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Eric Edwin Longfield Lloyd (1890–1957)

by David Sadleir

This article was published:

Eric Edwin Longfield Lloyd (1890-1957), soldier, intelligence officer and diplomat, was born on 13 September 1890 at Marrickville, Sydney, son of George Thrift Lloyd, a banker from Ireland, and his native-born wife Amelia Sarah, née Hunter. The family moved to Ireland when Eric was aged 12 and he attended St Andrew's College, Dublin. He joined the Union Bank of Australia Ltd in London and served for two years in the King Edward's Horse. The bank transferred him to Sydney in 1912.

Commissioned in the 29th Infantry (Australian Rifles), Militia, in 1913, Lloyd was appointed second lieutenant in the Australian Imperial Force on 27 August 1914. He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 with the 1st Battalion. Awarded the Military Cross for leading a raid against a Turkish trench on 5 June, he was promoted captain (July), mentioned in dispatches, and twice named in divisional orders for 'gallantry and valuable service'. In January 1916 he was invalided to Australia suffering from typhoid fever. On 2 May that year at St Andrew's Anglican Cathedral, Sydney, he married Elsie Lilian Wilkinson. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in December, but he remained on full-time duty with the Intelligence Section of the General Staff, 2nd Military District, Sydney, until his demobilization in 1920.

Lloyd joined the Pacific branch of the Prime Minister's Department and began learning Japanese. In May 1921 he was appointed to the investigation branch of the Attorney-General's Department and posted as inspector-in-charge, Sydney. He kept communists, fascists and Nazis under surveillance, and monitored the activities of the New Guard. In addition, he performed part-time military intelligence work (1921-35) before transferring to the Reserve of Officers as honorary lieutenant colonel. In 1925-30 he was also aide-de-camp to the State governor Sir Dudley de Chair. On 30 April 1932 Lloyd was one of three Commonwealth officials who successfully argued against (Sir) Walter Massy-Greene's plan to break into the State taxation office to obtain documents being guarded by supporters of Premier J. T. Lang.

In 1934 Lloyd was political adviser and interpreter to (Sir) John Latham on his mission to the Netherlands East Indies, China and Japan. Recommended by Latham, in the following year he was appointed Australian trade (later government) commissioner, Tokyo. Frank Clune visited Lloyd and found him 'quiet, dignified, and cultured . . . a worthy representative'. Others referred to his charm, his strong character, and his capacity for hard work, and were impressed by his sympathetic understanding of his hosts, with whom he got on well (though he later admitted detesting Japanese food). Lloyd proved to be a reliable reporter on Japanese politics and international ambitions. In 1938 he judged that the Japanese were preparing for 'a protracted state of war'; he noted Japan's interest in expanding southward, as far as Australia. Posted home in 1940, he rejoined the investigation branch as deputy-director.

A conflict between the armed services and the Attorney-General's Department over control of Australia's internal security appeared to be resolved in March 1941 with Lloyd's appointment as director of the new Commonwealth Security Service. Dissension between the armed services and the C.S.S. began, and disputes between the army, navy and air force continued. The government asked A. M. Duncan, the Victorian chief commissioner of police, to review the security service. Following claims that Lloyd was too closely linked to the army, Duncan recommended in January 1942 that W. J. MacKay, the New South Wales police commissioner, be appointed to head the C.S.S. as director-general. Continuing as director, Lloyd was second-in-charge to MacKay, and to his successor W. B. Simpson.

In January 1944 Lloyd replaced H. E. Jones as director of the investigation branch and superintending peace officer, while retaining his position in the security service. He was appointed director-general of security in 1945. When the investigation branch and security service merged later that year, he was made director, Commonwealth Investigation Service. Among its various functions the C.I.S. inquired into security and financial irregularities, carried out surveillance and conducted character checks. In early 1946 Lloyd took leave and went to Tokyo as counsellor to William Macmahon Ball, the British Commonwealth member of the Allied Council for Japan. Although Ball thought that Lloyd was considerate, loyal and eager, he described him as a poor linguist who lacked understanding of Japan and who was 'wholly unequipped for the position he occupied'.

Lloyd returned to Australia and his C.I.S. post in 1947. The security situation was deteriorating. Classified information was being leaked to the Soviet embassy; Opposition politicians accused the government of allowing communists to penetrate defence research establishments; and the United States of America placed an embargo on intelligence exchanges with Australia. These developments undermined confidence in the C.I.S. which had insufficient resources to fulfil its roles. In 1949 the government formed the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to investigate subversion, to maintain central security records, to carry out checks on immigrants, and to liaise with other authorities at home and abroad. Lloyd had not been consulted on the decision and did not want his agency emasculated. His health began to suffer and he retired in 1952.

Living in Canberra and at Castle Hill, Sydney, Lloyd pursued his hobbies of motoring, forestry and Oriental studies. All the while he continued to believe that Japan remained expansionist. He belonged to the Imperial Service Club, Sydney, and the Barton, Canberra, sub-branch of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. In the early 1950s he was patron of the Australian Rifles Old Comrades' Association. Survived by his wife and three sons, he died of tuberculosis on 18 July 1957 in Canberra Community Hospital and was cremated.

Longfield Lloyd was a softly spoken, self-effacing, modest and cautious man, and a dependable public servant. One journalist sensed that he was uncomfortable in the spotlight, and that he spoke quickly and used humour to deflect questions. (Sir) Kenneth Bailey wrote that Lloyd displayed the qualities of a 'gallant soldier': 'courage, loyalty, unassuming dignity, the ability to set the call of duty above all personal considerations', and 'the unswerving acceptance of the decisions of his Government and his Department'.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia (Syd, 1983)
  • W. M. Ball, Intermittent Diplomat, A. Rix ed (Melb, 1988)
  • W. Gobert, The Origins of Australian Diplomatic Intelligence in Asia 1933-1941 (Canb, 1992)
  • F. Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (Melb, 1994)
  • Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 59, pt 4, Dec 1973, p 247
  • Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 2 Mar 1947
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 1957, 12 Aug 1970
  • Lloyd papers (National Library of Australia)
  • A367/4 items C23512 and C23512 part 2, A367/1 item C15000A, A432/15 item 55/4432 and A7359/84 item MS238 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

David Sadleir, 'Lloyd, Eric Edwin Longfield (1890–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Longfield Lloyd, Eric

13 September, 1890
Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


18 July, 1957 (aged 66)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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