John Barnes, Historian

Sir Charles Hunter 3rd Baronet (1858-1924)

Charles Hunter was the last of an old family of London merchants who first came to prominence in the reign of Charles I. He was elected as one of the two Members for Bath in January 1910 and sat until 1918, when the seat was reduced to a single Member. However, his principal claim to notice is as the chairman of the executive committee of British Creditors of Russia Ltd. The association represented 300,000 British subjects who once owned or administered property in Russia or who were holders of Russian public securities. In that capacity and as Chairman of the General Council for the Assistance of the British Repatriated from Russia, Hunter devoted himself tirelessly to helping those, both British and Russian, who had suffered from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. He led a deputation in May 1923 which pressed for concerted parliamentary action on their claims1 and documented their sufferings in a letter to The Times on 12 July 1923. He was subsequently critical of the Mission of British Traders to Russia as he believed that outstanding claims must be settled before relations with the Soviet Union were normalised.2 He was a man noted for his straightforwardness, probity and strong sense of duty. He never spared himself where he thought he could render good service and there were many good causes that attracted his favourable attention.

Charles Roderick Hunter was the second son of Sir Claudius Stephen Paul Hunter, 2nd Baronet (1825-90) and his wife, Constance, daughter of William Ives Bosanquet. He married Agnes, daughter of Adam Kennard of Crawley Court, Hampshire in 1887 and succeeded to the title on his father’s death, his elder brother having predeceased him. His only son in turn predeceased him and the title became extinct. Hunter was born on 6 July 1858 and was educated at Eton. Joining the Rifle Brigade, he reached the rank of Captain and afterwards served as a major in the 1st London Rifle Volunteers. He retired from the army in 1890, the year in which he succeeded his father, but commanded a half battalion of volunteers in the Easter manoeuvres near Portsmouth in 1892 and remained active in the City of London Rifle Brigade through the 1890s. He served as Inspector of Musketry, Imperial Yeomanry, in the South African War, receiving the Queen’s Medal with three clasps.

Hunter was evidently a supporter of tariff reform and, already named as the candidate for Bath, also campaigned strongly against the Licensing Bill in 1908. Chamberlain endorsed his candidature in January 1910 and he was elected alongside Lord Alexander Thynne as one of the two Unionist MPs for Bath. He and his wife visited South Africa in 1911 and he went to Canada under the auspices of the British Empire Agency in the summer of 1912.. He made a brief fact-finding trip to the Balkans in 1913 and was critical of Bulgarian conduct in an account of his trip published in the National Review. In March 1914 he asked about orders for the mobilisation of the reserve and provoked a direct negative from Sir Edward Grey that there had been any such orders. He was amongst those critical of recruiting failures before the war and it is no surprise to find him amongst the signatories of the National Manifesto of the National Service League in August 1915 which called for universal national service. He took an active part in the campaign to secure the introduction of conscription. He voted against the enfranchisement of women in October 1918.

After standing down from the Commons he served as Chairman of the executive committee of British Creditors to Russia Ltd and Chairman of the General Council for the Assistance of the British Repatriated from Russia. In November 1923 he succeeded Leslie Urquhart as President of the former body, but retained the Chairmanship. He was also a director of Ohlsson’s Cape Breweries.

He was an active member of the Royal Geographical Society and a tennis player.

He died on 24 June 1924 after an operation that was clearly unsuccessful. A brief obituary appeared in The Times on the following day.

1 The Times 9 May 1923 p.12

2 The Times Letters to the Editor15 September 1923