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Lord, John Ernest Cecil (1870–1949)

by Alan Warden

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

John Ernest Cecil Lord (1870-1949), police commissioner and soldier, was born on 8 May 1870 at Brighton, Tasmania, one of ten children of Richard David Lord, farmer, and his wife Augusta Louisa, née Packer. Leaving school at 15 he entered the Tasmanian Civil Service and a year later was transferred as a clerk to the inspector of police whose function was to co-ordinate the many municipal and territorial police districts of Tasmania. Under the Police Regulation Act of 1898 a centralized, State-wide Police Department was created. Never a constable or a police officer, Lord spent twenty years in administrative positions until, on 1 January 1906 at the time of a royal commission into police administration, he became acting commissioner and was confirmed in office the following July. He was commissioner of police for almost thirty-five years until his retirement on 25 November 1940.

Always conspicuous in sport, Lord became president of the Royal Hobart Regatta Association, the Derwent Rowing Club and the Tasmanian Amateur Boxing and Wrestling Association. On 9 January 1901, at St George's Anglican Church, Battery Point, he married Hannah May Smith (1874-1948); they had nine children of whom five survived to adulthood. Derwentwater at Sandy Bay was the family home.

In 1908 Lord was ordered by the Tasmanian attorney-general to 'report upon the state of the Furneaux Group of Bass Strait islands, the condition and mode of living of half-castes, the existing method of regulating the reserves, and suggest lines for future administration'. Authoritarian and condescending in the light of later attitudes to minority regional and ethnic problems, his report gives, however, a fine account of early conditions in the Furneaux islands.

In Lord's era the police were the 'catch-all' of many legal and social problems: the criminal investigation and traffic branches were created, women police were recruited, constables were appointed as assistant harbourmasters and bailiffs of crown land and assigned to detect codlin moth, false weights and measures, and school truancy. They also undertook tide-watching for the Commonwealth Customs, town surveying and property valuations. The commissioner was required to be chairman of the Scenery Preservation Board, Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Commission and the Animals and Birds Protection Board.

Lord began his military service as a private on 19 May 1898 and was commissioned lieutenant in the Tasmanian Infantry Regiment on 22 December 1899. Promoted captain in 1902, he transferred to the Derwent Regiment and commanded its 1st Battalion from 1910; he was a major from 1912. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was in command of harbour defences in Hobart. On 10 February 1916 he joined the Australian Imperial Force as lieutenant-colonel commanding the 40th Battalion and embarked on 1 July. After training on Salisbury Plain, England, Lord and the 'Fortieth' were dispatched to France on 24 November. There followed two years in the trenches of France and Belgium, at Armentières, Messines, Ypres, Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux, the Somme and the Hindenburg line. He retained command of the 40th Battalion but between July 1918 and February 1919 held temporary commands of the 5th, 9th (in the battle of Amiens), 10th and 15th Brigades. After the Armistice he examined police administration in Britain and embarked for Australia on 20 April 1919; his A.I.F. appointment ended on 6 August. For his war service he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the French Croix de Guerre, was appointed C.M.G. and mentioned in dispatches three times. Until the end of 1924 he was in command of the 25th and 12th Brigades, Australian Military Forces. On 8 May 1928 he was placed on the retired list with the rank of colonel, thus completing thirty years in the Australian Army.

Lord died at Cygnet on 29 October 1949 and, after a service in St David's Cathedral, Hobart, with full military and police honours, was cremated at Cornelian Bay cemetery. In a foreword to The Fortieth Sir John Monash wrote: 'the Battalion found an officer … capable of setting and enforcing a high example, and of forming and guiding the soul of his command'. Survived by one son and three daughters, Lord left an estate sworn for probate at £20,500.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1900)
  • F. C. Green, The Fortieth (Hob, 1922)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1917, 1918 (Syd, 1933, 1942)
  • R. L. Wettenhall, A Guide to Tasmanian Government Administration (Hob, 1968)
  • M. Sharland, Once Upon a Time (Hob, 1976)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Jan 1941
  • Mercury (Hobart), 2 Jan, 2 July 1906, 31 Oct 1949
  • Examiner (Launceston), 8 May 1940.

Citation details

Alan Warden, 'Lord, John Ernest Cecil (1870–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lord-john-ernest-cecil-7235/text12529, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 19 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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