Major General George Alan Vasey, CB, CBE, DSO,
Date of birth: 29 March 1895
Place of birth: East Malvern, VIC
Date of death: 05 March 1945
Place of death: Machans Beach, QLD
George Vasey, one of the most renowned Australian generals of the Second World War, was born at East Malvern, Melbourne, on 29 March 1895. He entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon in March 1913 and was in a class that graduated early after the outbreak of the First World War. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the permanent military forces and transferred to the AIF in June 1915.
Vasey reached France in March the following year and fought on the Somme with the 2nd Divisional Artillery. In August he was promoted to captain and given command of the 13th Field Battery in November. From August 1917 until 1919, Vasey served as Brigade Major of the 11th Infantry Brigade; he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918.
After his AIF appointment ended in November 1919, Vasey returned to the militia as a lieutenant but held the honorary rank of major. Sixteen years passed before the rank was made substantive. In the meantime, Vasey married in 1921, held a number of relatively uninteresting militia posts, attended Staff College in Quetta, India, and qualified as an accountant.
In 1934 he returned to India, first as Brigade Major of the 8th Indian Brigade and then serving on the headquarters of the Rawalpindi District. Back in Australia in 1937, Vasey served with Army Headquarters in Melbourne before being promoted to lieutenant colonel in November 1939.
After the Second World War began, Vasey was appointed as Blamey's Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General in the 6th Division. He sailed for Palestine in December 1939. In March 1940 he was promoted to temporary brigadier commanding the 19th Brigade. Vasey performed well in the disastrous Greek campaign, often visiting forward areas and conducting skilled defensive actions. He then commanded the Australian forces in Crete.
Having been awarded a bar to his Distinguished Service Order, Vasey returned to Australia, was promoted to temporary major general, and in September 1942 went to Port Moresby to command the 6th Division. A month later he took over the 7th Division, then engaged on the Kokoda Trail. Vasey's men then fought in the battles for Gona and Sanananda on Papua's coast. It is a cliché to say that Vasey was loved by his men but the respect in which he was genuinely held made him one of the AIF's most popular commanders.
In 1943 he was involved in the successful capture of Lae before sending his troops up the Markham and Ramu valleys and occupying Kaiapit. In February 1944 Vasey became ill and was evacuated to Australia. Further sickness followed and he was unfit to resume his duties until he was given command of the 6th Division in early 1945. On 5 March he flew to New Guinea to take up his command but the Hudson aircraft in which he was travelling crashed into the sea off Cairns, killing Vasey and all on board.