Cecil Callaghan

Cecil Arthur Callaghan

Major General Cecil Callaghan, 12 September 1945
Nickname(s) Boots
Born 31 July 1890 (1890-07-31)
Sydney, New South Wales
Died 1 January 1967(1967-01-01) (aged 76)
Gordon, New South Wales
Allegiance  Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Rank Major General
Service number NX34723
Commands held 4th Field Artillery Brigade
Australian 8th Division

First World War

Second World War

Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Mentioned in Despatches (5)
Legion of Honour (France)

Major General Cecil Arthur Callaghan CB, CMG, DSO (31 July 1890 – 1 January 1967) was an Australian Army officer who served during the First and the Second World Wars. He was the commander of the 8th Division when it surrendered to the Japanese Empire at the end of the Battle of Singapore.

Early life

Cecil Arthur Callaghan was born in Sydney, New South Wales, to a merchant and his wife on 31 July 1890. He worked in his father's footwear business after completing his education at Sydney Grammar School. He joined the Citizens Militia Force (CMF) in 1910 by enlisting in the Australian Field Artillery, and was commissioned the following year.[1]

Military career

First World War

After Britain's declaration of war against Germany, Callaghan joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and was shipped to the Middle East with the 2nd Battery[2] of the 1st Field Artillery Brigade. He participated in the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order[3] for his actions in July, when he advanced with infantry to Turkish trenches from where he dispatched reports back to his battery. He was evacuated in December 1915, with the rest of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, from Gallipoli to Egypt and transferred to the 5th Divisional Artillery. In March 1916, he was made commander of the 25th Howitzer Battery and promoted to major.[1]

Lieutenant Colonel Callaghan, second from left, with a group of fellow officers of 4th Brigade and the Prime Minister of Australia, Billy Hughes, in Belgium, 1919

Posted to the Western Front, Callaghan commanded a battery in the 13th Field Artillery Brigade in the Somme and Ypres sectors during 1917. After being promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and being placed in command of the 4th Field Artillery Brigade, he spent a month as a liaison officer to French troops in June 1918. He returned to his command in time to lead it during the Hundred Days Offensive. Appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, the last of his four Mentions in Despatches that were earned in the war was gazetted on 11 July 1919.[4] He was also awarded the French Legion of Honour. Returning to Australia in July 1919, his service with the AIF was terminated on 22 January 1920.[1]

Interwar period

Callaghan remained in the Citizens Militia Force and in this capacity commanded Field Artillery Brigades from 1920 to 1926, as well as working in his family's footwear business (which would earn him the nickname "Boots"). From 1926, he was made temporary colonel and commander of the artillery of 2nd Division (a CMF unit at the time) for several years under the then Brigadier General Gordon Bennett. His rank made permanent, he commanded the 8th Infantry Brigade, another CMF unit, from 1934 to 1938.[1]

Second World War

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Callaghan was returned to active service in the Royal Australian Artillery, promoted to brigadier,[1] and assigned to command of the artillery of Eastern Command.[5] When the 8th Division was formed in July 1940 as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, he was made commander of its artillery.[5] When the divisional commander, Major General Vernon Sturdee, was appointed Chief of General Staff following the death of General Sir Brudenell White in August 1940, Callaghan once again came under the command of Bennett (now a major general), the new divisional commander.[6]

Malayan campaign

Originally intended for the Middle East, one brigade (the 22nd) of the 8th Division embarked to Malaya in February 1941 to counter the growing threat from the Japanese Empire. Callaghan remained in Australia with the remainder of the division, eventually arriving in Singapore with the 27th Brigade in August.[1][7] When the Japanese invaded Malaya on 8 December 1941, Callaghan was temporarily in command of the division[1] while Bennett was in transit from a three-week visit to the Middle East, relinquishing command of the division to Bennett upon his return on 10 December.[8] By early 1942, the Australians had retreated to Singapore Island, with Callaghan personally controlling the artillery supporting the defence of the northern side of the island. However, he was struck down with malaria on 5 February and had to be evacuated to hospital.[9] He eventually returned to his headquarters on 12 February, although command of the divisional artillery remained with a subordinate.[10]

The Allied position on Singapore was now untenable, and on 15 February, General Officer Commanding, Malaya Lieutenant General Arthur Percival decided to surrender. Bennett, rather than surrender with his command, opted to try and escape and handed command of the division to Callaghan. The division was surrendered to the Japanese the following day, Callaghan reporting personally to Japanese military authorities. Percival promoted him to temporary major general to ensure Callaghan had sufficient status with the Japanese as commander of all Australian forces in Singapore.[11]

Callaghan was made a prisoner of war and was held in former British Army barracks near Changi Prison, along with the other Allied soldiers that had surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore. He was later held in camps in Formosa, Japan and lastly in Manchuria, from which he was liberated by the Russian Army in August 1945. As a result of malaria, dysentery and the generally harsh conditions experienced by most prisoners of the Japanese, he lost a considerable amount of weight. As a prisoner of war, he endeavoured to maintain morale and discipline amongst his fellow prisoners. He was rewarded for his efforts by being made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and Mentioned in Despatches after the war.[12] He also provided evidence in investigations of Bennett's escape from Singapore, of which he did not approve.[1]

Later life

Callaghan retired from the Australian Army on 10 April 1947, having been made a major general earlier year (with effect from 1 September 1942). After his retirement, he became involved with the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. Ill for some time, he died on 1 January 1967. The 8th Division Association honoured his death with a memorial service, and his remains were cremated.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Sutton. "Callaghan, Cecil Arthur (1890–1967)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  2. Bean, 1941, p. 86
  3. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29344. p. 10729. 29 October 1915. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  4. "Mentioned in Despatches – Cecil Arthur Callaghan". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  5. 1 2 Wigmore, 1957, p. 28
  6. Wigmore, 1957, p. 32
  7. Wigmore, 1957, p. 84
  8. Wigmore, 1957, p. 153
  9. Wigmore, 1957, pp. 300–304
  10. Wigmore, 1957, pp. 362
  11. Wigmore, 1957, pp. 381–382
  12. "Second World War: Mentioned in Despatches – Cecil Arthur Callaghan". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 1 February 2015.


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/8/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.