Frederick Galleghan

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Sir Frederick Gallagher Galleghan
Frederick Galleghan.jpg
Galleghan (centre, in helmet) at his battalion's command post, Gemas, January 1942
Nickname(s) Black Jack
Born (1897-01-11)11 January 1897
Jesmond, Newcastle, Australia
Died 20 April 1971(1971-04-20) (aged 74)
Mosman, Sydney, Australia
Allegiance  Australia
Service/branch Australian Army Emblem.JPG Australian Army
Years of service 1916–1946, 1948–1949
Rank Major General
Service number NX70416
Commands held 2/30th Battalion

First World War

Second World War

Awards Distinguished Service Order
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Imperial Service Order
Mentioned in Despatches
Efficiency Decoration

Major General Sir Frederick Gallagher Galleghan DSO, OBE, ISO, ED (11 January 1897 – 20 April 1971) was a senior officer in the Australian Army who served in the First and Second World Wars.

Born in New South Wales in 1897, he volunteered for service with the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War. He served on the Western Front as a non-commissioned officer. Repatriated to Australia after being wounded, he was later commissioned in the militia. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, he raised and commanded the 2/30th Battalion during the Invasion of Malaya. Captured along with many of his fellow soldiers following the fall of Singapore, he spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of war. After the war, he led the Australian Military Mission to Germany and became involved in charity work. He was knighted in 1969 and died two years later in Sydney at the age of 74.

Early life[edit]

Galleghan was born on 11 January 1897 in Jesmond, a suburb of Newcastle, in New South Wales.[1] Of West Indian extraction, his dark complexion would in later life lead to his nickname of Black Jack.[2] As a school boy he had a keen interest in the military and joined the Cadets. After completing his schooling, he began working in the postal service as a telegraph messenger in 1912.[1]

First World War[edit]

Galleghan volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in January 1916 and was assigned to 34th Battalion as a corporal.[1] The battalion then being formed in New South Wales, was intended for service on the Western Front as part of 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. By late November 1916, the battalion was in France, having spent the previous five months training in England.[3]

Now a sergeant, Galleghan would serve on the Western Front for over two years. He was wounded in June 1917 and again in August 1918. His second wound eventually led to his repatriation to Australia and a subsequent discharge on medical grounds from the AIF in March 1919.[1]

Interwar period[edit]

Galleghan return to employment with the postal service, this time on clerical duties, before transferring to the Department of Trade and Customs in 1926. He would remain with this department until 1936, at which time he joined the Sydney office of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department.[1]

Galleghan's war injuries were not so serious as to prevent him joining the militia and he was gazetted as a temporary lieutenant in September 1919. By 1932, he was a lieutenant colonel[1] and four years later would be awarded the Efficiency Decoration for his meritorious and long service with the militia.[4] He commanded a number of militia battalions until 1940 at which time he volunteered for the newly revived AIF.[1]

Second World War[edit]

In October 1940, Galleghan was appointed commander of the newly formed 2/30th Battalion, part of 27th Brigade and originally destined for service in the Middle East with the 9th Division. However, the following month, the brigade and Galleghan's battalion with it, was transferred to 8th Division.[1]

Galleghan, a strict disciplinarian, had high expectations of his battalion and accordingly implemented a rigorous training program.[1] The battalion would become known as 'Galleghan's greyhounds' and was initially based at Tamworth but in the coming months would move around various bases in New South Wales. Training carried on into 1941 and in July the battalion embarked for Singapore on the Dutch transport Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt.[5]

Malaya and Singapore[edit]

During transit to Malaya, the commander of 27th Brigade took ill. Galleghan was disappointed to find that despite being the most senior of the battalion commanders in the brigade, Duncan Maxwell was to be the replacement. Maxwell, previously commander of 2/19th Battalion, was preferred by the divisional commander, Major General Gordon Bennett, by virtue of having already been in Malaya for several months.[2]

British Indian army units took the initial brunt of the invasion of Malaya which began on 8 December 1941. By mid January, the Japanese army had made significant advances down Malaya. Galleghan's battalion was the lead Australian unit and mounted a successful ambush at Gemas on 14 January 1942. Taking up positions around a bridge, one company of the battalion allowed two hundred Japanese cyclists through before initiating their ambush by blowing up the bridge. It was estimated that several hundred casualties were inflicted on the Japanese before the company withdrew to a roadblock established by the remainder of the battalion.[6] The battalion continued to hold up the Japanese advance, which resumed the following day due to a quick repair of the bridge. After anti-tank guns, which Galleghan mistakenly believed would be of little use, destroyed or damaged six tanks, the battalion withdrew late that afternoon over the Gemas River.[7] He would later be awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his leadership and organisation of the ambush.[4]

The ambush only delayed the Japanese for a short time, and along with the rest of the Australians, the battalion gradually withdrew to Singapore. Galleghan, still resentful of being passed over for command of 27th Brigade, was critical of Maxwell's handling of the brigade.[8] During the first day of the Battle of Singapore, Maxwell sent Galleghan, suffering from ear troubles which made it difficult to participate in command conferences, to hospital. Galleghan handed over his battalion to his second in command.[9] In his absence from the front, the Japanese were able to make significant advances as 2/30th Battalion was allowed by a pessimistic Maxwell to withdraw too far to the rear.[10]

Galleghan took no further part in the battle of Singapore and was taken a prisoner of war by the Japanese. Imprisoned at Changi with the remainder of the captured Allied soldiers, he became commander of the Australian prisoners following the departure of Major General Cecil Callaghan in August 1942, and from 1944 was deputy commander of all Allied prisoners in Malaya.[11] He applied his renowned standards of discipline to his charges during imprisonment in order to maintain morale and the prisoners' wellbeing. Changi was relieved by the Allied forces in August 1945 and two months later, Galleghan returned to Australia.[1]

Later life[edit]

Galleghan retired from military service in January 1946 with the rank of temporary brigadier, with effect from 1942. He returned to his investigative work in Sydney and the following year was recognised for his leadership during the imprisonment at Changi with an appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He was made an honorary major general in 1948, and for nearly two years, he was in charge of the Australian Military Mission to Germany. Once his duties in Europe were completed, he became involved in refugee work.[1]

Galleghan retired from public service in 1959 and was appointed a Companion of the Imperial Service Order. Even in retired life, he continued his involvement with charitable organisations and was knighted in 1969 for his work with war veterans. He died on 20 April 1971 at his home in Mosman, New South Wales. He was survived by his second wife, Persia Elspbeth Porter, whom he had married in 1969. Neither of his two marriages resulted in children.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Griffin, David (1996). "Galleghan, Sir Frederick Gallagher (1897–1971)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Warren, 2002, p. 38
  3. ^ "34th Battalion, AIF, World War I". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "NX70416 Major General Frederick Gallagher 'Black Jack' Galleghan, DSO, OBE, ISO". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "2/30th Battalion, AIF, World War II". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Warren, 2002, pp. 155–156
  7. ^ Warren, 2002, pp. 157–158
  8. ^ Warren, 2002, p. 198
  9. ^ Smith, 2005, p. 473
  10. ^ Warren, 2002, pp. 233–234
  11. ^ Felton, 2008, p. 106


  • Felton, Mark (2008). The Coolie Generals: Britain's Far Eastern Military Leaders In Japanese Captivity. Barnsley, United Kingdom: Pen & Sword. 
  • Smith, Colin (2005). Singapore Burning: Heroism and Surrender in WWII. London, United Kingdom: Viking. 
  • Warren, Alan (2002). Singapore 1942: Britain's Greatest Defeat. Singapore: Talisman. 

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