ID numberRELAWM24602
Collection typeHeraldry
TitleRoad sign, 'Vasey Highway' : Balikpapan, Borneo
Object typeHeraldry
Place madeBorneo: Balikpapan
Date made1945
Physical description
  • Paint
  • Wood
DescriptionWooden road sign with pointed end. Both sides are painted white, with black lettering reading 'VASEY HIGHWAY'.
SummaryGeorge Alan Vasey, a professional soldier, was born in 1895. He graduated from RMC Duntroon in 1915, and during the First World War served with 4 and 22 Field Artillery Brigades, and as brigade major of 11 Infantry Brigade. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was posted to the 6th Division in the Middle East. In March 1941 he took command of 19 Infantry Brigade which he led in the fighting through Greece and Crete, also taking overall command of Australian forces involved in the defence of Crete.

After returning to Australia in early 1942, Vasey was promoted major general and made Deputy Chief of the General Staff. In September, he gained command of the 6th Division, then fighting the Japanese in Papua. Soon afterwards, he was transferred to lead the 7th Division through the fighting at Gona, Sanananda, Nadzab, Lae and the Ramu Valley. By mid 1944, his health had deteriorated to such an extent that he was evacuated to Australia. He was not expected to survive, but in early 1945 he had recovered sufficiently to be re-appointed to command the 6th Division. While flying to assume this command on 5 March, his Hudson aircraft crashed into the sea off Cairns and all on board were killed.

In May 1945 the 7th Division began preparations for an attack on Balikpapan in Borneo, which proved to be the last large scale Allied operation of the Second World War. Part of the preparation involved allocating easily remembered English names to roads, tracks and hilltops, in place of map references. This procedure had earlier proved invaluable in operations on Tarakan, and simplified signalling, written and oral orders. In memory of their popular former commander, the Division named the coast road at Balikpapan the 'Vasey Highway'. This sign was retrieved by 7 Military History Field Team late in 1946.