Rohan Delacombe

Sir Rohan Delacombe
20th Governor of Victoria
In office
8 May 1963  24 May 1974
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Dallas Brooks
Succeeded by Sir Henry Winneke
Personal details
Born (1906-10-25)25 October 1906
St. Julian's, Malta
Died 10 November 1991(1991-11-10) (aged 85)
Shrewton, Wiltshire, England
Resting place St Mary's Church, Shrewton
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Joyce, Lady Delacombe
Military service
Nickname(s) "Jumbo"
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1926–1962
Rank Major General
Unit Royal Scots
Commands 8th Battalion, Royal Scots
2nd Battalion, Royal Scots
5th Infantry Brigade
52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Knight of Justice of the Order of St John
Mentioned in despatches

Major General Sir Rohan Delacombe KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB, DSO, KStJ (25 October 1906 – 10 November 1991) was a senior British Army officer who commanded the British occupation forces in Berlin from 1959 to 1962 at the height of the Cold War. He was the last British Governor of Victoria, Australia from 1963 to 1974.

Early life

Delacombe was born in Malta on 25 October 1906, the son of Addis and Emma Louise Mary Delacombe. Addis Delacombe served as a pay officer in the British Army; several generations of Delacombes, whose seat was Shrewton Manor, Wiltshire, had served in the armed forces. Rohan was educated at Harrow School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.[1]

Military career

Delacombe was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Scots regiment of the British Army on 4 February 1926,[2] and was promoted to lieutenant on 4 February 1929.[3] He saw service in Egypt, North China and Quetta in India (now Pakistan) with the Regiment's 1st Battalion, and was promoted to captain on 2 March 1937.[4] He then served in Palestine from 1937 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939; he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, Military Division (MBE) in the 1939 King's Birthday Honours List.[5] Delacombe was posted with the 4th Infantry Brigade as part of the British Expeditionary Force which was sent to the Franco-Belgian border following Germany's invasion of Poland. After working at the British Army Staff College in 1940, Delacombe assisted Lt Gen Adrian Carton de Wiart as a General Staff Officer (Grade 2) during the Namsos Campaign in Norway.[6]

In 1942, he was made commanding officer of the Royal Scots 8th Battalion with the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was promoted to the substantive rank of major on 4 February 1943.[7] He led the battalion at the Battle of Normandy in 1944, where his leadership earned him a Distinguished Service Order (DSO), gazetted on 19 October 1944.[8] He was then made a commander of the Royal Scots 2nd Battalion, which fought in the Italian Campaign, followed by security duties in Lebanon.

Delacombe then returned to staff duties as General Staff Officer (Grade 1) during the re-occupation of British Malaya from 1945 to 1947. He was promoted to substantive lieutenant-colonel on 22 March 1948,[9] and served as a general staff Colonel at the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine. He was promoted to colonel on 31 December 1950 and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Military Division (CBE) in the 1951 New Year Honours List.[10][11] He spent much of the next 14 years from 1948 to 1962 in Germany. He served as a temporary brigadier commanding the 5th Infantry Brigade (1950–1953), and was promoted to brigadier on 16 November 1954,[12] in which capacity he was Deputy Military Secretary for the War Office. He was promoted to temporary major-general on 4 October 1955 and appointed General Officer Commanding of the 52nd (Lowland) Division.[13] and to substantive major-general on 29 November 1956.[14] He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, Military Division (CB) in the 1957 Birthday Honours List.[15] He relinquished command of the division on 10 October 1958 and was appointed Commandant of the British Sector in Berlin on 23 March 1959.[16][17] As Commandant, his role included representing British interests in Spandau Prison, where Rudolf Hess was incarcerated. Knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Military Division (KBE) in the 1961 Birthday Honours List,[18] Delacombe relinquished his appointment as Commandant of the British Sector in Berlin on 4 May 1962,[19] and retired from the army on 27 July.[20]

Governor of Victoria

Sir Rohan was appointed as Governor of Victoria in Australia in 1963, and was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) in the 1964 New Year Honours List.[21] As Governor, he was made an honorary colonel in the Australian Army's 1st Armoured Regiment.

In 1967, Sir Rohan was petitioned to exercise the Royal prerogative of mercy on behalf of the Queen, to commute the execution of Ronald Ryan. Four members of the jury had submitted a guilty verdict, in the belief that capital punishment had been abolished in Victoria, and that Ryan's sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment. These jurors then petitioned the governor to save Ryan after it became apparent that the Premier Henry Bolte was determined he should hang. Sir Rohan called a meeting with the Victorian cabinet, at which it was unanimously agreed that the execution should proceed. Ryan was hanged on 3 February 1967, the last person in Australia to be executed.[22]

Delacombe's term ended in 1974.

Death and memorials

Headstone for Sir Rohan and Eleanor Delacombe, St Marys, Shrewton

Delacombe died in 1991 at his home at Shrewton in England, and was buried in the churchyard at the parish church, St Mary's.[1]

Delacombe, Victoria, was named in his honour in 1965 during his tenure as Governor of Victoria.[23]


  1. 1 2 Browne, Geoff. "Delacombe, Sir Rohan (1906–1991)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 33130. p. 886. 5 February 1926.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 33463. p. 866. 5 February 1929.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 34404. p. 3587. 4 June 1937.
  5. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34633. p. 3860. 8 June 1939.
  6. "Delacombe, Sir Rohan (1906–1991), Major General". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London, Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900–1975.
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35890. p. 639. 5 February 1943.
  8. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36753. p. 4785. 19 October 1944.
  9. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38415. p. 5189. 28 September 1948.
  10. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39137. p. 593. 2 February 1951.
  11. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39104. p. 6. 1 January 1951.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40377. p. 147. 7 January 1955.
  13. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40601. p. 5617. 7 October 1955.
  14. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40953. p. 7213. 21 December 1956.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41089. p. 3369. 13 June 1957.
  16. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41517. p. 6159. 10 October 1958.
  17. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41663. p. 1973. 24 March 1959.
  18. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42370. p. 4148. 10 June 1961.
  19. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42664. p. 3579. 4 May 1962.
  20. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42744. p. 6081. 31 July 1962.
  21. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43200. p. 4. 1 January 1964.
  22. Blainey, Geoffrey (2006). "Whirlwind and Calm". A History of Victoria. UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 0-521-86977-3.
  23. The Age. 7 October 1965. p.17.
Military offices
Preceded by
Francis Rome
Commandant, British Sector in Berlin
Succeeded by
Claude Dunbar
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Dallas Brooks
Governor of Victoria
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Winneke
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