David Blake (general)
|David Valentine Jardine Blake|
|Born||10 November 1887
Parramatta, New South Wales
|Died||1965 (aged 77–78)
Newtown, New South Wales
|Years of service||1916–1947|
|Commands held||No. 3 Squadron|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Mention in Despatches (2)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (United States)
World War I
Blake was commissioned as a career officer, in the Australian Army's Permanent Military Forces in January 1916, during World War I. In September 1916, as a Major, he became the first commanding officer (CO) of the newly formed No. 3 Squadron (3 Sqn) Australian Flying Corps (which was then part of the army). The squadron was deployed to Belgium and France in late 1917, performing a combined reconnaissance and offensive role.
From early 1918, 3 Sqn flew in a sector of the Somme Valley, facing German planes commanded by the "Red Baron", Manfred von Richthofen. When the baron was shot down and killed behind Allied lines on 21 April 1918, the disposal of his remains became Blake's responsibility. Blake initially reported that a 3 Sqn RE8 may have shot down Richthofen. However, following an autopsy, Blake became a strong proponent of the view that ground-based Australian machine-gunners had killed the baron. Blake remained 3 Sqn CO until October 1918. The following year, he was transferred to Australia.
World War II
After the outbreak of World War II, Blake's first significant command (as a Major General) was Officer Commanding, 7th Military District (the Northern Territory), based in Darwin, from September 1941. The post gained in importance when war with Japan broke out in December. In January 1942, Blake's position was incorporated into the short-lived American-British-Dutch-Australian Command.
He was the senior Allied officer present during the devastating air raids on Darwin, on 19 February 1942. In the wake of the initial Japanese raids — and fearing a surface attack — Blake decided to remove all Allied forces from central Darwin and other coastal areas. He was later criticised for this decision, as it made a cardinal error in military theory: withdrawing from a major supply node. Later that year, as a major Allied build-up in northern Australia got underway, Blake was moved to the position of General Officer Commanding, Lines of Communication, Northern Territory Area.
Blake retired from the army in 1947.