Major General Edmund Drake-Brockman

21 February 1884 - 1 June 1949

ART00096 Bell, George, Brigadier General Edmund Drake-Brockman (1918), oil on canvas, 62 x 51.6 cm, AWM copyright

Edmund Alfred Drake-Brockman was born in Busselton, Western Australia, on 21 February 1884, the son of Frederick Slade Drake-Brockman, a distinguished surveyor and early 20th Century explorer of the hitherto uncharted Kimberley region. His mother, the former Grace Vernon Bussel, was the heroine of the Georgette disaster in 1875, when she helped save some fifty lives. Edmund was educated at Guilford Grammar. After graduation, he served his articles with the solicitors' firm of James and Derbyshire and was admitted to practice in 1909.

Drake-Brockman served in the cadets at school and was commissioned in the militia's 11th Infantry on 25 May 1903. He was promoted to lieutenant on 25 November 1903, captain on 9 July 1906. He was aide de camp to the Governor of Western Australia from 27 April 1907 to 30 April 1911 and attended a training course at the staff college at Quetta in India (now Pakistan) from 1908 to 1909. Promoted to major on 28 August 1911, he transferred to the 88th Infantry on 1 July 1912 and the unattached list on 1 July 1913.

On 25 August 1914, Drake-Brockman was appointed to the AIF as a major in the 11th Infantry Battalion, the Western Australian battalion of the 1st Division. On 25 April 1915, he was in the second tow of the battalion, landing about 200 metres north of Ari Burnu shortly before dawn. He immediately climbed Ari Burnu to Plugge's Plateau. As he reached the summit, three Turks sprang up and made for him. One of his men killed all three. From here Drake-Brockman directed the men arriving from the beach, sending the 9th Battalion to the right and the 10th to the centre, while retaining the men of the 11th with him on the left.

Ordered by Colonel E. G. Sinclair-MacLagan to place troops on Baby 700, Drake-Brockman moved forward to Russell's Top. From there he discovered that the maps that they had were wrong and the magnitude of the task and committed his own company to it. Shortly after noon, he moved to MacLaurin's Hill, where he was in command until the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel R. H. Owen of the 3rd Battalion later in the day.

On 15 July 1915, Drake-Brockman was seriously wounded. He was evacuated to Malta, and then invalided home to Australia in October. For his services at Gallipoli, he was made a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG).

Drake-Brockman returned to Egypt in April 1916 and on 11 May he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 16th Infantry Battalion, succeeding Lieutenant Colonel H. Pope who had been appointed to command a brigade. Drake-Brockman commanded the battalion at Pozieres in August 1916, Mouquet Farm in September 1916 and Bullecourt in April 1917. In all of these battles, the 16th suffered very heavy casualties. For his services in command of the 16th Battalion, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

On 9 October 1917 he was appointed to command the 4th Training Battalion, the training unit of the 4th Brigade, of which the 16th Battalion was part. On 7 November 1917, he took over command of the 12th Training Battalion, the 4th having been disbanded.

In February 1918, Drake-Brockman resumed command of the 16th Battalion, leading it at Hebuterne in April 1918, Hamel in July 1918 and Amiens in August 1918. On 5 October 1918, he was promoted to colonel and temporary brigadier general and took over command of the 4th Brigade from Brigadier General C. H. Brand, who returned to Australia on Anzac leave. In June 1919, he was made a Companion of the Bath (CB). In all, he had been mentioned in dispatches six times.

Drake-Brockman had been breveted as a lieutenant colonel on 3 June 1918. He became a full colonel and honorary brigadier general on 16 January 1920. After the war he commanded the 4th Infantry Brigade from 1 May 1921 to 30 April 1926. He was aide de camp to the Governor General from 1 July 1931 to 30 June 1935. Promoted to brigadier on 1 June 1937, he took command of the 3rd Division, succeeding Major General T. A. Blamey. He was promoted to major general on 1 July 1937, only the fourth militia officer to be promoted to that rank in the decade before the Second World War. He remained in command of the 3rd Division until he retired from the Army on 7 January 1942.

Drake-Brockman was elected to the Senate as a Nationalist in 1919 and was government whip from 1923 to 1926 when he retired from parliament. He represented Australia at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1925. He was admitted to the bar in Victoria in 1920 and was president of the Australian Employers' Federation from 1924 to 1926.

In 1927, Drake-Brockman was appointed to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. As a judge, he cast the deciding vote in the 1934 Basic Wage Case, providing for a system of child endowment payment. In 1939 and 1940 he awarded a 40 hour week and paid annual leave to coal miners. In 1943, he lifted the female wage to 75% of the male basic wage in the clothing and rubber industries. In the 1945 Female Minimum Wages Case, he was with the minority in ruling that it should be extended to all industries. The majority did not come around to this view until 1950. In 1945, Drake-Brockman reduced the working week from 44 hours to 40 from the beginning of 1948. In 1947, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

Drake-Brockman died on 1 June 1949 and was cremated. His brother Geoffrey commanded the 9th Field Company in the Great War and was Director General of Engineer Services from 1941 to 1943, with the rank of brigadier.

Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 8, pp. 339-340; Bean, C. E. W., The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Volume I: The Story of Anzac pp. 255, 260, 282-286, 437-438

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Last update 8 June 2010