Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Garnet Francis Malley (1892–1961)

by Chris Clark

This article was published:

Garnet Francis Malley (1892-1961), air force officer, warehouse manager and planter, was born on 2 November 1892 at Mosman, Sydney, fifth of six children of Australian-born parents Francis Malley, ironworker, and his wife Clara Ellen, née Merritt. Francis founded the Sydney whitegoods-manufacturing company, Malleys Ltd. Educated at the Church of England Preparatory School, Mosman, at Mount Victoria and at Hawkesbury Agricultural College, Garnet served an apprenticeship as a mechanic in his father's firm.

On 12 October 1915 Malley enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Sailing for Egypt in the following month, he was sent to France in March 1916 and posted to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade in May. He transferred to the Australian Flying Corps in April 1917 and was commissioned as a pilot in October. Two months later he flew to France where he joined No.4 Squadron, A.F.C., which was equipped with Sopwith Camel scouts. In March 1918 he was promoted captain and made a flight commander. Frequently in action, he proved an aggressive and able pilot. Although twice wounded, he qualified as an ace, destroying six enemy aircraft and a balloon. He won the Military Cross (1918) and Air Force Cross (1919). From August 1918 he was an instructor with the A.F.C.'s No.5 Training Squadron at Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England. There he flew a Camel trainer painted distinctively white.

Back in Sydney, Malley was one of the former wartime pilots selected in August 1919 to tour country areas to promote the Peace Loan. His A.I.F. appointment terminated on 4 October. He rejoined the family firm as warehouse manager in 1921. At the Presbyterian Church, Mosman, on 25 January 1922 he married Phyllis Kathleen Dare. In June 1925 he was commissioned flight lieutenant in the Citizen Air Force. A member of No.3 Squadron based at Richmond, he was promoted honorary squadron leader in January 1928 and held temporary command of the unit in 1928-29. He was also vice-president (1925-28) of the Australian Flying Corps Association.

In 1928 Malley became a specialist flying consultant to Australian National Airways Ltd. After the company encountered financial difficulties in 1931, he and his wife travelled abroad and settled in China. By 1937 he was a respected and influential adviser to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who was secretary-general of the Nationalist Chinese government's aeronautical commission (which administered the air force). His standing with the commission was bolstered in February 1937 when, in response to a request from the British Foreign Office, he was made honorary wing commander in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve, though he had severed his connexion with the R.A.A.F.

Malley tended to exaggerate the importance of his role in China. As a result, the R.A.A.F. was initially indifferent to his views on the tactics of Japanese airmen fighting in that country. Recalled to Australia in 1940, he was restored to the R.A.A.F.'s Active List in October as a squadron leader and posted to the intelligence staff at Air Force Headquarters, Melbourne. He was appointed to the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre and promoted deputy to its director, Commander Rupert Long. Sir Frederic Eggleston was named as Australian minister to China in 1941. Malley applied to accompany him as services attaché. His request was refused.

Granted the honorary rank of wing commander in October 1941, Malley succeeded Long as director of the C.O.I.C. in December. He continued in this capacity even after the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur and his American staff, and the establishment of General Headquarters, South-West Pacific Area. Malley became acting group captain in July 1942. Due to illness, he relinquished his post and higher rank in October. MacArthur complimented him on the centre's efficiency, and on his 'foresight, planning and organizational ability'. In 1948 Malley was to be appointed an officer of the American Legion of Merit. He worked in Canberra for the Commonwealth Security Service as officer-in-charge of the Chinese section in 1944-47 and in this period again held the honorary rank of group captain.

The Malleys bought a cruising yacht, the Royal Flight, which was hired for the making of the film, The Blue Lagoon (1949). In 1950 they moved to Fiji and bought the Nabavatu coconut plantation on Vanua Balavu. Enjoying a relaxed way of life, he listed his recreations as flying, yachting, golf, tennis, cricket, swimming and badminton. He died of cardiac infarction on 20 May 1961 at Nabavatu and was buried at sea with Anglican rites; his wife and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Coulthard-Clark, Garnet Malley and the RAAF's Chinese Connection, Air Power Studies Centre, paper no 54 (Canb, 1997), and for sources.

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Malley, Garnet Francis (1892–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 November, 1892
Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


20 May, 1961 (aged 68)
Vanua Balavu, Fiji

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.