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Edward Richard (Ted) Blackmore (1910–1996)

by Darryl Bennet

This article was published online in 2020

Edward Richard Webster Blackmore (1910–1996), soldier, businessman, and community worker, was born on 3 May 1910 at North Mondure, near Wondai, Queensland, second of six children and only son of Queensland-born parents Richard Webster Blackmore, farmer, and his wife Adeline May, née Blaine, former schoolteacher. Struggling on a small block in poor country, Ted’s parents abandoned the farm when he was about four. His father obtained labouring work with the railways and the family moved frequently. Ted attended six State schools, mainly in rural localities near Brisbane. Although a bright student, he left in 1924, having decided that he wished to travel. He found casual jobs and learnt typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping at a Brisbane business college, hoping to attach himself to a businessman with overseas interests. Instead, he gained a position as secretary to T. C. Witherby, a scholar living at Eagle Heights. When Witherby sailed to Italy in 1927 to research and write a book on life under Mussolini, Blackmore went with him.

At Perugia, in his free time, Blackmore took a course in Italian for foreigners. His work for Witherby completed, he moved to Grenoble, France, and enrolled to study French at that city’s university, supporting himself by teaching English. Late in 1928 Witherby invited him to England to assist him to complete his manuscript. Afterwards, Blackmore engaged in a succession of jobs in London—selling vacuum cleaners, washing machines, petrol, oil, tobacco, and bitumen products—and survived the Depression by resourceful salesmanship and occasional deceptive business practices. By his own account, he had fled Italy ahead of a young woman’s angry brothers and he continued his amorous adventures in London. In 1932 he returned to Brisbane. After gold fossicking and several meagre jobs, he began selling filing systems for W. R. Smith & Paterson Pty Ltd. On 14 March 1936 at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Spring Hill, he married Constance Laura Covell, a shorthand typiste. He next worked as a sales representative with C. C. Wakefield & Co. Ltd, marketing Castrol fuel and lubricants, first at Maryborough, then in Brisbane.

On 28 June 1940 Blackmore enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Selected for intelligence duties because of his mental capacity, enthusiasm, and language skills, he served in the Middle East with the 7th Division Cavalry Regiment (1940–42), and in Papua, New Guinea, and Bougainville on the headquarters of New Guinea Force (1943), the 7th Brigade (1943), and the 3rd Division (1944–45). He rose through the ranks to captain (1944) and was to be mentioned in despatches (1947) for exceptional service in the field. On 5 May 1945 in Bougainville he was attempting to defuse a Japanese improvised mine when it exploded. He suffered serious wounds, losing his eyesight, his right forearm, and all but the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, and spending many months in hospital. His AIF appointment ended on 18 July 1946 and he undertook the rehabilitation program at St Dunstan’s Hostel for blinded military personnel in London. Eighteen months later he returned to Brisbane, where the Queensland Patriotic Fund built him a specially designed house.

Blackmore harnessed his capital of £2,000 and his ‘best assets’—his mind and his merchandising experience—to establish a business (Blackmore and Adams 2002, 108). His firm, incorporated as E. R. Blackmore Pty Ltd in 1955, imported wholesale goods, chiefly high-quality cutlery, and held agencies for products such as Wettex cleaning cloths from Sweden and Maglite torches from the United States of America. Hindered by import quotas in the early 1950s, he supplemented his income by working as managing agent for a shipping firm operated by ex-servicemen. In time, aided by his wife, loyal friends, and astutely chosen staff, his business prospered, reportedly turning over more than $500,000 a year by 1977.

Finding time for extensive community service, Blackmore presided over the Queensland branch of the Australian Blinded Soldiers Association (later Blinded Soldiers of St Dunstan’s, Australia) from 1954 to 1994, and served four years as Federal president (1967–71; life member 1979). He was, as well, founding president (1967–72) of the Queensland division of the Australian Birthright Movement (life member 1974), formed to assist fatherless families. For this work, he was appointed MBE (1970) and awarded the OAM (1994).

A raconteur, Blackmore entertained fellow drinkers at the United Service and South Brisbane clubs, but he could also be sarcastic and intolerant of anyone who did not share his conservative views. He was of middle height and slim build. In old age he tape-recorded his experiences, which—with supplementary text by Murray Adams—were later published as Adventure, Adversity and Achievement (2002), the title encapsulating the life of a remarkable man who overcame extreme physical injuries to live independently and productively. He died on 21 April 1996 at Sunnybank, Brisbane, and was cremated. His wife and two daughters survived him.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Blackmore, Edward R., and Murray Adams. Adventure, Adversity and Achievement: The Life of Edward Richard Blackmore. [Hill End, Qld]: Murray Adams, 2002
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane). ‘Home Gift to Blind Ex-Digger.’ 26 February 1949, 3
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, QX13552
  • Thomson, Julie. ‘Never Set Your Sights Too Low,’ Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 31 May 1977, 4
  • Wooller, Frank C. The History of the Blinded Soldiers of St Dunstan’s (Australia). Old Toongabbie, NSW: Blinded Soldiers of St Dunstan’s Australia, c. 1995

Additional Resources

Citation details

Darryl Bennet, 'Blackmore, Edward Richard (Ted) (1910–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2020, accessed online 21 April 2024.

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