Sturdee, Vernon Ashton Hobart.

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Sturdee, Vernon Ashton Hobart, born 16-04-1890, in Frankston, Victoria, the son Alfred Hobart Sturdee (1863–1939) and Laura Isabel Merrett “Lil” Sturdee (1864–1944).Alfred Hobert Sturdee, a medical practitioner from England, came from a prominent naval family and was the brother of Doveton Sturdee, who later became an admiral of the fleet. Alfred emigrated to Australia in the 1880s, travelling as a ship’s doctor. He served in the Boer War, where he was mentioned in despatches after he rode under fire to a donga near the enemy’s position to aid wounded men. Re-enlisting in the Australian Army Medical Corps as a captain in January 1905, he was promoted to major in August 1908 and lieutenant colonel in December 1912. He later commanded the 2nd Field Ambulance at Gallipoli and, with the rank of colonel, was Assistant Director of Medical Services of the 1st Division on the Western Front. He received three more mentions in despatches and was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George. His Australian-born wife Laura, known as Lil, was the sister of Charles Merrett, a prominent businessman and Militia officer. Her half-brother, Colonel Harry Perrin, was another Militia officer.

Vernon Sturdee was educated at Melbourne Grammar School, before being apprenticed to an engineer at Jaques Brothers, Richmond, Victoria. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, the Militia’s engineer component, on 19-10-1908, he was promoted to lieutenant in the Royal Australian Engineers, as the permanent component was then known, on 01-02-1911. He married Edith Georgina Robins on 04-02-1913 at St Luke’s Church of England, North Fitzroy, Melbourne.

In the First World War he saw action at Gallipoli and then served in France, where he commanded the 4th Pioneer Battalion. He was twice mentioned in despatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917.

After the war Sturdee remained in military roles both in Australia and Britain. He was first honoured as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and then as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

At the outbreak of World WarII he held the Eastern Command in Sydney, where he was involved in training and equipping army units. In 1939, the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Ernest Squires, implemented a reorganisation of the Army in which the old military districts were replaced by larger commands led by Lieutenant Generals. Ernest Squires health failed him and he died 02-03-1940 . age 57, after cancer surgery in St Ives Private Hospital, East Melbourne. He was cremated at Springvale Crematorium, Melbourne, and is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Victoria Cremation Memorial there.

On 13-10-1939, Sturdee was promoted from Colonel to Lieutenant General and assumed control of the new Eastern Command.  He had to supervise the raising, training and equipping of the new Second Australian Imperial Force units being formed in New South Wales, as well as the now-conscript Militia. He was then appointed as Chief of General Staff from 1940 to 1942, in which position he strongly advocated for the defence of Port Moresby as a base for counter attacks in Papua and New Guinea. He also called for the return of Australian forces stationed in the Middle East to counter the threat of Japanese invasion, a view supported by Australian Prime Minister Curtin but strongly opposed by London and Washington.

Sturdee returned to active service in 1945 as Commander of the 1st Army and accepted the surrender of Japanese forces on board HMS Glory at Rabaul.

On 06-09-1945, Sturdee received the surrender of Japanese forces in the First Army area from General Hitoshi Imamura, the commander of the Japanese Eighth Area Army, and Admiral Jinichi Kusaka, the commander of the South East Area Fleet, in a ceremony held on the deck of the British aircraft carrier HMS Glory at Rabaul. The two Japanese swords handed over in the surrender ceremony, together with the sword worn by Sturdee,  which was his father’s, were presented to the Australian War Memorial by Lady Sturdee in 1982. For his service in the final campaigns, Blamey recommended Sturdee for a knighthood, but this was reduced to a third mention in despatches.

Field Marshal Bernard “Monty” Montgomery,   Chief of the Imperial General Staff, meets with Sturdee and the other members of the Military Board.

After the war he again served as Chief of General Staff until his retirement in 1950. The following year he was honoured as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Sturdee maintained his association with Melbourne Grammar and was President of The Old Melburnians.

Death and burial ground of Sturdee, Vernon Ashton Hobart.


Sturdee, Vernon Ashton Hobart.died on 25-05-1966, age 76, at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. He was accorded a funeral with full military honours, and cremated. Lieutenant General Sir Edmund Herring, a boyhood friend from Melbourne Grammar, was principal pall bearer. Sturdee was survived by his wife, their daughter and one of their two sons. Before he died, he burned all his private papers. “I have done the job,” he said. “It is over.” Vernon Sturdee is buried at Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Springvale, Greater Dandenong City, Victoria, Australia, Section, Boronia, Wall ZE, Niche 370.


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