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Charlesworth, Alan Moorhouse (1903–1978)

by Chris Clark

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Alan Moorhouse Charlesworth (1903-1978), by Claude R. Holzheimer, 1949

Alan Moorhouse Charlesworth (1903-1978), by Claude R. Holzheimer, 1949

Australian War Memorial, 146218 [presenting trophy to Private R. K. Duell]

Alan Moorhouse Charlesworth (1903-1978), air force officer, was born on 17 September 1903 at Lottah, Tasmania, son of Edwin Moorhouse Charlesworth, a storeman from England, and his native-born wife Louisa, née Johnston. Educated at the local state school and St Virgil's College, Hobart, in 1920 Alan entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Federal Capital Territory: he was athletics champion (1921-23), company sergeant-major in his final year (1923) and won the sword of honour on graduating. After serving with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment in Queensland, on 27 January 1925 he was seconded to the Royal Australian Air Force and began flying training at Point Cook, Victoria. In March he was injured in an aircraft accident in which his instructor was killed.

On attaining his pilot's wings, in July 1925 Charlesworth was posted to No.1 Squadron at Laverton; in January 1928 he transferred permanently to the R.A.A.F. and next month was promoted flight lieutenant. He married Edith Margaret Bennett on 30 April in All Saints Anglican Church, St Kilda, before embarking in May for England to attend courses at the Royal Air Force School of Photography, Farnborough. Having been attached in 1929-30 to the R.A.F. Survey Flight in British Somaliland, he returned to Melbourne. Again posted to No.1 Squadron, in 1932 he flew around Australia with W. G. Woolnough to make aerial surveys of potential oilfields; for his work, Charlesworth was awarded the Air Force Cross. While on his third posting to No.1 Squadron (1934-39), he exercised temporary command on several occasions. In November-December 1937 he was responsible for a training flight to Queensland during which a pilot was killed; the accident was one of a series and precipitated severe criticism of the R.A.A.F.

From 1 March 1939, when he was promoted wing commander, Charlesworth held command and staff posts of increasing seniority. In September 1944, with the rank of temporary air commodore, he was posted to Darwin as air officer commanding, North-Western Area. His squadrons carried out offensive strikes to protect the southern flank of the allied drive from New Guinea to the Philippines. He was appointed C.B.E. (1946) for his skilful conduct of air operations, but a subordinate thought him 'too nice . . . to be a military man'. After being sent to England in August 1946 for instruction at the R.A.F. School of Air Support, in the following February Charlesworth became commandant of the School of Land/Air Warfare at Williamtown, New South Wales. During his tour of duty (1949-51) as chief of staff at headquarters, British Commonwealth Occupation Force, Japan, in September 1950 he briefly took charge of the base administration of No.77 Squadron in Korea. In 1951-53 he was acting air vice marshal while A.O.C., Southern (Training) Command, Melbourne. He had charge of R.A.A.F. overseas headquarters, London, until his air force career ended on 31 December 1955; he was granted the rank of honorary air vice marshal next year.

Director of recruiting for the armed services in 1958-59, he later became an associate of a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Survived by his wife and daughter, Charlesworth died on 21 September 1978 at his Glen Iris home and, after an air force funeral, was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Lee, Duntroon (Canb, 1952)
  • G. Odgers, Across the Parallel (Melb, 1952)
  • G. Odgers, Air War Against Japan 1943-1945 (Canb, 1957)
  • R. O'Neill, Australia in the Korean War 1950-53, vol 2 (Canb, 1985)
  • A. Powell, The Shadow's Edge (Melb, 1988)
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother (Syd, 1991)
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 10 May 1928
  • Argus (Melbourne), 3 June 1933
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Sept 1978
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Charlesworth, Alan Moorhouse (1903–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/charlesworth-alan-moorhouse-9732/text17187, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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