Blamey: Controversial Leader

Field Marshall Sir Thomas Blamey – Australia’s most promoted, but least appreciated soldier.

The most recent diatribe against Field Marshall Sir Thomas Blamey by ‘historian’ Michael McKernan (The Strength of a Nation) is based on a false premise. In the latest attempt to besmirch the reputation of Australia’s most senior commander McKernan obviously accepts the ‘rumours’ about Blamey’s address at Koitaki as ‘fact’. Students with an interest in Blamey’s life would be better advised to read Blamey: the Commander-in-Chief by David Horner.

Students should also review the 2005 Blamey Oration delivered by Major General Gordon Maitland AO OBE RFD ED on the 54th anniversary of the death of the Field Marshal on 27 May 1951.

Professor David Horner and Major General Gordon Maitland are both ex-army and as such they both have an understanding of the culture of the military. This is reflected in the objective research evident in Horner’s biography on Blamey and Maitland’s 2005 Blamey Oration to the Royal Services Institute.

Some contemporary writers posing as ‘military historians’ have been inclined to use ‘heresay’ as the basis of their research. Maitland suggests that because Blamey was appointed by Menzies these ‘modern history commentators’ regard him as a ‘Liberal’ and have therefore decreed him to be fair game. They also understand that controversial statements dressed up as ‘research’ are more likely to attract media attention to their books.

Nobody suggests Blamey was a saint – he apparently enjoyed the company of women and also enjoyed a beer or three. Strewth!

In his 2005 Blamey Oration General Maitland reviews several controversial relationships and events in Blamey’s career and, in seeking to set the record straight, presents new evidence from his own research on the Kokoda campaign.
In his address, Maitland asks his audience to
“Please temporarily expunge from your memories your past reading and listen today with a completely open mind. Why? You might well ask. Because to an extent you have been influenced by writers who have allowed themselves to be influenced. They have done well in bringing us splendid descriptions of terrain, events and experiences, but some have produced conclusions beyond their competence to make. Think of all that has been written about the Kokoda Trail, including the published deductions, conclusions and accusations. Yet you will fail to find any worthwhile analysis of the conduct of operations.

Also, the influences which shape a commander’s decisions range well beyond those that can later be identified by historians, some of whom lack understanding of the culture of the army”.
Click here to read the full transcript of this well researched and authorative address by Major General Gordon Maitland.

Posted by Charlie Lynn

Comments

  1. Has Norman Carlyon’s book ‘I Remember Blamey’ (Macmillan) been reviewed?
    (I have a copy, I could make it available)

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