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Sir Charles Edward Merrett CBE

1863 – 1948

Sir Charles Edward Merrett CBE (1863-1948), merchant and agriculturalist, was a schoolboy at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School when his father was retrenched and died. Forgoing university, Merrett joined a firm of machinery merchants as an office-boy, working his way up to become a partner in 1890 and managing director in 1916. Meanwhile, in 1880 he joined the St Kilda Rifles then the Victorian Mounted Rifles, becoming a captain by 1892. Transferring to the Australian Light Horse, he served as captain major with the 10th, 11th and 29th brigades before becoming, in 1915, lieutenant-colonel of the 5th Light Horse Brigade and the oldest serving light horse officer. During the war, in which one of his two sons was killed, he served in Australia on the selection committee for officers of the Expeditionary Forces. He retired in 1920 with the rank of colonel. A long-time sport shooter, he took the Bisley team to England in 1914, 1928 and 1937 and was a council member of the Victorian Rifle Association for more than 33 years. At the same time, he was an able and energetic president of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria from 1915 to 1947, pursuing his aim of a better-educated farmer and responsible for extensions and improvements to the showgrounds. He was associated with the founding of the Country Women's Association. In 1926 he was one of the five founders of the Liberal Party which brought down the Allan-Peacock government. He was a South Melbourne councillor from 1915 to 1937 and its mayor in 1922 and 1923; he was a justice of the peace from 1919. He chaired the Canned Fruits Export Control Board, the Big Brother Movement, the Empire Day Movement, the New Settlers League, the State Employment Council and the Society for the Protection of Animals.

Updated 2018