Edmund Herring was born at Maryborough, Victoria, in 1892. He began his secondary education at Maryborough High School before winning a scholarship to Melbourne Church of England Grammar School where he became dux. Herring went on to study at the University of Melbourne. In 1912, he won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.
Herring's studies were interrupted by World War I. In 1913, he enlisted in the King Edward's Horse, and in December 1914, he transferred to the Royal Field Artillery and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
Herring served in France and then in Macedonia, where he captained an artillery battery and earned the Military Cross (MC) in 1917 for his bravery in directing artillery fire from the front line in the midst of heavy shelling.
His MC citation read:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. As Forward Artillery Observer throughout the operations he carried on in very exposed positions under heavy shellfire. His information proved of the utmost value.
Shortly after Herring was relieved, his replacement was killed.
Although Herring saw heavy fighting in Macedonia, he was also struck by the area's natural beauty, writing of:
snow-capped peaks, of glassy lakes and glorious hills and glorious valleys, studded with quaint and attractive villages … for it is a wonderful country, and in springtime this year it was hard to pick a more beautiful scenery … with all its drawbacks, its unhealthy summer with its myriad of flies, Macedonia has treated us well.
Herring nevertheless suffered, along with others, the debilitating side-effects of the powerful and very painful intramuscular anti-malarial quinine injections. He ended the war as a temporary major and his brigade's commanding officer.
After the war, Herring completed his studies at Oxford before returning to Melbourne in 1920. He embarked on a very successful legal career, took up an active role in conservative politics and continued to serve in the military as a senior officer in the citizens' forces.
In the 1930s, he joined the secret anti-communist organisation, the White Guard, which comprised former soldiers willing to act to suppress communist subversion.
In World War II, Herring held a number of senior command positions, including as an artillery brigade commander in North Africa and Greece, the scene of much of his World War I service. He ended his service as a lieutenant general and corps commander.
After leaving the army, Herring became chief justice of Victoria in February 1944. His career in law had been interrupted by war but flourished in the post-World War II years, alongside his extensive community work.
Herring died in Melbourne in January 1982.