This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990
Arthur Herbert Tennyson Somers (1887-1944), governor, was born on 20 March 1887 at Freshwater, Isle of Wight, second child of Herbert Haldane Somers-Cocks, late lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, and his wife Blanche Margaret Standish, née Clogstoun. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was his godfather. Arthur and his sister, orphaned by 1896, were brought up by their paternal and maternal relatives who kept them in touch with artistic and literary figures. Succeeding the 5th baron at the age of 12, Arthur was educated at Charterhouse, and New College, Oxford; in 1906 he joined the 1st Life Guards. An all-round athlete who played county cricket, polo, golf and royal tennis, he took leave and farmed in Canada before rejoining his regiment in 1914.
At Ypres he was twice wounded. In 1918 he commanded the 6th Battalion of the New Tank Corps. He was mentioned in dispatches, awarded the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order, and appointed to the Légion d'honneur. After the war Somers began a lifelong involvement with the scout movement. On 20 April 1921 he married Daisy Finola Meeking at St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, London.
Inheriting the Eastnor estates from his cousin, Lady Henry Somerset, Somers retired from the army as a lieutenant-colonel in 1922. A lord-in-waiting and government spokesman in the House of Lords, 1924-26, he was then appointed governor of Victoria and K.C.M.G. Six feet (183 cm) tall, with brown hair and a clipped moustache, Somers had charm and natural gaiety which won him popularity. Warm and generous, he had a genuine interest in people, as well as a high sense of duty and leadership. A shrewd and successful governor from 28 June 1926 to 23 June 1931, he was respected by politicians, although he privately lamented their lack of political ability. He administered the Commonwealth as acting governor-general from 3 October 1930 to 22 January 1931.
Somers took special interest in youth, Freemasonry (he was grand master of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria), flora and fauna, music, 'Toc H' and returned servicemen. In 1929, at his own expense, he brought together teenage boys from different backgrounds to what was named Lord Somers' Camp and Power House, a youth organization which continues to this day. Somers revisited Australia and his camp in 1933, and again in 1937 when, as president of the Marylebone Cricket Club, he accompanied the English touring team.
He became chief commissioner of the scouts in 1932, largely running the movement as deputy chief scout in 1935-41. Designated by Lord Baden-Powell as his successor, Somers was appointed chief scout for Great Britain in 1941 and subsequently for the British Commonwealth. Lord-lieutenant of Herefordshire (1933), he was an ardent conservationist and worked to protect the Malvern Hills. In 1940-41 he was Red Cross commissioner in Egypt until debilitated by cancer of the throat. He was a devout Anglican. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died on 14 July 1944 at Eastnor Castle and was cremated. His portraits hang at Lord Somers' Camp, Somers, Victoria, and Dallas Brooks Hall, Melbourne.
Alan Gregory, 'Somers, Arthur Herbert Tennyson (1887–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/somers-arthur-herbert-tennyson-8578/text14975, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 1 August 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990