Lieutenant George Alan Vasey

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 cliche 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.

Rolls

  • Roll of Honour

    Rank
    Major General
    Fate
    Accidental
    Date of Fate
    05 March 1945
    Service
    Australian Army
    Unit
    HQ 7 AUST DIV (SUPERNUMERY LIST-E & HQ 7 DIV)
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • First World War Embarkation Roll

    Rank
    Lieutenant
    Place of Embarkation
    Melbourne
    Embarkation Ship
    HMAT Wiltshire A18
    Date of Embarkation
    18 November 1915
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918

Honours & Awards

  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Companion of the Order of the Bath
    Classification
    Order of the Bath
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Major General
    London Gazette
    28 May 1943 on page 2373 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    3 June 1943 on page 1150 at position 10
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Commander of the Order of the British Empire
    Classification
    Order of the British Empire
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Colonel
    London Gazette
    1 April 1941 on page 1866 at position 2
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Bar to Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    Distinguished Service Order
    Unit
    19th Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Brigadier
    London Gazette
    4 November 1941 on page 6357 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    6 Australian Division
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Temporary Major General
    London Gazette
    8 March 1945 on page 1305 at position 18
    Commonwealth Gazette
    15 March 1945 on page 650 at position 72
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    Royal Australian Artillery
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    28 May 1918 on page 6200 at position 57
    Commonwealth Gazette
    24 October 1918 on page 2055 at position 73
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    2nd Australian Divisional Artillery
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    3 June 1918 on page 6461 at position 49
    Commonwealth Gazette
    7 November 1918 on page 2111 at position 9
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    11th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    11 July 1919 on page 8827 at position 32
    Commonwealth Gazette
    30 October 1919 on page 1659 at position 39
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Greek War Cross, First Class
    Classification
    Greek awards and medals
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Temporary Major General
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 November 1944 on page 2607 at position 25
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    United States Distinguished Service Cross
    Classification
    United States awards and medals
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Temporary Major General
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 November 1944 on page 2607 at position 36
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Greek Military Cross, Class A
    Classification
    Greek awards and medals
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Commander of the Order of the British Empire
    Classification
    Order of the British Empire
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Companion of the Order of the Bath
    Classification
    Order of the Bath
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Bar to Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    Distinguished Service Order
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    11th Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    07 February 1919
    Unit
    11th Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    03 March 1918
    Unit
    2nd Australian Divisional Artillery
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Brevet Major
    Classification
    Brevet/temporary/honorary/promotions in rank
    Unit
    Australian Military Forces
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    09 March 1918
    Unit
    Divisional Artillery
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Honorary Captain
    Classification
    Brevet/temporary/honorary/promotions in rank
    Unit
    Australian Military Forces
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    30 March 1919
    Unit
    3rd Australian Division
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Date of Recommendation
    27 March 1919
    Unit
    3rd Australian Division
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major

Timeline

Date of birth 1895-03-29 East Malvern, VIC.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1913-03 Entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
Other 1915-05 After graduating he was comissioned as a lieutenant in the permanent military forces.
Other 1915-06 Transferred to the AIF.
Date of embarkation 1915-11-18
Other units 1916-03 Vasey reached France and fought on the Somme with the Divisional Artillery.
Date promoted 1916-08 Promoted to captain.
Other units 1916-11 Given command of the 13th Field Battery.
Other units 1917 - 1919 Vasey served as brigade major of the 11th Infantry Brigade.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-03
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-09
Date of honour or award 1918-06-03 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
Date of honour or award 1918-10-24 Mention in Despatches.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-02-07
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-03-27
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-03-30
Date of honour or award 1919-10-30 Mention in Despatches.
Date of discharge 1919-11 AIF appointment ended and Vasey returned to the militia as a lieutenant, and honorary major.
Date promoted 1934 Appointed brigade major of the 8th Indian Brigade.
Date returned to Australia 1937 Vasey served with Army Headquarters in Melbourne.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1939-10-31 Enlisted in the 2nd AIF.
Date promoted 1939-11 Appointed lieutenant colonel.
Other units 1939-12 Appointed as assistant adjutant and quartermaster general in the 6th Division, and sailed for Palestine.
Date promoted 1940-03 Appointed temporary brigadier commanding the 19th Brigade.
Date of honour or award 1941-04-01 Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Date of honour or award 1941-11-04 Bar to Distinguished Service Order.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1942-09-14 - 1943-03-14 Appointed officer in command of 6th Division, AIF, in New Guinea.
Other units 1942-10 Took command of the 7th Division.
Other 1943 Involved in the successful battles Nadzab and Lae.
Date of honour or award 1943-05-28 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Other 1944-02 Became ill and was evacuated back to Australia and deemed unfit for duty.
Date of honour or award 1944-11-23 Greek War Cross - First Class.
Date of honour or award 1944-11-23 United States Distinguished Service Cross.
Other 1945 Resumed command of the 6th Division.
Date of death 1945-03-05 Died when his plane, a Hudson, crashed into the sea at Machans Beach, just north of Cairns in Queensland. Vasey was flying to New Guinea to take up his command. All on board were killed.
Date of honour or award 1945-03-08 Posthumously recieved a Mention in Despatches.

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