Frank Forde

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The Right Honourable
Frank Forde
Frankforde.jpg
15th Prime Minister of Australia
In office
6 July 1945 – 13 July 1945
Monarch George VI
Governor General HRH The Duke of Gloucester
Preceded by John Curtin
Succeeded by Ben Chifley
Member of the Australian Parliament for Capricornia
In office
16 December 1922 – 28 September 1946
Preceded by William Higgs
Succeeded by Charles Davidson
Personal details
Born (1890-07-18)18 July 1890
Mitchell, Queensland, British Empire
Died 28 January 1983(1983-01-28) (aged 92)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Political party Labor
Spouse(s) Vera O'Reilly (1894–1967)
Children 4
Religion Roman Catholicism

Francis Michael Forde (18 July 1890 – 28 January 1983) was an Australian politician and the 15th Prime Minister of Australia. He was the shortest serving Prime Minister in Australia's history, being in office for only eight days.[1]

Early life[edit]

Forde was born at Mitchell, Queensland, the second of six children of Irish immigrant parents.[2] His father was working as a grazier at the time of his birth. Forde was educated at St. Mary's College, Toowoomba, a Catholic school, and became a teacher. Settling in Rockhampton, he became active in the Labor Party and in workers' education groups.[3]

Political career[edit]

Portrait of Frank Forde

In 1917 Forde was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland as Labor MP for Rockhampton. In 1922 he resigned and was elected to the Australian House of Representatives for Capricornia.[3]

Forde soon advanced in the Labor ranks. When Labor won the 1929 election, he became Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin government. In the last days of the government he became Minister for Trade and Customs.[4] As one of the few senior Labor MPs to survive defeat at the 1931 election, Forde became Deputy Opposition Leader in 1932. When Scullin retired in 1935, Forde contested the leadership ballot but was defeated by one vote by John Curtin, mainly because he had supported Scullin's economic policies.[5]

Forde was a loyal deputy, and in 1941 when Labor returned to power he became Minister for the Army, a vital role in wartime.[5] On 5 July 1945 Curtin died; as Deputy Leader, Forde was sworn in as Prime Minister on 6 July by the Governor-General, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. At the leadership ballot on 13 July, he contested the leadership with Ben Chifley and Norman Makin.[6] Chifley won, with Forde elected Deputy Leader once more. As Minister for Defence he was much criticised for the slowness with which military personnel were being demobilised. As a result, he lost his seat at the 1946 election, though the Labor Party itself comfortably retained office.[7]

High Commissioner and return to state politics[edit]

Chifley appointed Forde High Commissioner to Canada, and he held this position until 1953. He returned to Australia and tried to re-enter Parliament at the 1954 election, in the seat of Wide Bay, without success. In 1955, at a by-election, he returned to the Queensland Parliament as MP for Flinders.[7] He is the only Prime Minister who later served in a State Parliament.

In 1957 the Labor Party split resulted not only in Labor falling from power, but also in Forde being defeated in his own seat after a disputed and re-run election; he lost by only one vote.[7] Save for this blow, he would probably have become Labor leader in Queensland, given that Premier Vince Gair and most of Gair's followers had been expelled from the party.

After politics[edit]

Frank Forde's headstone at Brisbane's Toowong Cemetery.

Forde retired to Brisbane where he devoted himself to Catholic charity work. In his living room hung a large portrait of wartime US General Douglas MacArthur. On 11 April 1964, at the request of Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Forde represented Australia at MacArthur’s funeral in Arlington, Virginia.[7]

Forde died in 1983. His funeral was held on 3 February, the same day that Bob Hawke was elected ALP leader. Indeed, it was at Forde's funeral that Senator John Button told then Labor leader Bill Hayden that he must step aside in favour of Hawke, which he did.

The shortest-serving prime minister in Australian history – his term of office lasted only eight days – Forde was previously the longest-lived Australian prime minister (living 92 years, 194 days), until he was surpassed by Gough Whitlam on 21 January 2009. He was the only deputy Labor leader who served under three leaders (Scullin, Curtin and Chifley) until Jenny Macklin (Crean, Latham and Beazley, 2001–06). The electoral Division of Forde and the Canberra suburb of Forde are named after him.

Family[edit]

Forde married Veronica (Vera) Catherine O’Reilly in 1925 and they had four children:[8]

During the years that he spent in Ottawa as High Commissioner to Canada two of his daughters (Mary and Mercia) became married to Canadians. Mary (m. William Robert Thompson) eventually settled with her husband in Kingston, Ontario, Canada while Mercia (m. Ian Ferrier) returned to Australia and settled with her husband in St. Lucia, Brisbane. Francis Gerald Forde (m. Leneen Forde) also settled in St. Lucia, while Clare (m. John Attridge) settled in Canberra. Between his four children, Frank and Vera Forde had 15 grandchildren.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Francis Forde, Prime Minister from 6 July 1945 to 13 July 1945National Museum of Australia
  2. ^ Carrol (2004), p. 168
  3. ^ a b "Frank Forde, Early years". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  4. ^ "Frank Forde, Scullin government 1929–31". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Frank Forde, Deputy Leader of the Opposition 1932–???41". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  6. ^ "Frank Forde, In office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Frank Forde, After office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "Frank Forde, Vera Forde". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Carroll, Brian, Australia's Prime Ministers: From Barton to Howard, Rosenberg Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-877058-22-X
  • Hughes, Colin A (1976), Mr Prime Minister. Australian Prime Ministers 1901–1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, Ch.16. ISBN 0-19-550471-2

External links[edit]

Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
John Adamson
Member for Rockhampton
1917–1922
Succeeded by
George Farrell
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Higgs
Member for Capricornia
1922–1946
Succeeded by
Charles Davidson
Political offices
Preceded by
James Fenton
Minister for Trade and Customs
1931–1932
Succeeded by
Henry Somer Gullett
Preceded by
Percy Spender
Minister for the Army
1941–1946
Succeeded by
Cyril Chambers
Preceded by
John Curtin
Prime Minister of Australia
1945
Succeeded by
Ben Chifley
Minister for Defence
1945–1946
Succeeded by
John Dedman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Edward Theodore
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
1932–1946
Succeeded by
H.V. Evatt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Alfred Stirling
Australian High Commissioner to Canada
1946–1953
Succeeded by
Sir Douglas Copland
Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
Ernest Riordan
Member for Flinders
1955 – 1957
Succeeded by
Bill Lonergan