Field Marshal (Australia)

Field Marshal (Australia)

:"See Field Marshal for other countries which use this rank"Field Marshal is the highest rank of the Australian Army and was created as a direct equivalent of the British military rank of field marshal.

Equivalent ranks in the other services are Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force. Field Marshal is a 5 star rank. The subordinate army rank is General.

ir Thomas Blamey 1951

Sir Thomas Blamey was the first and is the only Australian-born field marshal. He was promoted to the rank on the insistence of the then Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies in 1951.

Blamey served in the World War I in the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF), from the horrors of trench warfare at the ANZAC positions at Gallipoli to duties as chief of staff to Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, Commander of the Australian Corps in France and Belgium. Blamey attained the rank of brigadier general by the war's end.

During the inter-war years he served as chief commissioner of the Victoria Police. During the 1920s and 1930s he expressed public concern over the state of the Australian Military Forces due to financial restrictions brought about by the Great Depression.

During World War II he commanded the 2nd AIF. He was promoted to General in 1941 and became Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces and Commander of Allied Land Forces in the South West Pacific Area under the overall command of United States General Douglas MacArthur.

Blamey attended Japan's ceremonial surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 3, 1945 and signed the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Australia. He later personally accepted the Japanese surrender at Morotai. In his address to the surrendering Japanese commander, Blamey declared: "...In accepting your surrender, I do not recognise you as an honourable foe...". This speech is also on display in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

The then British Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), Sir William Slim, himself a field marshal (and later governor-general of Australia), resisted Menzies' recommendation for Blamey's promotion, on the grounds that Dominion generals could not be made field marshals. At the time the CIGS was the final authority in the then British Commonwealth for such promotions. Menzies pointed out that Field Marshal Jan Smuts was a Dominion general. Slim countered by saying (untruthfully) that Blamey was a retired officer, and retired officers could not be promoted to field marshal. Menzies got around this restriction by recalling Blamey from retirement.

Blamey was, at the time of his promotion, seriously ill and mostly bed-ridden in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. He was handed his field marshal's baton at his bedside by the then Governor-General of Australia, Lord Gowrie. Blamey died three months later.


Blamey's field marshal's baton is on display in the Second World War galleries at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. It is about 40 centimetres (16 inches) long and at its top has a golden mount with two rings of roses, thistles and shamrocks surmounted by a miniature figure of Saint George mounted on his horse and battling a dragon with his lance. The miniature is about 8 centimetres (3 inches) high. The shaft of the baton is covered in scarlet velvet inlaid with a succession of golden lions passant along its length and around its circumference. The pommel (bottom end) of the baton is ornate solid gold with the details of the presentation to Blamey engraved on the base. It is identical to those of all field marshals of the United Kingdom since Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington in 1813, all of which have been made by the same firm, R. & S. Garrard & Co, Crown Jewellers, of London. The design is based upon that of the Marshal of France, the baton of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan captured by Wellington at Battle of Vitoria being used as a model. It should be noted that Blamey also appears in the List of British Field Marshals.

Lord Birdwood 1925

Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood, later Lord Birdwood, 1st Baron Birdwood, was a British Army officer who commanded the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) in the World War I. As such, he was given the rank of General in the AIF in 1917, and in the Australian Army in 1920. Despite his British origins, "Birdy", as he was known to the Australian soldiers, was a popular and respected commander and his promotion was seen as reward for his effective command of the AIF. When he was promoted to the rank of field marshal in the British Army in 1925, Birdwood was given the honorary rank of field marshal in the Australian Army. His baton is kept in the Australian War Memorial, but is not on display.

Duke of Edinburgh 1954

Currently, the only living Australian Field Marshal is HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was promoted to the rank of field marshal in the Australian Army on 1 April 1954 - over a year after he attained that rank in the British Army on 15 January 1953. However, as consort of Queen Elizabeth II, the duke's rank is purely ceremonial. He has no command or control role in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and is not part of the ADF's operational structure. He has never paraded as a field marshal with any units or elements of the ADF.

Current protocol

Only the Governor-General of Australia, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Australia, can appoint officers to the rank of field marshal. The badge of rank is St. Edward's Crown mounted above a two crossed batons that are circled by a wreath of oak leaves.

After the Duke of Edinburgh, currently the most senior rank held in the Australian Army is lieutenant general, which is held by the Chief of Army, (currently, LTGEN Peter Leahy). [Other 3 star ranks currently held by Australian Army Officers are LTGEN Ken Gillespie, (Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF)) and LTGEN David Hurley, (Chief of Joint Operations (CJOPS), previously Chief of Capability Development, another 3 star rank).]

The rank of General in the Australian Army is reserved for times when an Army officer is appointed as Chief of the Defence Force (CDF). The last officer to hold this position was GEN Peter Cosgrove, who retired in 2005.


ee also

*Australian Army officer rank insignia

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