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Raymond Kershaw (1898–1981)

by James Cotton

Raymond Kershaw, n.d.

Raymond Kershaw, n.d.

Raymond Newton Kershaw was born on 3 May 1898, son of George Wilkinson Kershaw (d. 1924), horticulturalist of Wahroonga, Sydney, and Matilda Newton Jermaine (m. Braidwood, 1884). He was educated at Gordon Public School and Sydney Boys High School, at the latter achieving at his Leaving examinations first place in the state in French, and 4th place in English, Latin and History. At High School his interest in literature and poetry was already marked. Winning an Exhibition, he entered Sydney University in 1915 where he excelled in Philosophy, English and Modern History, in the latter winning Professor G. A. Wood’s personal History prize.

In March 1916, claiming to be 18 years and 3 months of age, he enlisted in the AIF. In France from May 1917 he served in the 5th Machine Gun Section, 22nd Machine Gun Company, assigned to the 2nd Division, AIF. In August 1917 he was sent to England for further schooling, to be commissioned in December 1917. He then served in the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion (reorganised March 1918) being seriously wounded at Villers-Bretonneux during the battle for Hamel on 4 July 1918. Evacuated to England (to the 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, the staff including Tom Roberts and artist colleagues) he was awarded the M.C. for bravery under fire and promoted to Lieutenant. Recovery from his injuries took some time, and being adjudged unfit for further active service he subsequently embarked for the return journey to Australia on 12 December 1918.

Resuming his studies at Sydney University in English, French and History, he was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship for 1918. His fellow Gordon Public School classmate A. W. Wheen (M.M. and 2 bars) was at the same time awarded the 1919 scholarship. Wheen was to become the translator of Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front. As Kershaw was to write of his lifetime friend, ‘He is the one Australian I have met … who has a touch of genius, as opposed to some talent.’ Kershaw later helped support Wheen until the latter eventually obtained employment at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

At New College Oxford, under the tutorial guidance of L. G. Whickham Legg (a scholar of the French revolution) Kershaw undertook an abbreviated course in Modern History, graduating BA with 2nd Class Honours in 1921. He then enrolled for the BLitt degree, writing a thesis on the Long Parliament, this work (now lost) providing the basis for two scholarly articles published in 1923. Winning a French government scholarship for foreigners to study in France he spent March-December 1923 at the Sorbonne, his work informing a two part scholarly publication in Annales historiques de la Révolution française which appeared in 1925.

Kershaw seemed destined for an academic career. He undertook for the Clarendon Press a revision and augmentation of Vol VI of J. D. Rogers ‘Historical Geography of the British Dominions’ devoted to ‘Australasia’ (1925), and published in 1922 ‘Hints for Lectures on Australia’ for the Royal Colonial Institute. However internationalist sympathies were evident in his decision to apply to become a member of the Secretariat of the League of Nations. He was recruited to a 12 month position in the Health Section in December 1923. Soon offered several academic positions, he was sufficiently tempted by the prospects of a role at Adelaide’s St. Mark’s College to approach the League with a request for a post better suited to his training and interest in research. Glowing internal assessments of his performance led, in August 1924, to his entering a 7 years’ contract with the League at an augmented salary. Subsequently, in December 1924, he transferred to the Minorities Section of the Secretariat.  

Following his transfer, he was granted leave to return to Australia in 1925 on the death of his father. On 19 February 1925 he married Hilda Mary Ruegg (b. 23 December 1895, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire) in Hampstead; she was on the Secretariat staff as a stenographer and typist. They were to have one daughter, Alison (b. 1928) and two sons, John (b. 1931) and Richard (b. 1934). They travelled to Australia combining a family visit and recreation leave with propagandising for the League. Undertaking a more extensive tour in 1929, Raymond lecturing to branches of the local League of Nations Union on the achievements and promise of Geneva diplomacy, and also on his personal work experiences.

The Minorities Section of the Secretariat was charged with the scrutiny for the League Council of the observance of the minorities treaties of 1919-20 that were associated with the Paris Peace Conference were intended to protect the rights and freedoms of minority ethnic nationals within the new borders of European states. Much of its work consisted in reviewing petitions from complainants and deciding whether there were sufficient grounds to place the matter on the Council agenda. Kershaw assumed responsibility especially for minorities in Poland, Silesia and the Baltic States, work which sometimes required him to travel to the places in question. His internal work assessments show him to have been assiduous and capable; a memorandum he wrote in 1929 on the Russian minority in Lithuania was endorsed as ‘excellent’ in a personal commentary by Secretary-General Sir Eric Drummond. He also lectured on minority questions at the Geneva Institute of International Relations in 1928.

On 1 July 1929 he resigned from the League, leaving Geneva at the end of October, in order to join the Bank of England. While his appointment reflected the leadership of the Bank’s undoubted belief in the importance of the Commonwealth, it is noteworthy that the appointee had no training or experience in economics or finance. Though highly regarded at the League of Nations, Kershaw was the personal choice of Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank. Convalescing in London from his war wound in 1918, Kershaw had enjoyed the hospitality of Mrs Lina Norman, the Governor’s mother. He renewed the acquaintance when he went up to Oxford, and first met Montagu Norman at her house in 1919. They remained in contact, and the Governor offered him a position in 1928; as he was to explain, ‘I want someone who can talk to the Dominions, because I don’t know how to talk to them.’

At the Bank, Kershaw’s first responsibilities were ‘with special reference to … relations with Central Banks of the Dominions.’ In 1932 he was appointed an ‘Adviser to the Overseas and Foreign Department with direct access to the Governors’; in 1935 he became an Adviser to the Governors. Until his retirement he dealt with a host of colonial and dominion issues, his role taking him to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. He was a member of the British delegation (as Financial Adviser to the Treasury) at the Ottawa imperial trade conference of 1932 and also attended the World Economic Conference of 1933. While the main focus of his work was relations with central banks in the self-governing dominions, he also served on the East African, West African, Burma and Palestine Currency Boards. Kershaw was a member of the Colonial Office Currency Committee, advising the Colonial Secretary, and also found time to work on the Bank’s committees dealing with currency issues in China and in India.

When, by agreement with the Australian government, Bank senior official Sir Otto Niemeyer was dispatched to Australia in July 1930 to advise on the national financial crisis, Kershaw accompanied him. Bank of England internal documentation shows that Kershaw, who had already been writing memoranda on Australian problems, was the source of much of Niemeyer’s information on the Australian economy. Whereas Niemeyer was privately contemptuous of what he saw as Australian fecklessness and lack of leadership and clearly adopted a punitive attitude in tendering his stern advice for economies, deflation and balanced budgets, Kershaw was more focused on rehabilitation. He also was evidently concerned that the burden of economies should be fairly borne and would not lead to further deprivation for the unemployed. His later assessment of Niemeyer to the Bank’s historian was that he was ‘brusque, inflexible, an elephantine defender of lost causes’.

In 1932 at Ottawa Kershaw’s preparatory memoranda exhibited a consistent sympathy with the dominions, primary and raw materials providers principally to a UK market in which the terms of trade in relation to their principal export commodities had declined markedly. In 1933 Kershaw served as adviser from the Bank to the Royal Commission in Canada that led to the establishment, with reserve powers, of the Bank of Canada in 1934. He drafted key sections of the relevant report. He returned briefly to Australia in 1936.

Receiving the CMG in 1947, Kershaw and his family revisited Australia in 1950. Revised citizenship requirements prompted his naturalisation as British in 1951.

Upon retirement from the Bank of England in 1953, he became Chairman of the London Boards of The Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, 1964-6, and of the Bank of New Zealand, 1963-8. Living at Wargrave (near Henley), Berkshire, he indulged his retirement interests in golf and gardening. He died at Wargrave, 28 March 1981. His estate was valued at £57,842. Hilda Kershaw died 24 February 1989. 


Bank of England Archives:

  • 6A196/1 ‘Secretary’s Department Files: Histories of the Bank of England – Professor Sayers – Talks
  • ADM33/25 R S Sayers, Papers: Records of Interviews
  • G1/257 Governor’s File: M C Norman – some personal recollections by R N Kershaw
  • G1/291 Governor’s File: Mission of Sir Otto Ernst Niemeyer in Australia
  • OA48/1 R N Kershaw Personal Papers
  • OV44/37 Overseas Department: Sterling and Sterling Area Policy

League of Nations Archives:

  • 34/32941/32941 Personnel File
  • 41/54413/20675 Upper Silesia convention
  • 41/56055/20675 Upper Silesia convention
  • 41/63738/7727 Receivability of petitions
  • 41/63109x/6180 Poland agrarian reform
  • 4/16038/6792 Russians in Lithuania report
  • 50/8645/8645 Visit to Australia

National Archives of Australia:


New College, Oxford, Archives:

  • New College List of Undergraduates 1911-1931, TUI/S1/3

Rhodes House Archives, Oxford:

  • Kershaw, Raymond Newton

The National Archives UK, Kew:

  • HO 334/458/7025 Kershaw, naturalisation

National Library of Australia:

  • Papers of A. W. Wheen, MS 3656


  • Tanya Crothers ed, We Talked of Many Things: The Life and Letters of Arthur Wheen (Woollahra, NSW: Longueville, 2011)
  • Elizabeth Hennessy A Domestic History of the Bank of England, 1930-1960 (Cambridge UP 1992)
  • N. Kershaw, Hints for Lectures on Australia (London: Royal Colonial Institute, 1922)
  • N. Kershaw, ‘The Elections for the Long Parliament, 1640’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 38, No. 152 (Oct., 1923), pp. 496-508
  • N. Kershaw, ‘The Recruiting of the Long Parliament, 1645-7’, History, New Series, Vol. 8, No. 31 (October, 1923), pp. 169-179
  • N. Kershaw, ‘The League and the Protection of Linguistic, Racial, and Religious Minorities,’ in Geneva Institute of International Relations ed, Problems of Peace, Third Series: Lectures Delivered at the Geneva Institute of International Relations, August 1928 (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), pp. 156-77.
  • N. Kershaw, ‘L'esprit public dans l'ouest (du 20 juin au 10 août 1792)’, Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 2e Année, No. 10 (Juillet-Août1925), pp. 345-364
  • N. Kershaw, ‘L'esprit public dans l'ouest (du 20 juin au 10 août 1792)’ (suite et fin), Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 2e Année, No. 11 (Septembre-Octobre 1925), pp. 438-462
  • P. Mair, The Protection of Minorities. The Working and Scope of the Minorities Treaties under the League of Nations (London: Christophers, 1928)
  • D. Rogers, A Historical Geography of the British Dominions Vol VI Australasia 2nd edn revised and enlarged by R. N. Kershaw (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925)
  • Alex Millmow, ‘Raymond Newton Kershaw (1898-1981)’, in J.E. King ed., A Biographical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Economists (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2007), pp. 162-3
  • Richard Roberts and David Kynaston eds, The Bank of England. Money, Power and Influence 1694-1994 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)
  • S. Sayers, The Bank of England 1891-1944 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976)
  • Julius Stone, International Guarantee of Minority Rights (London: Humphrey Milford, 1932)
  • Sydney High School, The Record. The Magazine of the Boys’ High School, Sydney (Sydney: F. W. White): V 1914, VI 1915, X 1919

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Citation details

James Cotton, 'Kershaw, Raymond (1898–1981)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 June 2024.

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