Willoughby Norrie, 1st Baron Norrie

Lieutenant General The Right Honourable
The Lord Norrie

Lord Norrie in 1944
8th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
2 December 1952  5 July 1957
Monarch Elizabeth II
Premier Sidney Holland
Preceded by The Lord Freyberg
Succeeded by The Viscount Cobham
23rd Governor of South Australia
In office
19 December 1944  19 June 1952
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey
Succeeded by Sir Robert George
Personal details
Born 26 September 1893
Died 25 May 1977(1977-05-25) (aged 83)
Nationality British
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1913–1944
Rank Lieutenant General
Unit 11th Hussars
Commands Commander Royal Armoured Corps
XXX Corps
1st Armoured Division
1st Armoured Brigade
11th Hussars
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Companion of the Order of the Bath[1]
Distinguished Service Order[2]
Military Cross & Bar[3][4]
Knight of the Venerable Order of St John[5]
Mentioned in despatches (2)[6]

Lieutenant General Charles Willoughby Moke Norrie, 1st Baron Norrie, GCMG, GCVO, CB, DSO, MC & Bar (26 September 1893 – 25 May 1977) was a senior officer of the British Army who fought in both World Wars, following which he served terms as Governor of South Australia and the eighth Governor-General of New Zealand.

Military career

Educated at Eton College and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the British Army's 11th Hussars in 1913.[7] He served in the First World War, in which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Military Cross and Bar, was twice mentioned in despatches, and was wounded four times. He became, successively, a Staff Captain in the 73rd Brigade; General Staff Officer Grade 3 (GSO3) in XVIII Corps; brigade major in the 90th Brigade, and in the 2nd Tank Brigade; and second GSO in the 2nd Battalion, Tank Corps. In January 1919 he changed his name by deed poll from Moke-Norrie to Norrie.[8]

Between the wars he had a number of regimental and staff postings, interrupted by a year at the Staff College, Camberley in 1924.[9] In 1931 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and became Commanding Officer of the 11th Hussars[10] after which he was placed on the half-pay (inactive) list although promoted to full colonel in 1935.[11] In January 1936, still on the half pay list, Norrie took part in the funeral procession for King George V as one of the "Representative Colonels-Commandant and Colonels of His late Majesty's Regiments".[12] In April 1936 he was appointed to command the 1st Cavalry Brigade as a temporary brigadier.[13] His brigade was mechanised in 1938 and re-designated 1st Light Armoured Brigade, becoming the 1st Armoured Brigade in 1940.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Norrie continued to serve as commander of the 1st Armoured Brigade. In April 1940 the brigade was part of the 2nd Armoured Division, which he was given temporary command of for a month between appointments of permanent commanders. Following this he was appointed acting major general[14] and became Inspector of the Royal Armoured Corps. Four months later he became General Officer Commanding 1st Armoured Division and was promoted to the permanent rank of major general in June 1941.[15] In November 1941 the division was ordered to Egypt where Norrie found himself appointed acting lieutenant general[16] to command XXX Corps in the place of Vyvyan Pope who had died in an air crash shortly before Norrie's arrival in Egypt.[17] He commanded XXX Corps during Operation Crusader with some success but his tanks suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Gazala in June 1942. He was criticised for his "cavalry" approach to armoured warfare and General Claude Auchinleck, the Eighth Army commander, replaced him in July. He returned to Britain to be appointed Commander of the Royal Armoured Corps in which role he was to give advice on armoured warfare to General Bernard Paget, the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces. He continued as Paget's advisor when Paget became commander of the Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group on its formation in July 1943 but when General Bernard Montgomery assumed command early in 1944, he brought his own advisor.[18] In April 1944 Norrie was appointed Head of the Military Mission to the French Committee of National Liberation (CFLN) in Algiers, a post he held until the middle of 1944 when he was proposed by the Secretary of State for the Dominions to become Governor of South Australia.[19]

Norrie retired from the British Army in September 1944 to take up his post as Governor of South Australia. Although his substantive rank at this time was still major general, he was given the honorary rank of lieutenant general in retirement.[20]


Norrie was married to Jocelyn Helen Gosling on 9 June 1922. They had three children:

Jocelyn Norrie died on 7 March 1938. He remarried later that year, to Patricia Merryweather Bainbridge, on 28 November. They also had three children:

Norrie also had a ward, his niece Eleanor Kerans (born 21 April 1926). She had been orphaned at an early age, and when she was 16 her brother was killed in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, leaving her with no immediate family.

The Governor of South Australia Sir Willoughby Norrie and his family relaxing in the sea at Henley Beach on Saturday 28 December 1946. Identified are Captain Farebrother ADC, Guy Norrie, Sarah Norrie, Sir Willoughby Norrie and Lady Norrie.

Governor of South Australia

Sir Willoughby Norrie (right) meeting Prime Minister Ben Chifley (left) and Premier of South Australia Tom Playford (centre)

Norrie was appointed Governor of South Australia in September 1944, whereupon he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.[21][22] He, his family and 12 staff arrived in Adelaide in December. The Vice-Regal couple worked hard to keep the 'Empire Spirit' alive during wartime. Within two years, Norrie had travelled to every local government area within the state, and was sure to welcome servicemen returning from war. Lady Patricia, with Rosemary and Eleanor, were regular volunteers and champions of various patriotic causes. In 1945, Norrie was made a Knight of St John, an award associated with public and charitable works.

Although normally remaining neutral in regards to local politics, he was 'shocked' at the narrow rejection of Thomas Playford's bill to nationalise the Adelaide Electric Company. He privately exerted pressure on the bill's main opponents. When the bill was reintroduced in 1946, Sir Collier Cudmore absented himself from key divisions, allowing the bill to pass and leading to the establishment of the Electricity Trust of South Australia.[22]

Norrie's term was extended for four years in 1948.

Despite his illustrious career, he would forever claim that his greatest achievement was the catching of a shark weighing 2,225 pounds (1,009 kg), with rod and reel, off Port Lincoln.[22]

Governor-General of New Zealand

Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie and Lady Norrie with H H Podmore (Mayor of Foxton) during a visit to Foxton 8 April 1954

Norrie's KCMG was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George when he was appointed Governor-General of New Zealand in 1952,[23] in which position he served until 1957. During his tenure he was made Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order for personal services to the Queen.[24] On leaving office he was created a peer in 1957 as Baron Norrie, of Wellington in the Dominion of New Zealand and of Upton in the County of Gloucester.[25][26] From 1960 to 1968 he was Chancellor of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.[27]


Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a bar to a military award



  1. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35697. p. 3945. 8 September 1942. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  2. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31092. p. 19. 31 December 1918. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  3. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29202. p. 6119. 22 June 1915. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30308. p. 9971. 25 September 1917. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 36875. p. 183. 2 January 1945. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  6. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29200. p. 5982. 18 June 1915. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 28687. p. 845. 4 February 1913. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 31143. p. 1302. 24 January 1919. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 32901. p. 773. 25 January 1924. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 33733. p. 4439. 7 July 1931. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 34177. p. 4343. 5 July 1935. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34279. p. 2768. 29 April 1936. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  13. The London Gazette: no. 34274. p. 2452. 14 April 1936. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  14. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34944. p. 5471. 10 September 1940. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35192. p. 3440. 13 June 1941. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  16. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35377. p. 7043. 9 December 1941. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  17. Mead, p. 323
  18. Mead, p. 326.
  19. Mead, p. 327.
  20. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36704. p. 4307. 15 September 1944. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  21. The London Gazette: no. 36651. p. 3724. 11 August 1944. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  22. 1 2 3 Australian Dictionary of Biography
  23. The London Gazette: no. 39610. p. 4075. 29 July 1952. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  24. The London Gazette: no. 40103. p. 1007. 16 February 1954. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  25. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41089. p. 3367. 4 June 1957. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  26. The London Gazette: no. 41161. p. 5053. 27 August 1957. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  27. The London Gazette: no. 42128. p. 5866. 26 August 1960.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Willoughby Norrie, 1st Baron Norrie.
Military offices
Preceded by
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GOC 1st Armoured Division
Succeeded by
Herbert Lumsden
Preceded by
Vyvyan Pope
November 1941 – July 1942
Succeeded by
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Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Sir Robert George
Preceded by
The Lord Freyberg
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
The Viscount Cobham
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
Baron Norrie
Succeeded by
George Norrie
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