Major General Frederick Gallagher 'Black Jack' Galleghan

Service number 432, NX70416
Ranks Held Private, Sergeant, Brigadier, Lieutenant Colonel
Birth Date 1897-01-11
Birth Place Australia: New South Wales, Newcastle, Jesmond
Death Date 1971-04-20
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Mosman
Final Rank Major General
Service Australian Army
  • 34th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 27th Australian Infantry Brigade
  • 2/30th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • First World War, 1914-1918
  • Second World War, 1939-1945
Gazettes Biographical information The Oxford companion to Australian military history in 1995
Black Jack in The Life and Times of Brigadier Sir Frederick Galleghan
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1947-03-06
Published in London Gazette in 1942-03-05
Published in London Gazette in 1942-03-05
Published in London Gazette in 1947-03-06

Frederick Galleghan was a Second World War battalion commander, who won acclaim and respect as the commander of Australian prisoners in Changi. He was born on 11 January 1897 at Jesmond, New South Wales, completed his schooling in Newcastle, and became a telegraph messenger in the Postmaster-General's Department.

He had been in the cadets for seven years when, in January 1916, he enlisted in the AIF and was posted to the 34th Battalion. He was wounded twice while serving on the Western Front, was invalided home in late 1918, and was discharged in March 1919, disappointed that he had not received a commission.

In November 1922, Galleghan married Vera Dawson (d.1967), a theatre employee at The Strand Theatre, Newcastle. They married at the Baptist Tabernacle, Cooks Hill and had a long and happy marriage. He worked in a variety of public service positions before joining the Attorney General's office in 1936. In the meantime he had been serving in the militia, having been commissioned as a lieutenant in 1919. By 1932 he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel and in subsequent years commanded a succession of battalions. He joined the AIF on 18 March 1940 and in October took command of the 2/30th Battalion.

The unit sailed for Singapore in July 1941; in January 1942 Galleghan led a successful ambush against a superior Japanese force at Gemas in southern Malaya. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order but became a prisoner of war after the surrender of Singapore. In Changi in August 1942 he became commander of AIF prisoners; in March 1944 he became deputy commander of Allied prisoners in Malaya.

He was given the name "Black Jack" for his complexion, dark hair, and brown eyes. He was a stern figure with a natural air of authority that brooked no dissent. Some officers claimed to have feared Galleghan more than they did the Japanese. Nevertheless he is said to have been a respected leader who understood that his men's survival depended on their morale, which he maintained through the imposition of military discipline.

After liberation he told his men that they were returning home as soldiers not prisoners and subsequently refused to be associated with prisoner-of-war organisations. He was promoted to colonel and honorary brigadier, made retrospective to 1942, and transferred to the retired list in January 1946.

Galleghan headed the Australian Military Mission to Germany in 1948-49 as an honorary major general and became involved in helping displaced persons to immigrate to Australia. He retired from the public service in 1959 and served as honorary secretary of the Royal Humane Society of New South Wales between 1959-70. He also worked with both the Services Canteens Trust and Australian Cadet Corps during his retirement.

In 1969 Galleghan was knighted for his services to veterans. In the same year he married for a second time to Persia Elspbeth Porter, a widow and State commandant of the Voluntary Aid Service Corps. He died on 20 April 1971 in Mosman, Sydney.



Date of birth 11 January 1897
Other 1909 Graduated from Cooks Hill High School.
Other 30 June 1913 Comissioned in the cadets as a second lieutenant.
Date of enlistment 20 January 1916 Enlisted in the AIF.
Other 20 January 1916 Became a private in the 34th Battalion.
Date of embarkation 02 May 1916
Other 23 June 1916 Arrived United Kingdom.
Date promoted 16 November 1916 Appointed sergeant.
Other 22 November 1916 Arrived in France.
Date wounded 07 June 1917 Wounded in action, gun shot wound to right shoulder.
Other 14 February 1918 Arrived in France.
Other 21 February 1918 Returned to his unit.
Date wounded 08 August 1918 Wounded in action, gun shot wound to left shoulder.
Date returned to Australia 09 December 1918
Date of discharge 03 March 1919 Demobilised and discharged from AIF and comissioned as a lieutenant in the militia.
Date commissioned 16 September 1919 Appointed temporary lieutenant.
Other units 31 March 1921 Appointed lieutenant to the 2nd Battalion.
Date promoted 27 May 1925 Appointed captain.
Date promoted 17 June 1930 Appointed major.
Date promoted 1932 Promoted to lieutenant colonel in the milita.
Date promoted 01 August 1932 Appointed lieutenant colonel commanding officer the 2/41st Battalion.
Other units 01 January 1934 Appointed commanding officer of the 2/35th Battalion.
Other 1936 Joined the Attorney General's office.
Date of honour or award 20 September 1936 Awarded an Efficiency Decoration.
Other units 1937-03-01 - 1940-10-17 Appointed commanding officer of the 17th Battalion.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 18 March 1940 Joined the AIF.
Other units 1940-10-17 - 1942-02-09 Seconded commanding officer of the 2nd/30th Battalion.
Date of embarkation 1941-07 The 2nd/30th Battalion sailed for Singapore.
Other 15 August 1941 Arrived in Singapore.
Other 09 February 1942 Reliquished command of 2nd/30th Battalion as deemed medically unfit for duty due to hearing loss.
Date captured 15 February 1942 Became a prisoner of war and was interned in Changi by the Japanese.
Other 16 February 1942 Reported missing in action.
Date of honour or award 05 March 1942 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). 'Lt.-Col. Galleghan conceived a plan and personally supervised the whole operation, and by initiative, coolness and resourcefulness he was able with one Coy. to ambush several hundred of the enemy, that Coy. Destroying utterly 500 of the enemy and itself suffering only slight casualties. Throughout the ensuing battle he personally directed operations and by personal example, cool and quick decisions at a time when the fate of his Bn. was in the balance, he not only withheld a determined attempt by the enemy to force a withdrawal but inflicted very severe casualties. His calmness during this period played a very important part in maintaining the morale of his tps. In spite of continued heavy dive bombing attacks on the area from which he directed his operation. At no time was any portion of his unit out of control and when forced by a force far superior in numbers to that of his own to withdraw to a line behind the S. MUAR he again conceived and carried out a plan which enabled the whole Bn. to break contact with the enemy and re-establish a solid front. Again his courage was exemplary, as he saw each Coy. out of its contact and remained until the last to ensure safety of his men. Throughout the whole of these operations, without artillery or air support, and opposed by a force of at least a Bde. strength, the Bn. suffered only between 100 and 150 casualties, killed, wounded and missing, of which only 12 were known to have been killed.'
Date of honour or award 05 March 1942 Mention in Despatches.
Other 1942-08 While in Changi he was appointed commander of AIF prisoners of war. Rank hierachies such as these were maintained in prisoner of war camps to give support and leadership to those interned there.
Other 11 January 1943 Reported prisoner of war.
Other 1944-03 While in Changi he became deputy commander of all the Allied prisoners in Malaya.
Date released 1945-08 Released from Changi.
Date returned to Australia 09 October 1945 Returned to Sydney.
Other 03 January 1946 Transferred to the retired list of officers as a honourary brigadier.
Date of honour or award 06 March 1947 Gazetted Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The following citation was writtem in September 1945 by Colonel E B Holmes, Manchester Regiment, Commander British Prisoners of War in Malaya. "Since August 1942 Lt-Col F.G. GALLEGHAN, DSO, ED, has been in command of the AIF and was next senior to me. In March 1944, on reorganisation and change of camp site I appointed him Deputy Commander and also my representative officer with the Japanese and he carried out these duties with conspicuous success. During our 3 1/2 years together he has been a tower of strength to me. He has co-operated with me to the fullest possible extent in every way, keeping up morale and maintaining the health and discipline of the Prisoners of War. He has always given me sound and helpful advice and support and done all in his power to help me present a united front against the Japanese. He is of strong and forceful personality, his leadership has impressed itself upon all ranks of all services and nationalities. He is possessed of great physical and moral courage and his example has been an inspiration to all. I cannot speak too highly of his services.'
Other 1949-01-06 - 1949-11-18 Appointed honourary major general and Head of the Australian Military Mission, Berlin.
Date of honour or award 13 June 1959 Companion of the Imperial Service Order (ISO).
Date of honour or award 01 January 1969 Created Knight Bachelor.
Date of death 20 April 1971 Mosman, NSW.