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Strutt, Horace William (1903–1985)

by S. N. Gower

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Horace William Strutt (1903-1985), merchant, army officer and politician, was born on 19 December 1903 in Hobart, second son of Victorian-born William Henry Strutt, clerk, and his English-born wife Ada Blanche, née Deacon.  William Strutt was a member (1938-47) of the Tasmanian Legislative Council.  Horace was educated at Queen’s College and The Friends’ High School, where he was a house captain and prefect.  On leaving school he joined Macfarlane Bros & Co., merchants, importers and shipping and insurance agents; later he became a partner.  He joined the Militia in July 1923 and a year later was appointed as a lieutenant in the Australian Field Artillery.  On 22 March 1927 at St Mark’s Church of England, Bellerive, he married Coralie Jean Dawson.  In 1927-30 he served as aide-de-camp to the governor of Tasmania, Sir James O’Grady, and by 1933 he had risen to the rank of major.  He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 15 March 1938 and placed in command of the 6th Field Brigade.

Seconded to the Australian Imperial Force on 13 October 1939, Strutt took command of the 2/5th Field Regiment, which in February 1940 was designated the 1st Australian Anti-Tank Regiment.  In May it departed for the Middle East as part of the 6th Division.  The convoy was diverted to Britain; on 17 September Strutt was appointed to command the 2/3rd Field Regiment.  In November the regiment embarked for the Middle East and was deployed to the Egyptian border in preparation for an attack on the Italian stronghold at Bardia, Libya.  He participated in the Western Desert campaign from the capture of Sidi Barani, Egypt, in December to the surrender of Benghazi, Libya, in February 1941, and was mentioned in despatches.  Next month he left for Greece, where the 6th Division became heavily engaged against the invading German forces.  During the battle of Veve on 12 April Strutt kept his guns in action until the last possible moment.  It was largely due to his calm courage that his force was able to withdraw successfully when the enemy was within a few hundred yards of his position.  That year he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

The 2/3rd Field Regiment was evacuated to Crete.  In May Strutt was placed in temporary command of the artillery of the New Zealand Division prior to the forthcoming battle.  Returning to the Middle East in June, he was soon after promoted to temporary brigadier and appointed commander of the Royal Australian Artillery, 6th Division, in place of Major General (Sir) Edmund Herring.  With the entry of Japan into the war he returned to Australia in March 1942 and in September took command of the artillery in Northern Territory Force in preparation for an expected Japanese attack.  In December he was appointed commander of the Royal Australian Artillery, 12th Division.

Strutt was well regarded by influential senior officers and higher army appointments seemed inevitable, but he became ill with serious tropical diseases, including dengue fever.  After lengthy stays in military hospitals he was transferred on 7 June 1944 to the Reserve of Officers with the honorary rank of brigadier.  It was only after treatment in Britain that his health improved significantly.

In November 1946 Strutt was elected to Tasmania’s House of Assembly as a Liberal Party member for Denison.  In April 1955 the Liberal Opposition, in the absence of a government majority, exercised its right to nominate Strutt as Speaker; he held this position until September 1956.  Defeated at the May 1959 election, he re-entered parliament (on a re-count) in December and retained his place until defeated in December 1969.

Strutt was president of the Hobart branch of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (1945-47), and of the (Royal) United Service Institute of Tasmania (1947-50); he was chairman (1948-49) of the (Royal) Overseas League, Tasmanian branch.  He returned to the army in an honorary capacity as colonel commandant (1956-65) of the Royal Australian Artillery in Tasmania.  Although a figurehead appointment, it gave him the chance to mix with a new generation of soldiers.  Keen on trotting and horse racing, he was chairman (1959-72) of the Tasmanian Racing Club.  He was also a member of the Tasmanian, Athenaeum and Naval, Military & Air Force clubs.  Survived by his wife and their daughter and one of their two sons, he died on 5 November 1985 at Hobart and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, Greece, Crete and Syria (1962)
  • D. Horner, The Gunners (1995)
  • L. Bishop, The Thunder of the Guns (1998)
  • P. Bennison, Speakers of the House of Assembly Tasmania, 1856-2000 (2001)
  • B883, item TX2001 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

S. N. Gower, 'Strutt, Horace William (1903–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strutt-horace-william-15783/text26975, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 June 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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