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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Gawler, Colonel George

Gawler, Colonel George, K.H., second Governor of South Australia, was the only son of the late Captain Samuel Gawler of the 73rd Regiment, who led one of the storming parties at the siege of Seringapatam. He was born in 1796, and educated at the Military College, Great Marlow. Colonel Gawler joined the 52nd Light Infantry in Nov. 1811, and served to the end of the Peninsular War in 1814. During the course of the latter he led the forlorn hope at the storming of Badajoz, and was struck by a grape shot in the right knee, and fell from the parapet into the ditch below, where he lay all night, but was rescued by a private of his regiment, who had his own head shot off whilst in the act of saving his superior. When still under twenty he commanded the right company of the 52nd at Waterloo, and took part in the attack upon the Imperial Guards, for which he received the war medal, with clasps. He was appointed Governor of South Australia in 1838, and, arriving in the colony on the 12th, assumed office on the 17th of October in that year. The reaction from the over-speculation and extravagance which prevailed at the initiation of the colony set in during his term of office in full force, and resulted in an appalling state of depression, which Colonel Gawler sought to relieve by encouraging settlement on the country lands, which his predecessor had obstructed, and undertaking extensive public works with a view of giving employment to the urban population, whom he also assisted out of his private purse. With a view of meeting the Government outlay incurred, Colonel Gawler, despite the fact that it had been expressly stipulated that the colony should be self-supporting, drew upon the British Treasury for about £155,000, the authorities of which dishonoured his drafts; thus, by public repudiation, intensifying the prevailing financial stringency into almost universal private bankruptcy. The Governor, too, whose policy the equity of time has largely justified, was deposed by Lord John Russell in a manner which has not often been paralleled in the annals of official curtness and harshness—the first intimation which Colonel Gawler got of his recall being afforded when Captain (now Sir) George Grey, whose father, curiously enough, had fallen at the assault on Badajoz where Governor Gawler himself had won his spurs, walked into Government House, Adelaide, on May 10th, 1841, and displayed his own commission to become Colonel Gawler's successor. The Colonel, after whom the town of Gawler in South Australia is named, relinquished office on May 15th, and immediately left the colony. He died at Southsea on May 8th, 1869.