Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Herbert Gordon Carter (1885–1963)

by D. G. Gallon

This article was published:

Herbert Gordon Carter (1885-1963), engineer, was born on 24 March 1885 at St Leonards, Sydney, eldest son of Herbert James Carter, entomologist, and his wife Antoinette Charlotte, née Moore. Educated at Sydney Grammar School and The King's School, Parramatta, he lived at St Andrew's College while at the University of Sydney; he graduated B.E. with first-class honours in 1908. In April he started work for the railway commissioners, in June next year transferring to the Department of Public Works as an assistant electrical engineer.

Commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Sydney University Scouts in 1907, Carter was promoted lieutenant in July 1913, appointed to the 1st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, in September 1914, and sailed in October. He served throughout the Gallipoli campaign and in 1915 was promoted captain, then major. In March 1916 he joined the 5th Pioneer Battalion when it was organized as a unit in Egypt, and from August, as lieutenant-colonel, he commanded it in France and Flanders 'with conspicuous ability and success' until the end of the war; the battalion built tramways in trenches at Fromelles, improved communication trenches, drained and 'corduroyed' roads, helped to establish the Anzac light-railway system on the Somme, built bridges and was involved in forward defence and road construction in the advance on the Hindenburg Line. Three times mentioned in dispatches, Carter was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in January 1918. On 31 January 1917 in London, he had married Lydia Kate King from Orange, New South Wales, who was then working in the Australian Hospital, Southall.

Carter returned to Sydney in mid-1919 to the Department of Public Works. In his absence he had been appointed a supervising engineer and in 1924 became chief electrical engineer. In 1929 he resigned to enter private practice. He was responsible for the design and construction of many large electrical works in Australia and Papua-New Guinea, most notably at Burrinjuck, several projects in New Guinea in 1931 and a hydro-electric power-station and transmission lines for the Bega Valley County Council. A council-member of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, in 1924-48, he was president in 1943 and published in its Journal. He was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, and a fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

From the late 1930s Carter built up large business interests: he was chairman of Australia Silknit Ltd, Carrier Air Conditioning Ltd, Non-Metallics Ltd, the Hawkesbury Development Co. Ltd and of W. G. Watson Holdings Ltd, and was a director of Rabaul Electricity Ltd and Concrete Industries (Australia) Ltd. Active in civic and community affairs, he was a director of Royal North Shore Hospital and a trustee of Lane Cove National Park. He was an alderman on the Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council in 1935-41 and mayor in 1938-39. An alderman for Macquarie Ward on the Sydney Municipal Council in 1944-50, he was vice-chairman of its electricity committee in 1942 and city planning and improvements committee in 1945-48, and a delegate to the Cumberland County Council in 1946-49.

Carter was a member of the Australian and University clubs, Sydney, and lived at Golfers Parade, Pymble. An accomplished pianist he regularly played the organ at near-by St Swithun's Church of England. He died suddenly at Killara Golf Club on 11 July 1963 and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter: his second son John was killed while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II. Carter's estate was valued for probate at £88,123.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. Ellis, The Story of the Fifth Australian Division (Lond, 1920)
  • A. H. Corbett, The Institute of Engineers, Australia (Syd, 1973)
  • Institute of Engineers, Australia, Journal, 35 (1963).

Citation details

D. G. Gallon, 'Carter, Herbert Gordon (1885–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 April 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

Life Summary [details]


24 March, 1885
St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


11 July, 1963 (aged 78)
Killara, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.