Biography

Birth date: 29 March 1895
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, East Malvern
Death date: 05 March 1945
Death place: Australia: Queensland, Machans Beach
Final rank: Major General
Service number: First World War, 1914-1918
VX9 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • Australian Military Forces
  • HQ 7 AUST DIV (SUPERNUMERY LIST-E & HQ 7 DIV)
  • Divisional Artillery
  • 3rd Australian Division
  • 2nd Australian Divisional Artillery
  • 11th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
  • Royal Australian Artillery
  • 6 Australian Division
  • 19th Australian Infantry Brigade

George Vasey, one of the most renowned Australian generals of the Second World War, was born at East Malvern, Melbourne, on 29 March 1895. He entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon in March 1913 and was in a class that graduated early after the outbreak of the First World War. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the permanent military forces and transferred to the AIF in June 1915.

Vasey reached France in March the following year and fought on the Somme with the 2nd Divisional Artillery. In August he was promoted to captain and given command of the 13th Field Battery in November. From August 1917 until 1919, Vasey served as Brigade Major of the 11th Infantry Brigade; he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918.

After his AIF appointment ended in November 1919, Vasey returned to the militia as a lieutenant but held the honorary rank of major. Sixteen years passed before the rank was made substantive. In the meantime, Vasey married in 1921, held a number of relatively uninteresting militia posts, attended Staff College in Quetta, India, and qualified as an accountant.

In 1934 he returned to India, first as Brigade Major of the 8th Indian Brigade and then serving on the headquarters of the Rawalpindi District. Back in Australia in 1937, Vasey served with Army Headquarters in Melbourne before being promoted to lieutenant colonel in November 1939.

After the Second World War began, Vasey was appointed as Blamey's Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General in the 6th Division. He sailed for Palestine in December 1939. In March 1940 he was promoted to temporary brigadier commanding the 19th Brigade. Vasey performed well in the disastrous Greek campaign, often visiting forward areas and conducting skilled defensive actions. He then commanded the Australian forces in Crete.

Having been awarded a bar to his Distinguished Service Order, Vasey returned to Australia, was promoted to temporary major general, and in September 1942 went to Port Moresby to command the 6th Division. A month later he took over the 7th Division, then engaged on the Kokoda Trail. Vasey's men then fought in the battles for Gona and Sanananda on Papua's coast. It is a cliché to say that Vasey was loved by his men but the respect in which he was genuinely held made him one of the AIF's most popular commanders.

In 1943 he was involved in the successful capture of Lae before sending his troops up the Markham and Ramu valleys and occupying Kaiapit. In February 1944 Vasey became ill and was evacuated to Australia. Further sickness followed and he was unfit to resume his duties until he was given command of the 6th Division in early 1945. On 5 March he flew to New Guinea to take up his command but the Hudson aircraft in which he was travelling crashed into the sea off Cairns, killing Vasey and all on board.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Major General
  • Date of Death: 05 March 1945
  • Unit: HQ 7 AUST DIV (SUPERNUMERY LIST-E & HQ 7 DIV)
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Date of embarkation: 18 November 1915
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: 3rd Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 11th Australian Infantry Brigade
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Brevet Major
  • Unit: Australian Military Forces
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Honorary Captain
  • Unit: Australian Military Forces
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Mention in despatches
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: 2nd Australian Divisional Artillery
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Service Order
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Greek Military Cross, Class A
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: 3rd Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 11th Australian Infantry Brigade
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: Divisional Artillery
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Royal Australian Artillery
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 11th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Bar to Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: 19th Australian Infantry Brigade
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: 6 Australian Division
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: United States Distinguished Service Cross
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: 2nd Australian Divisional Artillery
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Greek War Cross, First Class
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

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Timeline

Date of birth 1895-03-29 East Malvern, VIC.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1913-03 Entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
Other 1915-05 After graduating he was comissioned as a lieutenant in the permanent military forces.
Other 1915-06 Transferred to the AIF.
Date of embarkation 1915-11-18
Other units 1916-03 Vasey reached France and fought on the Somme with the Divisional Artillery.
Date promoted 1916-08 Promoted to captain.
Other units 1916-11 Given command of the 13th Field Battery.
Other units 1917 - 1919 Vasey served as brigade major of the 11th Infantry Brigade.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-03
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-09
Date of honour or award 1918-06-03 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
Date of honour or award 1918-10-24 Mention in Despatches.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-02-07
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-03-27
Date of recommendation honour or award 1919-03-30
Date of honour or award 1919-10-30 Mention in Despatches.
Date of discharge 1919-11 AIF appointment ended and Vasey returned to the militia as a lieutenant, and honorary major.
Date promoted 1934 Appointed brigade major of the 8th Indian Brigade.
Date returned to Australia 1937 Vasey served with Army Headquarters in Melbourne.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1939-10-31 Enlisted in the 2nd AIF.
Date promoted 1939-11 Appointed lieutenant colonel.
Other units 1939-12 Appointed as assistant adjutant and quartermaster general in the 6th Division, and sailed for Palestine.
Date promoted 1940-03 Appointed temporary brigadier commanding the 19th Brigade.
Date of honour or award 1941-04-01 Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Date of honour or award 1941-11-04 Bar to Distinguished Service Order.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1942-09-14 - 1943-03-14 Appointed officer in command of 6th Division, AIF, in New Guinea.
Other units 1942-10 Took command of the 7th Division.
Other 1943 Involved in the successful battles Nadzab and Lae.
Date of honour or award 1943-05-28 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Other 1944-02 Became ill and was evacuated back to Australia and deemed unfit for duty.
Date of honour or award 1944-11-23 Greek War Cross - First Class.
Date of honour or award 1944-11-23 United States Distinguished Service Cross.
Other 1945 Resumed command of the 6th Division.
Date of death 1945-03-05 Died when his plane, a Hudson, crashed into the sea at Machans Beach, just north of Cairns in Queensland. Vasey was flying to New Guinea to take up his command. All on board were killed.
Date of honour or award 1945-03-08 Posthumously recieved a Mention in Despatches.