In September 1955 I was posted to AHQ in Melbourne as B.G.S. In this job I was to control, directly under the C.G.S., three directorates -- Intelligence, Operations and Plans. As I had previously been DMO & P from 1947 to 1951 I was on familiar ground!
This posting meant a further family upheaval and frantic search for accommodation in Melbourne. We eventually secured a flat in Quamby Avenue off Toorak Road, Toorak. A convenient location for all of us. Son John remained as a boarder at Cranbrook until the end of the school year and at the commencement of the following year joined us in Melbourne and then attended Melbourne Grammar School as a day boy. Robert and Virginia attended a small church school on Toorak Road.
We found the flat in Quamby Avenue rather cramped after the comparative spaciousness of the quarters in Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and the other recreational facilities there.
1955 - 1957
In addition to purely army matters, I was again concerned with Joint Service matters and also with International planning matters related to S.E.A.T.O. As the senior Australian planner, I attended a series of S.E.A.T.O. planning meetings in various localities nominated by member countries of S.E.A.T.O. These were held successively in Singapore, Bangkok, Manila, Karachi, Hawaii, Wellington (N.Z.).
In addition, I accompanied the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Australian Military Adviser to the annual S.E.A.T.O. Council Meetings.
Also on Army business, related to our troops in Malaysia, I visited Singapore and Malaysia on frequent occasions. (In 1950 I had attended the 5 power meeting at Singapore for discussions on French Indo-China -- at that time the French Forces had not suffered their final defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The French representative at this meeting was Marshal de Latho de Terriguy, the C-in-C of French Forces in Indo-China. He was a fine military figure with a proud and haughty manner. He spoke perfect English but refused to do so at the meeting which he claimed must be held in French and then translated for the benefit of those ignorant people from the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand and United States who could not speak French. He would listen carefully to the translation and if the interpreter made the smallest error or did not quite get the shade of meaning required, the Marshal would interrupt and give the correct translation in perfect English! At the meeting the Marshal also claimed at the opening meeting that Australia and New Zealand should not be seated and speak at the meeting unless the Vietnamese and Cambodians were also seated. Alternatively, they could attend as observers. He could see no difference in the relationship between France and her colonies in French Indo-China on the one hand, and between the United Kingdom and Australia.
The next morning he made amends by insisting on having press photos showing the Marshal and the Australian Representative (me) embracing each other and talking in very friendly terms. I have no doubt that overnight his political adviser had been advising him and briefing him about relationships between members of the British Commonwealth!
This meeting did not accomplish any tangible results -- not because of the above incident, but because nothing which could have been done at that late stage could have salvaged the French position in Vietnam.
COMMANDANT, ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE, DUNTROON
In March 1957 I was appointed Commandant, R.M.C., Duntroon and promoted to the rank of Major General. From the family viewpoint (as well as for me professionally), this was a very pleasant posting. Housing presented no problem because a large house with spacious grounds was provided as the official residence of the Commandant. The rent charged was reasonable and had regard to the fact that the Commandant was expected to entertain numerous official and other visitors to the College and also, as the senior military officer then resident in A.C.T., to participate in numerous extra-mural activities in Canberra -- official and social. (The Defence group of departments moved from Melbourne to Canberra in 1959).
Son John remained in Melbourne as a boarder at Melbourne Grammar School from which he graduated with excellent Matriculation results. He then went on to Sydney University. He chose Civil Engineering as his profession and graduated as a Master of Engineering Science in a minimum time of 4 years. Robert and Virginia accompanied us to Duntroon and from there attended the Canberra Grammar Schools - as day pupils.
The Commandant's task at Duntroon has always been an interesting and challenging one ever since the R.M.C. was established in 1911. Successive Commandants have developed and adapted the course to keep up to date with changes in both the military and civilian worlds but the aim of the College has not changed only the method of achieving the aim has changed. The basic aim of the College is well stated in the "Charter of the R.M.C." as contained in the "R.M.C. Handbook 1977".
In 1957 it was clearly evident that to keep abreast with the modern world it would be necessary to increase the academic content of the course which at that stage comprised about 50% of the total course. It was also necessary to raise academic standards so universities would grant credits for second year subjects as well as for first year. The ultimate objective was for Duntroon to grant its own degrees (instead of a Diploma) which would be recognised by the universities as was already done in U.S.A. in the case of West Point and in Canada at the R.M.C. Kingston.
During my time I endeavoured, without success, to make an arrangement with the A.N.U. My successors continued their efforts and ultimately made a satisfactory arrangement with the University of N.S.W. which is now current and under which suitable qualified cadets may be granted the Degree of B.A., B.Sc. or B.E. by the University of N.S.W. This arrangement envisaged that, at the end of a ten year period ending in 1978, the R.M.C. would have developed into an autonomous degree granting body. In March 1974 the government announced that an Australian Defence Force Academy would be established at Duntroon to meet the academic requirements of all three services in 3 year courses, and that this would replace the academic courses now conducted at the existing separate service colleges.* The latter would continue to exist but would consist of one year courses concentrating entirely on military studies relating to the needs which were peculiar to each service.
It will be noted that of the four years training which each service cadet of the future will receive, 75% of the course will be academic as opposed to the 50% which existed in 1957 when 1 became Commandant at R.M.C. It is also most important to know that the academic course at the new Defence Force Academy will be carried out in a "military environment" and the courses will be tailored to meet the special requirements of the Defence Force.
Since 1957 I had been in favour of this kind of arrangement and whilst Commandant at R.M.C., had endeavoured to have the R.A.A.F. (Royal Australian Air Force) attend a common academic course at Duntroon. This failed and the R.A.A.F. embarked on setting up an academic course under an arrangement with the University of Melbourne. A very expensive arrangement for a total of 100 cadets (4 classes of about 25). In those days Service rivalries and jealousies were too strong. So it was with great pleasure that in 1968 I became a member of a Committee chaired by Professor Leslie Martin of Melbourne University to examine the question of a Joint Service Academy. By this time I was Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and was able to exert considerable influence on the Committee. At the time of writing this -- 1977 -- detailed planning is proceeding for the Australian Defence Force Academy (as recommended by the Martin Committee). The target date for the Academy to open is 1980. In the meantime the existing single service colleges will continue to exist.
1957 - 1960
At R.M.C., whilst I was Commandant, I was responsible for the whole college. This meant supervising and coordinating the academic studies, the military studies and the administration. This was done through the Dean (Professor T. Sutherland, who, incidentally, as a young lecturer, had taught me mathematics when I was a cadet in 1927), the Director of Military Art and Colonel i/c Administration. The two latter departments were no problem to me but I was not familiar with the academic world and I learnt a great deal about it during the three years that I was Commandant.
Each year we had a curriculum review committee chaired by me with members nominated by Sydney and Melbourne Universities and the A.N.U. Other members were nominated from Aust Army HQ and N.Z. Army HQ (N.Z. sends about 10 cadets each year to Duntroon). In this way I got to meet many distinguished and helpful professors. At the end of each year I had to preside over a meeting of faculty members to decide the fate of cadets who had not made sufficient progress in their academic or military work or were considered unlikely to develop into effective army officers. Afterwards I had the difficult and often harrowing task of telling these cadets what their fate was to be -- a pep talk to stimulate a cadet or tell a cadet he had to repeat a year or telling a cadet he would be discharged from the R.M.C.! Reasons were given in each case.
Another annual task was the selection of the new entry. This involved visiting the capital of each State of the Commonwealth as Chairman of a Selection Board and testing and interviewing each applicant who was medically fit and suitably qualified educationally. At that time we used to receive about 600 applicants for about 100 vacancies. Of these about 200 were eliminated on medical or educational grounds and I never saw these. From the remaining 400 we had great difficulty in selecting 100 young men who were suitable in all respects - intellectually, physically, emotional stability, leadership potential. A combination not present in most young men. Of the 100 who entered the college, about 70 would graduate - about 20 being eliminated at the end of the first year.
My dealings with staff -- both academic and military -- presented some interesting challenges. The following examples provide a sample.
Religion: The cadet population's religious denominations were a good reflection of the total population of Australia, one-third were R.C.s (Roman Catholics) and the remainder C. of E. (Church of England) and O.P.D. (other protestant denominations). One military instructor became a fanatical Jehovah's Witness and used to have meetings of cadets in his quarters. The official padres of all denominations objected to this "poaching" on their Clocks and reported it to me. I spoke to the officer concerned, pointing out to him that his job was military instruction and not religious instruction, and moreover that although the cadets went voluntarily to meetings at his quarters, he should remember that an invitation to a cadet to come to his quarters was regarded by cadets as equivalent to a command. He could not see this point of view so I had him posted to another appointment away from Duntroon. It should be realised that most cadets in the college were minors and their parents had to agree in writing to their sons entering the college. In the same document they stated the church service they wished their son to attend. So, in a sense, as well as being Commandant, I was acting in loco parentis regarding the cadet's spiritual and moral well-being.
In 1957 there were no official chapels at the college. The church services were carried out in various lecture theatres in different parts of the college. On Sundays they would assemble in one place and then march off in different directions to worship. Early in my appointment I resolved to correct this and get permanent chapels built. Government policy was that the building of permanent chapels in army establishments was the responsibility of the churches concerned. Helped by an energetic committee of serving and retired officers, both Regular and Citizen Military Force (C.M.F.), I managed to get Appeals Committees set up in each state to collect donations to build a chapel complex which would contain two chapels joined by a narthex. This meant that the cadets would all enter the complex by a common entrance foyer and divide when they got inside. As far as I know, this is the only such chapel complex built anywhere.
So it was a kind of ecumenical triumph which required persuasion of, and agreement of, the heads of the various churches in Australia. I was fortunate indeed to have enormous support from the Chaplain General and the services of a brilliant architect. By the time I left Duntroon in 1960 the appeal for funds was doing extremely well and the location of the complex was fixed and the plans and specifications had been prepared. It fell to my successor (Maj. Gen. Knight) to get the chapel built. By the time I returned to Australia from Bangkok in 1962 the chapel had been completed, dedicated and officially opened and was in use. Appropriately, the chapel complex stands almost opposite the entrance to the Commandant's quarters.
Buildings: It was a constant struggle to obtain funds for our building programme designed to replace many of the "temporary" buildings which had been built in 1911 and the additional buildings needed for an expanding cadet population, married quarters for instructors and staff, quarters and messes for single members of the staff, a military instruction wing, a library, and lecture rooms and laboratories for the expanded academic curriculum. I took a keen interest in the design and progress of construction of the buildings which were approved during my time as Commandant. These included the Military Instruction wing and library, two new cadet blocks and alterations and additions to the cadets' mess, the engineering laboratory and additional Physics and Chemistry block, new barracks and canteen for the soldiers and the staff.
Of the numerous VIPs who came to Canberra, quite a large percentage had a visit to Duntroon included in their itinerary. These included quite a few Heads of State and Chiefs of Staff and senior officers of many nations. In this way I met many interesting and well-known people. For example, President Diem, President of South Vietnam, spent quite a few hours with me, and was very interested in everything -- included in his entourage were a few of his top generals whom I was to see later in Vietnam. General Maxwell Taylor, whom I had known in Korea, came to Duntroon while he was Chief of Staff of U.S. Army. I was to have dealings with him also in Vietnam later on when he then was U.S. Ambassador there.
Sir William Slim was Governor-General of Australia while I was Commandant so I got to know him well. As C in C of the Defence Forces, he used to be the inspecting officer at the more important of the ceremonial parades held at Duntroon. He also made a point of including Helen and me at most of the important functions at Government House. At that time the number of Ambassadors in Canberra was much fewer than today and we got to know most of them, and their outlook and modus operandi. The same applies to the academics of the A.N.U.
During my time at Duntroon I had my first real exposure to, and contacts with, the political world. Previously my only contacts had been with the various Ministers for Defence and Army -- but then as a staff officer supporting the C.G.S. In Canberra it was inevitable that I should meet the P.M. (Menzies) and his Cabinet Ministers quite frequently and also many of the backbenchers -- many of them now senior Ministers in the present government. I also met most of the senior members of the opposition and Public Servants who were heads of Departments. It was all very interesting and instructive and I learnt a great deal which was invaluable to me when I later became C.G.S. and subsequently Chairman C.O.S.C.
When the Defence and Service Departments were still located in Melbourne there was very little direct contact between the Chiefs of Staff and their Minister and with the Minister of Defence. This put the Service Secretaries and particularly the Defence Secretary, in a very powerful position vis-a-vis the Ministers. The former traveled frequently to Canberra to transact the business of their departments and of the Services with the Minister. The Service Secretaries and the Defence Secretary were thus in the position where they were required to present the recommendations of the Service Boards to the Ministers. This would inevitably entail some interpretation and explanation of the military viewpoint. Not a good system and one which placed the Secretaries in an invidious and influential position regarding military matters. This was a problem which I was determined to resolve and spent much effort on later when I became C.O.S. and later Chairman of the C.O.S. Committee. (See separate papers on Defence Reorganisation)
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