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Brooks, Sir Reginald Alexander Dallas (1896–1966)

by Paul H. De Serville

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks (1896-1966), by Athol Shmith, 1950s

Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks (1896-1966), by Athol Shmith, 1950s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an12115152

Sir Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks (1896-1966), governor, was born on 22 August 1896 at Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, only son of Dallas George Brooks, a theological graduate and later a chaplain in the Royal Navy, and his wife Violet Ruth, née Shepherd. Educated at Dover College, where he distinguished himself at sport, young Brooks was commissioned in the Royal Marines on 22 August 1914. He was severely wounded at Gallipoli, mentioned in dispatches and awarded the French Croix de Guerre. Invalided home, he served in the Grand Fleet from 1916 and specialized as an artillery officer. For his 'very fine' direction of the howitzer on the exposed quarter-deck of H.M.S. Vindictive at the assault on Zeebrugge, Belgium, on 23 April 1918, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Promoted brevet major (7 May 1918), he was again mentioned in dispatches. In the 1920s he captained the Combined Services' cricket and hockey teams, and also played golf and hockey for the navy. On 3 December 1924 at St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, he married his cousin Muriel Violet Turner Laing.

Graduating from the R.N. Staff College in 1934, during World War II Brooks served as deputy director-general (military) of the Foreign Office's political warfare executive. (Sir) Noel Coward described him as 'large and good-looking and impeccably dressed . . . a typical Royal Marine officer, which means that he was efficient, sentimental and had perfect manners'. In January 1945 Brooks returned to corps duty as major general, General Staff. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1943, C.B. in 1946 and, that year, commandant general, Royal Marines, with the rank of lieutenant general. Promoted general and appointed K.C.B. in 1948, he left the marines in May 1949.

Following the retirement in February 1949 of Sir Winston Dugan, governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas was chosen as his successor. His Gallipoli experience and his sporting prowess ensured a warm reception from press and public. The Australian Labor Party had wanted an Australian, but the premier T. T. Hollway preferred an Englishman who would have no ties with State politics and who would preserve the link between the throne and the people of Victoria. The appointment was not announced until the premier had steered a bill through parliament, raising the governor's salary to £6000, with an annual grant of £4000 for expenses, and the government began to renovate the dilapidated, damp and underfurnished Government House.

Brooks came in October 1949 to a State which was suffering postwar shortages and unrest, and which had endured twenty-five years of minority government and political instability. He had his political blooding in June 1950 when the minority Hollway government was defeated in a no-confidence motion by a union of the Country Party under (Sir) John McDonald and the Labor Party, led by John Cain. Brooks commissioned McDonald to form a ministry which, supported by Labor, lasted until October 1952. When an alliance of Labor and Hollway's breakaway Liberals rejected supply in the Legislative Council, Brooks refused McDonald's request for a dissolution and commissioned Hollway to form a ministry which lasted less than two days. On 31 October Brooks recommissioned McDonald, then granted him a dissolution. Labor won at the polls in December. In 1953 Cain extended Brooks's term to 1956.

With his height, commanding figure and splendid dress-uniform, Brooks looked every inch a viceroy, but a genial and approachable manner removed any hint of reserve. Possibly on the instructions of King George VI, he opened the gates of Government House to the people of Victoria and carried out his duties in ways suited to a changing society. An honorary member of the Victorian Operative Bricklayers' Society and No.l ticket-holder of the Richmond Football Club, he regularly appeared at the Christmas party of the Shop Assistants' Union and became the first governor to attend a meeting of the Trades Hall Council. The advent of (Sir) Henry Bolte's Liberal government in 1955 saw Brooks embark upon a new role as advocate for a developing industrial economy. In 1956 Bolte offered him a third term of office.

Promoted K.C.M.G. (1952), K.C.V.0. (1954) and G.C.M.G. (1963), Brooks thrice served as administrator of the Commonwealth. In 1961 he suffered a heart attack. He retired as Victoria's longest-serving governor, and one of its most popular, in April 1963. After revisiting England, he returned to Melbourne and built a house at Frankston. He died there of a coronary occlusion on 22 March 1966 and was cremated; his wife and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Coward, Future Indefinite (Lond, 1954)
  • S. Sayers, Ned Herring (Melb, 1980)
  • Globe and Laurel, Apr 1966
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Apr 1962
  • Times (London), 22 Mar 1966
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Mar 1966
  • Herald (Melbourne), 27 Mar 1966.

Citation details

Paul H. De Serville, 'Brooks, Sir Reginald Alexander Dallas (1896–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brooks-sir-reginald-alexander-dallas-9592/text16907, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 19 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks (1896-1966), by Athol Shmith, 1950s

Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks (1896-1966), by Athol Shmith, 1950s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an12115152