Unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Services 

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Alexander Hore-Ruthven, 1st Baron Gowrie VC PC GCMG CB DSO LLD

Adelaide, SA, 1936. Sir Alexander HORE-RUTHVEN, Lord Gowrie, VC, PC, GCMG, CB, DSO, LLD, Governor-General of Australia 1936-1944. 
  • Lord Gowrie
    • Military Secretary to GG 1908
    • Gallipoli veteran (British unit)
    • Served in France (British unit)
    • Governor of Sth Australia 1928-1934
    • Governor of NSW 1934-1936
    • Governor General 1936-1944


(Photographer, Hummer & Co, Adelaide, Donor J. McGARVIN)

Decorations & awards (not including service medals)

Victoria Cross   Knight Grand Cross; Order of St Michael & St George  Companion; Order of the Bath  Distinguished Service Order 

Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, 1st Baron Gowrie (6 July 1872 - 2 May 1955, tenth Governor-General of Australia, was born in Windsor, Berkshire, England, the second son of the 8th Baron Ruthven. He was educated at Eton, but withdrawn due to poor eyesight. In 1898 he joined the Army, and served in the Sudan, where he won the Victoria Cross. In 1905 he became aide-de-camp to Lord Dudley, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1908 he married Zara Pollok. They had one son.

In 1908 Dudley was appointed Governor-General of Australia, and Hore-Ruthven (pronounced Hore-Riven) went with him as military secretary. He left in 1910 and returned to military service in India. During the First World War he served in France and at Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded. He finished the war as a Brigadier-General, and commanded British forces in Germany in 1919-20. He then held various Army staff positions until 1928, when he was appointed Governor of South Australia. His term ended in 1934, and he was then promptly appointed Governor of New South Wales, with the title Baron Gowrie.

With such a fine military record, and such extensive vice-regal experience, Gowrie was an obvious choice to succeed Sir Isaac Isaacs when he retired as Governor-General in 1936. In accordance with established practice, the Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, was offered several alternatives, but Gowrie was the outstanding candidate given the Lyons had no intention of appointing another Australian to the post.

Gowrie was a popular if unobtrusive figure in Australia. The days when Governors-General exercised significant power or even participated in negotiations between the Australian and British governments had now passed. Nevertheless, Gowrie set a precedent in 1938 when he toured the Netherlands East Indies at the invitation of the colonial administration. This was the first time a Governor-General had represented Australia abroad.

In April 1939 Lyons died suddenly, the first time this had happened in Australia. Gowrie commissioned Sir Earle Page, the leader of the Country Party, as acting Prime Minister until the United Australia Party could choose a new leader. This was the only circumstance in which the Governor-General still had some personal discretion.

Gowrie's political skills were tested again after the 1940 election, which left the UAP Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, dependent on the votes of two independent members to stay in power. When the UAP dumped Menzies as leader, the independent members voted to put the government out. Gowrie sent for them and demanded that they give him a guarantee that if he commissioned the Labor leader, John Curtin, they would support him and end the instability in government.

In wartime Gowrie saw his duty as supporting the government and the British Empire, and also the troops. In 1943 he undertook a four-week tour of inspection of Allied Defence Forces in northern Australia and New Guinea. Shortly before this, he and Lady Gowrie learned that their son, Patrick, had been killed in Libya the previous year.

Gowrie's term ended in September 1944 and he returned to Britain, where he was created Earl of Gowrie and appointed Deputy Constable and Lieutenant-Governor of Windsor Castle. In 1948 he was elected president of the Marylebone Cricket Club. He died in May 1955 at his home in Gloucestershire.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces