Rohan Delacombe

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Sir Rohan Delacombe

20th Governor of Victoria
In office
8 May 1963 – 24 May 1974
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir Dallas Brooks
Succeeded bySir Henry Winneke
Personal details
Born(1906-10-25)25 October 1906
St. Julian's, Malta
Died10 November 1991(1991-11-10) (aged 85)
Shrewton, Wiltshire, England
Resting placeSt Mary's Church, Shrewton
Spouse(s)Joyce, Lady Delacombe
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army
Years of service1926–1962
RankMajor General
UnitRoyal Scots
CommandsBritish Sector in Berlin
52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division
5th Infantry Brigade
2nd Battalion, Royal Scots
8th Battalion, Royal Scots
Battles/warsArab revolt in Palestine
Second World War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Knight of Justice of the Order of St John
Mentioned in Despatches
Headstone for Sir Rohan and Eleanor Delacombe, St Mary's, Shrewton

Major General Sir Rohan Delacombe, KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB, DSO, KStJ (25 October 1906 – 10 November 1991) was a senior British Army officer. He was the last British Governor of Victoria, Australia from 1963 to 1974.

Early life[edit]

Delacombe was born in St. Julian's, Malta, on 25 October 1906, the son of Addis and Emma Louise Mary Delacombe. Addis served as a pay officer in the British Army; several generations of Delacombes, whose seat was Shrewton Manor, Wiltshire, had served in the armed forces. Rohan was educated at Harrow School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.[1]

Military career[edit]

After passing out from Sandhurst, Delacombe was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Royal Scots, then the most senior line infantry regiment in the British Army, on 4 February 1926. Philip "Pip" Roberts, who was another future general officer, was among his fellow graduates.[2] He was promoted to lieutenant on 4 February 1929.[3] He saw service in Egypt, North China and Quetta in India (now Pakistan) with the regiment's 1st Battalion, and was promoted to captain on 2 March 1937.[4]

Delacombe then served in Palestine with the battalion during the Arab revolt from 1937 until the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939; he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1939 King's Birthday Honours.[5] Delacombe was posted with the 4th Infantry Brigade, then commanded by Brigadier James Gammell and one of three brigades which formed part of Major General Charles Loyd's 2nd Infantry Division. The division was part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), which was sent to the Franco-Belgian border following Germany's invasion of Poland. After returning to England and attending the Staff College, Camberley in 1940, Delacombe assisted Major General Adrian Carton de Wiart as a General Staff Officer (Grade 2) during the Namsos Campaign in Norway.[6]

In 1942, Delacombe was made commanding officer of the 8th Battalion Royal Scots with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel, and was promoted to the substantive rank of major on 4 February 1943.[7] He led the battalion, which formed part of the 227th Infantry Brigade of Major General Gordon "Babe" MacMillan's 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, at the Battle of Normandy in mid-1944, where his leadership earned him a Distinguished Service Order (DSO), gazetted on 19 October 1944.[8] He was wounded and, after recovering, made commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, which fought in the Italian Campaign, followed by Palestine and then the Suez Canal zone.[9]

Delacombe then returned to staff duties as General Staff Officer (Grade 1) during the re-occupation of British Malaya from 1945 to 1947. He was promoted to substantive lieutenant colonel on 22 March 1948,[10] and served as a general staff colonel at the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine. He was promoted to colonel on 31 December 1950 and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1951 New Year Honours.[11][12] He spent much of the next 14 years from 1948 to 1962 in Germany. He served as a temporary brigadier commanding the 5th Infantry Brigade (1950–1953), and was promoted to brigadier on 16 November 1954,[13] in which capacity he was Deputy Military Secretary for the War Office. He was promoted to temporary major general on 4 October 1955 and appointed General Officer Commanding of the 52nd (Lowland) Division.[14] He was made substantive major general on 29 November 1956,[15] and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1957 Birthday Honours.[16] He relinquished command of the division on 10 October 1958 and was appointed Commandant of the British Sector in Berlin on 23 March 1959.[17][18] As commandant, his role included representing British interests in Spandau Prison, where Rudolf Hess was incarcerated. Knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1961 Birthday Honours,[19] Delacombe relinquished his appointment as Commandant of the British Sector in Berlin on 4 May 1962,[20] and retired from the army on 27 July.[21]

Governor of Victoria[edit]

Delacombe was appointed as Governor of Victoria in Australia in 1963, and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1964 New Year Honours.[22] As governor, he was made an honorary colonel in the Australian Army's 1st Armoured Regiment.[23]

In 1967, Delacombe was petitioned to exercise the Royal prerogative of mercy on behalf of the Queen, to commute the execution of Ronald Ryan. Four members of the jury had submitted a guilty verdict, in the belief that capital punishment had been abolished in Victoria, and that Ryan's sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment. These jurors then petitioned the governor to save Ryan after it became apparent that Premier Henry Bolte was determined he should hang. Delacombe called a meeting with the Victorian cabinet, at which it was unanimously agreed that the execution should proceed. Ryan was hanged on 3 February 1967, the last person in Australia to be executed.[24]

Delacombe's term ended in 1974.[23]

Death and memorials[edit]

Delacombe died on 10 November 1991 at his home at Shrewton, England, and was buried in the churchyard at the parish church, St Mary's.[1]

Delacombe, Victoria, was named in his honour in 1965 during his tenure as Governor of Victoria.[25]


  1. ^ a b Browne, Geoff. "Delacombe, Sir Rohan (1906–1991)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  2. ^ "No. 33130". The London Gazette. 5 February 1926. p. 886.
  3. ^ "No. 33463". The London Gazette. 5 February 1929. p. 866.
  4. ^ "No. 34404". The London Gazette. 4 June 1937. p. 3587.
  5. ^ "No. 34633". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 1939. p. 3860.
  6. ^ "Delacombe, Sir Rohan (1906–1991), Major General". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London, Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900–1975.
  7. ^ "No. 35890". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 February 1943. p. 639.
  8. ^ "No. 36753". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 October 1944. p. 4785.
  9. ^ Paterson, Robert H. (2000). Pontius Pilate's Bodyguard : a History of the First or the Royal Regiment of Foot. Edinburgh: The Royal Scots History Committee. ISBN 978-0-9540906-0-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) Volume II Chronology
  10. ^ "No. 38415". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 September 1948. p. 5189.
  11. ^ "No. 39137". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 February 1951. p. 593.
  12. ^ "No. 39104". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1951. p. 6.
  13. ^ "No. 40377". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1955. p. 147.
  14. ^ "No. 40601". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 October 1955. p. 5617.
  15. ^ "No. 40953". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 December 1956. p. 7213.
  16. ^ "No. 41089". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1957. p. 3369.
  17. ^ "No. 41517". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 1958. p. 6159.
  18. ^ "No. 41663". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 March 1959. p. 1973.
  19. ^ "No. 42370". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1961. p. 4148.
  20. ^ "No. 42664". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 May 1962. p. 3579.
  21. ^ "No. 42744". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 July 1962. p. 6081.
  22. ^ "No. 43200". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1964. p. 4.
  23. ^ a b "Sir Rohan Delacombe KCMG KCVO KBE CB DSO". British Empire. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  24. ^ Blainey, Geoffrey (2006). "Whirlwind and Calm". A History of Victoria. UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 0-521-86977-3.
  25. ^ The Age. 7 October 1965. p.17.
Military offices
Preceded by
George Collingwood
GOC 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division
Succeeded by
John Macdonald
Preceded by
Francis Rome
Commandant, British Sector in Berlin
Succeeded by
Claude Dunbar
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Richard Crockatt
Colonel of the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment)
Succeeded by
William Campbell
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Dallas Brooks
Governor of Victoria
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Winneke