Frank Forde

For those of a similar name, see Francis Ford (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Frank Forde
15th Prime Minister of Australia
In office
6 July 1945  13 July 1945
Monarch George VI
Governor-General HRH The Duke of Gloucester
Preceded by John Curtin
Succeeded by Ben Chifley
Member of the Australian Parliament for Capricornia
In office
16 December 1922  28 September 1946
Preceded by William Higgs
Succeeded by Charles Davidson
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Rockhampton
In office
12 May 1917  5 October 1922
Preceded by John Adamson
Succeeded by George Farrell
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Flinders
In office
12 March 1955  3 August 1957
Preceded by Ernest Riordan
Succeeded by Bill Lonergan
Personal details
Born (1890-07-18)18 July 1890
Mitchell, Queensland, British Empire
Died 28 January 1983(1983-01-28) (aged 92)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Resting place Toowong Cemetery
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Veronica Catherine O'Reilly (1894–1967)
Relations Leneen Forde (daughter-in-law)
Children 4
Religion Roman Catholic

Francis Michael Forde (18 July 1890  28 January 1983) was an Australian politician and the 15th Prime Minister of Australia. He was the shortest serving Prime Minister in Australia's history, being in office for only eight days.[1]

Early life

Forde was born at Mitchell, Queensland, the second of six children of Irish immigrant parents.[2] His father was working as a grazier at the time of his birth. Forde was educated at St. Mary's College, Toowoomba, a Catholic school, and became a teacher. Settling in Rockhampton, he became active in the Labor Party and in workers' education groups.[3]

Political career

Portrait of Frank Forde

In 1917 Forde was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland as Labor MP for Rockhampton. In 1922 he resigned and was elected to the Australian House of Representatives for Capricornia.[3]

Forde soon advanced in the Labor ranks. When Labor won the 1929 election, he became Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin government. In the last days of the government he became Minister for Trade and Customs.[4] As one of the few senior Labor MPs to survive defeat at the 1931 election, Forde became Deputy Opposition Leader in 1932. When Scullin retired in 1935, Forde contested the leadership ballot but was defeated by one vote by John Curtin, mainly because he had supported Scullin's economic policies.[5]

Forde was a loyal deputy, and in 1941 when Labor returned to power he became Minister for the Army, a vital role in wartime.[6]

On 5 July 1945 Curtin died; as Deputy Leader, Forde was sworn in as Prime Minister on 6 July by the Governor-General, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. At the leadership ballot on 13 July, he contested the leadership with Ben Chifley and Norman Makin.[7] Chifley won, with Forde elected Deputy Leader once more. As Minister for Defence he was much criticised for the slowness with which military personnel were being demobilised. As a result, he lost his seat at the 1946 election, though the Labor Party itself comfortably retained office.[8]

High Commissioner and return to state politics

Chifley appointed Forde High Commissioner to Canada, and he held this position until 1953. He returned to Australia and tried to re-enter Parliament at the 1954 election, in the seat of Wide Bay, without success. In 1955, at a by-election, he returned to the Queensland Parliament as MP for Flinders.[8] He is the only Prime Minister who later served in a State Parliament.

At the 1957 Queensland state election the Labor Party split resulted not only in Labor falling from power, but also in Forde being defeated in his own seat by Bill Longeran of the Country/National Party by one vote. Forde disputed the result and the election was declared void on 4 March 1958. However, at the by-election held on 17 May 1958, Longeran defeated Forde by over 400 votes.[9][8] Had Forde been elected, he would probably have become Labor leader in Queensland, given that Premier Vince Gair and most of Gair's followers had been expelled from the party.

After politics

Frank Forde's headstone at Brisbane's Toowong Cemetery.

Forde retired to Brisbane where he devoted himself to Catholic charity work. In his living room hung a large portrait of wartime US General Douglas MacArthur. On 11 April 1964, at the request of Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Forde represented Australia at MacArthur's funeral in Norfolk, Virginia.[8][10]

Bust of fifteenth Prime Minister of Australia Frank Forde located in the Prime Minister's Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

Forde died in 1983. He was accorded a state funeral which, on 3 February, proceeded from St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St Lucia to the Toowong Cemetery,[11] the same day that Bob Hawke was elected ALP leader. Indeed, it was at Forde's funeral that Senator John Button told then Labor leader Bill Hayden that he must step aside in favour of Hawke, which he did. Forde was the last surviving member of the Scullin, Curtin and his own Cabinet. Furthermore, he was the last surviving MP from when Stanley Bruce was Prime Minister.

Forde was the only deputy Labor leader who served under three leaders (Scullin, Curtin and Chifley) until Jenny Macklin (Crean, Latham and Beazley, 2001–06). The electoral Division of Forde and the Canberra suburb of Forde are named after him.


Forde married Veronica (Vera) Catherine O'Reilly in 1925 and they had four children:[12]

During the years that he spent in Ottawa as High Commissioner to Canada two of his daughters (Mary and Mercia) became married to Canadians. Mary (m. William Robert Thompson) eventually settled with her husband in Kingston, Ontario, Canada while Mercia (m. Ian Ferrier) returned to Australia and settled with her husband in St. Lucia, Brisbane. Francis Gerald Forde (m. Leneen Forde) also settled in St. Lucia, while Clare (m. John Attridge) settled in Canberra. Between his four children, Frank and Vera Forde had 15 grandchildren.

See also


  1. Francis Forde, Prime Minister from 6 July 1945 to 13 July 1945National Museum of Australia
  2. Carrol (2004), p. 168
  3. 1 2 "Frank Forde, Early years". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  4. "Frank Forde, Scullin government 1929–31". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  5. "Frank Forde, Deputy Leader of the Opposition 1932–???41". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  6. "Frank Forde, Curtin government 1941–45". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  7. "Frank Forde, In office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Frank Forde, After office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  9. "Longeran, Hon. William Horace (Bill)". Former Members. Queensland Parliament. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  10. "General Macarthur's Funeral (1964)". British Pathe. 13 April 1964. Retrieved 3 November 2016 via YouTube.
  11. "Family Notices.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). ACT: National Library of Australia. 31 January 1983. p. 10. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  12. "Frank Forde, Vera Forde". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Frank Forde.
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Higgs
Member for Capricornia
Succeeded by
Charles Davidson
Political offices
Preceded by
James Fenton
Minister for Trade and Customs
Succeeded by
Henry Somer Gullett
Preceded by
Percy Spender
Minister for the Army
Succeeded by
Cyril Chambers
Preceded by
John Curtin
Prime Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
Ben Chifley
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
John Dedman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Edward Theodore
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
Succeeded by
H.V. Evatt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Alfred Stirling
Australian High Commissioner to Canada
Succeeded by
Sir Douglas Copland
Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
John Adamson
Member for Rockhampton
Succeeded by
George Farrell
Preceded by
Ernest Riordan
Member for Flinders
Succeeded by
Bill Lonergan
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