Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Harries, David Hugh (1903–1980)

by Mike Fogarty

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

David Hugh Harries (1903-1980), by Rex Bramleigh

David Hugh Harries (1903-1980), by Rex Bramleigh

Australian War Memorial, ART27575

David Hugh Harries (1903-1980), naval officer, was born on 27 June 1903 at Kew, Melbourne, son of David Henry Harries, a stockbroker from Wales, and his Victorian-born wife Vera Lyon, née Cross. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, on 1 January 1917 young Harries entered the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, Federal Capital Territory. He graduated in 1920 with numerous academic and sporting distinctions, and was immediately sent to England for sea-training and courses with the Royal Navy. In 1924 he was promoted lieutenant.

Serving alternately with the R.A.N. (1925-27 and 1930-33) and the R.N. (1927-30 and 1933-35), Harries spent most of the next ten years at sea. He topped the long navigation course at H.M.S. Dryad in 1927, was promoted lieutenant commander in 1932 and attended the R.N. Staff College in 1934. At St Peter's parish church, Cranley Gardens, London, on 23 December 1933 he had married Margaret Emily Street. In 1935 he was posted to Navy Office, Melbourne, and in 1937 joined H.M.A.S. Australia as navigating officer. Next year he commissioned H.M.A.S. Hobart and in December was promoted commander. Back in England, he commanded H.M.S. Seagull from July 1939 to September 1940 when he moved to H.M.S. Niger as senior officer, 4th Minesweeping Flotilla.

Between April 1941 and October 1942 Harries served as Australian naval attaché in Washington, D.C.; Sir Owen Dixon appreciated his assistance and praised his work. By December Harries was in England, supervising the transfer to the R.A.N. of the heavy cruiser, Shropshire. He was posted as executive officer on her commissioning in June 1943. Leaving that ship in mid-1944, he was appointed deputy chief of Naval Staff and acting captain in August (substantive 30 June 1945). He commanded Australia (1945-46) and Hobart (1946-47) before completing the 1948 course at the Imperial Defence College, London. In 1949-50 he was captain of the Sydney shore establishment, Penguin.

On 22 April 1950 Harries took command of the aircraft-carrier, Sydney. The ship was deployed to Japan in August 1951 for service with the United Nations forces against the Chinese and North Koreans. In October, while on her first operational patrol, she equalled the record for a light fleet carrier with eighty-nine flying-sorties in a day. That month Harries had the 'unpleasant and unforgettable experience' of riding out Typhoon Ruth. Sydney conducted six more patrols. Her aircraft supported allied ground forces, spotted for naval bombardments, and bombed and strafed enemy troops and facilities; British and American senior officers were impressed by her performance. She sailed for Australia in January 1952. For his part in the campaign, Harries was appointed C.B.E. (1952) and an officer of the American Legion of Merit (1954).

In April 1952 he was posted as commodore superintendent of training at Flinders Naval Depot, Westernport, Victoria, and in November became second naval member of the Naval Board. Promoted acting rear admiral (substantive 7 July 1954), Harries was head of the Australian Joint Services Staff, Washington, in 1953-55, flag officer commanding, H.M. Australian Fleet, in 1956-57, and flag officer in charge, East Australia Area, in 1958-60. He was passed over for the post of chief of Naval Staff in 1959, transferred to the Emergency List on 27 June 1960 and appointed C.B. (1961). Settling in Sydney, he qualified as a chartered accountant.

Intelligent, alert, handsome and physically fit, 'Darbo' Harries overcame his youthful shyness, but retained a natural reserve. In his official dealings, however, he tended to offer opinions 'out of season', and, in higher administrative posts ashore, occasionally clashed with senior public servants. He 'stuck by what he thought was right and was admired for it by the sailors'. A strict disciplinarian, he demanded total dedication from his subordinates, but was sympathetic to those who were 'having a bad trot'.

For recreation, Harries played tennis and golf, and studied German and Russian in his spare time; he belonged to the Australian and Union clubs, Sydney, and the Naval and Military Club, Melbourne. Following a stroke, he spent the last eight years of his life in a nursing home. He died on 6 July 1980 at Bellevue Hill and was buried in Waverley cemetery; his wife and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • F. B. Eldridge, A History of the Royal Australian Naval College (Melb, 1949)
  • R. O'Neill, Australia in the Korean War 1950-53, vol 2 (Canb, 1985)
  • Navy News, 12 Dec 1958, 17 June, 12 Aug 1960, 11 July 1980
  • A3978/9, item Harries, D. H. (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mike Fogarty, 'Harries, David Hugh (1903–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/harries-david-hugh-10430/text18491, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

David Hugh Harries (1903-1980), by Rex Bramleigh

David Hugh Harries (1903-1980), by Rex Bramleigh

Australian War Memorial, ART27575