Jo Gullett

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Jo Gullett
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Henty
In office
30 March 1946 – 4 November 1955
Preceded by Arthur Coles
Succeeded by Max Fox
Personal details
Born (1914-12-16)16 December 1914
Died 24 August 1999(1999-08-24) (aged 84)
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Alma mater Oxford University
Occupation Journalist, soldier

Henry Baynton Somer 'Jo' Gullett AM MC, (16 December 1914 – 24 August 1999) was an Australian soldier, politician, diplomat and journalist. He served with distinction in the Australian Army during World War II, was a controversial Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives for the Division of Henty from 1946 to 1955, and served as Ambassador to Greece during 'the time of the Colonels' from 1965 to 1968.

He was the son of former Cabinet Minister Sir Henry Somer Gullett, the grandson of author Barbara Baynton and an uncle of actor Penne Hackforth-Jones.

He is the author of two memoirs, one of which, Not as a Duty Only: an Infantryman's War is widely considered to be a classic in Australian war writing.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Gullett spent much of his early childhood in Canberra, at Hill Station (now an upmarket restaurant) in what is now the industrial suburb of Hume. The plains of the Tuggeranong Valley allowed him to develop a passion for horseriding, and he became a very keen horseman.

In his later youth he spent a year at the Sorbonne and then at Oxford, where took a BA degree. In 1935 he commenced work as a journalist at Melbourne's Herald newspaper, where he stayed for the next four years.[3]

War service[edit]

He enlisted in the Army upon the outbreak of war in 1939, initially as a private. Much of his service was with the 2/6th Australian Infantry Battalion of the 6th Division of the Australian Imperial Force. As a Sergeant, he was seriously wounded in the Battle of Bardia on 3 January 1941. He is the central character in an Ivor Hele painting of the battle which has hung in the Australian War Memorial since the 1960s.[4]

Upon recovery from his wounds, he returned to his Battalion as a Lieutenant for the disastrous Greek campaign, and then travelled with the Battalion to New Guinea. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1943, for his "disregard of danger and [for] leadership" as a Captain and Company commander at Wau".[5]

For a time thereafter he was attached to Australian Headquarters in London. As a supernumerary officer with the 8th Battalion Royal Scots, he became the first Australian born soldier to land on the beach during the Invasion of Normandy on D-Day.[6] Due to the very high officer casualty rate, he was soon appointed as a company commander with the Royal Scots, and served in this role until he was further wounded in July 1944.

After recovery from his latest wounds, he returned to Australia and attempted to rejoin the 2/6th in New Guinea, but was thwarted by higher command, who ordered that he be restrained – by force if necessary – from embarking. Accordingly, he saw no further action and was demobilised from the Army with the rank of Major at the end of the war.[7]

Over 30 years later he wrote a personal account of his war experiences entitled Not As a Duty Only, which has been on the reading lists of several Australian military higher training institutions for many years.

Political and diplomatic career[edit]

In 1946 he stood as a Liberal Party candidate at a by-election for his father's of old seat of Henty, and was elected on 30 March 1946. After the Liberal-led coalition gained power at the 1949 general election, he was appointed Chief Government Whip.

He was a fierce anti-communist, and in the early 1950s was a spearhead of Parliamentary moves against Communists and Communist sympathisers within the Public Service and the wider community. His attacks are considered by some to have descended to the level of smear. For example, he described the contribution to foreign relations of Dr John Burton, the former Permanent Secretary of the Department of External Affairs as being 'almost wholly evil'.[8] As a further example, in 1952 he attacked certain academics at the Australian National University on the floor of Parliament and claimed that the University was 'more famous for its left wing politics than for its research'.[9]

He also held a strong anti-immigration stance and made public comments, in the press and on the floor of Parliament, that would now be considered as extreme anti-semitism.[citation needed] In the Melbourne Argus of 12 February 1947, he wrote:

The arrival of additional Jews is nothing less than the beginning of a national tragedy and a piece of the grossest deception of Parliament and the people by the Minister for Immigration. [10]

Further, at a press conference in the same month, he said of Jews:

We should remember that they are European neither by race standards, nor culture. They are, in fact, an Eastern people. In 2000 years no one but Britain has been successfully able to absorb them, and for the most, they owe loyalty and allegiance to none.[11]

He retired from the Parliament on 4 November 1955[12] and returned to journalism. In 1965 he was appointed Australian Ambassador to Greece, and served there until 1968.

After politics[edit]

Gullett had a long association with Canberra – he had spent most of his childhood there, and in married life, he took up the lease on Lambrigg station, the ACT rural property which had earlier been home to William Farrer during the time when he developed an important strain of rust-resistant wheat.

In the 1970s, he was a member of the Australian War Memorial Council, and served as its chairman between April and August 1974. He is featured in the Memorial's Fifty Australians exhibition.[13]

Gullett was the author of two sets of memoirs, Not As a Duty Only, which covered his war service, and Good Company: Horseman, Soldier, Politician, which was a more complete autobiography.


  1. ^ Padanyi-Ryan, Julie (2014). "Loyalty and Courage at Bardia". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Royal Australian Navy Reading List (PDF). Sea Power Centre Australia. March 2006. p. 62. ISBN 0-642-29637-5. 
  3. ^ Kirkpatrick, Rod; Green, Kerry (2000). "News Media Chronicle, July 1999 to June 2000" (PDF). Australian Studies in Journalism. p. 169. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Bardia". Australia's War 1939–1945. 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Henry Bayton Somer Gullett, AM, MC (1914–1999)". Australian War Memorial. 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Retrieved on 13 October 2007 Archived 17 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Gullett, Henry 'Jo' (1976). Not As a Duty Only: an Infantryman's War. Melbourne University Press. 
  8. ^ Deery, Phillip. "'Behind Enemy Lines': Menzies, Evatt and Passports for Peking" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Knott, J. W. (2014). "About Cabinet notebooks". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Retrieved on 14 October 2007 Archived 19 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Levi, Rabbi John. "Israel at 50 "What it means to me": A Symposium" (PDF). The Australia/Israel Review (May–June 1998): 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2003. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "577–678" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2011. 
  13. ^ "Fifty Australians". Australian War Memorial. 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Arthur Coles
Member for Henty
Succeeded by
Max Fox
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Alfred Stirling
Australian Ambassador to Greece
1965 – 1968
Succeeded by
Hugh Gilchrist