PrimroseSir Harold Leslie Boyce, 1st Bt, KBE, K.St.J, MA, BA. Primrose

Harold Leslie Boyce, was born on 9th July 1895 at Taree, New South Wales, son of Charles Macleay Boyce (d.1936), solicitor, and his wife Ethel May, née Thorne, and grandson of Charles Boyce. He was educated at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney, in 1906-11, and at Sydney Grammar School, 1911-13. Describing himself as a medical student, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force while on holidays in Adelaide in March 1915 and sailed as a second lieutenant with the 27th Battalion in May. He served in Egypt, at Gallipoli and on the Western front (France) where he was promoted lieutenant in the 10th Battalion and seriously wounded at Pozières in July 1916. Invalided back to Adelaide early next year he helped inventor L. E. De Mole with his 'tank', promoted recruiting and returned to England with reinforcements for the 10th Battalion.

After the war Boyce went to Balliol College, Oxford, on Huth and Rhodes Trust scholarships and read modern history (B.A., 1920; M.A., 1924). On a further Rhodes Trust award he read for the Bar and in 1922 was called to the Inner Temple. The same year he was legal adviser and substitute Australian delegate to the third assembly of the League of Nations; he was also adviser to Sir Joseph Cook at the Mandates Commission at Geneva. He married Maybery Browse Bevan, daughter of Edward Philip Bevan of Melbourne (Australia) on 16th July 1926. They had issue three sons.

Boyce made his home near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and soon became active in industry and public life. He revived the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd and became their chairman and managing director; it gained large contracts for rolling stock from Canada and Queensland. His business activities were extensive and varied, as he was Dep. Chairman Gloucester Gas Light Co. Chairman of the following: Wagon Repairs Ltd., S.P.B.A. Supplies Ltd., Gloucester Wagon Hiring Co. Ltd. and Brigstow Ltd. Boyce was a Director of the following: Severn Valley Gas Corpn. Ltd., Gas Consolidation Ltd., Cheltenham Gas Co., Sharpness New Docks & Gloucester & Birmingham Navigation Co. and the Gloucester Foundry Ltd. He had other business interests, including newspaper.

Boyce entered the House of Commons as Conservative member for Gloucester in 1929, and in 1930 was a member of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation to Northern Rhodesia. An 'outspoken advocate of a forward Imperial policy', he exerted much influence on matters affecting the British Empire until his defeat in 1945. He was indefatigable in raising money for war charities and his K.B.E. in 1944 was held to be richly deserved. After the war he moved to Badgeworth near Gloucester and in 1946 he led the United Kingdom trade mission to China.

A liveryman of the Worshipful Companies of Loriners and Carpenters, Sir (Harold) Leslie Boyce became an alderman of the City of London in 1942, High Sheriff in 1947-48 and in 1951-52 Lord Mayor - the first citizen of a dominion to achieve the distinction. In recognition, the Lord Mayor's procession halted outside Australia House where the high commissioner (Sir) Thomas W. White presented him with an illuminated address from Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies. On 4th June 1952 Boyce presided at a court of common council which admitted Menzies to the freedom of the City of London. On retirement as Lord Mayor Boyce was created a Baronet.

He was prominent in the Masonic craft and the Primrose League, and served on several hospital boards including the Masonic and Royal hospitals. Boyce was a knight of justice of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, his wife being a dame of grace of the order; High Sheriff of Gloucester in 1941-42; a council-member of Bristol University; a commissioner of the Central Criminal Court; and a lieutenant and justice of the peace for the City of London. He was a keen and active outdoor sportsman -- he was president of the County of Gloucestershire Bowling Association 1934-35. Horticulture was one of his hobbies.

Though Boyce was very ambitious, hard working and unconquerably tough, he was unostentatious and genial; his courtesy and tact contributed much to the success of everything he undertook. In his public duties he was ably assisted by his wife Maybery Browse (d.1978). His many friends included Leo Amery, Viscount Bruce, (Baron) Casey and the Cilento family. He died in hospital near Cheltenham on 30th May 1955, survived by his wife and three sons, the eldest Richard Leslie (1929-1968) succeeding to the title.

Return to Main Index Page.
London Gazette various dates.
Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes. 1947.
Australian Dictionary of Biography - online edition.
thePeerage_com - online Dictionary of Biography.
Gloucester Docks and the Sharpness Canal web site.
Other Web documents.
19th October 2007. John R.P.King.