Governor of Southern Rhodesia

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Governor of Southern Rhodesia
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1970).svg
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1980)
StyleHis Excellency The Right Honourable
ResidenceGovernment House, Salisbury
AppointerBritish Monarch
Formation1 October 1923
First holderThe Rt Hon. Sir John Chancellor
Final holderThe Lord Soames
Abolished18 April 1980

The Governor of Southern Rhodesia was the representative of the British Monarch in the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia from 1923 to 1980. The Governor was appointed by The Crown and acted as the local head of state, receiving instructions from the British Government.

Constitutional role[edit]

The Governor was also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and as such, in theory at least, exercised considerable influence over the running of the colony and its government, but in practice, the Governor's main function was to maintain a satisfactory relationship between the British and Southern Rhodesian Governments and acted in an advisory capacity most of the time. From 1951, however, in contrast to other colonies, the British government was represented in Southern Rhodesia by a High Commissioner in Salisbury.[1]

When Southern Rhodesia was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the position of the Governor remained unchanged, but as Salisbury became the capital of the Federation, the Governor General resided at Government House, previously the Governor's official residence.[2] During this time, the Governor of Southern Rhodesia resided at Governor's Lodge in the suburb of Highlands.[3]


Following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, the government of Ian Smith ceased to recognise the authority of the then Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, and appointed Clifford Dupont to exercise the Governor's powers as Officer Administering the Government.[4]

However, Gibbs continued to occupy Government House, asserting his position as the Queen's de jure representative, and did not resign from the post until June 1969, following the decision of white voters in a referendum to approve a new constitution declaring Rhodesia, as Southern Rhodesia had become more commonly known, a republic.[5]

In 1977, Field Marshal The Lord Carver was designated Resident Commissioner for Rhodesia, but he resigned fourteen months later.[6]

The office of Governor remained vacant until 11 December 1979, when Lord Soames assumed the post, following the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement, under which Southern Rhodesia would achieve de jure independence as Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980.


Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1924–1951)
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1951–1952), featuring the Tudor Crown.
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1980), featuring St Edward's Crown.

In common with most other British colonies, the flag used by the Governor, as the Sovereign's representative in Southern Rhodesia was initially a Union Flag with a white roundel in the centre, charged with the shield from the colony's arms granted on 11 August 1924. Unique among the flags of the Governors of British colonies, this shield of Arms was not surrounded by the customary wreath. This flag was adopted on 1 October 1924 and was flown until 30 July 1951.

On 31 July 1951, a new flag was put into use for the Governor of Southern Rhodesia. This was dark blue and charged in the centre with a Royal Crown, its height being four-sevenths of the hoist. Initially the Tudor Crown would have been used, but after her accession to the throne in 1952, Elizabeth II indicated her preference for St Edward's Crown, and this version would have been used thereafter. Although the colony had attained 'Responsible Government' in 1923, it was never a fully fledged Dominion, and so did not have a Governor-General, whose flag in other Dominions would be dark blue, charged in the centre with the Royal Crest above a Crown, with the name of the Dominion written in a yellow scroll below.

List of governors of Southern Rhodesia[edit]

No. Portrait Name
Term of office Monarch Prime Minister
Took office Left office Time in office
1 John Chancellor portrait.jpg Sir John Chancellor
1 October 1923 15 June 1928 4 years, 258 days George V Coghlan
Murray Bisset in 1901.png Sir Murray Bisset
15 June 1928 24 November 1928 162 days Moffat
2 No image.svg Sir Cecil Hunter-Rodwell
24 November 1928 1 May 1934 5 years, 158 days Moffat
No image.svg Fraser Russell
1 May 1934 8 January 1935 252 days Huggins
3 Sir Herbert James Stanley.jpg Sir Herbert Stanley
8 January 1935 8 January 1942 7 years, 0 days George V
Edward VIII
George VI
No image.svg Fraser Russell
8 January 1942 10 December 1942 336 days George VI
4 No image.svg Sir Evelyn Baring
10 December 1942 26 October 1944 1 year, 321 days
No image.svg Sir Robert James Hudson
26 October 1944 20 February 1945 117 days
5 No image.svg Sir Campbell Tait
20 February 1945 2 February 1946 347 days
No image.svg Sir Fraser Russell
2 February 1946 19 July 1946 167 days
No image.svg Sir Robert James Hudson
19 July 1946 14 January 1947 179 days
6 No image.svg Sir John Noble Kennedy
14 January 1947 21 November 1953 6 years, 311 days George VI
Elizabeth II
No image.svg Sir Robert Clarkson Tredgold
21 November 1953 26 November 1954 1 year, 5 days Elizabeth II Todd
7 No image.svg Sir Peveril William-Powlett
26 November 1954 28 December 1959 5 years, 32 days Todd
8 No image.svg Sir Humphrey Gibbs
28 December 1959 24 June 1969 9 years, 178 days Whitehead
Position vacant (24 June 1969 – 11 December 1979)[d]
9 Christopher Soames (cropped).jpg The Lord Soames
11 December 1979 18 April 1980 129 days Position abolished

For continuation after independence, see: President of Zimbabwe


  1. ^ Admiral Tait's health rapidly declined shortly after he arrived in Southern Rhodesia. He relinquished the Governorship after only a year, and died five months later at Government House in Salisbury.
  2. ^ Russell had been appointed a KBE in the 1943 New Year Honours, announced in December 1942.
  3. ^ Gibbs' position was not recognised by the Smith's government after the UDI on 11 November 1965.
  4. ^ Field Marshal The Lord Carver was named as Resident Commissioner-designate on 1 September 1977.

See also[edit]