Arthur Blaikie Purvis

Arthur Blaikie Purvis (1890-1941) was born in London, and later became an outstanding leader of Canadian industry. He was also a key figure in obtaining US armaments for the Allied forces in the Second World War.

In the First World War, aged 24, he was sent to the US to buy naval supplies, including acetone for use in explosives. Then he moved to Montreal, took over a munitions company, and established himself as a leading businessman. Purvis became President of Canadian Industries, Ltd, a chemical company with a munitions division.

In the Second World War, Purvis, who was Chairman of the British Supply Council in North America, was known as Churchill's chief arms buyer, according to Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain, by Phil Craig. He was unsuccessful in an attempt to buy 50 mothballed destroyers from the then neutral US, as America would not revoke a law denying military supplies to belligerents.

His luck turned in 1940 when he managed to persuade the Americans to declare some supplies surplus to US needs and sell them to Britain and France. Robert Shogan's Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill's Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency notes that when Purvis was shown a list of possible equipment, he asked for 'the whole damned lot'.

In recognition of his services in the two World Wars, Purvis was appointed a member of King George VI's Privy Council. He did not survive the war, but was killed in a plane crash in 1941 and is buried with the other victims in Ayr. A memorial service was held in Washington Cathedral.

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