Field Marshal Thomas Albert Blamey

Service number VX1
Ranks Held Brigadier General, Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Temporary Brigadier General, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, General
Birth Date 24 January 1884
Birth Place Australia: New South Wales, Wagga Wagga
Death Date 27 May 1951
Death Place Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Final Rank Field Marshal
Service Australian Imperial Force
Units
Places
Conflict/Operation First World War, 1914-1918
Gazettes Biographical information The Oxford companion to Australian military history in 1995
Published in London Gazette in 1917-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1918-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1917-06-01
Published in London Gazette in 1943-05-28
Published in London Gazette in 1942-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1919-07-11
Published in London Gazette in 1918-05-28
Published in London Gazette in 1917-12-28
Published in London Gazette in 1941-12-30
Published in London Gazette in 1918-12-31
Published in London Gazette in 1917-01-04
Published in London Gazette in 1915-11-05
Published in London Gazette in 1919-03-22
Published in London Gazette in 1919-01-07
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-06-17
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1947-06-19
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-10-24
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1916-01-27
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-06-29
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-06-29
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1943-06-03
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-10-30
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-04-18
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-04-18
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1944-11-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1944-11-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-10-04
Description

Thomas Blamey, born near Wagga Wagga on 24 January 1884, became the first Australian army officer to reach the rank of field marshal. Originally a teacher, Blamey received a commission in the Commonwealth Cadet Forces in 1906 and was posted to Melbourne.

In 1910 he transferred to the Australian Military Forces and was promoted to captain. He graduated from the Staff College at Quetta in India in 1913, was in England when the First World War began and joined the general staff of the 1st Australian Division in Egypt. Blamey landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915; in July he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and returned to Egypt to help form the 2nd Australian Division.

On the Western Front, Blamey was appointed Chief of Staff and served as General Staff Officer 1 in the 1st Division until June 1918 when he was promoted to temporary brigadier and became Chief of Staff of the Australian Corps. After the war Blamey received several important postings, including one to London as Colonel, General Staff and Australia's representative on the Imperial General Staff. In 1925, he was appointed Second Chief of the Australian General Staff. Shortly afterwards, however, he left the regular army to become Victoria's commissioner of police and transferred to the militia.

Considered confrontational, violent, and ruthless, Blamey's tenure with the police was dogged by controversy; he was forced to resign in 1936 having lied to protect one of his senior officers. He remarried in April 1939 after the death of his first wife four years earlier. Within a month of the Second World War beginning he was given command of the 6th Division. The following year he became commander of the Australian Corps. Despite a mixed performance early in the war - his fitness for command was questioned by some subordinates - Blamey received further promotions and in December 1941 reached the rank of General.

In March 1942, with Japan having entered the war, Blamey returned to Melbourne as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces and, under General Douglas MacArthur, became commander of Allied land forces in the Pacific. Overshadowed by the American - MacArthur had the prime minister's ear - and resented by many senior Australian officers, Blamey encountered numerous difficulties. His removal of several senior officers in Papua under pressure from MacArthur remains controversial.

Blamey conducted a series of successful offensives in New Guinea in 1943 but was criticised late in the war when Australians were involved in operations against long-bypassed Japanese units in New Guinea and Borneo. On a personal level, Blamey's public drinking and womanising harmed his reputation. Professionally, his failure to stand up for his subordinates prompted one historian to write that he was "the foremost Australian General of World War II but he will never be remembered as the greatest."

Blamey retired to Melbourne after the war and was promoted to field marshal on 8 June 1950. He died on 27 May 1951.

Rolls

Timeline

Date of birth 24 January 1884 Wagga Wagga, NSW.
Other 1904-11 Became a cadet officer.
Other 1906 Sat the examination for a commission in the Administrative and Instructional Staff of the cadets. He was not appointed as there were no vacancies in Western Australia. He wrote to the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General stating he was willing to move to Victoria should a Victorian vacancy be offered to him.
Other 1906-11 Moved to Melbourne and commissioned as a lieutenant.
Other units 1910-04 Transferred to the Administrative and Instructional Staff of the Citizens Military Forces.
Date promoted 01 December 1910 Promoted to captain.
Other 1911 Sat the entrance examination for the British Staff College and became the first Australian to pass.
Dates studied 1912 Commenced course at the Staff College's campus at Quetta, India.
Date graduated 1913 Graduated from British Staff College, Quetta, India.
Other 1914-05 Sailed for Britain and spent a brief time on attachment to the 4th Dragoon Guards, then taking up duties on the staff of the Wessex Division.
Date promoted 01 July 1914 Promoted to major.
Date of embarkation 21 October 1914
Other 28 November 1914 Sailed for Egypt and became part of the 1st Division Headquarters as General Staff Officer, Grade 3 (GSO3) in charge of intelligence.
Other 25 April 1915 Landed at Gallipoli, Turkey.
Date promoted 26 July 1915 Promoted to lieutenant colonel and posted to Egypt as Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General for the new 2nd Division.
Other 25 October 1915 Returned to Gallipoli.
Date of honour or award 05 November 1915 Mention in Despatches.
Other 1916-03 Accompanied the 2nd Division to France.
Other 05 July 1916 Appointed to General Staff Officer Grade 1 of the 1st Division.
Date of recommendation honour or award 06 October 1916
Date of recommendation honour or award 06 October 1916
Date promoted 01 December 1916 Promoted to colonel.
Other units 03 December 1916 Appointed to command the 2nd Infantry Brigade.
Other units 28 December 1916 Took over as acting command of the 1st Infantry Brigade.
Other units 1917 Returned to General Staff Officer Grade 1 with the 1st Division.
Date of honour or award 01 January 1917 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), for his part in the attack at Poziers.
Date of honour or award 04 January 1917 Mention in Despatches.
Date of recommendation honour or award 07 March 1917
Date of recommendation honour or award 25 April 1917
Date of honour or award 03 June 1917 Mention in Despatches.
Other units 1917-08-27 - 1917-09-04 Acting commander of the 2nd Brigade.
Other 13 September 1917 Admitted to hospital and evacuated to England.
Date of recommendation honour or award 26 September 1917
Date of recommendation honour or award 26 September 1917
Date of honour or award 01 January 1918 Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03
Date of honour or award 28 May 1918 Mention in Despatches.
Date promoted 1918-06 Promoted to temporary brigadier and chief of staff of the Australian Corps.
Date of recommendation honour or award 21 September 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 27 September 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 27 September 1918
Other 08 November 1918 Returned to France.
Date of honour or award 31 December 1918 Mention in Despatches.
Date of honour or award 07 January 1919 France Croix de Guerre.
Date of honour or award 22 March 1919 Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), for his services as Corps Cheif of Staff.
Date of honour or award 11 July 1919 Mention in Despatches.
Date returned to Australia 06 September 1919 Posted to Army Headquarters in Melbourne as Director of Military Operations.
Date promoted 1920-05 Became Deputy Chief of the General Staff, his first major task was the creation of the RAAF.
Other 01 November 1922 Left for London as the Australian Representative at the Imperial General Staff.
Other 1925 Appointed second chief of the Australian General Staff.
Other 01 September 1925 Resigned from the permanant forces and transferred to the militia, and became Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria.
Other units 01 May 1926 Took command of the 10th Infantry Brigade.
Date promoted 23 March 1931 Promoted to major general and took command of the 3rd Division. He was one of four militia officers promoted to the rank of major general between 1929-1939.
Date of honour or award 01 January 1935 Appointed Knight Bachelor.
Other 1936 Resigned from the police force.
Other units 28 September 1939 Appointed to command the new 6th Division.
Date promoted 13 October 1939 Promoted to lieutenant general.
Other 1939-11 Took over the Chairmanship of the Manpower Committee at the Department of Defence, making arrangements for future full mobilisation.
Other 28 February 1940 Given command of I Corps when the War Cabinet decided to raise a second division.
Other 04 March 1940 Left command of 6th Division.
Other 12 June 1940 Left for Palestine and the 6th Division was attached to the Western Desert Force.
Other 1941-02 Arrived in Greece with I Corps.
Other 1941-05 Returned to Cairo and appointed Deputy Commander in Chief Middle East.
Date promoted 1941-12 Promoted to general. He was only the fourth Australian to reach this rank.
Date of honour or award 1942 Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) for his services in Greece.
Other 11 March 1942 Appointed Commander in Chief of the Australian Military Forces and returned to Australia to take command of the Army.
Other 26 March 1942 Appointed Commander in Chief Allied Land Forces and Commander in Chief of the South West Pacific Area.
Other 23 September 1942 Arrived in Port Moresby to take personal command of the 7th Division.
Date of honour or award 29 May 1943 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) for his part in operations in New Guinea.
Other 1943-09 Served in the campaign in New Guinea was the last as operational commander.
Date of honour or award 1944 Greek War Cross - First Class.
Date of honour or award 1944 United States Distinguished Service Cross.
Other 1944-04 Travelled to USA with Prime Minister Curtin.
Other 02 September 1945 Signed the Japanese surrender document on behalf of Australia on board USS Missouri with General Macarthur. He then flew to Morotai and personally accepted the surrender of the remaining Japanese in the South West Pacific.
Other 14 November 1945 Dismissed by the government.
Date of discharge 31 January 1946 He declined any honours for himself, instead requesting kinghthoods for Lieutenant General Northcott and Major Generals Cannan, Stevens and Wootten. His request was refused.
Other 1949-12 Wrote to Prime Minister Menzies recommending knighthoods for Lieutenant Generals Northcott, Savige, Sturdee, and Berrymand and Major Generals Burston, Cannan, Steele, Stevens and Wootten. All were accepted except Cannan.
Date promoted 08 June 1950 Promoted to field marshal - the first and only Australian to reach this rank.
Other 16 September 1950 Presented with his baton in a ceremony at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.
Date of death 27 May 1951 Died of a stroke in Melbourne, VIC.