Resting place of AIF founder to be restored at Buangor

BUANGOR - The Australian Government has announced funding under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program to assist communities to undertake Anzac Centenary projects that will commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women in the First World War.

It is a little known fact that in the Buangor Cemetery lies the remains of General Sir Cyril Bingham Brudenell White, KCB, KCMG, KCVO, DSO. This is an Australian who holds a special place in our nation's history.

Cyril Bingham Brudenell White was born September 23 1876 in St Arnaud and grew up on pastoral stations in Queensland. He went to school in Brisbane and at age sixteen he started work as a bank clerk.

He took an interest in the military and in 1889 he was a commissioned officer in the Royal Australian Artillery and in 1902 went to South Africa with the Australian Commonwealth Horse. In 1905 he married Ethel Davidson and left Australia to attend the British Army Staff College in England.

He returned to Australia in early 1908 and at the outbreak of WWI he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Chief of Staff of the 1st Australian Division, AIF.

To give rightful recognition, along with General Bridges, Brudenell White is acknowledged as a founder of the AIF.

Lieutenant Colonel White landed at Gallipoli on April 25 1915. In October 1915 he 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. The White Plan, based on deception and ruse, was a model of precision and clear thinking (British Army History).

During the first months of 1916, the AIF remained in Egypt where Brigadier General White was instrumental in building the Australian force that had 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 General Birdwood was promoted to command the British 5th Army, many felt that White was the logical choice to command the AIF. Seemingly reluctant to accept this, he instead accompanied Birdwood to the 5th Army as Chief of Staff and Monash was appointed to command the Australian division.

After the armistice was signed in November 1918, White was appointed to preside over the Demobilisation and Repatriation Branch in London until returning to Australia in 1920 after being knighted. On June 1 1920, White was appointed Chief of the General Staff.

He retired from military service in 1923 and took up the post of Chairman of the Commonwealth Public Board. In 1928 he resigned this post and accepted the position of Chairman and Superintendent in Australia of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency.

Combining this with many other appointments, including the Board of the Australian War Memorial and the Council of Defence, White returned to his pastoral beginnings by purchasing Woodnaggerak at Middle Creek consisting of 2,500 acres. This purchase was followed a short time later with the obtaining of a further 2,500 acres known as Challicum near Buangor.

In March 1940, White was recalled to take over the position of Chief of the General Staff when Australia once again found itself at war. As a full General, and Chairman of the Military Board, Brudenell White was busily involved in organizing the Second AIF for service overseas.

Unfortunately, one of the worst air crashes in the history of aviation in Australia occurred at Canberra aerodrome at 11am on August 13 1940. General White was flying in an Australian Air Force aircraft from Melbourne when the aircraft crashed as it approached the aerodrome at Canberra, killing White and all others on board instantly. Others killed in the crash included Brigadier Geoffrey Austin Street, Minister for the Army, and Member for Corangamite, James Fairbairn, Minister for Air and Civil Aviation, and Member for Flinders, and Sir Henry Gullett, Vice-President of the Executive Council.

The Ararat Advertiser of August 15 1940 records that rain fell throughout the impressive funeral service for the late General Sir Brudenell White at Buangor Cemetary, where as was his wish, the General's remains were buried.

There were about 150 motor cars in the cortege which moved from Sir Brudenell White's late residence in Middle Creek. A large body of returned soldiers from the Ararat and Beaufort areas preceded the hearse to the cemetery followed by leading Commonwealth military officers and many local dignatories and land owners.

The poor condition of the grave of General Sir Brudenell White was brought to the attention of Ararat Legacy in 2012 through comments by returned service organisations and others.

With the approach of the 100 year commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign in 2015, Ararat Legacy resolved to take steps to remediate the grave of this distinguished Australian. Permission has been sought from Sir Brudenell White's next-of-kin and non-fiscal support to the project has been obtained by Ararat Rural City, Pyrenees Shire, Ararat and Ripon RSL Sub-Branches, Buangor Community Sports Committee, and Buangor Cemetery Trust.

Initial approaches have been made by Ararat Legacy to the Office of Australian War Graves and to the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program to have the grave restored of a principal player in Australia's involvment in both World Wars and in recognition of General Sir Brudenell White's contribution to Australia.

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