Military History

The Highest Honour #5 | Arthur Blackburn | Albert Borella

By The Cove February 15, 2021


Brigadier Arthur Blackburn VC, CMG, CBE, ED, JP (1892 - 1960, 67yo)

Arthur Blackburn was born in Woodville, South Australia where he studied law.  He was enlisted as a soldier in the Australian Imperial Force on August 1914 and was assigned to the 10th Battalion.

His unit landed at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915, where he and another scout were credited with advancing the furthest inland on the day of the landing.  He was commissioned to Second Lieutenant in August, and served throughout the Gallipoli campaign as well as France in 1916.  On 23 July, at Pozières, he commanded a party of fifty men which, in the face of fierce opposition, destroyed an enemy strong point and captured nearly 366 metres of trench, Blackburn personally leading four successive bombing parties, many members of which were killed.  For his exploits, he was awarded the Victoria Cross 'for most conspicuous bravery'.

Blackburn returned to Adelaide on 22 March 1917 where he returned to legal practise.  From 1917 - 1921 he was the founding member and President of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers', and Airmens' Imperial League in South Australia.  In 1939, having served as a militia officer for fifteen years, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took command of a Motorized Cavalry Regiment.  In 1940 he ceased legal practise and was appointed to command the 2nd/3rd Australian Machine-Gun Battalion, AIF, which fought under his command in Syria in 1941.  Blackburn, as the senior Allied officer present, accepted the surrender of Damascus on 21 June 1941.  In February 1942 a small force including his Battalion was hastily inserted into Java where he was promoted to temporary Brigadier and appointed to command the 'Black Force', with orders to assist the Dutch against the rapid Japanese advance.  After three weeks, in spite of his reluctance, the Allied Forces surrendered where he was a prisoner until September 1945.

Blackburn died suddenly on 24 November 1960 and was buried with full Military Honours in West Terrace cemetery in Adelaide.

Captain Albert Borella VC, MM (1881 - 1968, 87yo)

Albert Borella was born in Borung, Victoria.  He worked as a farmer and enlisted as a part-time soldier in the Victorian Rangers, serving for 18 months.  In 1910 he became a firefighter in Melbourne and in 1913 he travelled to the Northern Territory working on the Daly River.

Borella enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in March 1915 and was amongst the first 15 volunteers for active service from the Northern Territory.  He was posted to the 26th Battalion and after training in Egypt landed at Gallipoli on 12 September 1915.  He was promoted to Corporal and served there until November.  In March 1916, the 26th Battalion sailed for the Western Front and in January 1917 he was promoted to Sergeant.  In March he was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery at Malt Trench, Warlencourt.  He was commissioned to Second Lieutenant on 7 April 1917.

He fought at Morlancourt and Hamel and on 17 July 1918, for 'most conspicuous bravery in attack' at Villers-Bretonneux, won the Victoria Cross. While leading his platoon in an assault on an enemy support-trench, he noticed a machine-gun firing through the Australian barrage; he ran out ahead of his men into the barrage, shot the gunners with his revolver and captured the gun. He then led a small party against the strongly held trench, bombed two dug-outs and took thirty prisoners.

On the outbreak of World War 2 Borella was appointed Lieutenant in the 12th Australian Garrison Battalion with which he served until 1941 when he was attached to the Prisoner of War Group at Rushworth. Promoted Captain on 01 September 1942, he served with the 51st Garrison Company at Myrtleford until discharged in 1945.

Borella died on 7 February 1968 in Albury and was buried with full Military Honours.  Streets in both Albury and Canberra are named after him.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



Add new comment

Cove App

COVE App

Fast access to The Cove anywhere, anytime. Additional feature of receiving notifications for new content.

Reflective Journal

REFLECTIVE JOURNAL

Record your reflections in a structured way to improve your performance.