About Brigadier General Alexander Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar, PC
Brigadier General Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar, PC ( /ˈhɔər ˈrɪvɛn/; 6 July 1872 – 2 May 1955) was a British soldier and colonial governor and the tenth Governor-General of Australia. Serving for 9 years and 7 days, he is the longest serving Governor-General in Australia's history. Prior to his appointment in Australia he was a British Army officer who was the recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Early life and background
Alexander Hore-Ruthven was born on 6 July 1872 in Windsor, Berkshire, United Kingdom, as the second son of Walter Hore-Ruthven (1838–1921), the 9th Lord Ruthven of Freeland, and Lady Caroline Annesley Gore (1848–1914), the daughter of Philip Gore, 4th Earl of Arran. After attending Winchester College as a boarder from 1884 to 1885, Hore-Ruthven spent most of his early education at Eton College, where he stayed until 1888, when he was withdrawn from Eton due to eyesight problems and sent into business by his parents.
He first worked in a tea merchant's office in Glasgow and then travelled to India to work on a Tea Plantation in Assam. Hore-Ruthven, however, soon succumbed to malaria and he returned to England in 1892. He soon decided to join the army and joined the Militia in 1892. After training at the United Services College he was posted as an officer into the 3rd Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.
He fought in the Sudan Campaign in 1898, where he was mentioned in despatches.6,3 He was decorated with the award of Victoria Cross (V.C.) on 28 February 1899, for his actions on 22 September 1898.7 He fought in the Somaliland Campaign between 1903 and 1904. In 1898, Hore-Ruthven joined the British Army. During the Sudan Campaign he was a captain in the 3rd Battalion of The Highland Light Infantry. During the action at Gedarif, Hore-Ruthven saw an Egyptian officer lying wounded within 50 yards of the advancing Dervishes, who were firing and charging. He picked up the wounded officer and carried him towards the 16th Egyptian Battalion; he had to drop his burden several times in order to fire upon the Dervishes and check their advance, but his action undoubtedly saved the officer's life; for his bravery, he was awarded the Victoria Cross on 28 February 1899.
served with Egyptian Army in the Sudan campaigns, where he was present at the Battle of Gedaref and other operations resulting in the final defeat of the Khalifa; awarded Victoria Cross (1898) 1899 – Commissioned to Cameron Highlanders; captain (1900)
In 1905, Hore-Ruthven became an aide-de-camp to Lord Dudley, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1908, Dudley was appointed Governor-General of Australia, and Hore-Ruthven went with him as military secretary. In the same year he married Zara Pollok, with whom he had two sons, one of whom died in infancy. He left Australia in 1910 and returned to military service in India. During World War I, he served in France and at Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded, awarded the Distinguished Service Order (1916) and Bar (1919), and Mentioned in Despatches five times. He was also appointed a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) on 8 March 1918. He finished the war as a brigadier-general, was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1919 and commanded British forces in Germany between 1919 and 1920. After this he held various Army staff positions until 1928, when he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG, 24 January 1928) and appointed Governor of South Australia (being sworn in on 14 May 1928).
He was in London when the third Bodyline Test cricket match in Adelaide caused Anglo-Australian political tension in 1933, and he played a significant part in smoothing relations through his meetings with the British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs J.H. Thomas. His term as Governor ended in 1934, and he was then appointed Governor of New South Wales, being raised to the peerage at the same time as Baron Gowrie, of Canberra in the Commonwealth of Australia and of Dirleton in the County of East Lothian. He was raised to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) on 20 December 1935.
Governor-General of Australia
With his military record and experience, Gowrie was seen as an obvious choice to succeed Sir Isaac Isaacs when he retired as Governor-General in 1936. In accordance with established practice Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was offered several alternatives, but Lyons had no intention of recommending another Australian to the post. At the time, non-Labor Prime Ministers always appointed British Governors-General. In accordance with Australian constitutional practice, he was formally appointed by King George V, who died on 20 January 1936, three days before Gowrie was due to be sworn in as Governor-General. Thus he came to office during the reign of King Edward VIII.
In office, 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, but 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 that a Governor-General had represented Australia abroad.
In April 1939 Lyons died suddenly and Gowrie commissioned Sir Earle Page, the leader of the Country Party, as 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 forced Menzies out as leader, it was so bereft of leadership that Country Party leader Arthur Fadden was named Prime Minister, even though the UAP was the senior coalition partner. However, the independents were so outraged at how Menzies had been treated that they joined Labor in voting against Fadden's budget and brought the government down. Gowrie was reluctant to call an election for a Parliament just over a year old, especially given the international situation. However, he didn't see another alternative if Labor leader John Curtin didn't have enough support to govern. He therefore summoned the two independents to Yarralumla and made them promise that if he commissioned Curtin as Prime Minister, they would support him and end the instability in government. The independents agreed, and Gowrie duly appointed Curtin.
During World War II Gowrie saw it as his duty to support 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 undertaking this tour, Gowrie and his wife had learned that their son, Patrick, had been killed in Libya the previous year.
He officially opened the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1941.
Gowrie's term ended in September 1944 after which he returned to Britain, where he was created Viscount Ruthven of Canberra, of Dirleton in the County of East Lothian, and 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.
He was the only Governor-General of Australia to be advised by five different Prime Ministers (Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden and Curtin), although two (Page and Fadden) were short-term appointments.
Sir Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie (1872-1955), governor-general, was born on 6 July 1872 at Windsor, England, second son of Walter James Hore-Ruthven, 8th Baron Ruthven, and his wife Lady Caroline Annesley, née Gore, daughter of the 4th Earl of Arran. The family was Scottish.
He was born as Alexander Harry Gore Ruthven and known throughout his life as 'Sandie'.
Alexander was educated at Winchester and Eton. In 1892 he joined the militia (3rd Battalion Highland Light Infantry), in 1893 visited Canada and in 1898 travelled to Egypt. Temporarily attached to the Egyptian Army, he commanded the Slavery Department Camel Corps and for rescuing a wounded Egyptian officer from the Dervishes on 22 September he won the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a militia officer. In May next year he was gazetted to the Cameron Highlanders but remained in Egypt for the Sudan campaign—he was mentioned in dispatches three times. He was special-service officer in Somaliland in 1903-04, then rejoined the Cameron Highlanders in Dublin. In 1904-08 he was military secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Dudley, and his successor Lord Aberdeen.
Retiring from the army in 1928, Hore-Ruthven became governor of South Australia, and was appointed K.C.M.G. He arrived in Adelaide in May. Active and enthusiastic, he travelled the State by Moth aeroplane. He was an enthusiast for the Boy Scout and his wife for the Girl Guide movements. She was also president of the State branch of the Red Cross Society and was associated with the Victoria League.