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Herbert Benjamin George Larkin CBE

1871 – 1944

Herbert Benjamin George Larkin CBE (c. 1871- 1944), shipping administrator, came to Australia from England and joined the office of the Australian Steam Navigation Company. In 1887 the ASN Co merged with the Queensland Steam Shipping Co to become the Australasian United Steam Navigation Co (AUSN Co). Larkin worked as a clerk for the AUSN Co, became its accountant in Cooktown, its chief clerk in Adelaide and then its chief clerk in Melbourne. In the years before the First World War he was vitally involved in the horse shipping business of the British India and Steam Navigation Co Ltd. With a reputation for knowing the shipping business inside out, in 1914 he was headhunted by the Minister for Defence and was granted repeated leave from the AUSN to go to London for the Commonwealth Naval Department in connection with the securing, loading and dispatch of transports for the troops of the Expeditionary forces, negotiating rates for charter at a special Admiralty Arbitration Court. Again in Melbourne, in 1916 he was appointed manager of the new Commonwealth Shipping Line – a fleet of fifteen steamships purchased by the Government to help move Australian wool, wheat and other goods stranded here on account of the war. During the war he worked closely with Prime Minister Billy Hughes on matters to deal with shipping, particularly the contentious issue of whether the government should own a shipping company (indeed the Commonwealth Shipping Line was known as the Billy Hughes Line). Between 1923 and 1926 Larkin was chairman of the board of the Commonwealth Shipping Line; in the ensuing years Hughes strongly opposed government initiatives to dispose of the business, but it was sold off by the anti-socialist Prime Minister Stanley Bruce in 1928. Having held a senior position with P and O, Larkin retired in the late 1930s to become a grazier in the Crookwell district, living on a property named Wharekarori. Larkin’s son, flying ace Herbert Joseph Larkin, won the Distinguished Flying Cross for bringing down eleven enemy aircraft in the First World War.

Updated 2018