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Sir Frederick George Denham Bedford (1838–1913)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published:

Frederick George Denham Bedford (1838-1913), by Sir Leslie Ward

Frederick George Denham Bedford (1838-1913), by Sir Leslie Ward

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-vn3573143

Sir Frederick George Denham Bedford (1838-1913), governor, was born in England on 24 December 1838, son of Vice Admiral Edward James Bedford. Entering the Royal Navy in July 1852, he served in the Crimean War, was promoted lieutenant in 1859, commander in 1871 and captain in 1876. In 1877 he commanded the Shah in action against a Peruvian ship and consolidated his reputation in 1884-85 by organizing the Nile flotilla in the relief of Khartoum. He married Ethel Turner at Ipswich, Suffolk, on 28 October 1880, was appointed C.B. in 1886 and in 1888-91 was an aide-de-camp to the Queen. He was a lord commissioner of the Admiralty in 1889-92 and 1895-99. His work as commander of the Cape Station in 1892-95 won him a K.C.B. He was promoted vice admiral in 1897.

Bedford became governor of Western Australia in 1903 at a time when several naval officers were being appointed to govern Australian States. He arrived with his wife in Perth on 24 March and soon became popular. The main political events of his term of office were the brief reign of the State's first Labor government under Henry Daglish in 1904-05, and a minor constitutional crisis in September 1907: (Sir) Newton Moore resigned the premiership after the rejection by the Legislative Council of land tax legislation, but was soon persuaded to resume office and to resubmit his proposals in a modified form.

Bedford and his wife travelled widely in Western Australia and his name is perpetuated in two small townships, Bedford, and Bedfordale, and in a number of geographical features. He was fond of children and took a special interest in the State Schools Amateur Athletic Association. His brisk and distinct manner of speech and sometimes unorthodox sense of humour gave added emphasis to his regular fervent expositions of the doctrine of Empire.

Bedford declined the invitation of the government to extend his term, pleading the needs of his family. Parliament farewelled him with a dinner at which he confessed to having been terrified of making a fool of himself as a governor. He left Perth by train on 14 April 1909, boarded the Charon at Geraldton and returned to England via Singapore. After living in retirement at Weybridge, Surrey, he died at Walton on 30 January 1913.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • Who Was Who (London), 1897-1915
  • 'Obituary', Times (London), 1 Feb 1913, p 11.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Bedford, Sir Frederick George Denham (1838–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Frederick George Denham Bedford (1838-1913), by Sir Leslie Ward

Frederick George Denham Bedford (1838-1913), by Sir Leslie Ward

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-vn3573143

Life Summary [details]


24 December, 1838


30 January, 1913 (aged 74)
Walton, England

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