Dudley de Chair

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Sir Dudley de Chair
De Chair.jpg
25th Governor of New South Wales
In office
28 February 1924 – 9 April 1930
MonarchGeorge V
LieutenantSir William Cullen
Sir Philip Street
Preceded bySir Walter Davidson
Succeeded bySir Phillip Game
Personal details
BornDudley Rawson Stratford de Chair
(1864-08-30)30 August 1864
Lennoxville, Province of Canada
Died17 August 1958(1958-08-17) (aged 93)
Brighton, England
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1878–1923
UnitHMS Alexandra
CommandsCoastguard and Reserves
Third Battle Squadron
10th Cruiser Squadron
Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty
Battles/warsAnglo-Egyptian War
First World War

Admiral Sir Dudley Rawson Stratford de Chair KCB, KCMG, MVO (30 August 1864 – 17 August 1958) was a senior Royal Navy officer and later Governor of New South Wales.

Early life and career[edit]

De Chair was born on 30 August 1864 in Lennoxville, Province of Canada, the son of Dudley Raikes de Chair and Frances Emily Rawson, the sister of Harry Rawson (whom he later succeeded as Governor of New South Wales).[1] The de Chair family was of huguenot descent and could trace their ancestry to Jean de Chaire, who was ennobled as a marquis by Henry IV of France.[2] In 1870, de Chair moved with his family to England and joined the Royal Navy in 1878 aged 14, being first stationed as a cadet aboard HMS Britannia.[1]

Naval career[edit]

After becoming a midshipman in 1880, de Chair was posted aboard the HMS Alexandra, the flagship of the British Mediterranean Fleet and took part in the bombardment of Alexandria during the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882.[3] De Chair had volunteered to carry despatches to a desert fort during the bombardment but was taken prisoner and presented before the revolutionary leader Ahmed ‘Urabi, but managed to engineer a daring escape that gained significant publicity back home in England.[2] He was promoted to commander on 22 July 1897,[4] and to captain on 26 June 1902.[5] De Chair married Enid Struben on 21 April 1903 in Torwood, Devon, and together they had three children, Henry, Elaine and Somerset.[1] Following the King Edward VII's visit to the Russian Empire, de Chair was appointed Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) on 10 June 1908 for his role in the visit as commander of HMS Cochrane.[6]

De Chair was promoted to Assistant Controller of the Navy in 1910 and served as Secretary to First Lord of the Admiralty in 1912.[3] On 6 March 1911, de Chair was appointed a Naval aide-de-camp (ADC) to King George V.[7] He relinquished the appointment on 31 July 1912, having been promoted to flag rank on that day.[8] He served in the First World War as Commander of the 10th Cruiser Squadron from 1914 and, having been promoted to rear admiral on 31 July 1912,[9] became Naval Adviser to the Foreign Office on Blockade Affairs in 1916.[3] In the 1914 King's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).[10]

In April-May 1917 he was a member of the Balfour Mission, intended to promote cooperation between the US and UK during World War I, and went on to be Commander of the 3rd Battle Squadron later in 1917. A good friend of the First Sea Lord, Sir John Jellicoe, de Chair was personally affronted by the act and manner of Jellicoe's dismissal from that office in December 1917.[2] De Chair later recalled in his memoirs that he unloaded his frustrations and offence at the matter onto Jellicoe's successor, Sir Rosslyn Wemyss and found himself outside of preferment for advancement as a result.[2] Moved sideways to the much less prestigious position of Admiral Commanding, Coastguard and Reserves in July 1918, de Chair became President of the Inter-allied Commission on Enemy Warships in 1921 before retiring in 1923.[3]

Governor of New South Wales[edit]

De Chair speaking at the laying of the foundation stone of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 26 March 1925.
De Chair outside Government House, Sydney, 17 March 1925.

De Chair had been interested in serving in a viceregal role as early as 1922, when he put his name forward to the Colonial Office for the position of Governor of South Australia. This position however, went to Sir Tom Bridges instead and the First Lord of the Admiralty, Leo Amery, put de Chair's name forward for the Governor of New South Wales. This position, which had been vacant since the death of Sir Walter Davidson in September 1923, was the same one his uncle, Sir Harry Rawson, had held twenty years earlier, and to which he was appointed on 8 November 1923.[11][12][13]

Arriving in Sydney on 28 February 1924, de Chair became governor in relatively calm political times and was warmly received in the city with great fanfare.[14][15] On de Chair's appointment, the President of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Aubrey Halloran, compared Admiral de Chair to the first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip: "Our new Governor's reputation as an intrepid sailor and ruler of men evokes from us a hearty welcome and inspires us to place in him the same confidence that [Arthur] Phillip received from his gallant band of fellow-sailors and the English statesmen who sent him."[16]

The political makeup of the state changed not long after his arrival however, when the conservative Nationalist/Progressive coalition government of Sir George Fuller, whom de Chair had got on well with, was defeated at the May 1925 state election by the Labor Party under Jack Lang. De Chair noted to himself that Lang and his party's position comprised "radical and far-reaching legislation, which had not been foreshadowed in their election speeches".[1] He also later wrote that Lang's "lack of scruple gave me a great and unpleasant surprise".[2]

With the Labor Government only holding a single seat majority in the Legislative Assembly and only a handful of members in the upper Legislative Council, one of Lang's main targets was electoral reform. The Legislative Council, comprising members appointed by the Governor for life terms, had long been seen by Lang and the Labor Party as an outdated bastion of conservative privilege holding back their reform agenda. Although previous Labor premiers had managed to work with the status quo, such as requesting appointments from the Governor sufficient to pass certain bills, Lang's more radical political agenda required more drastic action to ensure its passage. Consequently, Lang and his government sought to abolish the council, along the same lines that their Queensland Labor colleagues had done in 1922 to their Legislative Council, by requesting from de Chair enough appointments to establish a Labor majority in the council that would then vote for abolition.

While Lang's attempts ultimately failed, de Chair failed to gain the support of an indifferent Dominions Office. With Lang's departure in 1927, the Nationalist Government of Thomas Bavin invited him in 1929 to stay on as Governor for a further term. De Chair agreed only to a year's extension and retired on 8 April 1930.

Later life[edit]

Returning to London after a global trip, de Chair worked on his memoirs until his death in 1958.[11][17]


Viceregal styles of
Sir Dudley de Chair
Badge of the Governor of New South Wales.svg
Reference styleHis Excellency
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) NY 1916[18]
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) KB 1914[10]
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) NY 1933[19]
Royal Victorian Order UK ribbon.png Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) 1908[6]
Egypt Medal BAR.svg Egypt Medal with "Alexandria 11 July" Clasp 1884
1914 Star BAR.svg 1914 Star
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg Victory Medal
UK King Edward VII Coronation Medal ribbon.svg King Edward VII Coronation Medal 1902
King George V Coronation Medal ribbon.png King George V Coronation Medal 1911
Order of the Medjidie lenta.png Order of the Medjidie, 5th Class Ottoman Empire; 1884
Khedives Star.png Khedive's Star Egypt; 1884
Legion Honneur Commandeur ribbon.svg Commandeur of the Legion of Honour France; 1916[20]


  1. ^ a b c d Cunneen, Chris (1981). "de Chair, Sir Dudley Rawson Stratford (1864–1958)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dunn, Steve R. (2016). Blockade: Cruiser Warfare and the Starvation of Germany in World War One. Seaforth Publishing. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Dudley de Chair". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  4. ^ "No. 26865". The London Gazette. 22 June 1897. p. 3443.
  5. ^ "No. 27448". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 26 June 1902. p. 4198.
  6. ^ a b "No. 28148". The London Gazette. 16 June 1908. pp. 4403–4404.
  7. ^ "No. 28475". The London Gazette. 14 March 1911. p. 2148.
  8. ^ "No. 28633". The London Gazette. 6 August 1912. p. 5854.
  9. ^ "No. 28632". The London Gazette. 2 August 1912. p. 5723.
  10. ^ a b "No. 28842". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 19 June 1914. p. 4876.
  11. ^ a b Clune, David; Turner, Ken (2009). The Governors of New South Wales: 1788–2010. Sydney: Federation Press. pp. 457–472.
  12. ^ "No. 32878". The London Gazette. 9 November 1923. p. 7655.
  13. ^ "NEW GOVERNOR. ADMIRAL DE CHAIR". The Sydney Morning Herald (26, 760). New South Wales, Australia. 11 October 1923. p. 8. Retrieved 2 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "ARRIVAL OF ADMIRAL SIR DUDLEY RAWSON STRATFORD De CHAIR, K.C.B., M.V.O., GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW SOUTH WALES". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (27). New South Wales, Australia. 25 February 1924. p. 1283. Retrieved 2 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ "STATE GREETS SIR DUDLEY DE CHAIR". The Sydney Morning Herald (26, 880). New South Wales, Australia. 29 February 1924. p. 9. Retrieved 2 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "TWO SAILOR GOVERNORS". The Sydney Morning Herald (26, 878). New South Wales, Australia. 27 February 1924. p. 12. Retrieved 2 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "Admiral De Chair Dies At 94". The Canberra Times. 32, (9, 562). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 19 August 1958. p. 3. Retrieved 3 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "No. 12889". The Edinburgh Gazette. 1 January 1916. p. 2.
  19. ^ "No. 14928". The Edinburgh Gazette. 6 January 1933. p. 11.
  20. ^ "No. 12988". The Edinburgh Gazette. 19 September 1916. p. 1675.

Further reading[edit]

  • de Chair, Sir Dudley (1961). The Sea is Strong. London; Sydney: George Harrap. p. 248.
Military offices
Preceded by
David Beatty
Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
Horace Hood
Preceded by
Rear-Admiral Charles Napier
Rear-Admiral Commanding, Cruiser Force B
Succeeded by
Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Tupper
Preceded by
Vice-Admiral Sir Herbert Heath
Vice-Admiral Commanding, 3rd Battle Squadron
Succeeded by
Rear-Admiral Sir Douglas Nicholson
Preceded by
Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Thursby
Admiral Commanding, Coastguard and Reserves
Succeeded by
Vice-Admiral Sir Morgan Singer
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Walter Davidson
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Phillip Game