Air Marshal Sir James Anthony Rowland,
AC, KBE, DFC, AFC, KStJ
Air Marshal Sir James Anthony Rowland, AC KBE DFC AFC KStJ, former Governor of New South Wales, departed this life on 27 May 1999, and received a State Funeral on Wednesday 2nd June 1999.
Sir James was the 33rd Governor of New South Wales. He was born on a property near Armidale, NSW, in 1922 and was educated at Cranbrook School and the University of Sydney. His university studies in aeronautical engineering were interrupted in 1942 by his enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 19. Sir James served his time in the Air Force in Europe as a master bomber and pilot. He went directly into the elite Pathfinder force, which had the responsibility of marking targets for bomber command. That force flew alone and below the altitude of other planes – certainly not a job for the faint-hearted.
In 1945 Sir James was taken prisoner by the Gestapo near Frankfurt, where he was placed in solitary confinement, handcuffed and interrogated by a gruesome Gestapo officer. Fortunately, he was informed by guards one night that the Gestapo had scheduled him to be shot in the morning. At 4.00 a.m. Sir James was rescued by two German Luftwaffe officers who had been informed that an enemy Air Force officer was not being treated as a prisoner in accordance with the terms of the Geneva Convention. The Luftwaffe officers took Sir James to one of their own internment camps, where he sat out the months awaiting the liberation.
Following the end of the war, Sir James completed his engineering studies and continued on with a long and distinguished career in the military. He became chief test pilot in 1950 at Laverton air base, and he served at the Amberley base in Brisbane, and in Paris. Sir James rose to the rank of Air Marshal as Chief of Air Staff in 1975, a position which he held for four years until his retirement.
Sir James was appointed New South Wales Governor in 1981, replacing his distinguished predecessor, Victoria Cross recipient, Sir Roden Cutler. His appointment was recommended by the then Wran Government and he served as Governor of New South Wales until 1989. On being appointed, Sir James expressed the desire to “get to know the working folk, and be a man of the people”. He certainly made Government House more accessible to the public by broadening the guest lists for attendance at functions to include those considered on the fringe of society. He increasingly made Government House available for open days. He also travelled around the State a great deal on official duties.
Following the end of his tenure as Governor, Sir James continued to serve the public, most notably as President of the Royal Humane Society, Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1990 to 1991, and as a member of the Police Board from 1989 to 1992. He was a successful company director and he served on many boards, including Angus and Coote and Thomson CSF Pacific Holdings. Sir James was widely known as a kind and generous man, certainly a born diplomat and a man with tremendous dignity.
He was survived by his wife, Lady Rowland; their daughter, Anni; and their grandchildren, Samantha and Lachlan.
The above information has been taken from a number of tributes to Sir James, delivered in the New South Wales Legislative Council, Tuesday 1 June 1999.
- State Funeral Service and Thanksgiving for the Life of Air Marshall Sir James Anthony Rowland AC, KBE, DFC, AFC (PDF)
- Eulogy for Sir James Rowland, by Air Commodore G G Michael RAAF (Retd) (PDF)
- Tribute of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales (PDF)
- Letter of Condolence to Lady Roland from the Premier of New South Wales (PDF)