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Horace Clowes Brinsmead (1883–1934)

by Darryl McIntyre

This article was published:

Horace Clowes Brinsmead (1883-1934), by unknown photographer

Horace Clowes Brinsmead (1883-1934), by unknown photographer

National Archives of Australia, A8794:3

Horace Clowes Brinsmead (1883-1934), soldier and administrator, was born on 2 February 1883 at Hampstead, London, son of Edgar William Brinsmead, piano-manufacturer, and his wife Annie, née Bayley. He was educated at Clifton, Cranleigh and Repton schools and at 20 migrated to Australia and settled on the land in North Queensland. This venture was unsuccessful and he became a planter in Tonga, remaining there until World War I.

On 29 December 1914 Brinsmead enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a private and was posted to the 24th Battalion. He was commissioned second lieutenant while Brinsmead training at Seymour, Victoria, and on 26 June 1915 embarked for active service. When his battalion reached Gallipoli in September Brinsmead, by then lieutenant, was appointed adjutant. He was firm, just and courteous towards other ranks who, because of his slight build, gentle nature and quiet disposition, thought at first that he was 'too refined to make a leader in war'. He proved his ability during the heavy Turkish bombardment of Lone Pine on 29 November. Sent in to command 'B' Company when the front line had been blown to pieces, he quickly reorganized the men and had the trenches rebuilt so that a fresh Turkish attack could be met with confidence. He served at Lone Pine until the evacuation and commanded the last party to leave the sector.

The 24th Battalion reached the Western Front in March 1916. Brinsmead, who was still adjutant, was promoted captain in May, and for gallantry at Pozières on 27 July was awarded the Military Cross. On the same day he was severely wounded in a leg and evacuated to England. Nine months later he was still unfit for active service and after attending a senior-officers' course at Clare College, Cambridge, transferred to the administrative staff at Australian Flying Corps headquarters, London. From April 1917 until early 1919 he was a senior staff officer in the A.F.C. training wing. He was promoted major in January 1918 and temporary lieutenant-colonel a year later. From April to November 1919 he was attached to the Foreign Office for special duty with the military section of the British delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. He was appointed O.B.E. in June and in November was sent to Germany with the Disarmament Control Board.

Brinsmead was demobilized in May 1920 and on 8 December, at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, East Melbourne, married Ivy Ernestine, daughter of Charles McDonald. In the same month the civil aviation branch of the Department of Defence was established, and he was appointed controller. Over the next eleven years he directed the growth of civil aviation in Australia, earning a reputation as an efficient administrator with a diplomatic gift for cutting red tape. He framed the air navigation regulations, flew thousands of miles investigating new aerial mail and passenger routes and reporting on landing grounds and general facilities, and was a constant advocate of the local manufacture of aircraft parts.

In December 1931 Brinsmead left for London to conclude a project which he had long striven for; an aerial passenger and mail-service connexion along the Imperial air route between England and Australia. At Bangkok his aircraft crashed soon after take-off and he suffered severe head injuries. He was brought home next February but remained an invalid until his death at the Austin Hospital Melbourne, on 11 March 1934; he was cremated with full military honours. His wife, a son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. J. Harvey, The Red and White Diamond (Melb, 1920)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • London Gazette, 29 Dec 1916, supplement, 3 June 1919
  • Sea, Land and Air (Sydney), Jan 1921
  • Duckboard (Melbourne), Mar 1933, Apr 1934
  • Reveille (Sydney), Apr, May 1934
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Dec 1920, 25 Jan 1933, 12 Mar 1934
  • Punch (Melbourne), 16 Dec 1920
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 7 Oct 1926
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 Mar 1934
  • War Diary of the 24th Battalion, A.I.F. (Australian War Memorial).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Darryl McIntyre, 'Brinsmead, Horace Clowes (1883–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Horace Clowes Brinsmead (1883-1934), by unknown photographer

Horace Clowes Brinsmead (1883-1934), by unknown photographer

National Archives of Australia, A8794:3

Life Summary [details]


2 February, 1883
London, Middlesex, England


11 March, 1934 (aged 51)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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