de Groot ‘opens’ Harbour Bridge
19th March 1932. The great triumph that kept any Australian employed over Depression times, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was finally opened. The Labor premier of the province of New South Wales Jack Lang, was to open the bridge by cutting a ribbon at its southern end. However, Colonel Francis De Groot, a Dublin-born antique dealer and manufacturer of fine furniture, dramatically intervened on horseback by slashing the ribbon with his sword and declaring the bridge open “in the name of His Majesty the King and all the decent and respectable people of New South Wales”. De Groot was not a member of the regular army but his uniform allowed him to blend in with the real cavalry.
De Groot was opposed to Lang’s leftist policies and was resentful of the fact that King George V hadn’t been asked to open the bridge. He had earned his sword with the 15th Hussars in WWI. Dragged from his horse after cutting the ribbon, he insisted that a police sergeant was not entitled to arrest an officer of the 15th. He was convicted of offensive behaviour and fined £5 after a psychiatric test proved he was sane.The ribbon was hurriedly retied and Lang performed the official opening ceremony.
See other photos for that incident here at the University of Sydney.