Collection Number: 3DRL/1400


Title: Papers of General Sir Cyril Brudenell Bingham White

Date range of collection: 1895 - 1940

Collection number: 3DRL/1400

Extent: 12 standard archival boxes: 2.16m

Location: Private Records Collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.

Abstract: The Brudenell White collection spans his military career from 1895 until his death in 1940. There are very few papers relating to his brief service in the South African War; however his time attached to the Staff College and War Office in London prior to the First World War is better represented through official papers and correspondence. Other items in the collection include military articles, souvenirs, transcripts of speeches and lectures and ephemera. 

Major correspondents include Field Marshall Lord Birdwood, General Bridges and C E W Bean.


Administrative information

Provenance: In 1920, White agreed to formally hand over some papers to the Australian War Memorial, which he had previously sent to the Australian War Records Section for safekeeping. These were mostly AIF operational papers for 1916. No more papers were received until 1951, those being donated by White's widow, Lady White. The final installments were donated by White's daughter in 1975 and 1977.

Access: Restricted: Donor permission required to view collection. Contact the Curator of Private Records.

Restrictions on use: Copyright of materials described in this guide is governed by copyright law in Australia. For further information contact the Curator of Private Records, Research Centre.

Preferred citation: Papers of General Sir Cyril Brudenell Bingham White, Australian War Memorial, 3DRL/1400


Additional information

Related collections:

Australian War Memorial
REL/00112 (uniform)
RELAWM/11852 (tunic)
RELAWM/12123 (map)

National Library of Australia
MS 5172

National Archives of Australia
A5954, 54/21
A5954. 1248/33
A1378, P8903

Subjects: Australian Army; AIF; General Staff; South African War; Gallipoli; Western Front; Department of Defence; Council of Defence; Defence planning


Biographical note

Early years

Cyril Brudenell Bingham White was born 23 September 1876 in St Arnaud, Victoria, and grew up on pastoral stations in Queensland. He went to school in Brisbane and at age 16 gained employment as a bank clerk.

White took an interest in the military joining the Queensland military forces in 1895. By 1899, he was a commissioned officer in the Queensland Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery. He was stationed on Thursday Island at the turn of the century, and in 1902 went to South Africa with the 1st Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, when the war was drawing to a close.

In 1904 he was made aide-de-camp to Major General Sir Edward Hutton with whom he travelled extensively throughout Australia, working toward the moulding of the former State forces into a national force. The following year 1905, White married Ethel Davidson, and left Australia to attend the British Army Staff College in England.

White spent time from 1906 - 1908 in England where he served as a Staff Officer at the War Office in London. He returned to Australia in early 1908 where he rose to the rank of Major at Army Headquarters in Melbourne.

First World War

At the outbreak of the war, White was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Chief of Staff of the 1st Australian Division, AIF. He landed at Gallipoli on April 25 1915 where he spent the next eight months working tirelessly in his staff duties. In October he was promoted to Brigadier General and was given the task of planning the withdrawal of the ANZAC forces from Gallipoli. That the withdrawal was conducted with such success and with negligible casualties, is evidence of White's organisational skills.

During the first months of 1916, the AIF remained in Egypt where White was instrumental in building of the force that had now doubled in size. From March 1916 until May 1918, he continued his vital work as a staff officer under General Birdwood in France and Belgium and was widely regarded as the man who truly ran the AIF. In May 1918, when Birdwood was promoted to command the British 5th Corps, many felt that White was the logical choice to command the AIF. Seemingly reluctant to accept this, he instead accompanied Birdwood to 5 Corps as his Chief of Staff. After the armistice was signed in November, White was appointed to the Demobilisation Board in London until returning to Australia in 1920.

Between the wars

On 28 November 1918 White was promoted to Lieutenant General and was given the post of Chief of the Australian General Staff, drawing up plans for the training of the nation's citizen forces. He retired from military service in 1923 and took up the post of Chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. In 1928 he resigned this post and took up the position of Chairman and Superintendent for Australia of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency. Combining this with various other appointments including to the Board of the Australian War Memorial and the Council of Defence, White still found time to relax on his farm in rural Victoria and enjoy family life.

The Second World War

On 15 March 1940, following the death of Lieutenant General E K Squires, White was recalled to take over the position of Chief of the General Staff when Australia again found itself at war. Now aged 63, he was promoted to General and was busily involved in organising the Second AIF for service overseas. As fate would have it, he was not to see much of the Second World War. On 13 August 1940 he flew with several prominent military officers and Federal Ministers from Melbourne to Canberra. The aircraft crashed as it approached the aerodrome at Canberra, killing White and all others on board instantly.

White's funeral was at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne where he was given state and military honours. He was survived by his wife and four children.


  • Bean, C E W 1957, Two men I knew: William Bridges and Brudenell White - founders of the AIF, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Derham, Rosemary 1998, The silent ruse: escape from Gallipoli - a record and memory of the life of General Sir Brudenell White KCB, KCMG, KCVO, DSO, Cliffe Books, Armidale, NSW.
  • Ritchie, John (ed.) 1990, The Australian dictionary of biography, vol. 12, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Scope and content note

The strength of the collection lies in the correspondence between Brudenell White and key military figures such as General Birdwood and Bridges during his military service, and with C. E. W. Bean regarding the writing of the official war histories of both Australia and Britain. The cornerstone of the collection are the diaries covering every year from 1895 until 1940 documenting his official career.

The Brudenell White collection is diverse and spans his military and defence career from 1895 until his death in 1940 Few items relate to his brief service in the South African War however his attachment to the Staff College and War Office in London prior to the First World War is better represented [ official papers and correspondence].

Papers relating to the First World War cover both the Gallipoli campaign and the Western Front. There is a mixture of official reports and notes on operations including the withdrawl from Gallipoli and Allied offensive operations on the Western Front, particularly in 1918. Additionally, there are miscellaneous military articles, souvenirs and ephemera.

The period between the wars when Brudenell White was a leading figure in planning Australia's future defence, is particularly well represented with numerous notes and reports from meeting and studies, as well as correspondence with other officials.

Series List:

Series number Title of Series and Date
1 Diaries, 1895 - 1940
2 Correspondence, 1932 - 1938
3 Official documents, 1907 - 1913
4 Official documents, 1914 - 1918
5 Official documents, 1919 - 1940
6 Personal documents, 1896 - 1935
7 Public addresses, 1919 - 1938

SERIES 1: Diaries, 1895 - 1940

Collection of bound photocopies of Brudenell - White's diaries. Some are written primarily in shorthand and the quality of reproduction and size of text varies greatly. As can be seen by the following list, keeping diaries were an integral part of his great organising abilities.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
1/1 Diaries 1895: Shorthand and longhand entries 1
1/2 Diaries 1896: Jun-Aug 1
1/3 Diaries 1897-99: Bound, written in shorthand and longhand 1
1/4 Diaries 1900: Jan-May 1
1/5 Diaries 1900: Jun-Dec 1
1/6 Diaries 1901 1
1/7 Diaries 1902: Jan-Aug 1
1/8 Diaries 1903 1
1/9 Diaries 1904 1
1/10 Diaries 1905: Jan-Aug 2
1/11 Diaries 1905: Aug-Dec 2
1/12 Diaries 1906 2
1/13 Diaries 1908 2
1/14 Diaries 1909 2
1/15 Diaries 1910: Jan-Jun 2
1/16 Diaries 1910: Jul-Dec 2
1/17 Diaries 1911: Jan-Jun 2
1/18 Diaries 1911: Jul-Dec 2
1/19 Diaries 1912 2
1/20 Diaries 1913 3
1/21 Diaries 1913 3
1/22 Diaries 1914 3
1/23 Diaries 1915: Jan-Nov 3
1/24 Diaries 1916 3
1/25 Diaries 1917: Feb-Sep 3
1/26 Diaries 1918 3
1/27 Diaries 1918: Another copy 3
1/28 Diaries 1919 3
1/29 Diaries 1920 3
1/30 Diaries 1921 4
1/31 Diaries 1922: Jan-Apr 4
1/32 Diaries 1922 (May) - 1924 (Oct): Bound together 4
1/33 Diaries 1924 (Nov) - 1926 (Jan): Bound together 4
1/34 Diaries 1926: Feb-Dec 4
1/35 Diaries 1927: Jan-Jun 4
1/36 Diaries 1927: Jun-Dec 4
1/37 Diaries 1928 4
1/38 Diaries 1929: Jan-May 5
1/39 Diaries 1929: Jun-Dec 5
1/40 Diaries 1930: 5
1/41 Diaries 1931 5
1/42 Diaries 1932 5
1/43 Diaries 1933 5
1/44 Diaries 1934 5
1/45 Diaries 1935 5
1/46 Diaries 1936 5
1/47 Diaries 1937 5
1/48 Diaries 1938 6
1/49 Diaries 1939 6
1/50 Diaries 1940 6
1/51 Diaries: No date, all written in shorthand 6

SERIES 2: Correspondence, 1902-1938

Correspondence spanning 1902 - 1938. The earlier letters mainly concern Brudenell White's posting to the British Army Staff College as well as a few from the First World War. Post war correspondence mainly involves C E W Bean, J L Treloar and A W Bazeley concerning the War Memorial and Bean's writing of the official histories. Bean sent most of his drafts to Brudenell White for comments and editing.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
2/1 Letter to White's father; letters to Colonel Bridges while posted to the War Office in London; letter from General Bridges to White's wife; letters from unidentified colleagues from the AIF, 1902-1916. 6
2/2 File titled "Correspondence relating to myself." Concerns White's military service and various staff appointments, 1905-1919 Correspondents include Atlee Hunt and Bridges. 6
2/3 Correspondence in Department of Defence file. Letters relating to the Australian War Memorial, battle honours for the AIF; Imperial General Staff communications. Correspondents include Maj Treloar, Maj Gen Elliott and A G Butler, 1922-1926. 6
2/4 Correspondence in Department of Defence file. Defence expenditure estimates, letters relating to the rising sun badge. Correspondents include Maj Treloar, Maj Gen Elliott and A G Butler,1927-1937 6
2/5 Correspondents include C E W Bean, Maj Gen Rosenthal and A W Bazeley. Relates to: Maj Treloar's appointment to the War Memorial; The Boy Scout Movement, Australian official war histories, British official war histories, 1923 -33. 6
2/6 Correspondents include C E W Bean, Maj Gen Rosenthal and A W Bazeley. Relates to: Maj Treloar's appointment to the War Memorial, Australian official war histories, British official war histories, unit history of 37 Bn; Gavin Long's biography of his father, Bishop Long. 1934-38. 6

SERIES 3: Official documents, 1907-1913

Mostly documents used in Britain while posted to the British Army Staff College and later serving under Col Bridges at the War Office in London.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
3/1 Four ordinance survey maps of Windsor, Reading, Basingstoke and Aldershot in England. All inscribed "Maj Gen T B Strange." Printed in 1902. Program for Victorian Military forces Thanksgiving Service in Melbourne, 1902. 7
3/2 Notes on military subjects on loose leaves of paper, some written in shorthand, 1906. 7
3/3 2 bundles of notes on Camberley exercises, 1907, report by by Lt C B B White, RAA, 1906 on attachment to the Sherwood Foresters ; Report on training with other arms, Senior Division, 1907; Aldershot command: 1 Cavalry Brigade inspection, 1907; Collection of six military papers, much damaged. 7
3/4 Officer's field message and sketch book in brown cover containing notes in pencil, 1908. 7
3/5 Canvas cover of army book 153 belonging to Brudenell White, pages removed, [nd]; 4 booklets titled "Recent publications of military interest", covering 1907-1909. 7

SERIES 4: Official documents 1914-1918

Official documents relating directly to Brudenell White's duties during the First World War Gallipoli Campaign, especially the planning of the withdrawal in December 1915, as well as duties on the Western Front. The latter documents focus particularly on Allied offensive operations in 1918 when Brudenell White was Birdwood's Chief of Staff for the British 5 Corps. Included are articles and papers he collected on military tactics and doctrine.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
4/1 Paybook issued to Brudenell White, 1915; booklet of notes for troops in dealing with Turkish inhabitants, 1915; invitation to 2 Infantry Brigade to their sports meet in France, 11 June 1917; report on RMC Duntroon, 1913-14. 7
4/2 Typed copy of Army Corps Order no. 21, by Lt Gen Sir A Godley commanding ANZAC Corps: "Evacuation of Gallipoli" (original and carbon copies), dated 14 Dec 1915. 7
4/3 Carbon copy of typed document titled "Note on withdrawal from ANZAC"; document titled The cruise of the SMS Emden, consisting of translation of a diary of Petty Officer Plotz of the Emden covering 28 July to 8 Nov 1914, when Emden landed a shore party on Cocos Islands; copy of article from the Coast Artillery Journal, vol. 58, no. 6 including article by Lt Col W H Johnson, The Dardanelles expedition; handwritten draft in pencil by Brudenell White of operation Order Number 2 issued by Maj Gen W T Bridges, commanding 1 Australian Division, 26/02/1915; pencil carbon copy of document titled "ANZAC 4pm 19th - 4am 20th December 1915", dated 20 Dec 1915 at Mudros. 7
4/4 Miscellaneous documents and ephemera relating to Gallipoli, 1915-23 including memorial services, funeral notice for Maj Gen Bridges and map of Gallipoli. 7
4/5 Group photograph of Staff Officers at Mena Camp, Egypt, c Feb 1915. 7
4/6 Expanding index file containing military papers, articles on military subjects and military doctrine and theory. 1914-18. 8
4/7 Folder titled "Information No. 2 Military: sundry papers. Training notes from the First World War, maps, various papers on military doctrine, notes on tactics and procedures and captured German documents. 1914-18. 8
4/8 Bound photocopies of material on "Special army instructions, 1918" and instructions for defensive operations and amendments, 1918 8
4/9 Bound photocopies of material on instructions for defensive no.s 9-14, and Fifth Army orders no. 1-27, with amendments, 1918. 9
4/10 Photocopies of handwritten plans for 1918 Allied offensive. "Note on probable offensives on Australian Corps front." 20 May 1918. 9

SERIES 5: Official documents, 1919-1940

Official documents created during White's appointment to the Council of Defence in the 1920s. These comprise minutes of meetings and defence reports, including Australian security concerns over Japan. Additionally there are papers relating to the army and RAN colleges, RMC Duntroon and HMAS Creswell.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
5/1 Bound papers: "Conversation with Prime Minister, 20 July 1923", Secret re: military threat of Japan; Military Intelligence Note 30: 22 November 1923: Singapore; Military Intelligence Note 32: the present political situation in India and some questions affecting it. 9
5/2 Extracts from various defence reports about Australia, particularly concerning military supplies, 1919-1924 9
5/3 Extracts from various defence reports about Australia, particularly concerning military supplies, 1922-1924 9
5/4 Minutes of Council of Defence meeting, 14 May 1924; National Manpower Board: draft of constitution; Council of Defence meetings; reports; lists of equipment, 1924 9
5/5 Letters and documents by White, relating to strategic defence of Australia, 1924-1928. Correspondents include Professkr Ernest Scott and Sir Harry Chauvel. 9
5/6 Defence papers, 1928-1929. 9
5/7 Bound photocopies of statistics and defence related material, 1927. 9
5/8 Bound photocopies of material on AIF operations, special instructions, certificates for secret documents, lists of secret documents, Royal Military College, 1921-1924. 10
5/9 Bound photocopies of material on Council of Defence agenda; Battle of the Marne; Correspondence concerning leave of absence; Naval and Military colleges, articles and correspondence; Agricultural college; Superannuation fund management board. 1924-1938. 10
5/10 Bound photocopies of material on RMC Duntroon and the RAN College HMAS Creswell; defence subjects; military training and correspondence, 1923-1924. 10
5/11 Bound photocopies of news cuttings, sheets of First World War music and reports on RMC Duntroon and HMAS Creswell. 10
5/12 Bound photocopies of report: "Guide to the press of Australia" [nd]. 10

SERIES 6: Personal documents, 1895 - 1940

Assortment of war related printed materials collected by Brudenell White including newspaper cuttings, souvenirs, military articles and ephemera. Dates range from 1898 to the 1930s.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
6/1 Folder of loose papers containing military articles, pamphlets and various newspaper cuttings, 1909-1935. 10
6/2 Bankbook belonging to Brudenell White from 1908-1910. 11
6/3 Collection of souvenirs including menus, pamphlets, church services, Empire day celebrations, Melbourne Savage club and a blank Christmas card of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, and a lock of Brudenell White's hair. 1902-1921. 11
6/4 Folder containing newspaper cuttings on various subjects of interest to Brudenell White, including from 1901 (The Age) and from 1896 (The Courier). 11
6/5 Folder containing receipts for various items; a bound folder with photocopies of store accounts and grocery bills; a newspaper cutting relating to General Sir Edward Hutton. 1898-1921. 11
6/6 Bound copies of manuscripts and typescripts of "Christ and National Service", St Paul's Cathedral, 8/4/1925; "Victoria League of Victoria", correspondence, notes, agenda and speech, 24/10/1919; Correspondence concerning Brudenell White's appointment to the position of Honorary Magistrate of Victoria from the Honorary Justices' Association of Victoria; notes on the Montague's Boys Club; papers relating to unveiling of soldier's memorials, 1922; manuscript of "Christianity and War." 11
6/7 Various articles written by Brudenell White after the First World War including several praising his contemporaries including Haig, Monash, Howse, Walker and Hobbs. Most undated, others range from 1919-1931. 11
6/8-6/10 Menus, invitations, programs, 1917-1919. 11
6/11-6/12 Menu's invitations, programs Oversize folio and album

SERIES 7: Public addresses, 1919 - 1938

Transcripts of speeches and lectures, delivered by Brudenell White on Anzac Day, Armistice Day and other occasions to various organizations such as veterans, church groups and youth organizations and schools. Many are related to the First World War. The lectures mostly date from the 1920s to the early 1930s.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box
7/1 Lectures given by Brudenell White following the First World War to various associations in Australia. 1919-1923. 12
7/2 Speeches: Anzac Day. 1931-1937 12
7/3 Speeches: Armistice Day. 1930-1932 12
7/4 Speech given at the unveiling of an honour roll containing names of the Collingwood Branch of the Australian Natives Association, 26 August 1919. 12
7/5 Speeches delivered to various associations, religious groups and young girls and boy's organisations. 1920-1923 12
7/6 Speeches delivered to the Victoria League and various openings of memorials or events. 1924-27. 12
7/7 Speeches delivered to the Church Missionary Society of Australia, the Melbourne City Mission and the Home Mission Society. 1930. 12
7/8 Speeches delivered to the Ararat Legacy Club and at the unveiling of a painting of HRH the Duchess of York at an art gallery in Castlemaine, Vic. 1931. 12
7/9 Speeches delivered to the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers, Essendon Citizen's Empire Reunion and the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Victoria. 1932-1937. 12
7/10 Speeches delivered to the Navy and Military Club in Perth, for the campaign against the Federal Law Tax, the English Speaking Union and The Red Cross Society, [nd]. 12
7/11 Speeches delivered to the Sunday Christian Observance, for the foundation stone of a soldiers' memorial and for the opening of a memorial hall. No dates. 12
7/12 Speeches delivered at the unveiling of various soldiers' memorials. 1928-1929. 12
7/13 Addresses given at various church gatherings, c 1925. 12
7/14 Addresses given to various schools throughout Melbourne and other parts of Victoria. 1924-1938. 12
7/15 Toasts delivered to the Governor of Victoria, at the Melbourne Club and to a gathering of the 1st Division Artillery. 1920-1934. 12
7/16 Carbon copy of the unveiling and dedication of the Camperdown and district soldiers' memorial, 1929. 12
7/17 Carbon copy of the C E M S, St Andrews Brighton, Victoria "Man and his citizenship" address. 1925 12


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