Military Wiki
Sir Harry Rawson
21st Governor of New South Wales

In office
27 May 1902 – 27 May 1909
Monarch Edward VII
Lieutenant Sir Frederick Darley
Preceded by The Earl Beauchamp
Succeeded by Viscount Chelmsford
Personal details
Born (1843-11-05)5 November 1843
Walton-on-Hill, Lancashire, England
Died 3 November 1910(1910-11-03) (aged 66)
London, England
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Florence Alice Stewart Rawson (nee Shaw)
Occupation Naval Officer
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service 1857–1901
Rank Admiral
Commands Cape of Good Hope Station
Channel Fleet
Battles/wars Benin Expedition of 1897, Anglo-Zanzibar War

Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, GCB, GCMG (5 November 1843 – 3 November 1910), is chiefly remembered for overseeing the British Benin Expedition of 1897 that burned and looted the city of the Kingdom of Benin, now in Nigeria. No shame was attached to the event at the time, which amounted to a punitive expedition, and Admiral Rawson was appointed Governor of New South Wales, 27 May 1902 – 27 May 1909.

Personal life

Harry Rawson was born at Walton-on-Hill, Lancashire on 5 November 1843, the son of Christopher Rawson.[1] He was educated at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy[2] and at Marlborough College.[1]

In October 1871 in Cheshire, England, he married Florence Alice Stewart Shaw, daughter of John Ralph Shaw, of Arrowe Park, Cheshire.[1][3] The couple had five children.

Military Service

Rawson joined the Royal Navy in 1857 and took part in the capture of the Taku Forts in 1860 during the Second Opium War.[2] Promoted to Captain in 1877, he was given command of HMS Minotaur.[2] He was the Principal Transport Officer during the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882.[2] Then, in 1883, he was made Flag Captain to the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet and, in 1885, he was appointed Captain of the steam reserve at Devonport.[2] He returned to sea as Captain of HMS Benbow in 1889.[2]

Admiral Rawson was appointed commander of British naval forces at the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station in 1895[4] and held that post at the time of the Benin Expedition which was regarded in British circles largely as a stroke of disciplined and coordinated planning:

"In twenty-nine days a force of 1,200 men, coming from three places between 3000 and 4500 m. from the Benin river, was landed, organized, equipped and provided with transport. Five days later the city of Benin was taken, and in twelve days more the men were re-embarked, and the ships coaled and ready for any further service."[5]

Rawson was also the commanding officer of the British forces in the Anglo-Zanzibar War, the shortest war in history, which lasted for 38 minutes on 27 August 1896.[2] For this he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and a first class member of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar. He commanded the Channel Squadron from 1898 to 1901.[2] He was a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Aviz of Portugal, Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar, Order of Hamondieh and Order of Osmanieh and Civic Cross of Belgium.

Colonial Service

Rawson caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1901

In 1902 he became Governor of New South Wales, the first naval officer since Captain Bligh to hold the post and proved so popular that his term was extended.[2] In March 1905 (during his term as Governor of New South Wales), his wife was in poor health and returned to England with her son Wyatt and a daughter to seek the best medical advice.[6] Her condition deteriorated and in June 1905 Harry Rawson travelled to England to be with her.[7] In the belief she was recovering, the four of them set sail for Australia in December 1905, but Lady Rawson died on board the ship "Ormuz" in the Red Sea on 3 December 1905 and was buried at sea.[1][8][9] From 1903 to 1909, his aide-de-camp was Leslie Orme Wilson, later to be Governor of Queensland.

Rawson died on 3 November 1910 in London after an operation for appendicitis; he was survived by two sons and a daughter.[1][2]

Named in his honour

The four male colleges of the University of Sydney now compete for the Rawson Cup. This Intercollegiate Cup was donated in 1906 by Sir Harry Rawson when he was Governor of New South Wales. The colleges that compete for the cup are St John's College, St Andrew's College, Wesley College and St Paul's College.

Titles, styles and honours

Viceregal styles of
Sir Harry Rawson
Badge of the Governor of New South Wales.svg
Reference style His Excellency
Spoken style Your Excellency
Alternative style Sir


Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) 1906
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) 1897
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) 1909
Second China War Medal BAR.svg Second China War Medal
Egypt Medal BAR.svg Egypt Medal (1882–1889)
Africa General Service Medal BAR.svg Africa General Service Medal
Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (UK) ribbon.png Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
Order of the Osmanie lenta.png Order of Osmanieh, Third Class (Ottoman Empire)
Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar - ribbon bar.gif Grand Cross of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar (Zanzibar)
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Order of Hamondieh (Ottoman Empire) 1898[10]
Naval General Service Medal 1915 BAR.svg Civic Cross (Belgium)
Khedives Star.png Khedive's Star (Egypt)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Obituary: Admiral Sir Harry H. Rawson, The Times, Friday 4 November 1910, retrieved 5 March 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Harry Rawson at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. FreeBMD, retrieved 5 March 2011.
  4. William Loney RN
  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911
  6. "PERSONAL.". NSW: National Library of Australia. 17 March 1905. p. 4. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  7. "THE STATE GOVERNOR.". NSW: National Library of Australia. 6 June 1905. p. 4. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  8. "WIDESPREAD SYMPATHY WITH THE STATE GOVERNOR.". NSW: National Library of Australia. 13 December 1905. p. 9. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  9. "PERSONAL.". NSW: National Library of Australia. 6 December 1905. p. 9. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  10. "No. 27500". 21 June 1898. 
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 

External links

  • [1] Obituary from The Times
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Bedford
Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Harris
Preceded by
Sir Henry Stephenson
Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Wilson
Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl Beauchamp
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
The Lord Chelmsford

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).