GENERAL SIR THOMAS BLAMEY
COMMANDER IN CHIEF - ALLIED LAND FORCES, SWPA

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visits since 18 September 2000

 

General Sir Thomas Blamey was Commander in Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

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General Sir Thomas Blamey with Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger, leader of the U.S. ground troops in New Guinea, standing in front of a captured Japanese pillbox during the fight for Papua.

 

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Photo: Douglas Walker

Left-to-right: Mr F.M. Forde (Minister for the Army); General Douglas MacArthur; General Sir Thomas Blamey; General George C. Kenney; Major-General C.A. Clowes; Brigadier General Kenneth Walker.

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Photo: Douglas Walker

Left-to-right: Mr F.M. Forde (Minister for the Army); General Douglas MacArthur; General Sir Thomas Blamey; General George C. Kenney; Unidentified, Major-General C.A. Clowes; Brigadier General Kenneth Walker.

 

"Hunter House" near Katherine, NT - General Blamey's bush HQ's

"Hunter House" was built by the Australian Army during 1939. It is believed that "Hunter House" was used by General Blamey as a fallback HQ and Officer's Mess after Japan bombed Darwin in February 1942. In mid June 2001, the Northern Territory Government and the Katherine Shire Council were about to demolish this historic building to make way for more parklands. The Northern Territory Heritage Advisory Council had opposed preservation of the building, whereas the National Trust of Australia was in favour of preservation of the building.

Katherine's Mayor, Jim Forscutt, claimed that the "donga" was never used by the Army. After WW2, Harry Hunter lived in the building which led to it being known as "Hunter House".

General Blamey's main Advanced Land Headquarters for Allied Land Forces was later located at the University of Queensland at St. Lucia in Brisbane from 1 August 1942 to 31 December 1944. While in Brisbane, General Blamey may have initially lived in a house in Macquarie Street, St Lucia .

Peter Brown, a member of the St. Lucia History Group told me that a number of their members were children/youths in the St Lucia area during WWII. Peter indicated that General Blamey lived at 29 Ryans Road, St Lucia and his "batman" and personal staff, lived in "Jerdanefield" across the road. There have also been some unconfirmed suggestions that Blamey may have later lived at "Moorlands" in the grounds of the Wesley Hospital.

General George Kenney's Secretary, Beryl Stevenson and General Blamey were the only two Australians decorated by the Americans with the highest medal they can award "aliens" - the Legion of Merit.

Units attached to Advanced Land Headquarters for Allied Land Forces at St. Lucia in 1942 were:-

COMMANDER IN CHIEF:
        Gen. Sir Thomas Blamey
    P.A. to C. in C.
        Lt. Gen. J. Northcutt
        Major N.D. Carlyon
    D.C.G.S.:
        Capt. Porter
    A.G.:
        Col. Adm. Staff:
            Col. R.L. Bennett

ADMINISTRATION:
    DA & QMG
        Maj. Gen. J.A. Chapman
    Liaison Officers:
        Lt. Col. N.H. Whitfield
        Major C.J. Arnold
        Major C.R. Bird
    Local Administration:-
        Camp Commandant
            Major D.H. Dwyer

ARTILLERY:
    G-1
        Lt. Col. Anderson
        Capt. J.L. Barton

ENGINEERS:-
    D/E. in C.
        Brig. L.C. Lucas
        Major W.S. Cantello

INTELLIGENCE
    B.G.S.
        Col. J.D. Rogers

INQUIRY DESK

MEDICAL
    A.D.M.G.S.:
        Col. A.L. Dawkins
        Capt. Ratcliffe

OPERATIONS:
    B.G.S. (O)
        Col. C.W. White
    Liaison Officers
        Col. P.L. Thomas
        Col. H.C. Brown
        Major J.B.F. Dice
        Major A.E. Sandover

ORDNANCE:
    D.D.O.S.:
        Col. C.A. Stinson

QUARTERMASTER:
    Q.M.G.:
        Col. Adm. Staff, Q.
            Col. S.F. Legge
            Lt. Col. D.A. Parsons
            Major J. Karns

SD and TRG:
   
Col. G.S.
        Col. T.W. White

SIGNALS:
    D/S. in C.:
        Brig. H.H. Edwards

SUPPLY AND TRANSPORT:
    D.D.S.T.
        Col. C.C. Easterbrook
        Major A.E. Allen
        Major J.L. La Plastrier

Apparently, General Blamey's personal driver during WW2 was Jack Rutherford. Jack ran a transport business in Brisbane after the war.

General Blamey inspected No 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group at Camp Chermside on the north side of Brisbane on 5 March 1945.

 


 

The following Simpson Prize History Essay was supplied to me by Carly Littlewood (littlewoods@bigpond.com):-

 

Simpson Prize History Essay

‘Gallipoli was a turning point in Australia’s history’

Since 1915, the ANZAC experience has given Australia an identity, which the young nation and its citizens are proud to honour. The troops that distinguished themselves in Gallipoli’s battlefields gained a reputation for bravery, initiative, sense of humour and mateship. They were awarded the utmost respect from their allies and enemies alike, and reputation is a cornerstone of current Australian ideals and values.

"An able operational commander with a good strategical mind."

General Douglas MacArthur, December 1943. ‘Australia Goes to War’ Pg 213

An individual who has been recognised in our history is Sir Thomas Blamey, who became Australia’s first Field Marshal. The impact of the ANZAC experience on Sir Thomas Albert Blamey was applied during his great leadership in World War One and commanding his troops throughout World War Two.

Although Australia was under the British Commonwealth, it was a young nation that wanted its own identity. World War One was the first time this barely fifteen-year-old country had been worked together in such a large group since the colonisation. Australians could consider the experiences of Gallipoli to be their own, however ill fated, and leave the British imagery behind.

One of the main characteristics of the Anzacs was mateship: giving a hand to a mate. Mateship was seen at Gallipoli as a form of emotional and physical support. It also made the soldiers function and perform well without such a tough discipline as the British command. This was accomplished because of peer-group pressure and not wanting to let others down, which was an effective informal discipline. Most of all mateship was a bond between the soldiers that helped them survive the tough days of war. Not many sources point to General Blamey as being a well-liked commander by his troops but this may be because many officers despised his position. Although it is said he had his compassionate moments, Blamey was generally a strict man. He did feel proud of his troops and looked out for their needs. Blamey gave them due credit when necessary.

"It is inevitable that today I should look back to those gallant men with affection and reverence, and that, with profound humility, I should proclaim the extent of my debt to them."

General Thomas Blamey – ‘Australia Through Time.’

The Anzac experience brought back an image to Australia of courage under fire and unsurpassed bravery. The soldiers stood on firm ground and took initiative when needed. They believed in pride in their nation and loyalty to their country. Sir Blamey was a great Australian leader who prided himself on standing up to the British when he believed his troops were being treated unfairly. He was ordered by the government to prevent any part of his Australian forces being separated to serve under British command. The government was determined not to allow Australians to be sacrificed as they had been in World War One. He was strong and stood up to Churchill and also the American commander, MacArthur, who wanted to keep the Australian troops fighting the Japanese.

"…Blamey refused ‘Jumbo’ Wilson’s order to detach an Australian brigade from his force...Blamey stood firm and it was Churchill who backed down."

Len Deighton – ‘Blood, Tears and Folly: In the Darkest Hours of the Second World War.’ Pg 264

Blamey did not trust his troops under British command. Blamey had felt tricked into sending his troops to Greece, which had proved fruitless. The British had told him the Anzacs would make up for a third of the expedition when in fact they made up over half the group.

"Past experience has taught me to look with misgiving on a situation where British leaders have control of considerable bodies of first-class Dominion troops, while Dominion commanders are excluded from all responsibilities in control, planning."

General Blamey, 9th March – ‘Blood, Tears and Folly: In the Darkest Hours of the Second World War’. Pg 264

Masculinity is another form of imagery in the Anzac legend. Most Australians back home thought of their stereotypical soldiers as strong ‘white’ men who were brave enough to sacrifice their lives for their country. A soldier was athletic with high endurance but also somewhat of a larrikin, drinking, brawling and fighting. Although the larrikin is not a noble image, it is part of the Australian masculinity. Some journalists even described the Australians at war as a ‘race of athletes.’ Australian General Monash is quoted to have said an Australian soldier is

‘A curious blend of a capacity for independent judgement with a readiness to submit to self-effacement in a common cause…[his bravery being] founded upon his sense of duty to his unit, comradeship to his fellows, emulation to uphold his traditions, and a combative spirit to avenge his hardships and suffering upon the enemy’.

General Monash – ‘Australia’s War 1914-18’ Pg 156

Blamey fitted the description of the ‘typical’ soldier fairly closely. He was a strong, tough ‘white’ man and had great stamina. Blamey was an independent and firm man who wanted to control too much during the war.

Gallipoli was the turning point in Australia’s history. Both sides of the war no longer saw Australia as just another part of the British Empire but as one of the most effective combat infantries. The Australian soldiers have kept the tradition of having unsurpassed bravery, masculinity, initiative and continued mateship. The characteristics of the Australian soldiers that were established at Gallipoli continue still in today’s army.

 

"Our Tom" The Blamey Enigma
An Australian Film on Sir Thomas Blamey 

 

Bibliography

Beaumont, Joan (1995), Australia’s War 1914-18, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd.

Brune, Peter (1991), Those Ragged Bloody Heroes: From the Kokoda Trail to Gona Beach 1942, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd.

Day, David (1992), Reluctant Nation: Australia and the allied defeat of Japan 1942-45, Oxford University Press

Deighton, Len (1993), Blood, Tears & Folly: In the Darkest Hours of the Second World War, Jonathan Cape

Department of Veteran’s Affairs (1995), Their Sacrifice: Australia Remembers 1945-1995, Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Gallaway, Jack, 2000, "The Odd Couple - Blamey and MacArthur at War", University of Queensland Press 

Melloy, Diane,  "Time will Tell, Memoirs of a Kangaroo Point Kid - R.S. Melloy"

Random House (1994), Australia Through Time CD ROM, Random House Australia Pty Ltd.

Ready, J. Lee (1995), World War Two: Nation by Nation, Arms and Armour Press

Robertson, John (1984), 1939-1945: Australia Goes to War, Doubleday Australia Pty Limited

Webster Publishing Products (1996), Encyclopedia of Australia CD ROM, Webster Publishing Pty Ltd.

 

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This page first produced 18 September 2000

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