Fifty Australians - Sir Roden Cutler

A Victoria Cross winner and the longest-serving Governor of New South Wales. Cutler won the Victoria Cross in the 1941 Syrian campaign and was severely wounded, requiring the amputation of a leg.

Sir Arthur Roden Cutler, VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE (1916–2002)

Roden Cutler began his military service in the Sydney University Regiment while a student. Commissioned in November 1939, six months later he joined the second AIF. He was posted to the artillery’s 2/5th Field Regiment, which trained in Egypt and Palestine before going into action in Syria against the Vichy French forces in mid-1941.

Seemingly fearless, Cutler was a forward observer who, from 19 June, consistently placed himself in danger in order to direct artillery fire against the enemy. He was often directly involved in the fighting and when necessary he took command of the local situation; he also helped in evacuating the wounded. Once he was cut off and had to wait for darkness to escape. Finally, on 6 July, he went out under heavy machine-gun fire to lay a telephone line and was severely wounded.

Badly hit, Cutler lay out isolated and exposed for 26 hours before he could be rescued. His leg became septic and later had to be amputated.For his sustained valour leading up to his wounding he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Invalided home, he received a hero’s welcome in Sydney. With his fighting spirit unquenched, he then embarked on a fresh career of public service.

In 1946 Cutler was appointed Australian High Commissioner in New Zealand, and several other diplomatic postings followed, including appointment as Consul-General in New York. In 1965 he took up the post of Ambassador to the Netherlands, but shortly afterwards was appointed Governor of New South Wales. A tall, handsome, dignified man, Cutler was a royalist, comfortable in a role not yet modernised; he remained a respected and popular governor until his retirement in 1981.

Lieutenant Roden Cutler after his Victoria Cross investiture at Admiralty House, Sydney

Cutler, seriously wounded, is carried from the battlefield by French prisoners of war.

Lieutenant Cutler was presented with the Victoria Cross by the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, in Sydney in June 1942.

Sir Roden Cutler and Lady Cutler, with aides, outside Government House, Sydney, in June 1973.

Vice-regal plumed hat The cocked hat was part of Sir Roden Cutler’s full dress vice-regal uniform when he was Governor of New South Wales.