William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle
|The Right Honourable
The Viscount De L'Isle
VC, KG, GCMG, GCVO, KStJ, PC
|15th Governor-General of Australia|
3 August 1961 – 7 May 1965
|Prime Minister||Robert Menzies|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Dunrossil|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Casey|
|Secretary of State for Air|
31 October 1951 – 20 December 1955
|Prime Minister||Winston Churchill|
|Preceded by||Arthur Henderson|
|Succeeded by||Nigel Birch|
|Member of Parliament
11 October 1944 – 18 June 1945
|Preceded by||Sir Samuel Hoare|
|Succeeded by||Allan Noble|
|Born||William Philip Sidney
23 May 1909
|Died||5 April 1991
|Relations||John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort (father-in-law)|
|Years of service||1929–1944|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
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 a British Victoria Cross recipient, politician, and the 15th Governor-General of Australia, the final non-Australian to hold the office.
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 is 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 College and Magdalene College, Cambridge and became a chartered accountant. In 1929 he joined the Grenadier Guards Reserve of Officers.
Marriage and issue
Lord De L'Isle married Hon Jacqueline Corrine Yvonne Vereker (20 October 1914 – 15 November 1962), daughter of Field Marshal John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, on 8 June 1940. The couple had five children:
- Hon. Elizabeth Sophia (born 12 March 1941, died 3 February 2016)
- Hon. Catherine Mary (born 20 October 1942)
- Philip John Algernon, 2nd Viscount De L'Isle (born 21 April 1945)
- Hon. Anne Marjorie (born 15 August 1947)
- Hon. Lucy Corinna Agneta (born 21 February 1953), married Michael Willoughby, 13th Baron Middleton
During the Second World War, Sidney fought in the Battle of France and the Italian Campaign. While serving as a company commander in the 5th Battalion, Grenadier Guards (itself part of 24th Guards Brigade of British 1st Infantry Division), 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 Sir Harold Alexander, commanding the Allied Armies in Italy, on 3 March 1944 in Italy.
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 thus 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.
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.
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.
Viscount De L'Isle died in Kent on 5 April 1991 and was buried in the Sidney family vault at St John the Baptist, Penshurst. He was the last surviving Victoria Cross recipient who had been a member of both Houses of Parliament[note 1] He was succeeded in his titles by his only son, Philip.
Styles and honours
- 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 Companion of the Order of the Garter (KG) on 23 April 1968, 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).
- The last VC holder to sit in the Commons had been Sir John Smyth, who retired before the 1966 general election and died 1983.
- Nicolson, Nigel (1949). The Grenadier Guards in the War of 1939–1945, Volume II: The Mediterranean Campaigns. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. pp. 407–408. OCLC 4992796.
- The London Gazette: . 30 March 1944. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- The London Gazette: . 13 January 1956. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- The London Gazette: . 12 May 1961. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- The London Gazette: . 23 April 1968. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- List of the Knights of the Garter (1348–present)
- History.UK.com Articles
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Viscount De L'Isle
- Location of grave and VC medal
- William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle at Find a Grave
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir Samuel Hoare
|Member of Parliament for Chelsea
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Pensions
|Secretary of State for Air
The Viscount Dunrossil
|Governor-General of Australia
The Lord Casey
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|New creation||Viscount De L'Isle
|Baron De L'Isle and Dudley
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|
Sidney Patrick Shelley
(of Castle Goring)