Biography

Birth date: 12 February 1897
Birth place: South Africa: Cape Colony, Cape Town
Death date: 11 November 1988
Death place: Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra
Final rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Service number: First World War, 1914-1918
NX12595 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • King's African Rifles
  • 2/19th Australian Infantry Battalion

Charles Anderson was born at Cape Town, South Africa, on 12 February 1897. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the King's African Rifles on 13 October 1916 and fought with that regiment's 3rd Battalion in East Africa against the German-led Askari. Anderson was awarded the Military Cross for his service in this campaign.

Though he could not have known it at the time, Anderson's experience in jungle warfare - rare for a First World War soldier - and his post-war experience as a big-game hunter prepared him well for commanding troops in the jungles of Malaya in the Second World War.

He married Edith Tout in February 1931 and three years later, in 1934, the couple moved to Australia where Anderson had purchased a grazing property near Crowther in New South Wales. In March 1939 he joined the Citizen Military Forces, and was appointed captain in the 56th Battalion. He was promoted to major in late October that year and in July 1940 was seconded to the AIF. Appointed second-in-command of the 2/19th Battalion, part of the ill-fated 8th Division, he embarked for Malaya in February 1941.

Anderson was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 August 1941 and took command of his battalion. Five months later Japan entered the war, invading Malaya and committing herself to war with Britain on the same day as her forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbour. British Empire forces began a long series of withdrawals down the length of the Malayan peninsula. Within a month Japanese forces were in southern Malaya and Anderson's unit was among those conducting defensive operations in the Muar area. He conducted a fighting withdrawal to Parit Sulong during which he and his men were cut off and suffered heavy casualties. Anderson led them through four days of heavy fighting in a bid to reach Allied lines. For his leadership, his protection of his own wounded men, and for repeatedly risking his own life Anderson was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The fighting over, Anderson endured more than three years in Japanese captivity before returning to Australia. His appointment in the AIF was terminated on 21 December 1945 and Anderson returned to his property. He stood in the 1949 general election and won a seat in the House of Representatives as the Country Party member for Hume. He lost the seat in 1951, but regained it in 1955, remaining in office until 1961.

Anderson and his wife had four children, all of whom were born in Australia. He moved to Red Hill in Canberra, having served as a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. He died in Canberra on 11 November 1988.

Rolls and Awards

Second World War POWs and Missing Persons

  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Unit: 2/19th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Theatre of war: Malaya

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Military Cross

  • Unit: King's African Rifles
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 2/19th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Photograph

012562

Malaya. c.1942-01-19. Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel C. G. W. Anderson, awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action. For five days he commanded a fighting withdrawal of the 2/19th and 2/29th Battalions AIF together with the 45th Indian Brigade from Bakri to Parit Sulong.

012562

100636

Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol) Charles Groves Wright Anderson VC MC, 2/19th Infantry Battalion. LtCol Anderson was awarded the Victoria Cross for action in Malaya during 18 and 22 January 1942.

100636

100636A

Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson VC MC, 2/19th Infantry Battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Anderson was awarded the Victoria Cross for action in Malaya between 18 and 22 January 1942. He was in command of a small force when he was sent to restore a vital position and to...

100636A

117350

Lieutenant-Colonel (Lieut-Col) C. G. W. Anderson, VC, MC, 2/19th Australian Infantry Battalion, Commanding, Australian prisoners of war (pow) in Thailand (1) conferring with Lieut-Col C. A. McEachern, Commanding Allied ex-pows in Thailand (2) at the Pows Branch Headquarters Recovered Allied Pow and...

117350

117514

MUAR AREA, JOHORE, MALAYA. 1945-09-26. THE APPROXIMATE POSITION WHERE LIEUTENANT COLONEL C. G. W. ANDERSON VC, MC, LED THE BAYONET CHARGE AGAINST THE JAPANESE MACHINE GUN POSITION DURING THE BATTLE FOR THE MUAR ROAD.

117514

134455

CANBERRA, ACT. 1951-04-25. IN MEMORY OF THE JOINT SIGNIFICANCE OF "ANZAC", THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND ABOUT TO LAY THEIR WREATHS TOGETHER ON THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE, DURING THE ANZAC DAY CEREMONY AT THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL. COLONEL C. G. W. ANDERSON VC...

134455

P00102.001

SEREMBAN, MALAYA. 1941-08. GROUP PORTRAIT OF MEMBERS OF 2/19TH BATTALION HEADQUARTERS AND BAND STRETCHER BEARERS. LEFT TO RIGHT: BACK ROW: PRIVATE (PTE) G. W. BROWN; PTE H. J. MCMILLAN; PTE J. TURNER; PTE P. O'SHEA; PTE W. A. NOBLE; PTE ROBINSON; PTE RYAN; PTE A. F. LAKE; PTE BROGAN; PTE BELL; PTE...

P00102.001

P00102.045

An informal group portrait of Company Commanders of 2/19th Battalion on reconnaissance near Seremban, sitting on the ground talking. Left to right: NX34993 Major (Maj) E. H. J. (Bert) Bradley, `C' Company, killed in action on 12 February 1942; Maj T. G. (Tom) Vincent, `D' Company, who was awarded...

P00102.045

P00102.046

Seremban, Negri Sembilan, Malaya. 1941-08. Officers of 2/19th Battalion watch something in the distance while on reconnaissance near Seremban. Left to right: Captain Reginald William James Newton, Headquarters Company; Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson (with binoculars), Commanding Officer, and...

P00102.046

P02951.012

Group portrait of the Officers of the 2/19th Battalion. Identified, left to right, front row: NX34932 Captain (Capt) (later Major) C. H. Cousens, NX12594 Capt W. P. Bracher, NX34967 Capt Thomas Guy Vincent (killed in action (KIA) 9 February 1942), NX34742 Lieutenant (Lt) Frederick Gerard Ernest...

P02951.012

Art

Colonel Charles Anderson

Portrait of NX12595 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson, VC, MC, Commanding 2/19 Btn, 2AIF; defence of Malaya and, Muar River, 'A' Force Railway (also First World War in German East Africa). The artist, Jim Collins, was a member of A Force, one of the work parties forced to construct...

ART28403.087

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson VC MC

Depicts a portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson (NX12595), VC, MC, 2/19 Australian Infantry Battalion at Muar River. Taken prisoner by the Japanese.

ART26436

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson

Depicts a portrait of NX12595 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson, VC, MC. Served during the 1914-18 War with British forces in East Africa against German led Askari, and was awarded the MC. Commanding 2/19th Battalion, 2 AIF. He commanded the unit throughout the campaign in Malaya,...

ART31764

Film

Burma Railway (Our world)

"The Burma Railway" traces the events after the surrender in 1942 of the ill-fated 8th Division. It tells of their internment in Changi Prison, the construction of the Burma Railway in Thailand and the return of the few POW's to Changi after the completion of the railway. The story is told through...

F03402

POW's in Thailand

Shot of Lieutenant Colonel C A McEachern senior officer in Thailand. Lieutenant Colonel C G W Anderson, MC, VC, recipient of the only Australian Victoria Cross in the Malayan campaign. Lieutenant Colonel A E Coates and Lieutenant Colonel E E Dunlop, who were known to all troops in Thailand for the...

F01539

Manuscript

Oakes, Roland Frank (Lieutenant Colonel)

Oakes' typescript account of the defence of Malaya and Singapore Island. From the arrival in 1941 through the battles (Gemas, Nithsdale) surrender to the Japanese, treatment as POW (prisoner of war) including Oakes time with "H" Force work party and repatriation. Throughout the account Oakes...

MSS0776

Heraldry

Slouch Hat used at funeral of Lieutenant Colonel C G W Anderson, VC

Australian army standard issue khaki fur felt slouch hat with leather chinstrap. Hat has been dressed in Second World War style with a plain wool khaki band to which is sewn wool felt colour patch for 2/19 Battalion and fitted with an oxidised 'Rising Sun' badge.

REL/18492

Timeline

Date of birth 1897-02-12 Cape Town, South Africa.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1914 Private, Kenya Defence Force.
Other 1914 - 1918 Served in East Africa in the 2/3rd King's African Rifles Regiment.
Other 1915 Gunner, Calcutta Volunteer Battalion.
Date commissioned 1916-10-13 Comissioned as a lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Kings African Rifles Regiment.
Date of discharge 1919-02 Demobilised.
Date of honour or award 1919-02-07 Awarded the Military Cross, for his part in the campaign against the German led Askari, in East Africa.
Date promoted 1932 Appointed captain in Kenya Defence Force.
Other 1934 Moved to Australia.
Other 1939-03-03 Joined the Citizen Military Forces and was appointed captain in the 56th Battalion, Riverina Regiment, Australian Military Forces.
Other 1939-10-01 - 1939-10-14 Attended a company commander course at the Command and Staff School, Sydney.
Date promoted 1939-10-26 Promoted to temporary major.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1940-06-01 Enlisted in the 2nd AIF.
Other units 1940-07-25 Seconded as major in the 2/19th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.
Other 1941-02-18 Arrived in Singapore with the 2/19th Battalion.
Date promoted 1941-08-01 - 1942-02-15 Promoted to acting lieutenant colonel and commanding officer of the 2/19th Battalion.
Date promoted 1941-11-14 Gazetted lieutenant colonel, back dated to 1st August 1941.
Other 1942-01-07 Temporarily relinquished command due to medical reasons.
Date of honour or award 1942-01-18 - 1942-01-22 Awarded the Victoria Cross. 'During the operations in Malaya from the 18th to 22nd Jan 1942, Lieut. Col. ANDERSON, in command of a small Force, was sent to restore a vital position and to assist a Brigade. His Force destroyed ten enemy tanks. When later cut off, he defeated persistent attacks on his position from air and ground forces, and forced his way through the enemy lines to a depth of fifteen miles. He was again surrounded and subjected to a very heavy and frequent attacks resulting in severe casualties to his Force. He personally led an attack with great gallantry on the enemy who were holding a bridge, and succeeded in destroying four guns. Lieut. Col. Anderson throughout all this fighting, protected his wounded and refused to leave them. He obtained news by wireless of the enemy position and attempted to fight his way back through the eight miles of enemy occupied country. This proved to be impossible and the enemy were holding too strong a position for any attempt to be made to relieve him. On the 19th January, Lieut. Col. Anderson was ordered to destroy his equipment and make his way back as best he could round the enemy position. Throughout the fighting, which lasted for four days, he set a magnificent example of brave leadership, determination and outstanding courage. He not only showed fighting qualities of a very high order but throughout exposed himself to danger without any regard to his own personal safety.'
Date captured 1942-02-15 Became a prisoner of war when British forces in Malaya surrendered.
Other 1942-02-16 Reported missing in action.
Other units 1942-05-14 Attached to A Force.
Other 1942-05-27 Arrived in Burma.
Date released 1945-08-20 Reported Safe in Allied hands, Siam.
Date returned to Australia 1945-11-01
Date of discharge 1945-12-21 AIF appointment was terminated. Anderson transferred to the Reserve of Officers.
Other 1949 Elected to the House of Representatives as Country Party member for Hume in the general election. He was defeated in 1951, regained it in 1955 and retained it till 1961.
Other 1951 Anderson lost the seat of Hume in the general election.
Other 1955 Anderson regained his seat as Member for Hume in the House of Representatives in the general election.
Other 1961 Anderson lost the seat of Hume in the general election.
Date of death 1988-11-11 Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra