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Jack Statton Mesley (1910–1987)

by John Perryman

This article was published:

Jack Statton Mesley (1910–1987), naval officer, was born on 11 December 1910 at Brunswick, Victoria, second child of Victorian-born parents Arthur Mesley, school teacher, and his wife Annie Jeanette Catherine, née Skinner.  Educated at Leongatha Primary School, Jack entered the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, Federal Capital Territory, as a cadet midshipman on 1 January 1924.  There he excelled scholastically and at sport.  Appointed a midshipman in 1928, he was posted to Britain, where he trained at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and aboard HM ships Tiger, Marlborough and Renown.  Promoted to lieutenant on 1 February 1932, Mesley specialised in navigation.  On 8 May 1939 he married Edna Gay Curtis at St Mark’s Church of England, Woollahra, Sydney.

At the outbreak of World War II Mesley was navigating officer in the cruiser, HMS Hawkins, which captured several Italian ships off the coast of Italian Somaliland in April 1941.  In July, now a lieutenant commander, he joined the light cruiser, HMAS Hobart, and, after serving in the Mediterranean until November, he returned to Australia and was posted to HMAS Canberra, which was lost in August 1942 during the battle of Savo Island.  After his rescue, he was appointed to the staff of the flag officer in command, Sydney, and in July 1943 became staff officer (operational) Port Moresby, Papua.  On 16 November he took command of the destroyer, HMAS Vendetta, that was engaged in escort duties in Australian and New Guinean waters, and a year later he became squadron navigating officer in the heavy cruiser, HMAS Australia, that saw action during the Lingayen Gulf operations.  Joining HMAS Shropshire in March 1945, he participated in numerous operations during the closing months of the war, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.  He was promoted to commander on 31 December.

From 19 February 1947 Mesley commanded HMAS Rushcutter, a shore establishment in Sydney, where his duties included that of staff officer reserves and recruiting officer.  In January 1949 he joined the joint planning staff in Navy Office and in May 1950 he became executive officer at the training establishment, HMAS Cerberus, Westernport, Victoria.  During the Korean War Mesley commanded the destroyer, HMAS Tobruk, from April 1952, and on 23 March 1953, as commanding officer of HMAS Anzac, became captain of the 10th Destroyer Squadron.  Appointed MVO in recognition of his service during the royal tour of Australia, he served as an honorary aide-de-camp to the governor-general from 1 July 1954.  In January 1957 he took command of the aircraft carrier, HMAS Sydney, and 14 months later was put in charge of the establishments Watson and Rushcutter, Sydney.

Mesley became chief staff officer to the flag officer commanding the Australian Fleet in July 1958 and attended courses at the Imperial Defence College, Britain.  Returning to Australia in December 1959, he commanded the flagship, HMAS Melbourne, until January 1961, when he assumed command of the shore base, HMAS Penguin, Sydney, followed by the naval air station, HMAS Albatross, Nowra.  In August he became a naval aide-de-camp to the Queen.  He remained at Albatross until June 1965, having been appointed CBE on 1 January.  Promoted to rear admiral in July, he held the positions of second naval member of the Naval Board and chief of naval personnel, until his retirement on 7 December 1967.

Known simply as 'Mes' throughout his career, he earned a reputation as a highly capable and experienced sea-going officer who possessed a brisk and cheerful disposition.  Survived by his wife and three sons, Mesley died on 24 February 1987 at Darlinghurst and, after a service at HMAS Watson, was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • F. B. Eldridge, A History of the Royal Australian Naval College (1949)
  • J. J. Atkinson, By Skill & Valour (1986)
  • A6769, item Mesley J S (National Archives of Australia)
  • Mesley’s personal papers, file 2006/1015432/1, (Naval History Section, Sea Power Centre – Australia)

Citation details

John Perryman, 'Mesley, Jack Statton (1910–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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