Lieutenant Colonel Francis George Hassett

Service Numbers 227,NX322,NX176126
Birth Date 11 April 1918
Birth Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Marrickville
Death Date 11 June 2008
Death Place Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra
Final Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Units
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 15 June 1976 on page 2 at position 1
London Gazette 12 June 1976 on page 8052 at position 1
Physical description

Frank Hassett was born on 11 April 1918 in Marrickville, Sydney. He ended his career 59 years later as Australia's most senior soldier, the Chief of Defence Force Staff.

Hassett left school at the age of 15 and found work in the Department of Tramways. He soon grew bored with clerical work and sought a place at the Royal Military College, gaining entry only after receiving special consideration from Colonel Lavarack, the Chairman of the College's Selection Board. Hassett began his course in March 1935 aged 16 and by his third year in 1937 proved himself an able athlete and boxer. In 1938 he was promoted to under officer (senior cadet in a company, equivalent to company sergeant major).

Upon graduation, Hassett was posted to the Darwin Mobile Force and given command of a rifle platoon. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was posted to the 2/3rd Battalion of the 6th Division as Adjutant and sailed with the division for the Middle East in 1940. His first experience of battle came at Bardia and he was wounded on the eve of an attack on Tobruk. Having recovered he was sent to the British Army Staff College at Haifa and then promoted to major. Shortly afterwards he was posted as Brigade Major to the 18th Brigade in Syria.

When Japan entered the war, Hassett planned and controlled the brigade's embarkation from Suez and return to Australia, learning on his arrival that he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel. At 23 he was the youngest army officer to attain that rank. Postings - usually training appointments - in New South Wales, Queensland and New Guinea followed. He ended the Second World War as a staff officer with the 3rd Division on Bougainville without having had an operational command.

Hassett returned to Australia at the end of the war and worked as an instructor at the Australian Staff College, marrying Hallie Roberts in 1946. In 1948 he was posted as General Staff Officer (GSO) 1 to the 2nd Division, remaining there until March 1951 when he took command of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR). Three months later he was sent to Korea to command 3RAR. Hassett led the battalion through the battle of Maryang San, often exposing himself to artillery, mortar and small arms fire, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He was considered by his men to be an inspirational leader.

After returning from Korea, Hassett took up a senior post at the Royal Military College Duntroon. He commanded the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group in Malaya between 1960 and 1963, became General Officer in Command of Australia's Northern Command in 1968, and in 1971 was promoted to Vice Chief of the General Staff. After two years in this position he was made Chief of the General Staff and in 1975 became Chief of the Defence Force Staff. Ill health forced his retirement in 1977. Hassett died in Canberra on 11 June 2008.

Collection items

Honours & Awards

  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Captain
    London Gazette
    8 July 1941 on page 3890 at position 59
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Mention in despatches
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3 Australian Division
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    6 March 1947 on page 1091 at position 56
    Commonwealth Gazette
    6 March 1947 on page 750 at position 111
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Officer of the Order of the British Empire
    Classification
    Order of the British Empire
    Unit
    2 Corps HQ
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    19 July 1945 on page 3715 at position 26
    Commonwealth Gazette
    19 July 1945 on page 1547 at position 36
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Unit
    3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment
    Conflict
    Korea, 1950-1953
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    1 February 1952 on page 643 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    14 February 1952 on page 1599 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Commander of the Order of the British Empire
    Classification
    Order of the British Empire
    Unit
    Australian Army Service Corps
    Rank
    Major General
    London Gazette
    1 January 1966 on page 38 at position 5
    Commonwealth Gazette
    13 January 1966 on page 69 at position 18
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Companion of the Order of the Bath
    Classification
    Order of the Bath
    Unit
    Australian Army Service Corps
    Rank
    Major General
    London Gazette
    13 June 1970 on page 6399 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    25 June 1970 on page 3917 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards:

    Award/Honour
    Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
    Classification
    Order of the British Empire
    Unit
    CDF
    Rank
    General
    London Gazette
    12 June 1976 on page 8052 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    15 June 1976 on page 2 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Officer 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
    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
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Conflict
    Korea, 1950-1953
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Award/Honour
    Distinguished Service Order
    Classification
    British/Australian gallantry awards
    Conflict
    Korea, 1950-1953

Timeline

Date of birth 1918-04-11 Marrickville, NSW.
Other 1935-03 Entered the Royal Military College.
Date promoted 1938 Promoted to under officer, the senior cadet in a company, which is the equivalent to a company sergeant major.
Other 1938 Posted to the Darwin Mobile Force and given command of a rifle platoon.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1940-03-01 Enlisted in the 2nd AIF.
Date of honour or award 1941-07-08 Mention in Despatches.
Date promoted 1942 Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, the youngest in the Australian Army.
Date of honour or award 1945-07-19 Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Date of honour or award 1947-03-06 Mention in Despatches.
Other 1948 - 1951 Appointed General Staff Officer Grade 1 to the 2nd Division.
Other 1951-03 Took command of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.
Other 1951-06 Took command of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, in Korea.
Other 1951-10-05 - 1951-10-08 The 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Hassett, fought the battle of Maryang San.
Date of honour or award 1952-02-01 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
Other 1960 - 1963 Commanded the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group in Malaya.
Date of honour or award 1966-01-01 Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Other 1968 Became General Officer in command of Australia's Northern Command.
Date of honour or award 1970-06-13 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Other 1971 Promoted to Vice Chief of the General Staff.
Other 1973 Chief of the General Staff.
Other 1975-11-24 - 1976-02-08 Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Other 1976-02-09 - 1977-04-20 Chief of the Defence Force Staff.
Date of honour or award 1976-06-09 Companion of the Order of Australia.
Date of honour or award 1976-06-12 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Other 1977-04-20 Retired due to ill health.
Date of death 2008-06-11

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