and original and copied source material from Spears's work as Churchill's personal representative to the French Government in 1940; press cuttings; photographs; business papers, mainly relating to ELS's chairmanship of the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation and the Institute of Directors.

The archive also includes the papers of ELS's first wife, Mary Borden, particularly her correspondence with ELS, and her letters and diaries relating to her First World War hospital and the work of the Hadfield-Spears Mobile Hospital Unit during the Second World War.


  • Creation: 1847 - 1989

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Edward Louis Spiers was born in Paris, 7 August 1886, the son of Charles McCarthy Spiers and Marguerite Melicent Hack. He was mainly brought up by his grandmother, Lucy Harriet Hack, at her villa in Menton; Voutenay, his cousins' château in Burgundy; and Donadea Castle, in County Kildare, Ireland. He was educated privately and at boarding school in Neuwied, Germany, 1901-2. He married (1st) Mary Borden ('MS') in 1918 (she died in 1968), with whom he had one son, and (2nd) Nancy Maurice in 1969.

He joined the Kildare Militia, 1903, and was gazetted into the 8th Hussars, 1906. A polo injury prevented him travelling with his regiment to India and he transferred instead into the 11th Hussars, 1911. At the outbreak of the First World War, he was working at the French War Office in Paris and with British agents in Belgium. He was posted as a liaison officer between General Lanrezac of the French Fifth Army and Field Marshal Sir John French, the British Commander-in-Chief, 1914-17. He won the Military Cross and was wounded four times in action. He became head of the British military mission to the French War Office in Paris, 1917-20. At the time of his marriage to Mary Borden, in 1918, he decided to Anglicize his name and changed the spelling to Spears.

At the end of the war, he suffered a nervous breakdown and left the Army, 1920. He pursued a business career in London and stood for Parliament, first as National Liberal MP for Loughborough, 1922-4, then as Conservative MP for Carlisle, 1931-45. He was Winston Churchill's personal representative to the French Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud, May-June 1940, and escaped with General de Gaulle after the fall of France, continuing to work as British representative to him in London and North Africa, 1940. He was head of the British mission to the Free French in the Middle East, 1941, and first British minister to Syria and Lebanon, 1942-4.

On returning to England, he resumed his business career, most notably as Chairman of Ashanti Goldfields, from 1945, and Chairman of the Institute of Directors, 1948-66. He also concentrated on writing, producing a number of volumes based on his wartime experiences.

He died on 27 January 1974.

He was awarded the CBE, 1919, CB, 1921, and a knighthood, 1942; and was created a baronet, 1953.

His publications include: "Liaison, 1914" (1930); "Prelude to Victory" (1939); "Assignment to Catastrophe" (1954); "Two Men Who Saved France" (1966); "The Picnic Basket" (1967); and "Fulfilment of a Mission" (1977).


360 archive box(es)

Language of Materials



The first main section of the Spears Papers (about 200 boxes) was arranged into four series in 1978: SPRS 1, Correspondence; SPRS 2, Personal and family, which included a wide variety of material such as literary papers, diaries, correspondence with Mary Spears, speeches and political papers; SPRS 3, Business papers; SPRS 4, Miscellaneous, which was chiefly military maps.

Later accruals to the Spears Papers (chiefly accessions 545, 643, 1048 and 1740, consisting of about 160 boxes) were only incorporated into the main catalogue in 2007 and 2017, and in 2007 the whole structure of the archive was changed to take in the large amount of extra material. SPRS 1 (Correspondence) was left unaltered, while SPRS 3 (Business papers) was extended to include the individual file titles, as they had previously only been box-listed by year. SPRS 2 was left as Personal papers, but much of what had been in this series was added to new sections (SPRS 4-12), while the old SPRS 4 (Miscellaneous) was absorbed into various new series, mainly SPRS 6.

Note: some files had been paginated before cataloguing, so these pagination numbers may now appear out of order.

Other Finding Aids

Copies of this finding aid are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, and the National Register of Archives, London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were loaned to Churchill Archives Centre by Lady Spears, 1974, and further deposits were made via the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College, London, 1980, and by Colonel J. A. Aylmer, 1983, 1985, 1999 and 2013.

Related Materials

The majority of Spears's papers relating to the Middle East (1940-51) are held at St Antony's College Middle East Centre, Oxford. The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College, London hold the majority of Spears's papers relating to the First World War, plus literary papers, and photographs (1870-1974).


This collection level description was prepared by Sophie Bridges, October 2004. The collection was partly catalogued in 1978 and the remainder was fully catalogued by Katharine Thomson in 2007 and 2017. Biographical information was obtained from Max Egremont, "Under Two Flags: the life of Major General Sir Edward Spears" (1997); Sir Edward Spears' obituary in "The Times", 28 January 1974; "Who's Who 1897-1996"(A and C Black); and the website of the "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Updated with a note on papers held in other repositories by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre in March 2005.


Spears, Sir Edward Louis, 1886-1974, 1st Baronet, soldier, politician


Borden, Mary, 1886-1968, writer

2004-10-05 14:36:21+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