William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount De L'Isle
VC KG GCMG GCVO KStJ PC
William Philip Sidney VC.jpg
15th Governor-General of Australia
In office
3 August 1961 – 7 May 1965
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by The Viscount Dunrossil
Succeeded by The Lord Casey
Secretary of State for Air
In office
31 October 1951 – 20 December 1955
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Arthur Henderson
Succeeded by Nigel Birch
Member of Parliament
for Chelsea
In office
11 October 1944 – 18 June 1945
Preceded by Sir Samuel Hoare
Succeeded by Allan Noble
Personal details
Born William Philip Sidney
(1909-05-23)23 May 1909
Chelsea, London
United Kingdom
Died 5 April 1991(1991-04-05) (aged 81)
Tonbridge, Kent
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Relations John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort VC (father-in-law)
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1929 - 1944
Rank Major
Unit Grenadier Guards
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross

William Philip Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle, VC, KG, GCMG, GCVO, KStJ, PC (23 May 1909 – 5 April 1991), known as The Lord De L'Isle and Dudley between 1945 and 1956, was the 15th Governor-General of Australia and the final non-Australian to hold the office.

Early life[edit]

Sidney was the younger of two children, and the only son, of William Sidney, 5th Baron De L'Isle and Dudley (19 August 1859 – 18 June 1945) and his wife, Winifred Agneta Yorke Bevan (d. 11 February 1959). The Sidney family was one of England's oldest and most distinguished families. He was a descendant of King William IV by his mistress Dorothea Jordan. He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge and became a chartered accountant. In 1929 he joined the Grenadier Guards Reserve of Officers.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Lord De L'Isle married Jacqueline Corrine Yvonne Vereker (20 October 1914 – 15 November 1962), daughter of Field Marshal Lord Gort, on 8 June 1940. The couple had five children:

  • Hon. Elizabeth Sophia (b. 12 March 1941)
  • Hon. Catherine Mary (b. 20 October 1942)
  • Philip John Algernon, 2nd Viscount De L'Isle (b. 21 April 1945)
  • Hon. Anne Marjorie (b. 15 August 1947)
  • Hon. Lucy Corinna Agneta (b. 21 February 1953)

After his wife's death, he married Margaret Shoubridge on 24 March 1966 in Paris. They had no children.

War service[edit]

During World War II Sidney served in France and Italy. He led a handful of men in the defence of the Anzio beachhead in February 1944, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Sidney led a successful attack which drove German troops out of a gully. Later he led another counter-attack and dashed forward, engaging the Germans with his tommy gun at point-blank range, forcing a withdrawal. When the attack was renewed, Sidney and one guardsman were wounded and another killed, but he would not consent to have his wounds dressed until the Germans had been beaten off and the battalion's position had been consolidated. During this time, although extremely weak from loss of blood, he continued to encourage and inspire his men.

In later life, when asked where he had been shot, he would jocularly respond that he was shot in Italy. This was to conceal the fact that he had, in fact, been shot in the buttocks. The ribbon for the medal was made from one of his father-in-law Lord Gort's uniforms and was awarded by General Alexander on 3 March 1944 in Italy.

Political life[edit]

At a by-election in October 1944 he was elected unopposed to the House of Commons as Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelsea. His father died in June 1945 and he succeeded as 6th Baron De L'Isle and Dudley, requiring translation to the House of Lords. He retired from the House of Commons prior to the July 1945 general election.

In 1951 he was appointed Secretary of State for Air under Winston Churchill and held that office until 1955. During this time he visited Australia, travelling to Woomera to examine weapons research and meeting the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. In 1956 he was created Viscount De L'Isle, of Penshurst in the County of Kent.

Governor-General[edit]

In 1961, following the sudden death of Lord Dunrossil, Menzies recommended De L'Isle's appointment as Governor-General of Australia. He performed his ceremonial duties with dignity and travelled widely around Australia. There were no political or constitutional controversies during his term, even though the Menzies Liberal government until November 1963 enjoyed a majority in the House of Representatives of just two seats. De L'Isle's Official Secretary throughout his term was Murray Tyrrell.

Retirement[edit]

By the time of his retirement in 1965, public opinion was strongly in favour of an Australian Governor-General, although this was not a reflection on his performance in the role. His continuing interest in Australia was shown by several visits after his retirement, the last for Australia's bicentenary in 1988, when he presented a bronze statue, which now stands in the grounds of Government House in Canberra.

In 1975 he co-founded what is now called The Freedom Association, a free-market campaign group opposed to the post-war consensus that played a prominent role in the Grunwick Dispute.

Viscount De L'Isle died in Kent on 5 April 1991 and was succeeded in his titles by his only son, Philip.

Styles and honours[edit]

  • The Hon. William Sidney (1909–30 March 1944)
  • The Hon. William Sidney VC (30 March 1944 – 1945)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord De L'Isle and Dudley VC (1945–1951)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord De L'Isle and Dudley VC PC (1951–13 January 1956)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Viscount De L'Isle VC PC (13 January 1956 – 11 May 1961)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Viscount De L'Isle VC GCMG PC (11 May 1961 – 14 March 1963)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Viscount De L'Isle VC GCMG GCVO PC (14 March 1963 – 23 April 1968)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Viscount De L'Isle VC KG GCMG GCVO PC (23 April 1968 – 1991)

In 1965 De L'Isle succeeded his kinsman as ninth Baronet of Castle Goring.

He was appointed Knight of the Garter (KG) on 23 April 1968,[1] becoming one of only two men ever to have held both of the highest orders of gallantry and chivalry - Victoria Cross and Knight of the Garter (the other being Field Marshal the Lord Roberts).[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Samuel Hoare
Member of Parliament for Chelsea
19441945
Succeeded by
Allan Noble
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Henderson
Secretary of State for Air
1951–1955
Succeeded by
Nigel Birch
Government offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Dunrossil
Governor-General of Australia
1961–1965
Succeeded by
The Lord Casey
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount De L'Isle
1956–1991
Succeeded by
Philip Sidney
Preceded by
William Sidney
Baron De L'Isle and Dudley
1945–1991
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sidney Patrick Shelley
Baronet
(of Castle Goring)
1965–1991
Succeeded by
Philip Sidney