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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lansell, Sir George Victor (1883–1959)

by Kevin Peoples

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sir George Victor Lansell (1883-1959), businessman, politician and philanthropist, was born on 3 October 1883 in London, elder son of George Lansell, the Bendigo 'Quartz King', and his second wife Harriet Edith, née Bassford. George was educated at St Andrew's College, Bendigo, and Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. On 20 January 1910 at All Saints Pro-Cathedral, Bendigo, he married a skiing champion, Edith Florence Gwendoline Frew; they had three daughters.

As a young man Lansell excelled in revolver shooting, boxing and swimming but his militia interests endured longest. First commissioned in the 8th Australian Infantry Regiment in 1904, he was a captain in 1909. In May 1916 he was commissioned captain in Bendigo's 38th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Entering the front line in France on 1 December he was wounded two days later and invalided back to Australia next March for discharge in August. After the war he rose in 1923 to major commanding the 38th Battalion, Australian Military Forces. Lieutenant-Colonel in 1927, he retired as honorary colonel in 1942 after having organized the north-west Victorian group of the Volunteer Defence Corps early in World War II.

Lansell's major contribution was his service to returned soldiers. He was president of the Bendigo sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia for nearly thirty years. His work extended beyond grand gesture and he is remembered affectionately for his personal generosity to ex-servicemen and their dependants.

Lansell was director of the powerful Sandhurst Trustees' Co., the Bendigo Mutual Permanent Land & Building Society and many other local companies. He brought to Bendigo the overseas-based Hanro Knitting Mills and the Australian Swiss Watch Co. Early in his business career he acquired the Bendigo Independent and amalgamated it with the Bendigo Advertiser in 1918. He had interests in the Riverine Herald, the Rochester Irrigator, the Stock and Station Journal and Central Victorian Broadcasters Ltd, and was a delegate to Empire press conferences in Canada (1920), England (1923) and Australia (1925).

Shy and retiring, Lansell was the opposite of his swashbuckling father, but his philanthropy was no less extensive. With his mother he built a clinic at the Bendigo Hospital; he donated an X-ray plant, pathological and electro-surgical equipment and a radio system for patients. He supported the Bendigo Benevolent Home and the art gallery. He was president of the council of the School of Mines and had fifty years association with the Young Men's Christian Association. He was a Freemason, a Rotarian and a justice of the peace.

Despite twenty-four years in the Legislative Council as member for Bendigo Province, Lansell did not enjoy politics. He averaged about a comment a year and had little commitment to party. First elected in 1928 as a Nationalist, he joined the Country Party in 1944 and the Liberal-Country Party alliance in 1949. In 1950-51, however, he supported the J. G. B. McDonald Country Party government; his vote ensured supply and Legislative Council reform including adult suffrage. Appointed C.M.G. in 1937 he was knighted in 1951.

Predeceased by his wife, Lansell died at Bendigo on 9 January 1959 and was buried in Bendigo cemetery, leaving an estate valued for probate at £133,271.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Allan (ed), The Victorian Centenary Book (Geelong, Vic, 1936)
  • Mufti, 7 Feb 1959
  • Herald (Melbourne), 1 Jan 1951
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 20 Mar 1951, 10 Jan 1959
  • Bendigo Advertiser, 10 Jan 1959.

Citation details

Kevin Peoples, 'Lansell, Sir George Victor (1883–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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