John Barnes, Historian

Apsley, Lady (d.1966)

When Lord Apsley was killed in an aircraft accident in the Middle East, his widow won the subsequent by-election in 1943, but failed to hold the seat in the 1945 General Election. Lady Apsley was a notable huntswoman, Master of the VWH (Earl Bathurst's) Hunt from 1946 to 1956, when a serious accident confined her to a wheelchair. She had earlier chaired the Women's section of the British Legion. Amongst her publications was an account, jointly written with her husband, entitled The Amateur Settlers (1925). Because of complaints about the treatment of "assisted" emigrants to Australia, he was despatched there under an assumed name and later joined by his wife. The book is an account of their experiences.

Viola Emily Mildred Meeking was born in 1895, the daughter of Captain Bertram Meeking and Viola Fletcher. She served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Marsh Court Military Hospital from 1914 to 1918. Her early interest in politics was fulfilled after her marriage to Lord Apsley in 1923. He was the MP for Southampton from 1922 until 1929 and in 1924 she became President of the Southampton Women's Conservative Association. Two years later she became President of the Links of Empire organisation.

Her husband's defeat in 1929 broke the link with Southampton and when he was elected for Bristol Central in 1931, she became the Chairman of the Bristol Women's Conservative Association 1932-52. She also served on the Sodbury Rural District Council 1941-3. In the early years of the war she served as Chief Commander of the Air Training Service. Like her husband, a keen pilot, she had obtained her pilot's licence in 1930.

She won Bristol Central in a four cornered fight by a larger majority (1,559) than that obtained by her husband in 1935, defeating the General Secretary of the ILP and Jennie Lee, who stood as an Independent/ The official Labour party observed the electoral truce, but in 1945 her Labour opponent ousted her in a straight fight by a majority of 5,676. She subsequently contested Bristol North East as a Conservative and National Liberal in February 1950. In 1952 she was awarded the CBE. From 1952-4 she served on the Central Council of the Victoria League.

Apart from hunting and flying, Lady Apsley was also a keen participant in Motor Trials and she contributed to the Light Car as well as to Country Life and The Field. In 1932 she co-authored a study of hunting and riding for women entitled To Whom the Goddess and four years later published a fascinating if rather disjointed account of hunting through the years, Bridleways through History. Her last book, The Fox Hunter's Bedside Book was published in 1950. She died on 20 January 1966.

The Apsleys had two sons, the eldest of whom inherited the Earldom.