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Eastick, Sir Thomas Charles (Tom) (1900–1988)

by David N. Brook

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Sir Thomas Charles (Tom) Eastick (1900-1988), engineer and army officer, was born on 3 May 1900 at Hyde Park, Adelaide, eldest of six children of Charles William Lone Eastick, plumber, and his wife Agnes Ann, née Scutt. Tom was educated at Goodwood Public School but left at the age of 12½ to look after his sick mother and his younger brothers and sisters while his father struggled to support the family. He became a junior purchasing officer with the hardware firm Colton, Palmer & Preston Ltd, where he developed the managerial skills which were a feature of his later life. He married Ruby Sybil Bruce, a saleswoman, on 31 October 1925 at the Baptist Church, Richmond, and they set up their home in the new suburb of Reade Park. He was a fair but firm father to his five sons, and a strict teetotaller who was never known to swear.

In 1927 Eastick was invited to manage temporarily an engineering company in Adelaide for twelve months. This career change was so successful that he co-founded a small engineering business, Angas Engineering Co. (Pty Ltd), with a friend who was a first-class mechanic. Business prospered until the Depression but thereafter times became progressively harder. During the night he would ride his bicycle to the factory to check on the case hardening of automotive components.

Having served four years in the senior cadets, Eastick had enlisted in the Australian Field Artillery, Militia, in 1918. Commissioned as a lieutenant in 1922, he set about his duties in the 13th Field Brigade with energy and efficiency and quickly developed a reputation as a sound trainer of men. He was given command of the 50th Battery in 1924 and promoted to captain in 1926. That year he demonstrated for the first time in Australia the use of survey procedures to predict gun data to engage targets without ranging. A second innovation with which he was associated was the control of artillery fire from aircraft: in 1927 a Royal Australian Air Force pilot adjusted the fire of Eastick’s battery during field firing. Eastick rose to major in 1930 and in 1938 his battery was awarded the Mount Schanck trophy for being the most efficient Militia field battery in Australia. In 1939 he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and appointed commanding officer of the brigade.

Early in 1940, after the outbreak of World War II, Eastick embarked on a rigorous three-month training regime with his brigade. In April he was selected to raise and command the 2/7th Field Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, as a substantive lieutenant colonel. His unit was ultimately allotted to the 9th Division and embarked for the Middle East in November. Deployment on operations in North Africa followed from May to October 1941, after which the 2/7th became depot regiment at the British Army’s Middle East School of Artillery at Almaza near Cairo for three months. This honour was in recognition of the efficiency which Eastick had brought to his regiment and for which he was mentioned in despatches (1942). In February-June 1942 the regiment performed defensive duties in Syria and Lebanon.

For the `forcefulness’ and `determination’ with which he commanded his regiment in Egypt, first at Tel el Eisa in July and then during the battle of El Alamein in October-November, Eastick was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He returned to Australia in February 1943. In June he was promoted to temporary brigadier and posted as commander, Royal Australian Artillery, 7th Division. From August 1943 to April 1944 he served in Papua and New Guinea.

Appointed to command the 9th Division’s artillery in June 1944, Eastick served in Australia, Morotai and Borneo. During his command of Kuching Force (September-December 1945), he took the surrender of Japanese forces in southern Sarawak. He administered command of the 9th Division from December 1945 until February 1946. On 28 February he transferred to the Reserve of Officers with the honorary rank of brigadier. He was appointed a companion of the Order of the Star of Sarawak (1946).

Eastick resumed his civilian occupation and joined the Colonel Light Gardens sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (Returned Services League from 1965); he was State president in 1950-54 and 1961-72. A Freemason, a justice of the peace and a leading participant in `A Call to the People of Australia’, he was also federal president of the Australia Day Council (1963-65, 1976-80). He served in an honorary capacity in some twenty-five other organisations, most of which were ex-service related.

On 28 January 1950 Eastick was recalled to the army as a brigadier and appointed commander, Headquarters Group, Central Command. Additionally, he was an honorary aide-de-camp to the governor-general Sir William McKell in 1950-53. He again transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 1 October 1953. From 1955 to 1960 he was a colonel commandant of the Royal Australian Artillery. Having been appointed CMG in 1953, he was knighted in 1970. He remained with Angas Engineering Pty Ltd until 1977.

Lady Eastick died suddenly in 1980. A few years later Sir Thomas moved to the Masonic Nursing Home at Somerton Park, where he died on 16 December 1988. Survived by his sons, he was cremated. His son Bruce was Speaker (1979-82) and leader of the Opposition (1972-75) in the South Australian parliament.

Integrity, professional competence, steadfastness, self-discipline and self-reliance had been instilled in Eastick at an early age. He inspired the officers and men he commanded with his proficiency and resolution. He was a valued and trusted businessman and servant of the many organisations with which he was involved. Despite the hardships of his early life and war service, he remained a kindly and charitable man who was tough and forceful when those attributes were required. He was not flamboyant, but a consistent performer who lived by the dictum with which he had been brought up—`near enough is never good enough’.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Goodhart, We of the Turning Tide (1947)
  • D. Goodhart, The History of the 2/7 Australian Field Regiment (1952)
  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (1963)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (1966)
  • S. Cockburn, The Patriarchs (1983)
  • D. Brook (ed), Roundshot to Rapier (1986)
  • D. Horner, The Gunners (1995)
  • T. Roberts, Will We Be Disappointed After? (1995)
  • Returned Services League of Australia (South Australia), Annual Report, 1969, 1972
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 17 Dec 1988, p 17
  • Eastick papers (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

David N. Brook, 'Eastick, Sir Thomas Charles (Tom) (1900–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/eastick-sir-thomas-charles-tom-12451/text22393, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 17 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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