Sir Thomas PLAYFORD

Badge Number: 21737, Sub Branch: Uraidla
21737

PLAYFORD, Thomas

Service Number: 1061
Enlisted: 17 May 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Norton Summit, South Australia, 5 July 1896
Home Town: Norton Summit, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Fruit Grower (later Politician)
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 16 June 1981, aged 84 years
Cemetery: Norton Summit Cemetery
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

17 May 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1061, 27th Infantry Battalion, Keswick, South Australia
31 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1061, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1061, 27th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
4 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1061, 27th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
5 Nov 1916: Wounded Flers/Gueudecourt, GSW (abdomen)
3 Jan 1919: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant
3 Apr 1919: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant
31 Aug 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 27th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement 27th Infantry Battalion, Pozières

SA History Hub of Sir Thomas Playford

Thomas Playford was Premier of South Australia from 1938 to 1965. He led his party to victory in eight successive elections, presiding for 26½ years over a state in transition, one that was struggling to survive against the dominance of the larger, more economically powerful states. His premiership remains the longest in the history of the British Commonwealth.

He was born at Norton Summit, South Australia, on 5th July 1896, the son of orchardist Thomas Playford and his wife Elizabeth Annie (née Pellew). His grandfather, ‘Honest Tom’ Playford (1837-1915), was also a Premier of South Australia and a Federal senator. Tom Playford went to the Norton Summit School but left at the age of fourteen to manage the family business. In May 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served with the 27th Battalion. He was severely wounded in November 1916 at Flers, France, and at the end of the war, with the rank of lieutenant, he returned home to his market gardening. On 11th January 1928 he married Lorna Clark and they had three children.

In 1933 Playford entered the House of Asembly as the Liberal and Country League member for Murray. Five years later, in November 1938, he was elected leader of his party, becoming Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Immigration, portfolios that he retained until 1965. One of his first acts on taking office was to issue a public statement in which he promised to work in the interests of the people as a whole, rather than being bound by blind party loyalties. Although socially and morally conservative, he was determined to make South Australia economically progressive and his policies were always driven by this commitment.

Realizing that the state was vulnerable to drought, he began a programme of industrialization to reduce its dependence on primary production. His skilful negotiations with the federal government and with leading industrialists and international companies secured for the state the Long Range Weapons Establishment at Salisbury, the shipbuilding yards at Whyalla, the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline, the Port Stanvac oil refinery and the development of the Leigh Creek coalfield. He introduced industries from overseas and used the reliability of the South Australian workforce as an incentive to entice industries from other states.

He pursued policies of price and rent control and, through the Housing Trust, had thousands of low-cost homes built as a means of attracting a larger workforce to the state. The town of Elizabeth, founded in the 1950s, attracted British migrants in particular and provided them with jobs at the General Motors-Holden’s plant, also a Playford initiative. He was, however, notoriously indifferent to what he saw as non-productive areas of government responsibility --- social services, health, the arts and education.

Playford was able to hold power for as long as he did because of the malapportionment of the electoral system, the so-called ‘Playmander’. This was a legacy of the electoral redistribution carried out in 1936 whereby the vote of each country elector was worth almost three times as much as that of a city elector. Since rural voters were traditionally strong supporters of the Liberal and Country League, Playford had no desire to interfere with the imbalance that ensured his political survival. He finally lost power to the Labor Party in 1965 and retired from politics the following year. He had been appointed G.C.M.G. in 1957.

Sir Thomas Playford died on 16th June 1981 and was buried at Norton Summit Cemetery. He has been variously described as ‘a shrewd politician’, ‘a wily old scallywag’ and as a man who ‘knew what he wanted, knew what was desirable and knew what was possible’. Whatever he did, he did it for the sake of South Australia. The wording on his gravestone reads: ‘A good man who did good things’.

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Biography

No.1061 Lieutenant Thomas Playford was born at Norton Summit on 5 July 1896, the grandson of South Australian Premier, Thomas Playford 1837-1915. Thomas was working for his father as a gardener at the time of his attestation in May 1915 and being under age required his father's permission to enlist.

He was batman to Lieut-Col James Charles Francis SLANE at Gallipoli.

A member of the 27th Battalion he served in France and was wounded in action on 5 November 1916, receiving a "severe" gun shot wound to the abdomen. He returned to duty in 1917 and was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in January 1919 and Lieutenant in April 1919 before returning to Australia aboard the Ypiranga in July 1919.

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