William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle

"William Sidney" redirects here. For other uses, see William Sidney (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
The Viscount De L'Isle
15th Governor-General of Australia
In office
3 August 1961  7 May 1965
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by The Viscount Dunrossil
Succeeded by The Lord Casey
Secretary of State for Air
In office
31 October 1951  20 December 1955
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Arthur Henderson
Succeeded by Nigel Birch
Member of Parliament
for Chelsea
In office
11 October 1944  18 June 1945
Preceded by Sir Samuel Hoare
Succeeded by Allan Noble
Personal details
Born William Philip Sidney
(1909-05-23)23 May 1909
Chelsea, London
Died 5 April 1991(1991-04-05) (aged 81)
Tonbridge, Kent
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Relations John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort (father-in-law)
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1929–1944
Rank Major
Unit Grenadier Guards
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Victoria Cross

William Philip Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle VC, KG, GCMG, GCVO, KStJ, PC (23 May 1909 – 5 April 1991), known as The Lord De L'Isle and Dudley between 1945 and 1956, was a British Victoria Cross recipient, politician, and the 15th Governor-General of Australia, the final non-Australian to hold the office.

Early life

Sidney was the younger of two children, and the only son, of William Sidney, 5th Baron De L'Isle and Dudley (19 August 1859 – 18 June 1945) and his wife, Winifred Agneta Yorke Bevan (d. 11 February 1959). The Sidney family is one of England's oldest and most distinguished families. He was a descendant of King William IV by his mistress Dorothea Jordan. He was educated at Eton College and Magdalene College, Cambridge and became a chartered accountant. In 1929 he joined the Grenadier Guards Reserve of Officers.

Marriage and issue

Lord De L'Isle married Hon Jacqueline Corrine Yvonne Vereker (20 October 1914 – 15 November 1962), daughter of Field Marshal John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, on 8 June 1940. The couple had five children:

After his wife's death, he married the widowed Lady Glanusk (née Margaret Shoubridge) on 24 March 1966 in Paris. They had no children.

War service

During the Second World War, Sidney fought in the Battle of France and the Italian Campaign. While serving as a company commander in the 5th Battalion, Grenadier Guards (itself part of 24th Guards Brigade of British 1st Infantry Division), he led a handful of men in the defence of the Anzio beachhead in February 1944, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.[1] Sidney led a successful attack which drove German troops out of a gully. Later he led another counter-attack and dashed forward, engaging the Germans with his tommy gun at point-blank range, forcing a withdrawal. When the attack was renewed, Sidney and one guardsman were wounded and another killed, but he would not consent to have his wounds dressed until the Germans had been beaten off and the battalion's position had been consolidated. During this time, although extremely weak from loss of blood, he continued to encourage and inspire his men.[2]

In later life, when asked where he had been shot, he would jocularly respond that he was shot in Italy. This was to conceal the fact that he had, in fact, been shot in the buttocks. The ribbon for the medal was made from one of his father-in-law Lord Gort's uniforms and was awarded by General Sir Harold Alexander, commanding the Allied Armies in Italy, on 3 March 1944 in Italy.

Political life

At a by-election in October 1944, he was elected unopposed to the House of Commons as Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelsea. His father died in June 1945 and he succeeded as 6th Baron De L'Isle and Dudley, requiring translation to the House of Lords. He thus retired from the House of Commons prior to the July 1945 general election.

In 1951 he was appointed Secretary of State for Air under Winston Churchill and held that office until 1955. During this time he visited Australia, travelling to Woomera to examine weapons research and meeting the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. In 1956 he was created Viscount De L'Isle, of Penshurst in the County of Kent.[3]


In 1961, following the sudden death of Lord Dunrossil, Menzies recommended De L'Isle's appointment as Governor-General of Australia. He performed his ceremonial duties with dignity and travelled widely around Australia. There were no political or constitutional controversies during his term, even though the Menzies Liberal government until November 1963 enjoyed a majority in the House of Representatives of just two seats. De L'Isle's Official Secretary throughout his term was Murray Tyrrell.


By the time of his retirement in 1965, public opinion was strongly in favour of an Australian Governor-General, although this was not a reflection on his performance in the role. His continuing interest in Australia was shown by several visits after his retirement, the last for Australia's bicentenary in 1988 when he presented a bronze statue, which now stands in the grounds of Government House in Canberra.

In 1975 he co-founded what is now called The Freedom Association, a free-market campaign group opposed to the post-war consensus that played a prominent role in the Grunwick Dispute.

Viscount De L'Isle died in Kent on 5 April 1991 and was buried in the Sidney family vault at St John the Baptist, Penshurst. He was the last surviving Victoria Cross recipient who had been a member of both Houses of Parliament[note 1] He was succeeded in his titles by his only son, Philip.

Styles and honours

In 1965 De L'Isle succeeded his kinsman as ninth Baronet of Castle Goring.

He was appointed Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter (KG) on 23 April 1968,[5][6] becoming one of only two men ever to have held both of the highest orders of gallantry and chivalry – Victoria Cross and Knight of the Garter (the other being Field Marshal the Lord Roberts).[7]

See also


  1. The last VC holder to sit in the Commons had been Sir John Smyth, who retired before the 1966 general election and died 1983.


  1. Nicolson, Nigel (1949). The Grenadier Guards in the War of 1939–1945, Volume II: The Mediterranean Campaigns. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. pp. 407408. OCLC 4992796.
  2. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36445. pp. 1477–1478. 30 March 1944. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 40684. p. 278. 13 January 1956. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 42351. p. 3509. 12 May 1961. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 44571. p. 4645. 23 April 1968. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  6. List of the Knights of the Garter (1348–present)
  7. History.UK.com Articles
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Samuel Hoare
Member of Parliament for Chelsea
Succeeded by
Allan Noble
Political offices
Preceded by
Wilfred Paling
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Pensions
Succeeded by
Jennie Adamson
Preceded by
Arthur Henderson
Secretary of State for Air
Succeeded by
Nigel Birch
Government offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Dunrossil
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
The Lord Casey
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount De L'Isle
Succeeded by
Philip Sidney
Preceded by
William Sidney
Baron De L'Isle and Dudley
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sidney Patrick Shelley
(of Castle Goring)
Succeeded by
Philip Sidney
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