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Brand, Charles Henry (1873–1961)

by A. J. Sweeting

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Charles Henry Brand (1873-1961), by Spencer Shier

Charles Henry Brand (1873-1961), by Spencer Shier

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23243254

Charles Henry Brand (1873-1961), soldier and politician, was born on 4 September 1873 at Ipswich, Queensland, fifth child of Charles Hayman Brand, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Elliott. His father was a native of Exeter, England, and his mother of Londonderry, Ireland. Educated at Bundaberg and Maryborough state schools, he joined the Department of Public Instruction as a trainee-teacher in November 1887. In 1898 he was commissioned lieutenant in the Queensland Volunteer Infantry and on the outbreak of war in South Africa enlisted as a sergeant in the 3rd Queensland (Mounted Infantry) Contingent. He served with the Rhodesian Field Force and in operations in the Transvaal and the Orange River and Cape colonies; on 25 June 1900 he was commissioned lieutenant. He returned home with the contingent in June 1901 but next May re-enlisted in the 7th Commonwealth Horse as captain in command of 'C' Squadron. The regiment never saw action as, by the time it reached South Africa, peace had been proclaimed.

In 1903-04 Brand taught at Charters Towers State School and in 1905 joined the permanent military forces as a temporary lieutenant. He was attached to the administrative and instructional staff in Melbourne; his rank was confirmed in 1906, and on 25 June he married a schoolteacher Ella Arline Armstrong at the Methodist parsonage, Bondi, New South Wales. In 1906-09 he was on the instructional staff, was promoted captain in July 1909 and spent the next two years in India on exchange duty. On his return he was appointed to the South Australia staff and was promoted major and acting commandant in 1912. A contemporary described him as 'the most energetic officer and best instructor' he had ever known.

When the 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force, was raised in August 1914 Major General (Sir) William Bridges selected Brand as brigade major of the 3rd Infantry Brigade. He embarked for Egypt on 21 October. At Mena Camp he was a familiar sight, going about his duties on a hired donkey when other transport was scarce, doing the work of a messenger, an instructor or a staff officer exactly as each task came to hand. The 3rd Brigade was first ashore at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli, on 25 April 1915. Brand was conspicuous that day when he helped to direct troops on Plateau 400, organized stragglers under fire at Gaba Tepe and led an attack which resulted in the disablement of three enemy guns. Often in the following weeks he delivered messages to the forward troops and when the Turks advanced in mass attacks on Lone Pine he manned the only telephone at 3rd Brigade headquarters.

During the Turkish counter-attack of mid-May Brand was temporary commander of the 3rd Battalion and was slightly wounded when a German naval shell landed in his headquarters. He remained on duty and on 14 July was promoted lieutenant-colonel and given command of the 8th Battalion which relieved the 6th and 7th Battalions at Steele's Post on 18 July. Here, because of constant bombardment, there was a high incidence of shock in the casualty lists. Except for a rest period at Lemnos in November, the 8th remained at Steele's until the evacuation. Brand was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for devotion to duty and gallantry at Anzac; he was the first Australian to receive this award for Gallipoli service. His battalion reached the Western Front late in March 1916 and went to the Somme. In June Brand took temporary command of the 6th Brigade and on 10 July was promoted colonel and temporary brigadier general and was given command of the 4th. He lived down the effects of an 'extraordinarily inept and egoistic' oration to his troops and held his command for more than two years.

In 1916-17 the brigade served at Pozières, Bullecourt, Messines, Polygon Wood and Passchendaele. Its heaviest losses were at Bullecourt where, after a few hours fighting, there were more than 2000 casualties. Brand, who had strenuously opposed the plan to attack with the assistance of tanks only and without artillery support, wept as he saw the remnants of his troops emerging from the line. At Messines he was wounded when a shell exploded outside brigade headquarters and was out of action for a month. When the German offensive on the Somme began in March 1918, the brigade was drawn into a gap in the Gommecourt-Hébuterne area, where it hung on for three critical weeks. Afterwards Brand led the brigade in the capture of Morcourt and Méricourt in July during the semi-open warfare near Madame Wood, and in its last operation close to the Hindenburg Line. Between 27 September and 4 October he was one of a group of 100 Australian officers and men who helped to lead the 27th American Division through its first big battle. Afterwards the original Anzacs in the force, including Brand, left for Australia, though before his departure he was invested at Buckingham Palace with the C.B., C.M.G. and D.S.O. During the war he was eight times mentioned in dispatches.

Brand's A.I.F. appointment was terminated on 21 February 1919 and he resumed duty with the Australian Military Forces. He was commandant in Victoria in 1919-20, confirmed in the rank of brigadier general on 1 April 1920, and was base commandant in New South Wales in 1921-25. He was made 2nd chief of general staff and a member of the Military Board in 1926 and two years later became quartermaster general, retiring in 1933 in the rank of major general. In the 1934 general election he won a Victorian Senate seat for the United Australia Party and held it until June 1947. In parliament he mainly concerned himself with defence policy and the needs of ex-servicemen; he was chairman of the Federal Parliamentary Ex-Servicemen's Committee in 1942-47.

Survived by his wife and two daughters, Brand died at his Toorak home on 31 July 1961 and was cremated with full military honours. A portrait by W. B. McInnes is in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Brand was a soldiers' general and was trusted and well liked by his troops who honoured him with the nickname 'Digger'.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1912)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 3 June 1915, 29 Dec 1916, 1 Jan 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Mar, July, Oct 1930, Apr, June 1933, Apr 1935
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

A. J. Sweeting, 'Brand, Charles Henry (1873–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brand-charles-henry-5338/text9025, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 24 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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