Biography

Birth date: 25 November 1892
Birth place: Australia: South Australia, Woodville
Death date: 24 November 1960
Death place: Australia: South Australia, Adelaide
Final rank: Brigadier
Service number: 31 - First World War, 1914-1918
SX6962 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • 10th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion

Arthur Blackburn, a lawyer, became the first South Australian to receive the Victoria Cross. At the 1915 landing on Gallipoli, it is believed that he and another man penetrated further inland than anyone else.

At Pozières, France, Blackburn led an attack that captured nearly 400 metres of trench. His commanding officer said that "matters looked anything but cheerful ... but [he] lost neither his heart nor his head". He was invalided to Australia the following year.

During the Second World War Blackburn led the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion in Syria. In 1942 the battalion was rushed to Java, where Blackburn was promoted to command "Black Force". Forced to surrender, he was held as a prisoner of war until 1945. Active in military, legal, and community affairs, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1946, and Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1955.

Blackburn was awarded the Victoria Cross, service medals for the two world wars, the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, and long service and coronation medals for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. His honours include the CBE and CMG.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Private
  • Date of embarkation: 20 October 1914
  • Place of embarkation: Adelaide
  • Unit: 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion
  • Theatre of war: Java
  • Recommended for: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 10th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 10th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Private Record

Digitised Collection

Timeline

Date of birth 1892-11-25
Dates studied 1913 Graduated from Adelaide University with a Bachelor of Laws.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1914-08-19 Posted to A Company, 19 Battalion.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-20 Embarked aboard HMAT A11 (Ascanius).
Other 1915-04-25 Blackburn and Private Phil Robin distinguished themselves by penetrating 1800 metres inland from Anzac Cove, reaching a point further than any other Australian was to achieve in the campaign.
Date promoted 1915-04-27 Appointed Lance Corporal.
Date commissioned 1915-08-04 Appointed 2nd Lieutenant.
Date promoted 1916-02-16 Appointed Lieutenant.
Date of honour or award 1916-07-23 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Pozieres, France whilst serving with 10 Battalion, 3 Brigade, 1 Division as a Lieutenant
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-07-29
Date promoted 1916-08-01 Appointed Temporary Captain.
Other 1916-09-01 Evacuated sick.
Other 1916-10-04 Presented with Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace.
Date returned to Australia 1916-12 Returned to Adelaide aboard the Hospital Ship Karoola.
Date of discharge 1917-04-10
Other 1925-10-31 Entered the 43rd Battalion, CMF as a Lieutenant.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1939-07-01 Appointed with rank of Lieutenant Colonel to command 18 Light Horse (Machine Gun) Regiment.
Other 1941-06 Formed and commanded the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, AIF, and led the unit in campaigns in Syria.
Date promoted 1942 Appointed Brigadier and commanded Blackforce.
Date captured 1942-03-12 Captured by the Japanese in Java when Blackforce surrendered.
Other 1942-12 Sent to Singapore as POW, later held in Moji, Japan, Pusan, Korrea and Mukden, Manchuria.
Date returned to Australia 1945-09 Arrived in Adelaide.
Date of honour or award 1946-11 Created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his gallant and distinguished service in Java.
Date of honour or award 1954 Created a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.
Date of death 1960-11-24