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Garsia, Rupert Clare (1887–1954)

by Robert Hyslop

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Rupert Clare Garsia (1887-1954), by D. H. Wilson

Rupert Clare Garsia (1887-1954), by D. H. Wilson

Australian War Memorial, 133699

Rupert Clare Garsia (1887-1954), naval officer, was born on 9 October 1887 at Christchurch, New Zealand, son of Captain Christopher Garsia, 79th Cameron Highlanders, and his wife Elizabeth Parker, née Watson. He was educated at Christchurch High School and later in England at H.M.S. Britannia, the Royal Navy's training ship. Appointed a midshipman in H.M.S. Russell in the Channel Fleet in July 1904, he became a sub-lieutenant in September 1907 and a lieutenant in April 1910. He served in the cruiser H.M.S. Psyche on the Australian Station in 1909-11 and then in battle cruisers in the Home Fleet.

Garsia resigned from the Royal Navy on 15 April 1914. He joined his family in Tasmania, but when war was imminent offered his services to the Royal Australian Navy and went on board H.M.A.S. Australia in Sydney on 4 August 1914 as lieutenant on the R.N. emergency list (on loan to the R.A.N.). He was transferred on 12 August as prize master to the Zambesi, a small vessel carrying material for the German wireless station at Bitapaka, New Britain. Garsia took the Zambesi to Sydney, arriving there on 26 August; he left the same day to go north again and served in H.M.A.S. Sydney from 14 September until the end of the war. The Sydney escorted the first convoy of troops from Australia to the Middle East and, en route, destroyed the German light cruiser Emden at Cocos Island on 9 November 1914; in this engagement Garsia was in charge of a group of guns. From Colombo he sent his father in England a description of the fight and this was published in the London Times ahead of the official account.

In 1915-16 the Sydney patrolled in the West Atlantic and in June 1916 joined the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. She suffered casualties in action in December 1916 and engaged the Zeppelin, L43, in May 1917. Her aeroplane, operated from a launching-platform, was in action on 1 June 1918. This was soon after Garsia's promotion to the rank of lieutenant-commander, R.N., on 1 April 1918; he returned to Sydney in July 1919. On 31 January 1919 he had been appointed a lieutenant-commander in the R.A.N. He served in H.M.A.S. Tingira, the boys' training ship in Sydney, from August 1919 until April 1921 when he went to command H.M.A.S. Penguin, the depot ship in Sydney. Promoted commander on 1 July 1921, he served in H.M.A.S. Brisbane from July 1921, and in the flagship Melbourne from March until November 1922 when he took command of the sloop Marguerite.

Garsia was sent to England in 1924-25 to study training and education in the R.N. On his return in August 1925 he took command of the Tingira where he remained until April 1927 when, to his acute disappointment, boys' training was abandoned and the Tingira was paid off. The Naval Board had refused his politically naive submission that it should once more seek the government's permission to reintroduce caning as the form of punishment which had been abolished after parliamentary debate. Garsia then commanded H.M.A.S. Platypus, a depot ship. In April 1928 he returned to the Penguin in command until August 1929 when he moved to H.M.A.S. Brisbane in command and as senior officer, reserve ships. In June 1930 he again took command of the Penguin.

Garsia ceased duty with the navy when he was appointed administrator of Nauru in December 1932, remaining there until October 1938. This phosphate island in the Pacific gave scope to his naval predilections for efficiency, paternalism, correctitude and a taste for intrigue. At the age of 46 he surprised everyone at Nauru by marrying. His wife was Dorothea Lloyd, a teacher of Hunters Hill, Sydney; the wedding took place at the Anglican church, Bong Bong, New South Wales, on 28 April 1934. There were no children of the marriage. In 1939 Garsia settled in Canberra, and in 1940 was appointed acting captain and served as commodore of convoys until 1943. He commanded H.M.A.S. Leeuwin, the navy's main depot in Western Australia from October 1943 until September 1945 when his naval service finally concluded.

Survived by his wife, Garsia died of a cerebral haemorrhage in Canberra on 18 February 1954 and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was tall and well built and had a commanding presence; he made a significant contribution both as naval officer and administrator. He was public spirited, strong on the dignity of his naval rank and on his vision of the navy as the unchallengeable safeguard of the nation.

Select Bibliography

  • A. W. Jose, The Royal Australian Navy 1914-18 (Syd, 1928)
  • G. H. Gill, Royal Australian Navy, 1939-42 (Canb, 1957)
  • P. Adam-Smith, The ANZACS (Melb, 1978)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Mar 1933
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 May 1918, 14 Apr 1925, 25 May 1928, 2 Feb 1933, 6 Mar 1934, 24 Mar 1936, 20 May, 11, 18 Oct 1938
  • Canberra Times, 20 Feb 1954
  • R. C. Garsia, diaries and letter (Australian War Memorial)
  • Australian Naval Board minutes, 6 Jan 1926 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Robert Hyslop, 'Garsia, Rupert Clare (1887–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/garsia-rupert-clare-6283/text10833, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 15 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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