Biography

Birth date: 23 September 1876
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, St Arnaud
Death date: 13 August 1940
Death place: Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra
Final rank: General
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Second World War, 1939-1945
South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
Units:
  • 1 Division
  • Chief of the General Staff (HQ & HQ Units)
  • Headquarters 5th Army
  • Royal Australian Garrison Artillery 1st Australian Division
  • RAust Garr Art
  • Royal Australian Garrison Artillery
  • Staff
  • BGGS Anzac
  • Headquarters Staff
  • Australian Field Artillery
  • Australian Imperial Force
  • Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)
  • I Anzac Corps
  • II Anzac Corps
  • 1st Australian Division
  • 1st Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse

White was one of the founders of the AIF and rose to become Chief of the General Staff. He was born on 23 September 1876 at St Arnaud, Victoria. He became a bank clerk at the age of 16 and in 1896, aged 20, he joined the 2nd Queensland Regiment.

White transferred to the permanent forces and was commissioned into the Queensland Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery in June 1899. In February 1902 he sailed for South Africa with the Australian Commonwealth Horse, arriving late in the war he saw little action and returned to Australia in July.

In 1904 White was appointed Aide-de-Camp to the General Officer Commanding the Australian Military Forces (AMF) and the following year, in November, he married Ethel Davidson. In 1906 he became the first AMF officer to attend the British Staff College. Returning to Australia in 1908, he was promoted to captain, joined Colonel William Bridges' staff but soon returned to England on exchange to the War Office.

Having been promoted to major in 1911, White returned to Australia in 1912 to take up the post of Director of Military Operations at Army Headquarters, Melbourne where he formulated plans for raising, equipping, training and despatching the Australian component of a combined Australian/New Zealand division should war arise. White was made acting Chief of the General Staff in July 1914 and upon the outbreak of war August, having prepared, was able to meet the Government's offer to Britain of a force of 20,000 men for overseas service.

He became Chief of Staff of the 1st Australian Division, AIF, had the first contingent in Egypt by December 1914 and planned the landing at Gallipoli. He was promoted to brigadier general in October 1915, and planned and supervised the evacuation of Anzac. Back in Egypt he was largely responsible for overseeing the AIF's expansion and he went to France as Brigadier General, General Staff, AIF.

Although the AIF was commanded by the British general William Birdwood, White has been credited as being the driving force behind its operation on the Western Front. In January 1917 he was promoted to temporary major general. That July he rejected an offer to command the Australian Corps and remained a member of Birdwood's staff. The following June, White followed Birdwood, now appointed to command the British 5th Army, and became Major General, General Staff, 5th Army.

In November 1918 White was promoted to temporary lieutenant general and made Chief of Staff, having briefly presided over the Demobilisation and Repatriation Branch. He returned to Australia in June 1919 and worked on the future organisation of the AMF. He retired in 1923 and was appointed Chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, becoming responsible for overseeing the transfer of departments from Melbourne to Canberra. Upon retiring in 1928, he continued to serve on a number of business and charitable boards, including the Board of the Australian War Memorial.

In 1940 he was recalled to become Chief of the General Staff, but his tenure was short-lived. On 13 August 1940, White was killed in an aircraft crash near Canberra airport.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: General
  • Date of Death: 13 August 1940
  • Unit: Chief of the General Staff (HQ & HQ Units)
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Unit: 1st Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse
  • Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Date of embarkation: 21 October 1914
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Unit: 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Order of St Michael and St George
  • Unit: Royal Australian Garrison Artillery
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Headquarters 5th Army
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Mention in despatches
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Headquarters 5th Army
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: Headquarters Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: Royal Australian Garrison Artillery 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: BGGS Anzac
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Belgian Croix de Guerre
  • Unit: II Anzac Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Montenegrin Medal for Merit, Gold
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: RAust Garr Art
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: French Croix de Guerre
  • Unit: RAust Garr Art
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Order of St Michael and St George
  • Unit: I Anzac Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: French Croix de Guerre
  • Unit: Australian Imperial Force
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class
  • Unit: Australian Imperial Force
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Australian Field Artillery
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Portuguese Grand Officer of the Military Order of Avis
  • Unit: Australian Imperial Force
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Photograph

Digitised Collection

Heraldry

Timeline

Date of birth 1876-09-23 St Arnaud
Date commissioned 1897 Commissioned into the 2nd Queensland Regiment.
Other 1898 Passed an exam for a commission in the Permanent Military Forces, in the Queensland Artillery.
Date commissioned 1899-06 Was commissioned into the Queensland Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery.
Other units 1902-02 Served in the Boer War as a junior officer with the Commonwealth Light Horse.
Date returned to Australia 1902-07
Other 1904 Appointed Aide de Camp to Major General Hutton, the general officer commanding the AMF.
Other units 1906 - 1907 Attended the British Staff College at Camberley, England. Was the first AMF officer to attend the college.
Date promoted 1908 Promoted to captain after he returned to Australia, and posted to the staff of the Chief of Intelligence.
Other units 1908 - 1911 Returned to England on an exchange posting to the War Office.
Other 1911 Recalled to become the Director of Military Operations, with the rank of major.
Other 1914-07 Acting Chief of General Staff, AIF.
Other 1914-08 Chief of staff of the 1st Australian Division, AIF, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-21
Date of honour or award 1915-06-03 Created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in recognition of his service assisting with the plans for the landing at Gallipoli.
Date promoted 1915-10 Promoted to brigadier general.
Date of honour or award 1916-03-14 Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-10
Date promoted 1917-01-01 Promoted to temporary major general.
Date of honour or award 1917-03-09 Montenegrin Medal for Merit - Gold.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-03-21
Other 1917-07 Rejected an offer to command the Australian corps
Date of honour or award 1918-01-01 Companion of the Order of St Michael and St John (CMG).
Other units 1918-05-31 Appointed major general General Staff of 5th British Army.
Date of honour or award 1918-07-12 Belgian Croix de Guerre.
Date promoted 1918-11-30 Promoted to temporary lieutenant general.
Date of honour or award 1919-01-01 Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).
Date returned to Australia 1919-07
Date of honour or award 1919-08-21 Portuguese Military Order of the Avis - Grand Officer.
Other 1920-01 Appointed to the committee to examine the future structure of the Army.
Date promoted 1920-02 Promoted to the substantive rank of major general, back dated to 1 January 1919.
Other 1920-06-01 - 1923-06-01 Appointed Chief of General Staff, AIF.
Date of honour or award 1920-10-15 Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO).
Date of honour or award 1921-01-21 Japanese Order of the Rising Sun - 2nd Class.
Date of honour or award 1921-02-03 French Croix de Guerre.
Other 1923 Resigned from the Army to become the first Chairman of the Public Service Board.
Date of discharge 1923-06-01 White resigned from the Army to become the first Chairman of the Public Service Board.
Date of honour or award 1927-07-08 Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).
Other 1928 Retired from position as first Chairman of the Public Service Board.
Other 1940-03-15 Recalled to active duty and enlisted in the 2nd AIF. White was promoted to full general and reappointed as Chief of the General Staff.
Date of death 1940-08-13 Killed in a plane crash near Canberra airport.