Governor of Southern Rhodesia

Governor of Southern Rhodesia
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1970).svg
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1980)
Style His Excellency The Right Honourable
Residence Government House, Salisbury
Appointer King/Queen of the United Kingdom
Formation 1 October 1923
First holder The Rt Hon. Sir John Chancellor
Final holder The Lord Soames
Abolished 18 April 1980

The Governor of Southern Rhodesia was the representative of the British monarch in the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia from 1923 to 1980. The Governor was appointed by The Crown and acted as the local head of state, receiving instructions from the British Government.

Constitutional role

The Governor was also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and as such, in theory at least, exercised considerable influence over the running of the colony and its government, but in practice, the Governor's main function was to maintain a satisfactory relationship between the British and Southern Rhodesian Governments and acted in an advisory capacity most of the time. From 1951, however, in contrast to other colonies, the British government was represented in Southern Rhodesia by a High Commissioner in Salisbury.[1]

When Southern Rhodesia was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the position of the Governor remained unchanged, but as Salisbury became the capital of the Federation, the Governor General resided at Government House, previously the Governor's official residence.[2] During this time, the Governor of Southern Rhodesia resided at Governor's Lodge in the suburb of Highlands.[3]


Following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, the government of Ian Smith ceased to recognise the authority of the then Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, and appointed Clifford Dupont to exercise the Governor's powers as Officer Administering the Government.[4]

However, Gibbs continued to occupy Government House, asserting his position as the Queen's de jure representative, and did not resign from the post until June 1969, following the decision of white voters in a referendum to approve a new constitution declaring Rhodesia, as Southern Rhodesia had become more commonly known, a republic.[5]

In 1977, Field Marshal The Lord Carver was designated Resident Commissioner for Rhodesia, but he resigned fourteen months later.[6]

The office of Governor remained vacant until 11 December 1979, when Lord Soames assumed the post, following the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement, under which Southern Rhodesia would achieve de jure independence as Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980.


Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1924–1951)
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1951–1952), featuring the Tudor Crown.
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia (1952–1980), featuring St Edward's Crown.

In common with most other British colonies, the flag used by the Governor, as the Sovereign's representative in Southern Rhodesia was initially a Union Flag with a white roundel in the centre, charged with the shield from the colony's arms granted on 11 August 1924. Unique among the flags of the Governors of British colonies, this shield of Arms was not surrounded by the customary wreath. This flag was adopted on 1 October 1924 and was flown until 30 July 1951.

On 31 July 1951, a new flag was put into use for the Governor of Southern Rhodesia. This was dark blue and charged in the centre with a Royal Crown, its height being four-sevenths of the hoist. Initially the Tudor Crown would have been used, but after her accession to the throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II indicated her preference for St Edward's Crown, and this version would have been used thereafter. Although the colony had attained 'Responsible Government' in 1923, it was never a fully fledged Dominion, and so did not have a Governor-General, whose flag in other Dominions would be dark blue, charged in the centre with the Royal Crest above a Crown, with the name of the Dominion written in a yellow scroll below.

Governors of Southern Rhodesia (1923–1980)

Took office Left office Portrait Name
1 October 1923 15 June 1928 John Chancellor portrait.jpg Sir John Chancellor
15 June 1928 24 November 1928 Murray Bisset in 1901.png Sir Murray Bisset
24 November 1928 1 May 1934 No image.png Sir Cecil Hunter-Rodwell
1 May 1934 8 January 1935 No image.png Fraser Russell
Acting; 1st Time
8 January 1935 8 January 1942 Sir Herbert James Stanley.jpg Sir Herbert Stanley
8 January 1942 10 December 1942 No image.png Fraser Russell
Acting; 2nd Time
10 December 1942 26 October 1944 No image.png Sir Evelyn Baring
26 October 1944 20 February 1945 No image.png Sir Robert James Hudson
Acting; 1st Time
20 February 1945 2 February 1946 No image.png Sir Campbell Tait
Admiral Tait's health rapidly declined shortly after he arrived in Southern Rhodesia. He relinquished the Governorship after only a year, and died five months later at Government House in Salisbury.
2 February 1946 19 July 1946 No image.png Sir Fraser Russell
Acting; 3rd Time. He had been appointed a KBE in the 1943 New Year Honours, announced in December 1942.
19 July 1946 14 January 1947 No image.png Sir Robert James Hudson
Acting; 2nd Time
14 January 1947 21 November 1953 No image.png Sir John Noble Kennedy
21 November 1953 26 November 1954 No image.png Sir Robert Clarkson Tredgold
26 November 1954 28 December 1959 No image.png Sir Peveril William-Powlett
28 December 1959 24 June 1969 No image.png Sir Humphrey Gibbs
After the UDI on 11 November 1965, position not recognised by the Rhodesian government
24 June 1969 11 December 1979 Position vacant On 1 September 1977, Field Marshal The Lord Carver was named as Resident Commissioner-designate
11 December 1979 18 April 1980 Christopher Soames (cropped).jpg The Lord Soames

For continuation after independence, see: President of Zimbabwe

See also