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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bosanquet, Sir Day Hort (1843–1923)

by P. A. Howell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Day Hort Bosanquet (1843-1923), by unknown photographer

Day Hort Bosanquet (1843-1923), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 18312

Sir Day Hort Bosanquet (1843-1923), admiral and governor, was born on 22 March 1843 at Alnwick, Northumberland, England, third son of Rev. Robert William Bosanquet and his second wife Caroline, née MacDowall. He was an elder brother of Bernard Bosanquet, the philosopher. He entered the Royal Navy in 1857, and as a midshipman he was present at the taking of Canton. As commander-in-chief, East Indies, in 1899-1902, he had some success in suppressing the Arab slave trade and preventing the Boers from importing arms. Meanwhile, much of his career had been spent in command of training ships and colleges. Promoted commander in 1874, captain in 1882, rear admiral in 1897 and vice admiral in 1902, he was commander-in-chief on the North America and West Indies Station in 1904-07, and at Portsmouth in 1907-08. He was appointed K.C.B. in 1905 and G.C.V.O. in 1907.

On retirement Bosanquet was appointed governor of South Australia. Soon after his arrival on 29 March 1909, he called on the ailing premier of the Labor-Liberal coalition, Tom Price, who confided that he intended to resign in June and to recommend that Labor's John Verran be commissioned to succeed him. Nevertheless, the governor believed that the acting premier A. H. Peake, a Liberal, was 'the proper person to be sent for', because Verran had never held cabinet rank. He acted accordingly when Price died six weeks later, and the 1910 election brought Verran to power.

Bosanquet plagued four successive ministries with memoranda demanding an end to the practice of requiring the governor periodically to sign warrants for excess expenditure pending parliament's grant of supply. The practice was regularized by the Governor's Appropriation Act, 1911. He sympathized with Labor's plans to curtail the Legislative Council's power of veto, and when the Imperial government was asked to intervene, in November 1911, he at first suggested ways in which his ministers could strengthen their case. However, he was angered when Verran sought to force the matter by tacking two extraordinary items to a supply bill, thus ensuring its rejection by the council. He consented to use the Governor's Appropriation Act to pay civil servants' wages, but refused to entertain a request for a dissolution until Verran undertook to use all means of obtaining supply. In telegrams to the Colonial Office he suggested that the crisis was of Verran's own making and observed that interference by the Imperial government 'would be strongly resented by the Opposition'. The Asquith ministry declined to intervene, supply was obtained, parliament was dissolved and Downing Street rejoiced. Bosanquet encouraged both Peake and Verran to fight for South Australia's rights, especially in the boundary dispute with Victoria, the struggle for a fair share of Murray water, and the building of the Oodnadatta-Pine Creek rail link as a quid pro quo for the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth.

Bosanquet returned to England in March 1914 and was appointed K.C.M.G. In 1881 he had married Mary Butt, by whom he had a son and two daughters. After his son was killed in action in 1916, he sold Brom-y-Clos, his estate in Herefordshire, and moved to the Old Vicarage, Newbury, Berkshire, where he died on 28 June 1923.

Select Bibliography

  • P. A. Howell, ‘Varieties of vice-regal life in South Australia’, JHSSA, no 3, 1977
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 1909-14
  • Register (Adelaide), 1909-14, 22 Dec 1923
  • 'Obituary', Times (London), 30 June 1923, p 14, 'Memorial and Funeral Services', Times (London), 24 May 1930, p 15
  • CO 418/73, 82, 92, 103, 115, 126.

Citation details

P. A. Howell, 'Bosanquet, Sir Day Hort (1843–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Day Hort Bosanquet (1843-1923), by unknown photographer

Day Hort Bosanquet (1843-1923), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 18312