The World at War


Major-General George Alan Vasey

George Alan Vasey George Alan Vasey was born at East Malvern, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on the 29th March 1895. George Vasey grew up in an era when Australia was struggling towards a national identity, a time of imperial commitment to the Boer War and the amalgamation of the separate colonies into Federation. In 1907 after three years at Canterbury Grammar School, he went off to Wesley College Melbourne and proved to be an able scholar. In 1911 the Royal Military College opened at Duntroon, near Canberra, which offered a unique opportunity for free tuition. In applying for Duntroon Vasey at eighteen provided a school reference for entrance to the University of Melbourne, had been a second Lieutenant in the Commonwealth Senior Cadets and the entry class of 1913 was the most successful in Duntroon's history. Of the 33 entrants - six became generals, four became brigadiers and nine were killed in action during the Great War as junior officers.
     Vasey served during the First World War upon graduating in June 1915, being appointed to the First AIF and sailed for Suez towards the end of the year arriving in France as a gunners officer in the 4th Field Artillery Brigade. He saw action on the Somme in the summer of 1916 where his capacity for command and staff work was at once evident and before the end of the year was a battery commander. After the Messines battle of June 1917 he was appointed brigade-major of the 11th Infantry Brigade. He came through the actions of Passchendaele October 1917, the stopping of the German breakthrough near Amiens in March 1918 and was on the Somme again before the war's end. At twenty-four years old he had been awarded the DSO and mentioned in dispatches and for over a year had held the highest rank regulations permitted.
     The between war years Vasey made the usual professional soldiers tour of duty in India, where he passed through Quetta Staff College in 1928-29. Later he had two more tours in India, as brigade-major of the Bareilly Infantry Brigade 1934-36 and as GSO2 at Headquarters Rawalpiadi District in 1936-37. His forthrightness and crisp honesty of his opinions, flexible of mind and tireless commitment and vital administrative work gained the esteem of his colleagues and subalterns.
     Vasey was forty-five when war broke out again for the British Empire and its Commonwealth. He had married and his two sons were growing up in Melbourne, Australia. His Second AIF enlistment number for volunteers was VX 9 and he went with the advance party to Palestine being the Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General. Became GSO1 for the 6th Division then commanding officer of the 19 Brigade, 7th Division. His brigade bore the brunt of the fighting in Greece during April 1941 and he commanded the entire Australian force in Crete during the battle against the German airborne assault the following month.
     As commander of the 7th Division in Papua-New Guinea during 1942 he commanded the advance from Kokoda to Buna and later at Sanananda. By September 1943 his division airlanded into Markham Valley, captured Lae and advanced into the Ramu Valley and forcing the stubborn Japanese defenders from Shaggy Ridge.
     He was killed in an air crash off Cairns in March 1945 while flying back to New Guinea to take command of the 6th Division at Aitipe Papua-New Guinea. Tactical flair, innovation and imagination marked Vasey's command, he also displayed leadership qualities in adverse conditions. During this war Vasey was bestowed with a CB, CBE, a bar to DSO, the Greek Military Cross and the American Distinguished Service Cross. To these tokens of recognition must be added the intangible honour of complete trust and affection his troops gave him. Vasey, wearing his red-banded cap of a staff officer and a breast load of ribbons, moved regularly through the front line "hot spots" where rule of survival was to be inconspicuous and as he passed on by the troops swore with admiration for they knew that he was not deliberately "putting on a show" for their benefit but it was natural for him to treat war as a brisk normality.

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