graduate

Rowell, Sydney Fairbairns (1894-1975)


Photograph of Sydney F. Rowell

Australian War Memorial #001706

Sydney Rowell was one of the first students to attend Royal Military College, Duntroon, graduating as a cavalry officer just as the First World War was breaking out in Europe. He participated in the Gallipoli campaign, but poor health forced his return to Australia, where he held staff and training posts through the remainder of the war. Like his friend and classmate Cyril Clowes, and unlike many other Australian army veterans, he remained a professional officer between the wars. 

When war broke out, Rowell became chief of staff of I Australian Corps in the Middle East. His relations with Blamey soured, particularly after the debacle in Greece, with Rowell concluding that Blamey was incompetent and Blamey concluding that Rowell lacked stamina.

Rowell commanded the Australians in New Guinea during much of the Kokoda campaign and battle of Milne Bay. He was severely (and likely unfairly) criticized by MacArthur for the performance of the Australian troops. When Blamey arrived in Papua, Rowell had no desire to become his chief of staff, and the enmity between the two men erupted into a furious row that ended with Blamey threatening to reduce Rowell to his permanent rank of colonel. The Prime Minister intervened, and Rowell was shipped off to Cairo instead.

Service record

1894-12-15     

Born at Lockleys, South Australia
1914-8-14
Second lieutenant     
Graduates from Royal Military College, Cuntroon. Assigned to 3 Light Horse Regiment
1915-11

Instructor, Royal Military College, Duntroon
1917-6

Staff, Adelaide
1924

Staff College, Camberley
1926
Major

1932

Army Headquarters, Melbourne
1935

Staff, Territorial Army, England
1937
Lieutenant colonel
Imperial Defence College
1939

Chief of staff, 6 Division
1940-2
Brigadier
Staff, I Australian Corps
1940

Chief of staff, 7 Division
1941-9-1

Deputy Chief of the General Staff
1942-3
Lieutenant general     
Commander, I Corps
1942-7

Commander, New Guinea Force
1942-10

Commander, Australian Imperial Force Middle East
1944

Director, Tactical Investigation, British War Office
1946

Vice Chief of the General Staff
1950

Chief of the General Staff
1954

Retires
1975-4-12

Dies

References

Australian War Memorial (accessed 2011-6-18)

Generals.dk (accessed 2011-6-18)

Pettibone (2006)


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