Casey, Baron Richard

Casey, Baron Richard (1890-1976) Governor-General of Bengal from 1944 to 1946, Casey was born on 29 August 1890 in Brisbane, Australia. He was the eldest child of Richard Gardiner Casey. Casey was also an engineer, diplomat and a successful politician.

He was educated as a day-boy at Cumloden School, St Kilda, and then for three years at the nearby Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. He spent one year (1909) as an engineering student at the University of Melbourne before sailing to England and entering Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated with honours in the mechanical sciences in 1913 and obtained master degree in 1918. Casey started his careerer as a lieutenant in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 September 1914. He was to serve throughout the First World War and rise to the major rank in August 1915. Casey returned to Australia in 1931 and was elected a member to the House of Representatives.

While serving as a diplomat, he impressed Prime minister Churchill who, in November 1943, offered him the governorship of Bengal, India. Casey was the first Australian citizen to be recommended for the governor-generalship by a non-Labor government.

On 22 January 1944 Casey took over Bengal devastated by famine and nationalist agitation and communal conflict. He improved the civil service, fought with some measure of success for funds from New Delhi, encouraged development projects, and kept his ministries in a condition of reasonable harmony and efficiency. He was shocked by British racial snobbery, and he tried to break down walls between Government House in Calcutta and the local community. The climate, the long hours and the frustrations of the job affected his health, but he enjoyed enjoy the affection of the politicians and officials he had known in Calcutta-more especially those who were Moslems and became Pakistanis. Casey himself was to regard his Bengal years as perhaps the most fruitful of his life.

Casey returned home in April 1946 determined to re-enter Federal politics (with this in mind, he had refused a peerage while in Bengal). Apart from his peerage, he was a privy counsellor from 1939, and was appointed C.H. (1944). In 1960, he was made for 'Baron', of Berwick in the State of Victoria. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1965, and a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) in 1969.

Casey was emphasising the importance of Asia to an Australian which had taken little interest in it. He frequently visited Asia (and thereby forced the Australian press to take an interest), kept a close eye on aid to Asian countries and urged his young diplomats to concentrate on Asia rather than Europe.

Throughout the 1950s Casey was, as well, the minister responsible for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. While he was not as competent as a writer, Casey published a good deal: Australia's Place in the World (Melbourne, 1931), An Australian in India (London, 1947), Double or Quit (Melbourne, 1949), Friends and Neighbours (Melbourne, 1954), Personal Experience 1939-1946 (London, 1962), The Future of the Commonwealth (London, 1963), Australian Father and Son (London, 1966), and Australian Foreign Minister (edited by T. B. Millar, London, 1972). Casey died on 17 June, 1976 in Melbourne. [Nasrin Akhter]