The need for adequate training for the Australian permanent officer corps was the subject of wide consensus from the mid-1880s, but practicalities precluded consummation of this goal until the expansion under Universal Service brought establishment of the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1911.
This satisfied the need until the establishment of a substantial Regular Army after World War 2, followed by reintroduction of National Service in 1951 with a consequential expansion of the Citizen Military Forces. These all demanded an officer structure which could not be met through the four-year Duntroon pipeline.
The Officer Cadet School Portsea, with an initial six month course, was the solution to bridge a critical deficiency in regimental officers. But the ongoing expansion of the Regular Army, and its widening commitments in South East Asia, created a longer term demand which outlived the National Service requirement: an expansion of the horizons of Portsea’s graduates as an integral part of the career officer mainstream led to extension of the course to a full year to match that of Duntroon without the latter’s tertiary academic content.
The overall result saw the Portsea graduates take their full place in the command, training and administration of the Army, graduates serving with distinction at home, abroad and at war in all arms of the service. But after nearly thirty years of operation, the opening of the Australian Defence Force Academy to provide a tri-service college for academic studies reduced the role of Duntroon to that of Portsea, and both obviously could not survive. As the oldest institution, Duntroon remained, with the Officer Cadet School tradition absorbed into it, just as both their graduates had merged in the Army. The spirit of Loyalty and Service lives on.
The notion of producing a history of the Officer Cadet School has long been a cherished ideal for the Board of the Sir James Harrison Memorial Trust. The project gained real impetus, however, in the mid-1980s when it became apparent that the School’s life was coming to an end. The minutes of the Trust portray a period of uncertainty and frustration in the early years of the project: at least two abortive beginnings were made, and it took some years to find an author with the background, abilities and motivation to undertake work of the required standard. That Colonel Neville Lindsay has met these demanding requirements is self evident. But the book is also a product of the persistence and determination of the early members of the Board of Trustees, some of whom continue to serve on the Board to this day. It is also a tribute to the faith and support of the many graduates who supported the project financially and in kind through the provision of factual information, recollections and the loan of materials and memorabilia in their possession.
The original intention of the project was to capture the life of the Officer Cadet School before it faded from memory. This book certainly realises that ambition, but it does much more than that: Loyalty and Service places the Officer Cadet School within a wider perspective, both historically and geographically. It captures the spirit of the age in which the institution was formed, operated and closed down. Above all, it is a tribute to the people who gave the School its life. The extent and depth of Neville Lindsay’s work shine out of every page of this book; and the detail includes references to the many people who contributed to the raising, development and operation of the Officer Cadet School. But out of this detail there emerges a unifying theme: it is the cadets who really matter in this story and that is as it should be. The Portsea cadet was the raw material and the raison d’être of the School; and subsequently it was the Portsea officer in service throughout the Army who earnt the institution its reputation.
That the Officer Cadet School had a great influence in the Australian and New Zealand Armies, as well as a number of others, during its comparatively short life is a matter of record. In many ways, its graduates exceeded the hopes that had been held for them; and I suspect that not a few of those involved in the early development of the School would have been surprised as well as gratified at the achievements of the officers it produced. Most of us who were Portsea graduates were under no illusions as to our place in the larger scheme of things: we knew that the School was intended purely as a supplement to the Royal Military College, and that Officer Cadet School graduates were intended to make up the numbers in the ranks of regimental and field grade officers rather than the upper echelons of the Service. Most did that very well indeed: and many went a good deal further, some to command at unit and formation level. The success enjoyed by those who went on to senior ranks is undoubtedly a reflection of the excellent early training they received, as well as the personal ability, commitment and luck that are needed to advance in any profession.
All institutions, indeed all of mankind’s works, have a finite lifespan. In the case of the Officer Cadet School at Portsea, this stretched over three decades. Once it became clear that the regular Army no longer needed, nor could afford, two major officer training institutions, the School’s fate was sealed. The advent of the Australian Defence Force Academy was the final nail in Portsea’s coffin and it is therefore ironic that the former institution’s Commandant, at the time of writing this, is also a proud graduate of the Officer Cadet School.
Neville Lindsay has produced a history that captures the origins, life and demise of a unique institution. In doing so, he provides a lasting memorial to those who founded the School, to those who commanded and staffed it and, above all, to every graduate. In addition, this work provides a detailed analysis of one way in which the Army can, and has, rapidly expanded its officer corps in time of need. This latter achievement may well prove to be the most significant, albeit unintended, benefit of this comprehensive, thoughtful work.
Lt Gen F.J. Hickling (Retired army officer)
At the time of the writing of Loyalty and Service, Maj Gen Frank Hickling was Commandant of the Australian Defence Force Academy and also Chairman of the Harrison Trust, established to commemorate OCS. The Trust had commissioned the book, begun under the previous chairman Maj Gen David McLachlan, and completed during his chairmanship.
Australian Defence Force Academy
18 August 1995
The Officer Cadet School, Portsea was begun as an expedient solution to a problem which had been sown in the 1910 decision that the necessary qualifications for Permanent commissioned officers would be obtained through the Royal Military College, Duntroon. The inflexibility of this source made it inevitable that at some stage an avenue of regular officer production more responsive to the needs of quick expansion in peace would be needed: the product was the Officer Cadet School, established at Portsea in 1951 against the background of the training demands of a new scheme of National Service for all male 18-year olds which included a full time initial training component.
The graduates of the School were not confined to this, becoming an integral part of the Australian Army: its training, command and administration both at home and in the military deployments in Asia to contain the spread of expansionist totalitarian regimes during the 1950s and 1960s. The Portsea men provided distinguished service which matched that of their colleagues from Duntroon, and when the establishment of the Australian Defence Force Academy to cover civil academic education left both Duntroon and Portsea with the same function of military education, one had to go, Duntroon remaining on its seniority.
The demise of OCS was by absorption of its function rather than an end to it, and the School and its traditions live on at Duntroon as much as do those of Royal Military College, graduates being eligible to join the Duntroon Society. However the disappearance of the name from the Australian Army order of battle means that it is necessary to place the School’s history on permanent record. Australia’s military history has been very much oriented to either war history or militaria collection, so it is very appropriate that other aspects are covered by their own dedicated record, otherwise major functions and organisations disappear from sight without trace, particularly those which have left the current structure. This book aims to provide a record of the operation and achievements of the Officer Cadet School and its members.
OCS took in its first intake of officer cadets at the same time that I entered Duntroon. Apart from visiting the School two years after its opening, my first real contact was after graduation four years later where my colleagues and friends as junior officers in a National Service training battalion were largely OCS graduates, and fine officers most were. Throughout my service I continued to serve with these and other OCS graduates and could not differentiate the better OCS graduate from the better Duntroon graduate. A quick fix institution had become an institution in its own right, and no doubt would have continued had not the heavy hand of Malcolm Fraser and Defence centralism in the form of the Australian Defence Force Academy intervened to make one of the Army colleges redundant. It could have been argued that the remaining Army officer military education role belonged to OCS, but obviously the long-established Duntroon tradition had to win out. However OCS had filled its function equally as well, and its graduates were second to none in the Australian Staff Corps.
Writing the history of an organisation whose main players are mostly alive and whose records are generally intact is something of a bonus for an historian. Not that it is ever easy, as an oversupply of information and all the audience alert with their own detailed and specific knowledge and views can be as much a penance as researching the forgotten past. And what can one write which is stimulating, informative and useful when the audience is basically those who have lived it and know already? History needs to both record changes in human affairs and provide something of constructive relevance for the future, otherwise it subsides into an antiquarian vignette to stimulate fading memories. The challenge here has been to record the exploits of the players who will be its main readers, but still integrate it into Australia’s emerging broad corpus of military history as both part of that record and with some appreciation of its effect on the ongoing course of this facet of human endeavour. Continuation of the School’s purpose in the revamped Royal Military College at Duntroon has helped the latter need.
Readers will no doubt quickly become aware of the regular mention of RMC throughout the book. This does not emanate from any personal nostalgia or attempt to constantly remind of that other institution, but rather is an integral part of positioning OCS in its military context as effectively the other half of the source of officers to the Australian Staff Corps. There is also the obvious RMC connection in the early instructors and the model provided from thence which had a seminal influence on OCS’s shape and practices until it was mature enough to make its own path. And finally there is a necessary comparative cross referencing of how both institutions coped with the formation of the minds and characters of their graduates, given that both had the same end objectives. This same topic might have received wider attention in RMC’s history Duntroon, and that absence makes the comparison here the more necessary.
There has been an underlying resentment amongst a wide spectrum of graduates on the absorption of OCS into RMC rather than the other way around; very bluntly this was inevitable given RMC’s seniority by age, custom and national and international standing, OCS’s high regard being largely confined to within the Army itself and the limited overseas armies with graduates in their ranks. However the disquiet was also fed by a misapprehension that all trace of OCS had been suppressed. Quite the contrary, OCS’s colours, trophies and honour boards are well displayed at RMC, demonstrating the twin streams of tradition which make up the present college. In addition both the Archives and fledgling Museum are making full provision for the artefacts passed on from OCS and hopefully still to be supplied from its alumni.
As for this history it was fortunate that a group of graduates had determined to ensure that their alma mata did not slip from general sight. The Committee members of the Harrison Trust had attempted to have an history written in time for the 40th anniversary of OCS’s founding, but for various reasons the draft did not come to finality. However they persisted and this book is the end product, made possible by their assistance in pre-sales. This was of course essential to producing a book of the desired quality, as commercially oriented publishers place strict limits on the length, pictorial and colour content and paper, binding and finish related to their estimate of what the market will bear in price and volume. For a short run publication such as this, that avenue would have resulted in a mediocre product less than worthy of the subject. The alternative of a less than commercially oriented self-publishing author allows a steep reduction in the costs of production and it is to be hoped that the end product will be found by the graduates as something to be proud of.
In producing this history as is usual, its structure was the major obstacle until one was evolved, when it became an asset which drove the text which then drove the pictorial and tabular input. It became apparent that an iterative approach for an academy which ran a series of similar courses would be both repetitive and a barrier to including the wide range of material which should be exposed. A highly structured approach, with its risks of a degree of overlap and repetition, gave some assurance that most topics could be given their proper weight, progression and completeness. One of the principal objects was to give each class some representation, not for each and every topic which would have been impracticable, but in areas where it was either notable or could provide the type of material, either anecdotal or pictorial, which was required.
Achievement of this object was to a degree frustrated by unavailability of inputs from the full spectrum of classes, but a reasonable overall coverage has been achieved, in many cases due to the assistance of the many members who responded to the Harrison Trust’s appeals for help, who are listed in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Bibliography. The records available, although in many ways plentiful, were patchy, which made for some difficulty in coverage of the wide range of topics which arose as the book developed. Some records are no longer extant, some photographs and memorabilia have obviously been extracted from albums, sets and collections, and some classes were obviously less than interested in contributing to scrapbooks and journals. Others were.
What must be stressed however is the surprising differences in detail which evolved during the single generation of OCS’s existence. No doubt readers familiar with their own experiences will find cause to query many statements which will be different from their own memory; they should accept that change in detail was endemic, and that it was different in their day does not mean to say that it is wrong. It was simply impossible to cover all detail over the whole OCS generation without being unacceptably repetitive, so what is shown is the author’s interpretation of the most general or representative aspects; so uniform paintings represent some mainline orders of dress of which there were scores of detailed variants, as is also the case with such matters as training activities, views of the campus, persona and pubs.
There is much individual detail in some parts of the book, especially the lists of graduates and class photographs which may not appeal to the more austere historian, but for such a publication as this, where the majority of the readership will be the graduates, such inclusions provide an important record of their passage and reminder of their predecessors and successors. It also provides a significant resource as published official Army records do not reveal the stream from which officers came, and it is useful to be able to note the backgrounds of officers who later made a mark in military and civil vocations. It might also have been possible to record those who did not graduate, but on balance for privacy and other reasons it seemed better to let that pass.
In mentioning the names of the main players, and inclusion of pictorial coverage, there is a minimum of pen or photographic portraiture. The approach adopted was that the cadets were the centre of attention as the reason for the School’s existence, so they had primacy of coverage. For the staff and transients, if an individual of any rank or position did not fit easily into the narrative of the significant aspects of the institution’s functioning, or were not in the available photographic material, involved in something representative of the School’s activity, they were not going to get free space. While the essential contribution of the staff is acknowledged, the student body is rightly the core of the story and it has been recounted substantially from their viewpoint. Anyone who wishes to write on how to organise and run a military academy is welcome to do so.
Preparation of this history was facilitated in no small way, as mentioned earlier, by the Harrison Trust, in particular chairmen Major Generals David McLachlan and Frank Hickling providing both connections and adding leverage where necessary; and the successive secretaries of the Trust, Majors Peter Hutchinson, Chris Wrangle and Thomas Rogers, together with Captains Doug Mackerels and Dean Herbert. Rogers and Herbert had the dubious privilege of providing the extensive assistance necessary to accumulate the final detail and pictorial material without which the book would have been much the poorer, and deserve the thanks of all readers as well as myself. RMC commandants Brigadiers Rod Curtis and Simon Willis provided additional assistance in progressing development of research, as did Archivist Major Bill Harkness and his assistant Rosie Ciuffetelli.
Colonel Bob Sayce of SCMA and Christopher Dawkins at the Australian Defence Force Academy Library assisted considerably with post-graduate reference material. The Australian Archives, at Canberra and in particular Melbourne, provided its usual support and helpful approach – in particular Wendy Burkewood and Liliana Mangoni; and assistance provided by Betty McMeekin of the Nepean Historical Society was unstinting. Gill Tewes drew the maps and, in the immense task of seeking accuracy in such a vast array of names, photographs and other detail, the able assistance of Lieutenants K.L. Saunders and A. Bestic and of Judy Nash in checking that detail was invaluable; others involved are too numerous to list here: they are included in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Bibliography.
Military artist Lindsay Cox added to the growing portfolio of Australian military uniforms to his credit. While these particular examples are not perhaps as exciting to an artist as the more colourful and intricate colonial and pre-World War 2 Commonwealth ones, he both met the challenge of what is still an essential part of our overall spectrum of uniforms, and had the patience and good nature to humour the author in his revisionism and penchant for trying to curb an artistic enthusiasm for realism. While the span of OCS made the series not a long one, the Corps of the Company of Officer Cadets is still fortunate in now having, after RAASC, the broadest representation to date: compare this with Monty Wedd Uniforms of the Australian Army which purports to cover the whole army in a similar number of paintings.
Typesetting and publishing were a self-help job, and no doubt there will be some rejoinders to that statement. The end product of such slave labour is, however, a high quality book in both presentation and material, with unlimited pictorial, colour and tabular content which could not otherwise have been possible without a prohibitive unit cost. Custody of copy detail was in the hands of voluntary proof readers George Brown and Gill Tewes, though the ultimate responsibility for errors of fact or type must rest with me. May they be few, for they are both inevitable and indelible. But above all I hope that this record will be attractive in every sense to its readers, in particular to the members of the Company of Officer Cadets whose record it is: they have every reason to be proud of their alma mata, and it in turn had every reason to be proud of them, for it was they who made its reputation through their loyalty and service, and deserve a fitting record of their passage. I hope this satisfies that need.
Neville Lindsay, Author and Publisher
Neville Lindsay has followed his landmark history of the Royal Australian Army Service Corps with a different style of organisation, though one which has similarly been absorbed into another structure. As yet another organisation which has made a signal if largely unsung contribution to the successful expansion, operation and fighting quality of Australia’s Army in the volatile cold war period, it has been an equally rewarding task.
As a Duntroon graduate who had commenced his training at the same time that the Officer Cadet School opened, he had the benefit of serving with its graduates throughout his service, and was able to appreciate the qualities of his Portsea colleagues, now finding it a privilege to record their School’s history so that its memory may not be forgotten.
1 September 1995