Alexander James de Burgh (Jim) FORBES MC

FORBES, Alexander James de Burgh

Service Numbers: 435375 (NX138171), SN 435375
Enlisted: 15 December 1942, Royal Military College, Duntroon, Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: Not yet discovered
Born: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 16 December 1923
Home Town: Manly, Manly Vale, New South Wales
Schooling: Knox Grammar School in Sydney and St Peter's College in Adelaide, Australia
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Adelaide, SA, 10 August 2019, aged 95 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

15 Dec 1942: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant, SN 435375 (NX138171), Royal Military College, Duntroon, Australia
14 Jun 1945: Honoured Military Cross, Bougainville
18 Apr 1947: Discharged Australian Army, SN 435375

Soldier, Politician of Great Esteem

JIM Forbes was the last surviving Liberal minister of the Menzies era, serving four prime ministers and two Opposition leaders.

He was born to a military family and, as a result, spent time in most states of Australia before attending Sydney’s Knox College and St Peters College in Adelaide as a day student and, later, a boarder.

His father, Brigadier Alexander Moore Forbes MC, was a professional army artillery officer who served in World War I. His mother was Beryl (nee Stone).

Jim enrolled at Duntroon Military College after war was declared and emerged a commissioned officer on December 14, 1942. He enlisted the next day.

He was sent first to Darwin, which was still being bombed by the Japanese. In April 1944 he was among the replacements for the 2nd Mountain Battery in New Guinea.

The unit was sent to Bougainville in early 1945. Dense jungle made it difficult to fix artillery targets so during the landing in January Jim waded out to sea, up to his armpits in full view of the enemy, to get a clear line of sight to direct fire.

That was the start of a series of engagements where Jim would move well ahead of the leading infantry in the jungle, locate the enemy and then direct artillery fire.

It was highly effective. Most Japanese casualties were from artillery fire. By May he had been awarded a “very good” Military Cross, with at least one historian arguing he should have been given even higher recognition.

Jim later served in the occupation forces in Japan and Germany. He came out of the army to study at the University of Adelaide and first met fellow student Margaret Blackburn there. She was daughter of another distinguished veteran, Arthur Blackburn VC.

While studying, Jim showed his interest in conservative politics, establishing the Adelaide University Liberal Union and, in 1948, was appointed president of the Mount Lofty branch of the Liberal and Country League.

After completing his honours degree Jim went to the UK to undertake a PhD at Magdalen College in Oxford. He married Margaret there in 1952. Sarah, their first of five children, was born in the UK.

Back in Australia he lectured in politics at Adelaide University. It was during the Cold War and he was of the view that politics was a war between socialism and freedom.

Aged 31, Jim stood for the federal seat of Kingston in 1955, losing to the incumbent Labor member Pat Galvin. The following year, he won the by-election for Barker following the death of speaker Archie Cameron.

His military know-how was put to use from 1963 when he became Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy in the Menzies Government.

Jim was not one to resile from difficult decisions. In 1964, as Australia’s full military involvement in the Vietnam War loomed, he introduced conscription, arguing that the army needed more soldiers.

Conscription was to be a major point of contention for the next eight years, although Jim had been careful to ensure that, unlike the US where the elites were able to avoid service , Australian conscription was an across-the-board selection .

Aside from the military, his portfolios would include health and immigration and he would make similar hard-edged decisions in both. With Prime Minister John Gorton, he introduced Australia’s first free healthcare scheme, the forerunner of Medicare.

In immigration, his argument for a “homogenous” Australia with preference for European immigrants caused a huge fuss, while his decision to deport rock star Joe Cocker for cannabis possession brought ructions at home among some of his teenage children.

By the time of the contentious 1975 federal election, Jim, 52 – still young by politicians’ standards – decided to retire, ill at ease with the direction being taken by politics.

He chaired Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, overseeing its privatisation but choosing not to take part in its float for reasons of propriety. As CSL, it would become one of Australia’s most successful companies.

He also chaired the National Library of Australia and continued his involvement with Liberals, becoming federal president in 1982, the last South Australian to hold that position.

A keen golf player, and in good health until his last month, he is survived by Margaret, and children Sarah, Emma, Alexander and David, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Daughter Anna predeceased him.

Advertiser - Saturday, 28 Sep 2019

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Biography contributed by Virtual Australia

He graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1942, and was commissioned into the Australian Army. He was stationed in Darwin in 1943, then assigned to the 2nd Mountain Battery.

On 24 April 1945, Forbes was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the South West Pacific.

His father was also awarded the MC during the First World War, and his brother Patrick Forbes was later awarded the MC award during the Korean War, "the only known instance of three members of an Australian family winning similar decorations for bravery in three consecutive wars". - Courtesy of Major Chris Roe