253,272 Pages

The Honourable
Sir Thomas White
Sir Thomas White.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Balaclava

In office
3 August 1929 – 20 June 1951
Preceded by William Watt
Succeeded by Percy Joske
Personal details
Born (1888-04-26)26 April 1888
North Melbourne, Victoria
Died 13 October 1957(1957-10-13) (aged 69)
South Yarra, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Political party Nationalist (1929–31)
UAP (1931–45)
Liberal (1945–51)
Spouse(s) Vera Deakin
Occupation Army officer

Sir Thomas Walter White KBE DFC (26 April 1888 – 13 October 1957) was an Australian politician.

Early life and World War IEdit

White was born at Hotham, North Melbourne, Victoria and educated at Moreland State School. In August 1914, he began training as an officer in the Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook. In April 1915, he was appointed a captain in the first Australian Imperial Force and adjutant of a small unit that was sent to Basra to assist the Indian Army in the Mesopotamian campaign. He successfully carried out several operations involving landing behind enemy lines, but on 13 November 1915, he was captured while attempting to cut telegraph wires near Baghdad. He was imprisoned in Turkey, but in July 1918 he escaped from a train in Constantinople and managed to stowaway on a cargo ship to Odessa, Ukraine and he then travelled to London. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and was twice mentioned in dispatches as a result. He published an account of his exploits as Guests of the Unspeakable.[1][2] In London, White met Vera Deakin, daughter of former Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and quickly became engaged to her. His appointment to the AIF terminated in January 1920 and he married Vera in March 1920, despite the opposition of some of the Deakin family. He became managing director of his father's hardware company, C. J. White & Sons Pty Ltd until 1932.[2]

Political careerEdit

White ran unsuccessfully, as a Nationalist for the seat of Maribyrnong in the 1925 elections. In 1927, he failed to win the Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of Prahran. He won the seat of Balaclava at a 1929 by-election. The United Australia Party came to power in the 1931 elections and in March 1933 he was appointed Minister for Trade and Customs in the first Lyons Ministry, replacing Henry Gullett who had stood down due to ill-health. His portfolio was responsible for book and film censorship and he established an advisory board, chaired by Robert Garran to make recommendations to him. On 8 November 1938, he resigned his portfolio, having discovered that Joseph Lyons had established an inner Cabinet from which he was excluded.[2] With the outbreak of World War II, White became a temporary squadron leader in the part-time Citizen Air Force. He took leave from parliament and commanded a training school at Somers and in 1941 he travelled to England to administer Australian aircrew and to liaise with the Royal Air Force. He returned to Melbourne in 1943 and served in the Royal Australian Air Force Staff School and resumed his parliamentary duties. With the election of the Robert Menzies government in the 1949 elections, he was appointed Minister for the Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. In June 1951, he resigned from parliament to become Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, a position he held until 1956.[2] In 1952, White was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He suffered from emphysema and died of myocardial infarction at his home in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra, survived by his wife and their four daughters.[2]


  1. White,, Thomas Walter (1928). Guests of the unspeakable : the odyssey of an Australian airman—being a record of captivity and escape in Turkey. London: John Hamilton. pp. 675. ISBN 1-86315-000-5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Rickard, John (2002). "White, Sir Thomas Walter (1888 - 1957)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Gullett
Minister for Trade and Customs
1932 – 1938
Succeeded by
John Perkins
Preceded by
Arthur Drakeford
Minister for the Air
Succeeded by
Philip McBride
Minister for Civil Aviation
Succeeded by
Hubert Lawrence Anthony
Unrecognised parameter
Preceded by
William Watt
Member for Balaclava
1929 – 1951
Succeeded by
Percy Joske
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Last held by: Jack Beasley
Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
1951 – 1956
Succeeded by
Sir Eric Harrison

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