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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wardle, Robert Norman (Bob) (1895–1979)

by Barbara Dawson

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

Robert Norman Wardle (1895-1979), veterinarian and public servant, was born on 1 July 1895 at Ballarat, Victoria, youngest of seven children of Henry Thomas Wardle, timber merchant, and his wife Isabella, née Allan, both Victorian born. Bob was educated at Humffray Street and Dana Street State schools, Ballarat Agricultural High School and the University of Melbourne (B.V.Sc., 1916). On 6 March 1917 he was appointed captain, Australian Army Veterinary Corps, Australian Imperial Force. Arriving in Egypt in June, he served with the Australian Mounted Division and from November 1918 commanded the 8th Australian Mobile Veterinary Section in Palestine. He returned to Melbourne where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 3 October 1919.

While in private practice (1920-26) at Geelong, Wardle was honorary veterinary surgeon to the Geelong Agricultural and Pastoral Society, the Geelong Racing, Geelong Trotting and Victoria Coursing clubs, and the Gordon Wool Advisory Committee. At the Collins Street Baptist Church, Melbourne, on 25 April 1922 he married Dorothy Evelyn Rule (d.1953); they were to have two sons. As veterinary officer (1926-39) with the Victorian Department of Agriculture, he cared for Clydesdale horses especially and toured Victoria with the Better Farming Train, which advised farmers on good agricultural practice.

Moving to Canberra in 1939 as director of the division of veterinary hygiene, Commonwealth Department of Health, Wardle concentrated on animal quarantine to keep out foot-and-mouth and other exotic diseases. He was chairman of the Cattle Tick Commission, a member of the standing committee of the Australian Agricultural Council, and permanent Australian delegate to the Office International des Epizooties, Paris. In 1949 he led the Australian contingent to the International Veterinary Congress in London. During his term as director, horses were refused entry for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, resulting in the equestrian events being held in Stockholm. Retiring on 30 June 1960, he had done much to protect Australia from the 'incursion of serious diseases of animals'. He was a member of the Australian Veterinary Association and a life member (1971) of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.

On 12 April 1955 at the Church of St John the Baptist, Reid, Wardle had married with Anglican rites Patience Australie, daughter of Robin and Pattie Tillyard. The couple bred ponies and fattened steers on Maitai, their 40-acre (16 ha) property near Murrumbateman, New South Wales. Bob was an expert rider who loved horses and specialized in their treatment. He tipped winners but was never known to bet. A strict Methodist, he was a keen student of Bible and Middle East history, and a trustee of the National Memorial Church, Forrest.

Wardle was president of the Horticultural Society of Canberra (1954-56), the Rotary Club of Canberra (1948-49) and the local division of the Australian Red Cross Society (1950-52), and a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Canberra and District Historical Society. He was a man of middle height, with a moustache and confident bearing. Combining passionate involvement with stubbornness and a sometimes disarming directness, he adhered to 'proper procedure'. His dry wit was accompanied by a twinkle in his eye. Survived by his wife, and by a son of his first marriage, he died on 21 July 1979 at his Forrest home and was buried in Canberra cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • I. M. Parsonson, The Australian Ark (Melb, 2000)
  • Journal of the Australian Veterinary Association, 55, no 9, Sept 1979, p 453
  • Canberra and District Historical Society, Newsletter, no 207, Sept 1979, p 7
  • Geelong Historical Society, Investigator, 21, no 2, June 1986, p 51
  • Canberra Times, 24 July 1979
  • funeral address by Rev I. S. Williams (copy held on ADB file)
  • private information.

Citation details

Barbara Dawson, 'Wardle, Robert Norman (Bob) (1895–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 19 September 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 16

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