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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wakehurst, second Baron (1895–1970)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

second Baron Wakehurst (1895-1970), by unknown photographer

second Baron Wakehurst (1895-1970), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 14484

John de Vere Loder, 2nd Baron Wakehurst (1895-1970), governor, was born on 5 February 1895 at Cadogan Square, London, only son and eldest of five children of Gerald Walter Erskine Loder, later 1st Baron Wakehurst of Ardingly, and his wife Lady Louise de Vere Beauclerk, daughter of the 10th Duke of St Albans. A barrister and railway company chairman, Gerald was Conservative member of the House of Commons for Brighton (1889-1905). John attended St Aubyn's preparatory school, Rottingdean, and Eton College. He excelled at French, German and history, enjoyed acting, and visited Germany several times. His mother, believing him to be the incarnation of Pharaoh Thotmes (Thutmose) III, encouraged his interest in Egyptology. Destined for Trinity College, Cambridge, instead he was commissioned in the 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, on 6 October 1914. After service at Gallipoli, and in the Intelligence Corps in Egypt and Palestine, Captain Loder was mentioned in dispatches and demobilized in 1919.

Loder worked in the Foreign Office (1919-22), and with the League of Nations (1922-24). On 3 June 1920, at Holy Trinity parish church, Chelsea, London, he had married Margaret (1899-1994), daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, baronet, and his second wife Marguerite, née Miles. Born on 4 November 1899 at The Glen, Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, Scotland, Peggy was a half-sister of Margot Asquith (Lady Oxford). The Loders, both possessing private means, visited Australia in 1924 during a world tour. John was Unionist (Conservative) member in the Commons for East Leicester (1924-29) and for Lewes, East Sussex (1931-36). Succeeding to the barony in 1936, next year he was appointed governor of New South Wales and K.C.M.G. On 8 April 1937 the family arrived in Sydney, and Lord Wakehurst was sworn in. Tall, red-haired and blue-eyed, with a slight stammer, he was 'active, ruddy-complexioned, and companionable . . . an outdoor man', interested in travel. His wife, in her memoirs, In a Lifetime Full (Milldale, England, 1989), described him as 'not demonstrative' but 'loyal and kind'. She was tall, brown-haired and brown-eyed, with a 'clipped English manner of speech', but with 'all the Tennant vitality' and 'ebullience'; she adored sailing.

Both proved popular vice-regal representatives, enthusiastically entering into local activities. Their three sons attended school in Australia—the eldest joined the Royal Australian Navy and served in H.M.A.S. Australia—and their daughter trained as a social worker. Wakehurst handled sensibly a sudden constitutional crisis when (Sir) Bertram Stevens resigned in August 1939 after a censure motion was carried against him, by commissioning his treasurer Alexander Mair as premier. In January 1940 the governor and his wife helped to fight bushfires near Moss Vale. World War II entailed extra duties and each participated vigorously. In June 1940 Lady Wakehurst convened a conference which formed the Women's Australian National Services, of which she became president and commander-in-chief. Active in the normal duties of a governor's consort, such as the Australian Red Cross Society and the Girl Guides' Association, she won praise for her 'competence, dignity, and charm'.

Despite the Labor Daily's charge that his politics were 'akin to Fascism', and J. T. Lang's demand for his recall over the Mair appointment, Wakehurst was a moderate, even left-wing Tory and was close to (Sir) William McKell who became Labor premier in May 1941. In 1942-45 the governor promoted Australian inter-denominational church co-operation. The Wakehursts accompanied General Sir Thomas Blamey and his wife in 1945 on a visit to troops in the South-West Pacific Area, and departed from Sydney on leave on 6 June. The governor's extended appointment ended on 8 January 1946—then a record term. Succeeded by (Sir) John Northcott, he was the last 'imported' governor of New South Wales.

Back in Britain, Wakehurst gave illustrated lectures on Australia's war effort, using his own colour movies. Governor of Northern Ireland in 1952-64, he was appointed to the Order of the Garter in 1962. He wrote many articles and six books, including Bolshevism in Perspective (1931)—after visits to the Soviet Union where he met Stalin's mother—and, with Hilary St George Saunders, thrillers under the pen-name 'Cornelius Cofyn'. His recreations were fishing, tennis and golf (his handicap was eight). He loved theatre, opera and ballet and was a trustee of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a governor of the Royal Ballet and lord prior (1948-69) of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Wakehurst died on 30 October 1970 at his home at Chelsea, London. His portrait, by (Sir) William Dobell, is held in Government House, Sydney. Lady Wakehurst, appointed D.B.E. in 1964, was active in British charitable organizations and president of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship until 1984. Survived by their daughter and three sons, she died on 19 August 1994.

Select Bibliography

  • History of the Women's Australian National Services, 1940-1946 (Syd, 1947)
  • D. Aitkin, The Colonel (Canb, 1969)
  • C. Cunneen, William John McKell (Syd, 2000)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Jan, 5, 9 Apr 1937, 29 Jan, 19, 26 June 1940, 26 May 1945
  • Labor Daily, 8 Jan 1937
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 2 June 1945
  • Times (London), 31 Oct, 30 Nov 1970, 23 Aug 1994
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 1 Nov 1970
  • Wakehurst papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Wakehurst, second Baron (1895–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 12 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

second Baron Wakehurst (1895-1970), by unknown photographer

second Baron Wakehurst (1895-1970), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 14484

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Loder, John de Vere

5 February 1895
London, Middlesex, England


30 October 1970
London, Middlesex, England

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence