Guide to the Papers of Sir Cyril Bingham Brudenell White
The strength of the collection lies in the correspondence between Brudenell White and key military figures such as General Birdwood and Bridges during his military service, and with C. E. W. Bean regarding the writing of the official war histories of both Australia and Britain. The cornerstone of the collection are the diaries covering every year from 1895 until 1940 documenting his official career. The Brudenell White collection is diverse and spans his military and defence career from 1895 until his death in 1940 Few items relate to his brief service in the South African War however his attachment to the Staff College and War Office in London prior to the First World War is better represented [ official papers and correspondence]. Papers relating to the First World War cover both the Gallipoli campaign and the Western Front. There is a mixture of official reports and notes on operations including the withdrawl from Gallipoli and Allied offensive operations on the Western Front, particularly in 1918. Additionally, there are miscellaneous military articles, souvenirs and ephemera. The period between the wars when Brudenell White was a leading figure in planning Australia's future defence, is particularly well represented with numerous notes and reports from meeting and studies, as well as correspondence with other officials. In 1920, White agreed to formally hand over some papers to the Australian War Memorial, which he had previously sent to the Australian War Records Section for safekeeping. These were mostly AIF operational papers for 1916. No more papers were received until 1951, those being donated by White's widow, Lady White. The final installments were donated by White's daughter in 1975 and 1977.
SERIES 1: Diaries, 1895 - 1940 - Collection of bound photocopies of Brudenell - White's diaries. Some are written primarily in shorthand and the quality of reproduction and size of text varies greatly. As can be seen by the following list, keeping diaries were an integral part of his great organising abilities.; SERIES 2: Correspondence, 1902-1938 - Correspondence spanning 1902 - 1938. The earlier letters mainly concern Brudenell White's posting to the British Army Staff College as well as a few from the First World War. Post war correspondence mainly involves C E W Bean, J L Treloar and A W Bazeley concerning the War Memorial and Bean's writing of the official histories. Bean sent most of his drafts to Brudenell White for comments and editing.; SERIES 3: Official documents, 1907-1913 - Mostly documents used in Britain while posted to the British Army Staff College and later serving under Col Bridges at the War Office in London.; SERIES 4: Official documents 1914-1918 - Official documents relating directly to Brudenell White's duties during the First World War Gallipoli Campaign, especially the planning of the withdrawal in December 1915, as well as duties on the Western Front. The latter documents focus particularly on Allied offensive operations in 1918 when Brudenell White was Birdwood's Chief of Staff for the British 5 Corps. Included are articles and papers he collected on military tactics and doctrine; SERIES 5: Official documents, 1919-1940 - Official documents created during White's appointment to the Council of Defence in the 1920s. These comprise minutes of meetings and defence reports, including Australian security concerns over Japan. Additionally there are papers relating to the army and RAN colleges, RMC Duntroon and HMAS Creswell.; SERIES 6: Personal documents, 1895 - 1940 - Assortment of war related printed materials collected by Brudenell White including newspaper cuttings, souvenirs, military articles and ephemera. Dates range from 1898 to the 1930s.; SERIES 7: Public addresses, 1919 - 1938 - Transcripts of speeches and lectures, delivered by Brudenell White on Anzac Day, Armistice Day and other occasions to various organizations such as veterans, church groups and youth organizations and schools. Many are related to the First World War. The lectures mostly date from the 1920s to the early 1930s.
Cyril Bingham Brudenell White was born 23 September 1876 in St Arnaud, Victoria, and grew up on pastoral stations in Queensland. He went to school in Brisbane and at age 16 gained employment as a bank clerk. White took an interest in the military joining the Queensland military forces in 1895. By 1899, he was a commissioned officer in the Queensland Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery. He was stationed on Thursday Island at the turn of the century, and in 1902 went to South Africa with the 1st Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, when the war was drawing to a close. In 1904 he was made aide-de-camp to Major General Sir Edward Hutton with whom he travelled extensively throughout Australia, working toward the moulding of the former State forces into a national force. The following year 1905, White married Ethel Davidson, and left Australia to attend the British Army Staff College in England. White spent time from 1906 - 1908 in England where he served as a Staff Officer at the War Office in London. He returned to Australia in early 1908 where he rose to the rank of Major at Army Headquarters in Melbourne. First World War: At the outbreak of the war, White was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Chief of Staff of the 1st Australian Division, AIF. He landed at Gallipoli on April 25 1915 where he spent the next eight months working tirelessly in his staff duties. In October he was promoted to Brigadier General and was given the task of planning the withdrawal of the ANZAC forces from Gallipoli. That the withdrawal was conducted with such success and with negligible casualties, is evidence of White's organisational skills. During the first months of 1916, the AIF remained in Egypt where White was instrumental in building of the force that had now doubled in size. From March 1916 until May 1918, he continued his vital work as a staff officer under General Birdwood in France and Belgium and was widely regarded as the man who truly ran the AIF. In May 1918, when Birdwood was promoted to command the British 5th Corps, many felt that White was the logical choice to command the AIF. Seemingly reluctant to accept this, he instead accompanied Birdwood to 5 Corps as his Chief of Staff. After the armistice was signed in November, White was appointed to the Demobilisation Board in London until returning to Australia in 1920.Between the wars: On 28 November 1918 White was promoted to Lieutenant General and was given the post of Chief of the Australian General Staff, drawing up plans for the training of the nation's citizen forces. He retired from military service in 1923 and took up the post of Chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. In 1928 he resigned this post and took up the position of Chairman and Superintendent for Australia of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency. Combining this with various other appointments including to the Board of the Australian War Memorial and the Council of Defence, White still found time to relax on his farm in rural Victoria and enjoy family life.The Second World War:On 15 March 1940, following the death of Lieutenant General E K Squires, White was recalled to take over the position of Chief of the General Staff when Australia again found itself at war. Now aged 63, he was promoted to General and was busily involved in organising the Second AIF for service overseas. As fate would have it, he was not to see much of the Second World War. On 13 August 1940 he flew with several prominent military officers and Federal Ministers from Melbourne to Canberra. The aircraft crashed as it approached the aerodrome at Canberra, killing White and all others on board instantly. White's funeral was at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne where he was given state and military honours. He was survived by his wife and four children.
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Administratives files; Diaries; Documents
AIF; Australian Army; Council of Defence; Defence planning; Department of Defence; Gallipoli; General Staff; South African War; Western Front
Military service; World wars
Gallipoli; South Africa