With World War II progressing, Heath was commissioned on an emergency basis on March 22, 1941, to serve as the second lieutenant in the 'Royal Regiment of Artillery,' also known as the 'Royal Artillery.'
He survived the May Blitz in Liverpool.
In 1942, he was promoted to the rank of captain and served as the regimental adjutant.
As an adjutant, he was part of the Normandy landings.
He took up the role of temporary major and led a battery. In this capacity, he extended artillery support to allied forces in France and Germany.
His services during the war earned him a mention in dispatches on November 8, 1945, and a membership of the ‘Order of the British Empire’ (MBE), ‘Military Division,’ on January 24, 1946.
In August 1946, he was demobilized.
On May 1, 1947, he was elevated to the position of lieutenant-colonel, a substantive rank. He joined the 'Honorable Artillery Company' (HAC) on September 1, 1951.
He was actively involved in the affairs of the ‘HAC’ during the 1950s.
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After the war, he topped the civil services examination and was posted in the ministry of civil aviation. There, he was involved in a project that aimed at enablimg British airports to use some of the World War II ‘Royal Air Force’ bases, especially in the home counties.
He resigned from this post in November 1947, to contest the 1950 general elections from Bexley, London. He was voted as the M.P. on February 23, 1950, and held on to the seat until May 14, 2001.
Winston Churchill appointed him as an opposition whip, and after the 'Conservative Party' won the 1951 general elections, he continued in the whip's office.
He had a mercurial growth, and in 1955, he served as the chief government whip.
His report on the views of the ‘Conservative’ M.P.s, on the successor of Anthony Eden, who resigned as the prime minister, favored Harold Macmillan. Thus, he helped Macmillan become the prime minister in early 1957 and worked with him as a minister of labor, a cabinet rank.
Macmillan appointed him as the ‘Lord Privy Seal’ in 1960 and assigned him with the responsibility of attaining membership of the ‘European Economics Committee,’ which is now part of the ‘European Union.’ However, the negotiations failed in 1963.
During Sir Alec Douglas-Home's tenure as the prime minister, he held the positions of the president of the ‘Board of Trade’ and the secretary of state for ‘Industry, Trade and Regional Development.’ In this capacity, he succeeded in revoking the policy of retail price maintenance.
After the loss at general elections in 1964, Home, before resigning from the party’s leadership role, reformed the process of choosing the party leader by introducing a democratic system. As a result of this, Heath was surprisingly voted to the party’s topmost position. He retained this post after the party’s defeat at the 1966 general elections.
His decision to sack Enoch Powell, after the controversial “Rivers of Blood” speech, was highly criticized by a section of the party.
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The 'Conservative Party' won the 1970 general elections, and Heath became the prime minister.
In 1970, amendments were made in the ‘National Insurance Act,’ which affected senior citizens and also brought positive changes in pensions for widows aged 40 and above.
He attempted to withdraw the military from its bases in the East of Suez.
The decimalization of British coinage was completed on February 15, 1971, within 8 months of him becoming the prime minister.
A lot of schemes, such as the ‘Family Fund,’ the ‘Invalidity Benefit,’ and the ‘Attendance Allowance,’ were introduced to favor children with congenital conditions, differently able people, people suffering from long-term illnesses, and their families.
The right to education was granted to children with Down syndrome in April 1971.
His attempts to suppress the Northern Ireland Troubles backfired. To avenge the internment in Northern Ireland, the ‘Active Service Unit’ of the ‘Irish Republican Army’ bombed his house. However, he was not hurt, as he was not present at the house at the time of the bombing.
A lot of programs were introduced to improve literacy, such as building of schools and provision of free school meals.
The ‘Family Income Supplement’ scheme came into effect from August 1971, to support low-income groups.
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The ‘Industrial Relation Act’ of 1971 tried to curb the powers of the trade unions. This action led to a strained relationship between the government and the labor forces. The striking dockworkers were apprehended. The trade unions retaliated with strikes in 1972 and 1974.
The ‘Local Government Act’ of 1972 reformed the local governments of England and Wales.
As unemployment and inflation rose during his tenure, he failed to implement the economic policies according to his electoral promises. He deviated from it, and the actions that followed were dubbed as "U-Turn." The measures adopted by Anthony Barber, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, created a boom, known as the 'Barber Boom,' which temporarily improved the economic condition and brought down the unemployment rate. However, the boom busted soon, and what ensued was a period of recession.
The ‘Social Security Act’ of 1973 was passed to replace the ‘National Insurance Act.’
The U.K. became a member of the ‘European Community’ on January 1, 1973.
He was conferred with the ‘Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sanmanona,’ or the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honour.’
The country’s relationship with the U.S. soured, but their ties with China improved.
He resigned after the 'Conservative Party' failed to attain an absolute majority and negotiations with the 'Liberal Party' to form a coalition government fell apart.
After the election debacle, he fell out of favor with his party men, and Margaret Thatcher won the elections on February 4, 1975, replacing him as the party leader.
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He continued to serve the party and was an M.P. until 2001, though he was opposed to the party’s policies.
In 1992, he became one of the longest-serving M.P.s and was made the “Father of the House.” In April that year, he was made the “Knight of the Garter.”
Family, Personal Life, & Death
Heath remained unmarried till his death.
He enjoyed yachting and owned the yacht named ‘Morning Cloud.’ He also won the ‘Sydney to Hobart Race’ in 1969.
He led the British team to victory at the ‘Admiral’s Cup’ in 1971.
He had a keen interest in classical music and was an acclaimed organist, pianist, and conductor. He conducted the ‘London Symphony Orchestra’ in November 1971.
In 1976, he became the founding president of the ‘European Community Youth Orchestra,’ now known as the ‘European Union Youth Orchestra.’
He authored many books in the latter half of the 1970s, such as ‘Sailing, Music, and Travels,’ ‘Sailing: A Course of My Life,’ ‘Music: A Joy of Life,’ ‘Travels: People and Places in my Life,’ and a collection of carols named ‘The Joy of Christmas.’ His autobiography, ‘The Course of My Life,’ was published in 1998.
There were a lot of speculations about his sexuality. He also faced charges of child sexual abuse, but the charges were dropped as they had no substantial grounds.
In August 2003, an 87-year-old Heath suffered a pulmonary embolism, and after this incident, his health deteriorated. On July 17, 2005, he succumbed to pneumonia.