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Sturdee file photo [8757]

Vernon Sturdee

Given NameVernon
Born16 Apr 1890
Died25 May 1966


ww2dbaseVernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee was the son of a medical practitioner, born in Frankston, Victoria, Australia at the beginning of the last decade of the nineteenth century. In 1911 Vernon Sturdee joined the Royal Australian Engineers, receiving the rank of lieutenant. He married Edith Robins in the Melbourne suburb of North Fitzroy on 4 February 1913. Upon the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Sturdee was promoted to the rank of captain in the AIF. In 1915 he achieved the rank of major, and given command of the 5th Field Company, 2nd Divisional Engineers. The following year he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). As the war drew to a close, Sturdee was seconded to the British General Headquarters, where he was assigned to the position of second officer in the General Staff. The year the armistice was signed Sturdee was awarded the Order of the British Empire. With peace in Europe secured for the time being, the troops of the AIF began the long journey home. After arrival in Australia in 1921 Sturdee performed staff duties in Melbourne. In 1923 he was enrolled in the Staff College in Quetta, and the following year he served as an Instructor at the Royal Military College at Duntroon. He performed staff duties and went on exchange to the UK, until he became Director of Operations and Intelligence at Army HQ in Melbourne in 1933. In 1939 Sturdee was promoted to temporary lieutenant-general, and given the task of raising and training AIF units in NSW. Around this time a British officer that had been assigned to the position of Australian Chief of General Staff (CGS), General Squires, died. His successors were Australian but did not remain in the position long. In 1940 Sturdee had readily accepted a demotion to major-general, to command the 8th Division in Malaya. On 13 August 1940 the officer that held the position of Australian CGS for most of 1940, Brudenell White, perished in an aircraft crash outside a Canberra aerodrome. Vernon Sturdee was recalled and put in the position of Australian CGS, choosing Gordon Bennett to replace him as the commanding officer of the 8th Division while he returned to Australia to perform the duties of the CGS, receiving a promotion to lieutenant-general. Sturdee was a man with integrity who always said what he thought, when inspecting the 49th (militia) Battalion in Port Moresby during 1941. Sturdee called them "the worst battalion in Australia". He was appointed head of the Australian Military Mission to Washington in 1942. When Churchill hoped to divert the 7th Division of the AIF from transit across the Indian Ocean to Burma or Java in 1942, Sturdee objected to any diversion of Australian troops by threatening to quit his important post unless Curtin insisted the AIF divisions in transit be returned to the Australian mainland. He was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1943. As 1944 drew to a close, Sturdee was given command of the First Army, and was ordered by Blamey to discisively remove the Japanese from areas that the Australians had been garrisoning since October 1944. The men Sturdee commanded found him to be "a wise and tolerant commander who gave clear orders" and left his subordinates "to get on with the job, whilst doing his utmost that they were adequately supported". Receiving criticisms from MacArthur, parliamentarians, press, and officers in the Australian Army for his handling of forces during this period, Blamey was removed from his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces in 1945, and Vernon Sturdee chosen as his successor. Four months after his appointment as C-in-C, Sturdee resumed the duties of Australian CGS again. Sydney Rowell, the officer to become the new CGS, described Sturdee as "a kindly, humble, and simple man who carried out his work with a minimum of fuss". With Sturdee's retirement in 1950, the position of C-in-C was disbanded. After retirement he lived in Kooyong, Melbourne, performing duties as the director of the Australian arm of Standard Telephones and Cables. Vernon Sturdee was one of the pallbearers at Blamey's funeral in 1951, later that year Sturdee was awarded Knight of the British Empire (KBE).

ww2dbaseSources: P. Thompson, Pacific Fury, Wikipedia, D. Day, Politics of War, Australian Dictionary of Biography, P. Brune, A Bastard of a Place.

Last Major Revision: Nov 2009

Vernon Sturdee Timeline

16 Apr 1890 Vernon Sturdee was born.
25 May 1966 Vernon Sturdee passed away.


Australian Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee, 13 Jul 1945Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura signing the surrender document aboard HMS Glory off Rabaul, New Britain, 6 Sep 1945; Vice Admiral Junichi Kusaka and Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee were also present
See all 4 photographs of Vernon Sturdee

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Vernon Sturdee Photo Gallery
Australian Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee, 13 Jul 1945Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura signing the surrender document aboard HMS Glory off Rabaul, New Britain, 6 Sep 1945; Vice Admiral Junichi Kusaka and Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee were also present
See all 4 photographs of Vernon Sturdee

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