Brigadier Arthur Seaforth Blackburn, VC, CMG, CBE, ED (25 November 1892 – 24 November 1960) was a South Australian soldier, lawyer, politician, and an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
|Arthur Seaforth Blackburn|
Captain A. S. Blackburn c. 1919
25 November 1892|
Woodville, South Australia
24 November 1960 (aged 67)|
Crafers, South Australia
|Years of service||
Black Force (1942)|
2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion (1940–42)
18th Light Horse (Machine Gun) Regiment (1939–40)
First World War
Second World War
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
|Relations||Sir Richard Blackburn (son)|
Member for Sturt (1918–21)|
Commissioner in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration (1947–55)
Blackburn was born on 25 November 1892 at Woodville, South Australia. His parents were the cleric and entomologist Thomas Blackburn and his wife Margaret Harriette Stewart, née Browne. He was educated at Pulteney Grammar School, the Collegiate School of St Peter and the University of Adelaide (LL.B., 1913).
In 1914, Private Blackburn, a 21-year-old lawyer from Adelaide, was among the first to enlist in the "Fighting 10th" Battalion, and as a battalion scout he was among the first to land at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. Australia's official First World War historian, Charles Bean, noted that Blackburn, with Lance Corporal Robin, probably made it further inland than any other Australian soldiers "whose movements are known". Blackburn was commissioned as a second lieutenant at Gallipoli in August 1915, and served there for almost the entire campaign.
On 23 July 1916, at Pozières, France, the 23-year-old second lieutenant led an attack for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Blackburn was directed with 50 men to drive the enemy from a strong point. By great determination he captured 250 yards of trench, after personally leading four separate parties of bombers against it, many of whom became casualties. Then after crawling forward with a sergeant to reconnoitre, he returned, attacked again, and seized another 120 yards of trench to establish communication with the battalion on his left.
Blackburn returned to Australia on 22 March 1917, married Rose Ada Kelly, and was discharged on medical grounds soon after.
Blackburn returned to legal practice and took an active part in the pro-conscription campaigns. During 1918–21 he was National Party member for Sturt in the South Australian House of Assembly; he did not seek re-election in 1921.
Blackburn was a founding member of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League in South Australia, where he served as president of the State branch from 1917–21. He joined the militia in 1924.
In 1933–47 Blackburn was city coroner, in which office he encountered and ignored criticism for refusing to offer public explanation for any decision not to hold an inquest.
In 1939, Blackburn was promoted to lieutenant colonel and took command of a motorised cavalry regiment, the 18th Light Horse (Machine Gun) Regiment. He ceased legal practice in 1940. He was appointed to command the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, which fought under his command in Syria against the Vichy French in 1941. Blackburn, as the senior Allied officer present, accepted the surrender of Damascus on 21 June, and after the campaign was a member of the Allied Control Commission for Syria.
In February 1942, Blackburn landed with a small Australian force in Java. There he was promoted to brigadier and appointed to command 'Black Force', to assist the Dutch against the rapid Japanese advance.
After three weeks' vigorous but fruitless resistance, and in spite of Blackburn's reluctance, the Allied forces surrendered on 9 March 1942. Blackburn was the senior officer of the Black Force prisoner group, which included 300 Australian seamen from HMAS Perth. He remained a prisoner of war until September 1945 when he was liberated in Mukden, Manchuria, weak but not broken in health. In 1946 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his distinguished service in Java. He received his discharge in 1946.
In 1947–55 Blackburn served as a conciliation commissioner in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and again as State president of the Returned and Services League from 1946–1949.
For his services to the community, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1955.
Blackburn died on 24 November 1960 at Crafers, South Australia from a ruptured aneurism of the common iliac artery, and was buried in the Australian Imperial Force section of Adelaide's West Terrace Cemetery. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
He was a freemason.
Blackburn was awarded:
|Victoria Cross||Victoria Cross (VC) Awarded for Gallantry at the Battle of Pozières|
|Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG)||Awarded for Service to the Community|
|Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)||Awarded for Services in Java while in Command of "Black Force"|
|1914–15 Star||Awarded for service overseas (or en route) during 1914 or 1915|
|British War Medal 1914–18||Awarded for Operational Service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918|
|Victory Medal 1914–19||Awarded to commemorate the Allied Victory in the First World War|
|1939–1945 Star||Operational Service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945|
|Pacific Star||For Operational Service on Java with "Black Force"|
|Defence Medal||For Non-Operational Service in a prescribed area during WW2|
|War Medal 1939–1945||Awarded for Service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945|
|Australia Service Medal 1939–1945||Awarded for Service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945|
|King George V Silver Jubilee Medal||Awarded to a selected number of Australian/Imperial Citizens to Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the reign of George V.|
|King George VI Coronation Medal||Awarded to a selected number of Australian/Imperial Citizens to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI on 12 May 1937|
|Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal||Awarded to a selected number of Australian/Imperial Citizens to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953|
|Efficiency Decoration||Awarded for Long-Service (over 12 Years) with the Territorial Army|
|South Australian House of Assembly|
| Member for Sturt
Served alongside: Thomas Hyland Smeaton, Edward Vardon