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Obituaries Australia

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White, Sir Cyril Brudenell (1876–1940)

Sir Cyril Brudenell White, c1940

Sir Cyril Brudenell White, c1940

Australian War Memorial, 001110

The work done for Australia in war and peace by Lieut General Sir Cyril Brudenell White made him a great Australian. In military circles in Australia and abroad he was recognised as a great soldier. He was at one time ADC to King George. V, and when aged 42 years was the youngest lieutenant-general in the Empire. Dr C E W Bean Australia’s official war historian described him thus General White by sheer force of a wonderful quick intellect and wide swift grasp was the leading influence in the AIF from the day General Bridges chose him for his chief-of-staff.

As acting chief of the general staff in 1914 he was one of the great figures behind events which brought Australia into the war against Germany and it was who handled the important details of mobilisation. He played a prominent part in the Gallipoli landing, and was later Birdwood’s chief of-staff.

He was recalled from retirement in March this year to become chief of the general staff of the Australian Military Forces in succession to the late Lieut-General E K Squires.

He was born at St Arnaud (V) in 1876 and left his job as a bank clerk in Queensland to join the Royal Australian Artillery. He served with distinction in the South African War receiving the Queen’s Medal with three clasps. He graduated at the British Military Staff College with high honours.

With the rank of lieutenant-colonel he left Australia in 1914 as chief of staff of the First Division (in which Brigadier Street was then serving as a young subaltern). Lieut-Colonel White’s advice was sought by General Birdwood and his staff when preparing plans for the historic landing at Gallipoli.

He was appointed chief of staff to General Birdwood in 1916 and when Birdwood was appointed to command the British Fifth Army he refused to part with the brilliant Australian.

After the war he returned to Melbourne to become chief of the general staff a position that he held until 1923 He was chief organiser for Australia for the visit of the Prince of Wales (now Duke of Windsor) was chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board from 1923 to 1928 and then entered the business world, from which he was requisitioned as chief of the general staff five months ago He was given leave from his position as chairman of the local board of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Co Ltd.

Sir Brudenell White’s decorations included KCB KCMG KCVO, DSO, Queen’s Medal, Croix de Guerre, Gold Order of Merit (Montenegro), Belgian Croix de Guerre, Japanese Order of Rising Sun, and Order of Aviz (Portugal) He was a patron of the Legacy Club.

Original publication

Citation details

'White, Sir Cyril Brudenell (1876–1940)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 October 2020.

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