Richard Casey, Baron Casey

Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, Baron Casey, KG, GCMG, CH, DSO, MC, PC (29 August 1890 – 17 June 1976) was an Australian statesman who served as the 16th Governor-General of Australia, in office from 1965 to 1969. He was also a distinguished army officer, long-serving cabinet minister, Ambassador to the United States, member of Churchill's War Cabinet, and Governor of Bengal.

The Lord Casey
Casey in 1954
16th Governor-General of Australia
In office
7 May 1965  30 April 1969
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterSir Robert Menzies (1965–66)
Harold Holt (1966–67)
John McEwen (1967–68)
John Gorton (1968–69)
Preceded byThe Viscount De L'Isle
Succeeded bySir Paul Hasluck
Minister for External Affairs
In office
11 May 1951  4 February 1960
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies
Preceded byPercy Spender
Succeeded byRobert Menzies
Minister for External Territories
In office
26 April 1951  11 May 1951
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies
Preceded byPercy Spender
Succeeded byPaul Hasluck
Minister in charge of the CSIRO
In office
23 March 1950  4 February 1960
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byDonald Alastair Cameron
Minister for Works and Housing
In office
19 December 1949  17 March 1950
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies
Preceded byNelson Lemmon
Succeeded byWilfrid Kent Hughes
Governor of Bengal
In office
14 January 1944  19 February 1946
Preceded byJohn Herbert
Succeeded byFrederick Burrows
Minister to the United States of America
In office
1 February 1940  20 April 1942
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies (1940–41)
Arthur Fadden (1941)
John Curtin (1941–42)
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded bySir Owen Dixon
Treasurer of Australia
In office
3 October 1935  26 April 1939
Prime MinisterJoseph Lyons (1935–39)
Sir Earle Page (1939)
Preceded byJoseph Lyons
Succeeded byRobert Menzies
Member of the United Kingdom House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
16 May 1960  17 June 1976
Member of the Australian Parliament
for La Trobe
In office
10 December 1949  10 February 1960
Preceded byDivision created
Succeeded byJohn Jess
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Corio
In office
19 December 1931  30 January 1940
Preceded byArthur Lewis
Succeeded byJohn Dedman
Personal details
Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey

(1890-08-29)29 August 1890
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died17 June 1976(1976-06-17) (aged 85)
Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
Political partyUnited Australia(before 1945)
Liberal (after 1945)
Maie Ryan
(m. 1926)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Trinity College, Cambridge
ProfessionDiplomat, politician
Military service
Branch/serviceAustralian Imperial Force
Years of service1914–1919
AwardsDistinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)

Casey was born in Brisbane, but moved to Melbourne when he was young. He entered residence at Trinity College, Melbourne, in 1909 while studying engineering at the University of Melbourne before continuing his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1914, Casey enlisted as a lieutenant in the Australian Imperial Force. He saw service in the Gallipoli Campaign and on the Western Front, reaching the rank of major and winning the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross before becoming a Chief Intelligence Officer in 1920. Casey joined the Australian public service in 1924 to work at Whitehall as a liaison officer with the British administration. He reported directly to the prime minister, Stanley Bruce, with whom he developed a close relationship.

In 1931, Casey was elected to federal parliament for the United Australia Party. He served as treasurer from 1935 to 1939 (under Joseph Lyons and Earle Page), and then as Minister for Supply and Development from 1939 to 1940 (under Robert Menzies). During World War II, Casey was Ambassador to the United States from 1940 to 1942, and then joined Winston Churchill's War Cabinet as its representative in the Middle East. In 1944, Churchill appointed him Governor of Bengal, where he handled the recovery from the 1943 famine and civil unrest in the lead-up to independence.

Casey returned to Australia in 1946. He was federal president of the fledgling Liberal Party from 1947 to 1950, and re-entered parliament at the 1949 election. Casey was reappointed to cabinet shortly after, again serving under Robert Menzies. He held various national development portfolios from 1949 to 1951, and then served as Minister for External Affairs until his retirement from politics in 1960. In 1965, Menzies named Casey to replace Lord De L'Isle as governor-general. He served for just under four years; the only major constitutional issue during his tenure was the disappearance of Harold Holt in 1967.

The City of Casey within Greater Melbourne is named in recognition of Casey.

Early life and education

Casey was born in Brisbane, Queensland, as Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, but he dropped the "Gavin" in later life. His father, also named Richard Gardiner Casey, was a wealthy pastoralist and Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly of Irish descent. His mother, Evelyn, was the daughter of George Harris, another wealthy pastoralist and Member of the Queensland Legislative Council. His father moved the family to Melbourne in 1893 and became a rich company director.

Casey was educated at Cumloden School, St Kilda, and at Melbourne Grammar School. He enrolled for engineering at the University of Melbourne, where he was a resident student at Trinity College in 1909 and 1910, but then travelled to England, entering Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1913, graduating with second-class honours in the mechanical sciences tripos. By the custom of Cambridge, this was translated to a Master of Arts in 1918.[1]

Military and early career

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Casey joined the Australian Imperial Force, receiving a commission as a lieutenant in the 3rd Infantry Brigade on 14 September.[2][3] He was a member of the first convoy on board the Orvieto, and was the responsible officer looking after the German prisoners from the SMS Emden following the Battle of Cocos until the ship reached Colombo. He was appointed an aide-de-camp on 27 February 1915,[4] and was appointed a staff captain on the brigade staff on 20 August, receiving the corresponding promotion to captain from the same date.[5][6] He served at Gallipoli as aide-de-camp to Major General Sir William Bridges. Casey was standing next to Bridges when Bridges was shot by a sniper (he died three days later). Casey related a story in 1967 in speech delivered at Gallipoli of a British officer being rescued by a Turkish soldier. A statue was created based on this story that now has pride of place in the Gallipoli battlefields. Later he served in France, where he observed operations and sifted information, earning the Military Cross[7] and promotion to brigade major of the 8th Brigade. This position involved dangerous visits to the front line and he received a Distinguished Service Order in 1918.[8] He resigned his commission in June 1919 and transferred to the Reserve of Officers, serving as a part-time intelligence officer in Melbourne.[1]

Casey's father died in 1919 and he returned after the war to Melbourne to take over his father's business interests including engineering and mining firms. He did this until 1924, when the prime minister, Stanley Bruce, appointed him as his political liaison officer in London, a position he held until 1931, sending home confidential reports on political and economic matters, both for Bruce and for his Labor successor, James Scullin. In 1926 he married Maie Ryan, daughter of Sir Charles Ryan, with whom he had two children.[1]

Pre-war political career

Casey in his office as Australian Minister to the United States.

In 1931, Casey returned to Australia and was elected to the House of Representatives as the United Australia Party (UAP) Member for the Geelong-based seat of Corio. The prime minister, Joseph Lyons, appointed him an assistant minister in 1933 and in 1935 he became treasurer.[1]

In 1939, Robert Menzies became prime minister for the first time. He saw Casey as a rival and moved him to the lesser portfolio of supply and development. In 1940, Casey resigned from parliament when Menzies appointed him as the first Australian Ambassador to the United States. This was a vital posting in wartime, but it also served to remove Casey from domestic politics. Casey was in Washington, D.C., when the US entered the war and he played an important role in establishing the alliance between the US and Australia.[9] In this effort he engaged the services of public relations counsellor Earl Newsom.

World War II

Richard Casey, Minister Resident in the Middle East, stands on the far right; Lebanon, 1942

Casey moved to Cairo in 1942 when Winston Churchill appointed him Minister-Resident for the Middle East, to the annoyance of Prime Minister John Curtin and some in the British Foreign Office.[10] In this role he played a key role in negotiating between the British and Allied governments, local leaders and the Allied commanders in the field. In 1944, when the Middle East ceased to be a military theatre, the British government appointed Casey as the Governor of Bengal, in India, a post which he held till 1946.[1] During his tenure he had to deal with the aftermath of the devastating Bengal famine of 1943. He also had to deal with the ever more vocal demands for independence from Britain by Indian patriots, represented politically by the Indian National Congress.

Post-war political career

In 1946 Casey returned to Australia in the hope of being elected to parliament in the 1946 election and becoming the leader of the new Liberal Party that Menzies had formed in 1944, as part of his reorganisation of conservative politics in Australia. Casey had turned down the offer of a British peerage to preserve his political chances. However, he was too late to organise his pre-selection for a seat. He was persuaded to become Federal President of the Liberal Party in September 1947 and proved to be a very effective fundraiser, partly as a result of his past social and business connections.[1] Although Menzies still saw Casey as a rival, and although Casey undoubtedly saw himself as a future Prime Minister, they formed an effective partnership.

The Liberals won the 1949 election, and Casey returned to the House of Representatives as Member for the outer Melbourne seat of La Trobe. Menzies appointed him Minister for Supply and Development and Minister for Works and Housing. In March 1950 he became Minister for National Development, gaining functions from Eric Harrison's abolished portfolio of Postwar Reconstruction and losing supply to Howard Beale. In 1951, when the Minister for External Affairs, Percy Spender (another Menzies rival), was dispatched to the Washington embassy, Casey succeeded him. Casey held the External Affairs post during the height of the Cold War, the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War and other major world events. He formed close relations with Anthony Eden, John Foster Dulles and other leaders. Casey was also Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from March 1950, and he was committed to its success.

On 16 May 1960 Casey was created a life peer of the British House of Lords, on the recommendation of the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, taking the title Baron Casey, of Berwick in the State of Victoria in the Commonwealth of Australia and of the City of Westminster;[11][12] next month he resigned from the ministry and parliament. For most Australians, Britain was still the mother country, but it was by then becoming something of an anomaly that an Australian should be appointed to another country's parliament. Lord Casey made annual trips to London and put in appearances in the House of Lords, but he had no obvious constituency. He was also appointed to the executive of the CSIRO in 1960.[1]


Baron Casey at Government House, Calcutta, during World War II
Casey as Governor-General in 1965

In 1965 the Queen, on Menzies' recommendation, appointed Lord Casey Governor-General to succeed Lord De L'Isle. This was the first time a non-Labor prime minister had recommended an Australian for the post, but it also marked the end of the appointment of non-Australians to the office of Governor-General. He was initially reluctant to accept the post, but when he did accept, he asked for a two-year appointment instead of the usual five years, subject to extension should he wish to continue. In the event, he served for three and a half years.[12]

According to William McMahon, Prime Minister Harold Holt (Menzies' successor) considered having Casey dismissed from the governor-generalship, and went as far as to have the necessary documents drawn up. This was because Casey had twice called McMahon into Yarralumla to give him a "dressing down" over his poor relationship with Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen, which he believed was affecting the government. Holt agreed with McMahon that this was an improper intervention in the political process, but no further action was taken.[13]

In April 1967, during the Wave Hill walk-off, the Gurindji strikers drafted a petition to Casey, asking for a lease of 1,300 km2 (500 sq mi) around Daguragu, to be run cooperatively by the Gurundji as a mining and cattle lease. The petition said "We feel that morally the land is ours and should be returned to us". However, in June 1967 Casey refused the lease.[14]

One of the arguments against appointing an Australian, particularly a former politician, had always been that they would be too closely involved with Australian personalities and issues to perform their constitutional role impartially. This became an acute issue for Casey in December 1967, when Holt disappeared, presumed drowned.[15][16]

Casey could have commissioned McMahon, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, as acting Prime Minister or Caretaker prime minister, but instead he appointed John McEwen, the leader of Liberals' coalition partner, the Country Party. In this he was following a precedent set in 1939, when Sir Earle Page was appointed Prime Minister following the death of Joseph Lyons. But it was later alleged that Casey appointed McEwen to prevent McMahon having an advantage in the Liberal Party's ballot for a new leader, since he shared the view of some Liberals that McMahon would not be a suitable successor. This matter was aired in a 1969 book, The Power Struggle, by veteran political journalist Alan Reid. Casey's biographer, W.J. Hudson says (in his 1986 book Casey) that Casey was concerned to preserve the Liberal-Country Party coalition, and that he knew (because McEwen had told him) that the Country Party would not serve under McMahon (McEwen publicly confirmed his party's position on McMahon the day after his swearing-in). If this was his motive for commissioning McEwen rather than McMahon, it suggests that he did take political considerations into account in making his decision.[15][16] On the other hand, if the coalition were to disband, there would have been no party that could command a majority in the parliament and it could well have become unworkable. Ultimately, McMahon withdrew from the leadership election, which was subsequently won by John Gorton.

Casey's Official Secretary throughout his term was Murray Tyrrell, who was knighted in 1968.

Casey left office in 1969 and he and his wife retired to their farm at Berwick in Victoria. Casey never fully recovered from a car accident in 1974, and died on 17 June 1976 at St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, survived by his wife, daughter and son.[1] He is buried in Mount Macedon cemetery.


Coat of arms of Richard Casey, Baron Casey
A sea gull wings expanded Proper.
Per chevron Sable and Azure in chief a cogwheel and sun in splendour Or in base above four barrulets wavy a representation of the constellation of the Southern Cross Argent.
Dexter an Australian worker of European stock habited in a white shirt and khaki trousers, sinister an Asian worker habited in a white coat and dhoti all Proper.
Vis Et Unitas (Strength And Unity)[17]

Casey received a Military Cross, was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and was twice Mentioned in Despatches during the First World War. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1944. In 1960, he was created "Baron Casey, of Berwick in the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth of Australia, and of the City of Westminster",[18] becoming the second (and last) Australian politician (after Stanley Bruce) to be elevated to the House of Lords (Sir John Forrest is sometimes mentioned in such lists, however his peerage was never formally established).[1] He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1965, and a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) in 1969. In 1969 also, he was named Australian of the Year.[19]

The municipality which includes Berwick is now called the City of Casey. There is also federal Electoral Division of Casey (in a different part of Melbourne). The Canberra suburb of Casey and Casey Station, a base in the Australian Antarctic Territory, were named in Casey's honour. The R. G. Casey Building in Canberra is the headquarters of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


  1. Hudson, W. J. (1993). "Casey, Richard Gavin Gardiner, Baron Casey (1890–1976)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 25 August 2007.
  2. "Australian Imperial Force (Appointments, Etc.)". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 74. 19 September 1914. p. 2232. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  3. "First World War Service Record – Richard Gardiner Casey". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  4. "Australian Imperial Force". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 83. 31 July 1915. p. 1468. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  5. "Australian Imperial Force (Appointments, Promotions, Etc.)". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 158. 23 December 1915. p. 3196. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  6. "Australian Imperial Force (Appointments, Promotions, Etc.)". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 44. 6 April 1916. p. 892. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  7. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29886, page 44, 29 December 1916
  8. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30450, page 28, 28 December 1917
  9. R. G. Casey (2008) A Delicate Mission: The Washington Diaries of R. G. Casey 1940-42/ Edited by Carl Bridge, Canberra, National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-642-27662-9
  10. "Casey's Job Ends". The Daily Telegraph. Vol. VII, no. 9. New South Wales, Australia. 1 April 1942. p. 5. Retrieved 15 September 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "No. 42035". The London Gazette. 17 May 1960. p. 3465.
  12. "Sir David Smith, What shall we do with ex-Governors-General?". Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  13. "McMahon 'in Casey row'". The Canberra Times. 4 April 1988.
  14. Lawford, Elliana; Zillman, Stephanie (18 August 2016). "Timeline: From Wave Hill protest to land handbacks". ABC News. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  15. Reid, Alan (1972). The Power Struggle. Sydney: Tartan Press. pp. 195. ISBN 0-7264-0005-X.
  16. Hudson, W. J. (1986). Casey. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 361. ISBN 0-19-554730-6.
  17. Debrett's Peerage. 1973.
  18. "No. 42035". The London Gazette. 17 May 1960. p. 3465.
  19. Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.

Further reading

  • Casey, Richard Gardiner (1949). Double or Quit : Some Views on Australian Development and Relations. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire.
  • Casey, Richard Gardiner (1959). Friends and Neighbours: Australia and The World. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire.
  • Casey, Richard Gardiner; Millar, T. B. (1972). Australian foreign minister: the diaries of R.G. Casey, 1951–60. London: Collins. pp. 352. ISBN 0-00-211001-6.
  • Casey, Richard Gardiner (1963). Personal experience, 1939–1946. New York: David McKay Co. p. 256.
  • Hudson, William James (1986). Casey. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195547306.
  • Prior, James (2017). America Looks to Australia: The Hidden Role of Richard Casey in the Creation of the Australia-America Alliance, 1940-1942. Australian Scholarly Publishing. ISBN 9781925588323.
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