Anthony Synnot

Admiral Sir Anthony Monckton Synnot, KBE, AO (5 January 1922 – 4 July 2001) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy, who served as Chief of the Defence Force Staff from 1979 to 1982.

Sir Anthony Monckton Synnot
Admiral Anthony Synnot
Born5 January 1922
Corowa, New South Wales
Died4 July 2001 (aged 79)
Yass, New South Wales
Service/branchRoyal Australian Navy
Years of service1939–1982
Commands heldChief of Defence Force Staff (1979–82)
Chief of Naval Staff (1976–79)
HM Australian Fleet (1973–74)
HMAS Melbourne (1967)
HMAS Sydney (1966)
Royal Malaysian Navy (1962–65)
HMAS Vampire (1960–61)
HMAS Warramunga (1956–57)
Battles/warsSecond World War Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Vietnam War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Officer of the Order of Australia
Mentioned in Despatches
Commander of the Order of the Defender of the Realm (Malaysia)
Other workChairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial (1982–85)

Early life

Synnot was born in 1922 at Corowa, New South Wales, a descendant of Monckton Synnot, brother of Captain Timothy Monckton Synnot and a distant relative of the American Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Synnot was educated at Geelong Grammar School. He joined the Royal Australian Navy as a cadet midshipman in March 1939 and trained in Britain with Prince Philip of Greece (as he then was). His first ship was the cruiser HMAS Canberra.

Naval career

During the Second World War, Synnot served aboard the destroyer HMAS Stuart in the Battle of Cape Matapan, for which he was mentioned in despatches, and during the evacuation of Greece and Crete. With the Royal Navy, he saw service on the battleship HMS Barham and was on board the destroyer HMS Punjabi when she sank off Iceland in 1942 after being accidentally rammed by the battleship HMS King George V.

Subsequently, Synnot served for two years on the Australian destroyer HMAS Quiberon on North Sea convoy duty and during the North Africa landings, eventually becoming the ship's executive officer. In 1945, Synnot qualified as a gunnery officer and served on the staff of gunnery schools in Australia. Promoted to commander in 1954, he took charge of HMAS Warramunga in 1956. He became captain of the Daring-class destroyer HMAS Vampire in 1960.

In 1950, Synnot had taken part in the Bridgeford Mission to Malaya, which advised the Australian government on the Malayan Emergency. His report on the options for providing naval support for the British laid the foundations for Australian naval involvement in the region and led to Synnot's secondment to command the Royal Malaysian Navy from 1962 to 1965.

On his return to Australia, Synnot attended administrative staff college before returning to sea in 1966 as Captain of the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney, then in 1967, the carrier HMAS Melbourne. He was the only officer to command both aircraft carriers.

After a year at the Imperial Defence College in London, he returned to Australia as director general of fighting equipment. Promoted to rear-admiral in 1970, he became chief of naval personnel and subsequently deputy chief of naval staff. He became Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet in 1973. In 1974, he was appointed director joint staff in the Australian Defence Department, and played a leading role in the relief effort following the devastation of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy.

In 1976, Synnot was promoted to vice admiral and appointed Chief of Naval Staff. He initiated a review of the Navy Office and of the Navy's structure of command and control. He drew up a blueprint for the maintenance of naval capability into the future, and oversaw the Navy's guided-missile frigate project.

Extremely able and practical, Synnot came to be regarded as one of the country's most outstanding defence force chiefs. A strong believer in deterrence and an advocate of close co-operation with America and countries in the Pacific region, Synnot emphasised the need for a strong military capability for national defence and for joint operations with Australia's allies overseas. He was said to have done more to equip Australia's armed forces with up-to-date military technology than any of his predecessors. In particular, he was instrumental in persuading the Australian government of the need to upgrade the country's air force with the acquisition of the F/A-18 Hornet.

He was also behind the decision to acquire the British aircraft carrier HMS Invincible as a replacement for the ageing HMAS Melbourne. However, Britain withdrew the offer to sell Invincible after the Falklands War.[1]

Synnot retired on 20 April 1982.


Synnot was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1971,[2] and knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1978.[3] He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1976.[4] He married Virginia Davenport in 1959 and they remained married until her death in 1965. He married a second time in 1968 to Anne Colvin (née Manifold), great-niece of former Prime Minister of Australia Stanley Bruce and mother of journalist Mark Colvin.

Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot died on 4 July 2001 at the age of 79, after suffering from a long illness.[5]


  1. ^ Stevens, David; Sears, Jason; Goldrick, James; Cooper, Alastair; Jones, Peter; Spurling, Kathryn (2001). Stevens, David (ed.). The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. p. 227. ISBN 0-19-554116-2. OCLC 50418095.
  2. ^ "No. 45555". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1971. p. 34.
  3. ^ "No. 47724". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1978. p. 36.
  4. ^ It's an Honour – Entry
  5. ^ Defender Archived 30 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine – The National Journal of the Australia Defence Association

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
General Sir Arthur MacDonald
Chief of Defence Force Staff
Succeeded by
Air Chief Marshal Sir Neville McNamara
Preceded by
Vice Admiral Sir David Stevenson
Chief of Naval Staff
Succeeded by
Vice Admiral Sir James Willis
Preceded by
Rear Admiral William Dovers
Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Succeeded by
Rear Admiral David Wells
Preceded by
Rear Admiral David Wells
Deputy Chief of Naval Staff
Succeeded by
Rear Admiral William Dovers
Arthur MacDonald

General Sir Arthur Leslie MacDonald, (30 January 1919 – 20 January 1995) was a senior officer in the Australian Army, who served in the positions of Chief of the General Staff from 1975 to 1977, then Chief of the Defence Force Staff from 1977 to 1979; the professional head of the Australian Army and Australian Defence Force respectively.

Brian Murray (governor)

Rear Admiral Sir Brian Stewart Murray (26 December 1921 – 4 June 1991) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy and the 22nd Governor of Victoria, serving from March 1982 until October 1985.

At the time of his appointment as governor, Murray was a retired Royal Australian Navy admiral married to a former nun. He was nominated by the Liberal Premier Lindsay Thompson. Labor Premier John Cain demanded his resignation in 1985 after Murray accepted a free trip to the United States with his wife from Continental Airlines. They retired to the Doonkuna Estate vineyard at Murrumbateman, outside of Canberra.

During Murray's term of office, a Labor government was elected in Victoria for the first time since 1955. Accordingly, there were some changes to the role, ceremonial and functions within Government House during his incumbency. The new government discontinued recommending Imperial honours. On 18 April 1984, the Governor announced that Queen Elizabeth II had approved a change in his flag: "From this day, the Governor's Personal Standard will be the State Flag of Victoria with the blue of the flag being replaced by gold. The new Standard will be flown at Government House and on vehicles conveying the Governor. The old Standard used by all Victorian Governors has been, since 1870, the Union Jack with the Badge of the State emblazoned in the centre thereof".When Sir Brian died of cancer in 1991 he was accorded the honour of a state funeral by the State of Victoria complete with Royal Australian Navy escort, full naval honours and a eulogy by his friend Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot.

Chief of Navy (Australia)

The Chief of Navy is the most senior appointment in the Royal Australian Navy, responsible to the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) and the Secretary of Defence. The rank associated with the position is vice admiral (3-star).

Vice Admiral Michael Noonan is the current chief of navy; he assumed the position on 06 July 2018.

Chris Ritchie

Vice Admiral Christopher Angus "Chris" Ritchie (born 16 January 1949) is a retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy, who served as Chief of Navy from 2002 to 2005.

David Leach (admiral)

Vice Admiral David Willoughby Leach (born 17 July 1928) is a retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy, who served as Chief of the Naval Staff from 1982 to 1985.

David Stevenson (admiral)

Vice Admiral Sir Hugh David Stevenson (24 August 1918 – 26 October 1998) was a senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy, serving as Chief of Naval Staff from 1973 to 1976.

David Wells (admiral)

Rear Admiral David Charles Wells, (19 November 1918 – 27 September 1983) was a senior commander in the Royal Australian Navy, who commanded ANZUK in Singapore from its formation in November 1971 until 1973.

Donald Chalmers

Vice Admiral Donald Bruce Chalmers, (born 29 April 1942) is a retired senior commander of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as Chief of Navy from 1997 to 1999.

George Hyde (admiral)

Admiral Sir George Francis Hyde, (19 July 1877 – 28 July 1937) was an English-born Australian admiral, known as a former head and the first officer to achieve the rank of full admiral in the Royal Australian Navy.

Hastings Harrington

Vice Admiral Sir Wilfred Hastings "Arch" Harrington (17 May 1906 – 17 December 1965) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as First Naval Member and Chief of the Naval Staff from 1962 to 1965.

Ian MacDougall

Vice Admiral Ian Donald George MacDougall (born 23 February 1938) is a retired senior commander of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as Chief of Naval Staff from 1991 to 1994. He also served as Commissioner of New South Wales Fire Brigades, and is Patron of the Submarines Association Australia.

James Willis (admiral)

Vice Admiral Sir Guido James Willis (18 October 1923 – 15 June 2003) was an officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) who rose to the rank of vice admiral. He joined the RAN in 1937, saw active service during World War II and the Korean War, and was Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) from 1979 to 1982 before retiring.

List of Australian admirals

This is a list of Australian admirals.

The following is an incomplete list of people who have attained admiral rank within the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Michael Hudson (admiral)

Admiral Michael Wyndham "Mike" Hudson (10 March 1933 – 27 February 2005) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), particularly notable for playing an important role in the introduction of the Collins class submarines and Anzac Class frigates, and establishing two-ocean basing for ships of the RAN during his tenure as Chief of Naval Staff from 1985 to 1991.

Richard Peek (admiral)

Vice Admiral Sir Richard Innes Peek (30 July 1914 – 28 August 2010) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy, who served as First Naval Member of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board from 1970 to 1973.


Synnot may refer to:

Anthony Synnot KBE, AO (1922–2001), Admiral in the Royal Australian Navy

Arthur Henry Seton Hart-Synnot, British Army general

David Synnot, Governor of Wexford during the Sack of Wexford by Cromwell

Monckton Synnot (1827–1879), prominent squatter in Victoria, Australia

Sir Walter Synnot (1742–1821), son of Richard Synnot, settled in the parish of Ballymoyer, County Armagh in 1778

Sir Walter Synnot Manifold (1849–1928), Australian politician

Timothy Monckton Synnot DSC, an officer in the Royal Australian Navy

Walter Synnot, prominent Australian Colonial, a son of Sir Walter Synnot

Timothy Monckton Synnot

Timothy Monckton Synnot DSC (15 January 1916 – May 1997) was an officer in the Royal Australian Navy. He was a descendant of Monckton Synnot and the older brother of Admiral Anthony Synnot he joined the RAN in 1930 and served on HMAS Hobart in World War II, during which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and was mentioned in Despatches. He was promoted to commander in 1951 and retired as a captain.

After his naval service Synnot settled at Naberoo, near Keith, in South Australia.

Victor Smith

Admiral Sir Victor Alfred Trumper Smith, (9 May 1913 – 10 July 1998) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy. Smith's career culminated with his appointment as Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee—forerunner of the role of Australia's Chief of the Defence Force—from 1970 to 1975, following an earlier term as Chief of Naval Staff from 1968 to 1970.

Walter Synnot (colonial settler)

Captain Walter Synnot, a prominent Australian Colonial, was a son of Sir Walter Synnot. In 1819 he settled in Cape Colony but returned to Britain. In 1835 he then settled first in Van Diemen's Land at his property Invermay, near Launceston, Tasmania. Walter spent the rest of his life in Tasmania and died at his home, "The Mansion" in Canning Street, Launceston, in 1851. His numerous children included Julia, who married Henry Cole in Launceston, Monckton Synnot and George Synnot the well known squatters and wool brokers. His daughter Jane married into the Manifold family.

He features in the famous 18th-century painting "The Children of Walter Synnot Esq" by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Of the more famous of his descendants are Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot RAN and Sir Walter Synnot Manifold.

Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee
Chief of Defence Force Staff
Chief of the Defence Force
Commonwealth Naval Forces
First Naval Members,
Australian Commonwealth Naval Board
Chiefs of the Naval Staff
Chiefs of Navy
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Maritime Commander Australia
Commander Australian Fleet


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