Thomas White (Australian politician)
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Sir Thomas White
|Member of the Australian Parliament
3 August 1929 – 20 June 1951
|Preceded by||William Watt|
|Succeeded by||Percy Joske|
26 April 1888|
North Melbourne, Victoria
|Died||13 October 1957
South Yarra, Victoria
|Political party||Nationalist (1929–31)
|Service/branch||Australian Flying Corps (1914–20)
Royal Australian Air Force (1940–44)
|Years of service||1914–1920
|Battles/wars||First World War|
|Awards||Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Flying Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Early life and World War I
White was born at Hotham, North Melbourne, Victoria and educated at Moreland State School. In August 1914, he began training as an officer in the Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook. In April 1915, he was appointed a captain in the Australian Imperial Force and adjutant of a small unit that was sent to Basra to assist the Indian Army in the Mesopotamian campaign. He successfully carried out several operations involving landing behind enemy lines, but on 13 November 1915 he was captured while attempting to cut telegraph wires near Baghdad. He was imprisoned in Turkey, but in July 1918 he escaped from a train in Constantinople and managed to stowaway on a cargo ship to Odessa, Ukraine and he then travelled to London. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and was twice Mentioned in Despatches as a result. He published an account of his exploits as Guests of the Unspeakable (1928).
In London, White met Vera Deakin, daughter of former Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, and quickly became engaged to her. His appointment to the AIF was terminated in January 1920 and he married Vera in March, despite the opposition of some of the Deakin family. He became managing director of his father's hardware company, C. J. White & Sons Pty Ltd until 1932.
White ran unsuccessfully, as a Nationalist for the House of Representatives seat of Maribyrnong in the 1925 elections. In 1927, he failed to win the Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of Prahran. He won the seat of Balaclava at a 1929 by-election. The United Australia Party came to power in the 1931 elections and in March 1933 he was appointed Minister for Trade and Customs in the first Lyons Ministry, replacing Henry Gullett who had stood down due to ill-health. His portfolio was responsible for book and film censorship and he established an advisory board, chaired by Robert Garran to make recommendations to him. On 8 November 1938, he resigned his portfolio, having discovered that Joseph Lyons had established an inner Cabinet from which he was excluded.
With the outbreak of World War II, White became a temporary squadron leader in the part-time Citizen Air Force. He took leave from parliament and commanded a training school at Somers and in 1941 he travelled to England to administer Australian aircrew and to liaise with the Royal Air Force. He returned to Melbourne in 1943 and served in the Royal Australian Air Force Staff School and resumed his parliamentary duties. With the election of the Robert Menzies government in the 1949 elections, he was appointed Minister for the Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. In June 1951, he resigned from parliament to become Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, a position he held until 1956.
In 1952, White was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
- White, Thomas Walter (1928). Guests of the unspeakable : the odyssey of an Australian airman—being a record of captivity and escape in Turkey. London: John Hamilton. ISBN 1-86315-000-5.
- Rickard, John (2002). "White, Sir Thomas Walter (1888–1957)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
- "Stolen Years: Australian Prisoners of War". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
|Minister for Trade and Customs
|Minister for the Air
|Minister for Civil Aviation
Hubert Lawrence Anthony
|Parliament of Australia|
|Member for Balaclava
Last held by: Jack Beasley
|Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Sir Eric Harrison