Who's Who - Sir Brudenell White

Brudenell White General Sir Cyril Brudenell Bingham White (1876-1940) served as Chief of Staff to Sir William Birdwood during World War One, and at one point turned down an offer from Douglas Haig to command the Australian Corps.  He was appointed Australian Chief of General Staff with the outbreak of the Second World War before his death in a plane crash in 1940.

Brudenell White was born on 23 September 1876 at St. Arnaud, Victoria.  Educated at Brisbane Central Boy's School and Eton Preparatory School, Nundah, White left school at the age of 15 to take up a position as clerk at the Australian Joint Stock Bank in Brisbane.  His lack of formal education later proved a handicap during his wartime service.

White was commissioned into the 2nd Queensland Regiment in 1897 and the following year passed an examination enabling him to receive a commission into the Permanent Military Forces in the Queensland Artillery.

Having served briefly in the closing stages of the Boer War in 1902 as a junior officer (with the Commonwealth Light Horse) he was appointed General Hutton's aide-de-camp, touring Australia and building a familiarity with the composition and running of the Australian defence service.

Hutton, impressed with White, arranged on his behalf a signal honour: attendance at the British Staff College in Camberley in 1906-07, the first Australian to do so.  Having successfully passed he returned to his home country in 1908 and received a promotion to Captain with a posting to the intelligence department under Colonel Bridges (then Chief of Intelligence).

His posting with Colonel Bridges proved short however; within months he was on his way back to London to serve at the War Office.  Having built a reputation for staff work he returned to Australia in 1911 to take up an appointment at Director of Military Operations, receiving a promotion to Major.

It was in this latter role that White took upon himself the responsibility for preparing (largely in secret) the forerunner of what eventually became the AIF expeditionary force.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 - and Australia's immediate entry into the war in support of Britain - White's former boss, Colonel Bridges, was appointed to command of the newly-constructed AIF.  White was appointed his Chief of Staff (as Lieutenant Colonel), the first of several such staff appointments during the war.

White, having assisted Bridges with the deployment of the AIF to Egypt and then to Gallipoli, was awarded the DSO in recognition of his efforts.  Promoted to Brigadier General in October 1915 White was placed under the command of William Birdwood, Bridge's successor.

White, along with Birdwood (who left much of the day to day management of his forces to his Chief of Staff), were handed the task of preparing the evacuation of Anzac, which (unlike earlier operations of the campaign) passed off smoothly.

White accompanied Birdwood's subsequent posting to France with the Australian and New Zealand Forces (ANZAC).  He was promoted to Major General on 1 January 1917.

Douglas Haig, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) suggested to White in July 1917 that he should be given command of the ANZAC Corps; however White backed Birdwood, much to Haig's displeasure (having little faith in Birdwood).  The post eventually went to Sir John Monash with Birdwood's eventual promotion to command of Fifth Army in May 1918.

Knighted following the war and promoted Major General, White continued to serve with the Australian army until his resignation in 1923 to enable him to enter business.

He was recalled to active service on 15 March 1940 with his re-appointment as Chief of the General Staff.  Promoted full General - only the third Australian to be so - his term in office was brief.  He was killed, along with nine others, in a plane crash near to Canberra airport on 13 August 1940.

Around one million Indian troops served in WW1, of which some 100,000 were either killed or wounded.

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