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Sir Raymond Douglas (Bob) Huish (1898–1970)

by Rupert Goodman

This article was published:

Sir Raymond Douglas (Bob) Huish (1898-1970), ex-servicemen's leader and businessman, was born on 7 December 1898 at Clifton, Bristol, England, third of five children of Edward William Huish, liftman, and his wife Amelia Ann, née Goss. The Huishes moved briefly to the United States of America, where 'Bob' (as he was later known) received some education, before returning to England in 1910. In August of that year the family emigrated to Rockhampton, Queensland, the city in which Amelia's relations lived.

Overstating his age by some fifteen months, Huish enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 August 1915 and was posted to the 5th Light Horse Regiment. In October he embarked for the Middle East. At Katia, Sinai, on 5 August 1916 he was severely wounded in the leg and admitted to hospital. In February 1917 he transferred to the 2nd Light Horse Brigade Signal Troop and took part in the advance through Palestine and Syria. While in the Jordan Valley he contracted malaria and was to suffer recurrent bouts for the rest of his life. Promoted corporal in March 1919, he returned to Australia and was discharged in Brisbane on 27 September. Huish obtained a job at Rockhampton with Sydney Williams & Co., a windmill-manufacturing firm. At St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Rockhampton, on 1 November 1921 he married Hilda May Weber, a 23-year-old clerk. In 1927 he was appointed local branch manager of Buzacott (Qld) Ltd, machinery merchants; within a year he became State manager in Brisbane; by 1929 he was managing director. He retired as chairman of directors in 1958.

Following his return to Rockhampton, in 1923 Huish had been active in reviving the local sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia and was its vice-president (1924). He served on the executive of the central district and was a State councillor and treasurer. From 1930 to 1967 he was State president. In this capacity he was also a trustee of the league's numerous bequests and foundations, including the Patriotic Fund of Queensland, the Naughton Trust and the scholarship fund. Deputy-chairman (1932-50) of the State Repatriation Board, he was an Australian delegate to the British Empire Services League's conference in London in September 1939. During World War II he organized the Volunteer Defence Corps of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia and was chairman of the State recruiting committee.

In 1949-50 Huish was a member of the royal commission that inquired into the Golden Casket Art Union. At the request of the (Sir) Robert Menzies' government, he visited Europe in 1950 to investigate and report on emigration to Australia. From 1960 until 1967 he was deputy national president of the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. and its successor, the Returned Services League of Australia, and in 1965 led the league's pilgrimage to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. With (Sir) William Keys, he represented the league on a visit to Indonesia and a tour of South East Asia in 1963 and again in 1967, following which he was appointed deputy-chairman of the South East Asia Veterans' Conference which resulted from the visit.

In addition to his work for the R.S.L., Huish was one of Queensland's outstanding businessmen. He was a director of a number of prominent companies, including Cribb & Foote Ltd of Ipswich (from 1937), Queensland Theatres Ltd, Independent Oil Industries Ltd (both from 1938), the Finance Co. of Queensland, W. G. Johnson Pty Ltd, Ipswich Properties Ltd and the Scottish Union & National Insurance Co. A Freemason, he was a fellow (1962) of the Institute of Directors of Australia.

Always a tireless worker, Bob Huish got things done. Once a decision had been made, he pursued it with single-minded purpose. He abhorred compromise, and was impatient with those who suggested it. Despite complete deafness in his right ear, he was a forceful and determined figure at conferences where he was frequently the leader. Huish had joined the league when it was small and disorganized. When he left in 1967 it was a large and influential body. Queensland and national membership numbered 4374 and 24,482 in 1923; by 1963 the figures had increased to 27,124 and 257,209 respectively. Huish was an advocate of National Service training and of an effective system for civil defence. While one of his State's 'best known personalities', he also became known throughout Australia for his outspoken tirades against communism.

Huish was appointed C.B.E. in 1937. Knighted in 1953, he was invested next year by Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to Brisbane. Sir Raymond died on 26 January 1970 in St Helen's Hospital, South Brisbane, and was cremated; his wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland and Queenslanders (Brisb, 1936)
  • Notable Men of Queensland (Brisb, 1950)
  • G. L. Kristianson, The Politics of Patriotism (Canb, 1966)
  • Anzac Day Commemoration Committe (Queensland), Anzac Day (Brisb, 1970)
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 22 July 1950
  • Courier-Mail, 10 May 1967, 27 Jan 1970
  • R. W. Swartz, Opening Address, RSL State Conference, Mackay, 7 June 1967 (copy held by RSL, Brisbane)
  • private information.

Citation details

Rupert Goodman, 'Huish, Sir Raymond Douglas (Bob) (1898–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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