Richard Casey, Baron Casey

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Casey
16th Governor-General of Australia
In office
7 May 1965 – 30 April 1969
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies (1965–66)
Harold Holt (1966–67)
John McEwen (1967–68)
John Gorton (1968–69)
Preceded by The Viscount De L'Isle
Succeeded by Sir Paul Hasluck
Minister for External Affairs
In office
11 May 1951 – 4 February 1960
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Percy Spender
Succeeded by Robert Menzies
Minister for External Territories
In office
26 April 1951 – 11 May 1951
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Percy Spender
Succeeded by Paul Hasluck
Minister in charge of the CSIRO
In office
23 March 1950 – 4 February 1960
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Donald Alastair Cameron
Minister for Works and Housing
In office
19 December 1949 – 17 March 1950
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Nelson Lemmon
Succeeded by Wilfrid Kent Hughes
Governor of Bengal
In office
14 January 1944 – 19 February 1946
Preceded by John Herbert
Succeeded by Frederick Burrows
1st Australian Ambassador to the United States
In office
1 February 1940 – 20 April 1942
Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1940–41)
Arthur Fadden (1941)
John Curtin (1941–42)
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Sir Owen Dixon
Treasurer of Australia
In office
3 October 1935 – 26 April 1939
Prime Minister Joseph Lyons (1935–39)
Sir Earle Page (1939)
Preceded by Joseph Lyons
Succeeded by Robert Menzies
Member of the Australian Parliament
for La Trobe
In office
Preceded by Division Created
Succeeded by John Jess
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Corio
In office
Preceded by Arthur Lewis
Succeeded by John Dedman
Personal details
Born (1890-08-29)29 August 1890
Brisbane, Colony of Queensland
Died 17 June 1976(1976-06-17) (aged 85)
Berwick, Victoria
Political party Liberal Party of Australia(after 1945)
United Australia Party(before 1945)
Spouse(s) Maie Casey
Profession Engineer, Diplomat and politician
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Imperial Force
Years of service 1914–1919
Rank Major
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)

Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, Baron Casey KG, GCMG, CH, DSO, MC, KStJ, PC, FAA (29 August 1890 – 17 June 1976) was an Australian politician and diplomat, who served as the colonial governor of Bengal from 1944 to 1946 and as the 16th Governor-General of Australia from 7 May 1965 to 30 April 1969.

Early life and education

Casey was born in Brisbane, Queensland, as Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, but he dropped the "Gavin" in later life. His father, also named Richard Gardiner Casey, was a wealthy pastoralist and Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly of Irish descent. His mother, Evelyn, was the daughter of George Harris, another wealthy pastoralist and Member of the Queensland Legislative Council. His father moved the family to Melbourne in 1893 and became a rich company director.

Casey was educated at Cumloden School, St Kilda, and at Melbourne Grammar School. He enrolled for engineering at the University of Melbourne, where he was a resident student at Trinity College in 1909 and 1910, but then travelled to England, entering Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1913, graduating with second-class honours in the mechanical sciences tripos and a Master of Arts in 1918.[1]

Military and early career

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Casey joined the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant,[2] was a member of the first convoy on board the Orvieto, was the responsible officer looking after the German prisoners from the SMS Emden following the Battle of Cocos Island until the ship reached Colombo, and served at Gallipoli as aide-de-camp to Major General Sir William Bridges. Casey was standing next to Bridges when Bridges was shot by a sniper (he died three days later). A statue of Casey being rescued by a Turkish soldier has pride of place in the Gallipoli battlefields. Later he served in France, where he observed operations and sifted information, earning the Military Cross[3] and promotion to brigade major of the 8th Brigade. This position involved dangerous visits to the front line and he received a Distinguished Service Order in 1918.[4] He resigned his commission in June 1919 and transferred to the Reserve of Officers, serving as a part-time intelligence officer in Melbourne.[1]

Casey's father died in 1919 and he returned after the war to Melbourne to take over his father's business interests including engineering and mining firms. He did this until 1924, when Prime Minister Stanley Bruce appointed him his political liaison officer in London, a position he held until 1931, sending home confidential reports on political and economic matters, both for Bruce and for his Labor successor, James Scullin. In 1926 he married Ethel Marian Sumner (Maie) Ryan, daughter of Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan, with whom he had two children.[1]

Political career

Casey in his office as Australian Minister to the United States.

In 1931 Casey returned to Australia and was elected to the House of Representatives as the United Australia Party (UAP) Member for the Geelong-based seat of Corio. Prime Minister Joseph Lyons appointed him an assistant minister in 1933, and in 1935 he became Treasurer.[1]

In 1939 Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the first time. He saw Casey as a rival, and moved him to the lesser portfolio of Supply and Development. In 1940 Casey resigned from parliament when Menzies appointed him as the first Australian Ambassador to the United States. This was a vital posting in wartime, but it also served to remove Casey from domestic politics. Casey was in Washington, D.C. when the US entered the war, and played an important role in establishing the alliance between the US and Australia.[5] In this effort he engaged the services of public relations counselor Earl Newsom.

Richard Casey, Minister Resident in the Middle East, stands on the far right; Lebanon, 1942

Casey moved to Cairo in 1942 when Winston Churchill appointed him Minister Resident in the Middle East, to the annoyance of Prime Minister John Curtin and some in the British Foreign Office. In this role he played a key role in negotiating between the British and Allied governments, local leaders and the Allied commanders in the field. In 1944, when the Middle East ceased to be a military theatre, the British government appointed Casey as the Governor of Bengal, in India, a post which he held till 1946.[1] During his tenure he had to deal with the aftermath of the devastating Bengal famine of 1943. He also had to deal with the ever more vocal demands for independence from Britain by Indian patriots, represented politically by the Indian National Congress.

In 1946 Casey returned to Australia in the hope of being elected to parliament in the 1946 election and becoming the leader of the new Liberal Party that Menzies had formed in 1944, as part of his reorganisation of conservative politics in Australia. Casey had turned down the offer of a British peerage to preserve his political chances. However, he was too late to organise his pre-selection for a seat. He was persuaded to become Federal President of the Liberal Party in September 1947 and proved to be a very effective fundraiser, partly as a result of his past social and business connections.[1] Although Menzies still saw Casey as a rival, and although Casey undoubtedly saw himself as a future Prime Minister, they formed an effective partnership.

The Liberals won the 1949 election, and Casey returned to the House of Representatives as Member for the outer Melbourne seat of La Trobe. Menzies appointed him Minister for Supply and Development and Minister for Works and Housing. In March 1950 he became Minister for National Development, gaining functions from Eric Harrison's abolished portfolio of Postwar Reconstruction and losing supply to Howard Beale. In 1951, when the Minister for External Affairs, Percy Spender (another Menzies rival), was dispatched to the Washington embassy, Casey succeeded him. Casey held the External Affairs post during the height of the Cold War, the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War and other major world events. He formed close relations with Anthony Eden, John Foster Dulles and other leaders. Casey was also Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from March 1950, and he was committed to its success.

In January 1960 Casey was made a life peer of the British House of Lords, on the recommendation of the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan;[6] next month he resigned from the ministry and parliament. For most Australians, Britain was still the mother country, but it was by then becoming something of an anomaly that an Australian should be appointed to another country's parliament. Lord Casey made annual trips to London and put in appearances in the House of Lords, but he had no obvious constituency. He was also appointed to the executive of the CSIRO in 1960.[1]


Baron Casey at Government House, Calcutta, during World War II

In 1965 the Queen, on Menzies' recommendation, appointed Lord Casey Governor-General to succeed Lord De L'Isle. This was the first time a conservative Prime Minister had recommended an Australian for the post, but it also marked the end of the appointment of non-Australians to the office of Governor-General. He was initially reluctant to accept the post, but when he did accept, he asked for a two-year appointment instead of the usual five years, subject to extension should he wish to continue. In the event, he served for three and a half years.[6]

One of the arguments against appointing an Australian, particularly a former politician, had always been that they would be too closely involved with Australian personalities and issues to perform their constitutional role impartially. This became an acute issue for Casey in December 1967, when Prime Minister Harold Holt died.[7][8]

Casey could have commissioned the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Billy McMahon, as acting Prime Minister or Caretaker prime minister, but instead he appointed John McEwen, the leader of Liberals' coalition partner, the Country Party. In this he was following a precedent set in 1939, when Sir Earle Page was appointed Prime Minister following the death of Joseph Lyons. But it was later alleged that Casey appointed McEwen to prevent McMahon having an advantage in the Liberal Party's ballot for a new leader, since he shared the view of some Liberals that McMahon would not be a suitable successor. This matter was aired in a 1969 book, The Power Struggle, by veteran political journalist Alan Reid. Casey's biographer, W.J. Hudson says (in his 1986 book Casey) that Casey was concerned to preserve the Liberal-Country Party coalition, and that he knew (because McEwen had told him) that the Country Party would not serve under McMahon. (McEwen publicly confirmed his party's position on McMahon the day after his swearing-in.) If this was his motive for commissioning McEwen rather than McMahon, it suggests that he did take political considerations into account in making his decision.[7][8] On the other hand, if the coalition were to disband, there would have been no party that could command a majority in the parliament and it could well have become unworkable.

Casey's Official Secretary throughout his term was Murray Tyrrell, who was knighted in 1968.

Casey left office in 1969 and he and his wife retired to their farm at Berwick in Victoria. Casey never fully recovered from a car accident in 1974, and died on 17 June 1976 at St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, survived by his wife, daughter and son.[1] He is buried in Mount Macedon cemetery.


Casey received a Military Cross, was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and was twice Mentioned in Despatches during the First World War. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1944. In 1960, he was created "Baron Casey, of Berwick in the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth of Australia, and of the City of Westminster",[9] becoming the second (and last) Australian politician (after Stanley Bruce) to be elevated to the House of Lords (Sir John Forrest is sometimes mentioned in such lists, however his peerage was never formally established).[1] He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1965, and a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) in 1969. In 1969 also, he was named Australian of the Year.[10]

The municipality which includes Berwick is now called the City of Casey. There is also federal Electoral Division of Casey (in a different part of Melbourne). The Canberra suburb of Casey and Casey Station, a base in the Australian Antarctic Territory, were named in Casey's honour. The R. G. Casey Building in Canberra is the headquarters of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


  • Mr Richard Casey (1890–1917)
  • Mr Richard Casey MC (1917–1918)
  • Mr Richard Casey DSO MC (1918–1931)
  • Mr Richard Casey DSO MC MP (1931–1933)
  • The Hon. Richard Casey DSO MC MP (1933–1939)
  • The Rt. Hon. Richard Casey DSO MC MP (1939–1940)
  • His Excellency The Rt. Hon. Richard Casey DSO MC, Ambassador to the United States of America (1940–1942)
  • His Excellency The Rt. Hon. Richard Casey DSO MC, Minister Resident in the Middle East (1942–1944)
  • His Excellency The Rt. Hon. Richard Casey CH, DSO, MC, Governor of Bengal (1944–1946)
  • The Rt. Hon. Richard Casey CH DSO MC (1946–1949)
  • The Rt. Hon. Richard Casey CH DSO MC MP (1949–1960)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord Casey CH DSO MC KStJ PC (1960–1965)
  • His Excellency The Rt. Hon. The Lord Casey GCMG CH DSO MC KStJ PC, Governor-General of Australia (1965–1969)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord Casey KG GCMG CH DSO MC KStJ PC (1969–1976)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Hudson, W. J. (1993). "Casey, Richard Gavin Gardiner, Baron Casey (1890–1976)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 25 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "First World War Service Record – Richard Gardiner Casey". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 9 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29886, page 44, 29 December 1916
  4. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30450, page 28, 28 December 1917
  5. R.G. Casey (2008) A Delicate Mission: The Washington Diaries of R.G. Casey 1940-42/ Edited by Carl Bridge, Canberra, National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-642-27662-9
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sir David Smith, What shall we do with ex-Governors-General?
  7. 7.0 7.1 Reid, Alan (1972). The Power Struggle. Sydney: Tartan Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-7264-0005-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hudson, W. J. (1986). Casey. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 361. ISBN 0-19-554730-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. The London Gazette: no. 42035. p. 3465. 17 May 1960. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  10. Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Casey, Richard Gardiner; Millar, T. B. (1972). Australian foreign minister: the diaries of R.G. Casey, 1951–60. London: Collins. p. 352. ISBN 0-00-211001-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Casey, Richard Gardiner (1963). Personal experience, 1939–1946. New York: David McKay Co. p. 256.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Arthur Lewis
Member for Corio
Succeeded by
John Dedman
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Lyons
Treasurer of Australia
Succeeded by
Robert Menzies
New title Minister for Supply and Development
Succeeded by
Frederick Stewart
Diplomatic posts
New title Australian Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Sir Owen Dixon
Government offices
Preceded by
Oliver Lyttelton
Minister Resident in the Middle East
Succeeded by
The Lord Moyne
(Minister of State)
Preceded by
John Arthur Herbert
Governor of Bengal
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick Burrows
Parliament of Australia
New division Member for La Trobe
Succeeded by
John Jess
Political offices
Preceded by
Nelson Lemmon
Minister for Works and Housing
Succeeded by
Wilfrid Kent Hughes
Preceded by
John Armstrong
Minister for Supply and Development
Succeeded by
Howard Beale (supply)
Preceded by
Eric Harrison
Minister for National Development
Succeeded by
Bill Spooner
New title Minister in charge of the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Succeeded by
Donald Cameron
Preceded by
Percy Spender
Foreign Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
Robert Menzies
Minister for External Territories
Succeeded by
Paul Hasluck
Government offices
Preceded by
The Viscount De L'Isle
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Sir Paul Hasluck