Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Treloar, George Devine (1884–1980)

by Hugh Gilchrist

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

George Devine Treloar (1884-1980), gentleman of fortune, was born on 23 April 1884 at Ballarat, Victoria, son of Thomas Reid Treloar, chemist, and his wife Jane, née Devine, both Victorian born. Educated at Ballarat's St Patrick's College, he was a bank clerk at Ballarat for five years, then a jackeroo in western Victoria before he farmed in Western Australia. While travelling by ship to Adelaide, he was recruited by actor-manager Julius Knight and toured Australia with his troup, playing in romantic dramas. Oscar Asche took Treloar to South Africa and England where he was acting when war broke out in 1914.

Having previously served at Ballarat as a lieutenant in the 3rd Victorian Rifles, Treloar immediately volunteered. Although rejected because of defective eyesight, he wangled his way into the 20th Middlesex (Artists) Rifle Volunteers in 1915 as a private and secured a transfer to the Coldstream Guards. He served in France, was commissioned and ultimately promoted to major, second-in-command of the 3rd Battalion. Buried twice by shellbursts on the Somme and almost bullet-riddled at Ypres, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross. In 1918 he commanded the Brigade of Guards Officers' School of Instruction and, following the Armistice, served with his battalion in the Rhineland Occupation Force.

After commanding the post-war Royal Military, Naval and Air Force Tournament at Olympia, London, in 1919, Treloar joined the British Mission to the White Russian armies as assistant military secretary to Major-General Holman. At Constantinople after the withdrawal of the mission, Treloar served with the Tsarist army as a colonel under Baron Wrangel. When the White Russians were defeated Treloar commanded a British camp for Russian refugees at Tousla on the Sea of Marmora. His attempt to set up as a timber concessions trader in Constantinople was frustrated by the Turks. He then became a representative of the League of Nations High Commissariat for Refugees in northern Greece.

In 1922-26 Treloar was engaged in the resettlement of Greek refugees from Asia Minor; at first he worked at Gumuldjina (Komotini) in Thrace and later in Salonika; by 1923 his mission was handling over 108,000 refugees. His efforts to organize food, shelter, medical care and resettlement precipitated disputes with indifferent league officials in Geneva and with a senior Greek official. Treloar was appointed to the Order of the Saviour (gold cross) and a refugee village (Thrilorion) near Komotini was named after him.

In Constantinople on 27 December 1923 Treloar married Kathleen May Douch whose father was an engineering consultant to the Turkish government. When the league's resettlement operation ended, Treloar suffered severe financial loss in a fraudulent mining investment and in 1927 returned to Australia to seek work. Eight years later his family rejoined him. He sold insurance and sought business opportunities in Queensland before unsuccessfully contesting the New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Ashfield for the United Australia Party in 1930. In that year Colonel Eric Campbell appointed him second-in-command of the New Guard. In 1931, however, Treloar denounced Campbell as a Fascist and militarist, and founded his own short-lived movement, the Civic Legion.

In 1935 the Treloars moved to Western Australia where George prospected and managed several mining enterprises. As 'The Archer', he became known for his trenchant radio commentaries on foreign affairs and for his programme, 'Perth Speaks'. A handsome man of commanding presence, forthright speech and strongly-held conservative views, 'the Major' stood unsuccessfully for the Legislative Council seat of West Province in 1950 and worked for the Liberal and Country League until 1956. Treloar died on 29 November 1980 at Dalkeith and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery, Perth. His wife and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian, 26 Mar 1921
  • Herald (Melbourne), 5 May 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1927
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 17 Sept 1927
  • Broadcaster, 12 June 1946, 6 Nov 1948
  • West Australian, 3 Dec 1980.

Citation details

Hugh Gilchrist, 'Treloar, George Devine (1884–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/treloar-george-devine-8845/text15521, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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