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Edmund Osborn Milne (1886–1963)

by Chris Clark

This article was published:

Edmund Osborn Milne (1886-1963), railway official and soldier, was born on 8 November 1886, at Bundanoon, New South Wales, son of Edmund Milne, railway stationmaster (later deputy chief commissioner), and his wife Emily, née Cork. Educated at Goulburn, he joined the New South Wales Government Railways in 1901 as a probationer in his father's office. He shared a number of his father's interests and was active in ambulance work and rifle-shooting, becoming a lieutenant in the rifle club reserves of the military forces. After joining the railways head office staff in Sydney he became active in the Railway Institute, editing its monthly journal, Budget. He and his father wrote in 1906 The Australian Transcontinental Railway Problem.

In December 1910 Milne was commissioned lieutenant in the Australian Intelligence Corps as railway representative. On 22 September 1914 he enlisted as a lieutenant in the Australian Imperial Force from Harden, where he was traffic inspector, and raised the 1st Railway Supply Detachment which embarked for Egypt in December. He was promoted captain in March 1915 and appointed railway transport officer in Cairo in May. His detachment was sent to Gallipoli to operate a light railway intended to connect inland positions with the beach but the short length of track laid along the foreshore never operated. His unit was employed in off-loading and distributing water, rations and medical comforts. In November he was temporarily appointed major and principal supply officer at Anzac in charge of the Army Corps Reserve Supply Depot and next month took command of the 11th Company, Australian Army Service Corps.

After the A.I.F. withdrew to Egypt, Milne became involved in light railway operations at Tel-el-Kebir, Ferry Post, Serapeum and Ismailia. In March 1916 he was appointed senior supply officer with the 4th Divisional Train and promoted major substantively. Awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June, he was mentioned in dispatches in July and in January 1917. Next July he was made deputy assistant quartermaster general of the 4th Division, transferring in September to the same appointment on 1st Australian Corps Headquarters. He was again mentioned in dispatches in December 1917 and December 1918. On 11 August 1918 Milne's sword was used by King George V to invest the corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, with his knighthood.

In 1918 Milne married, in England, Sister Myra Septima Hutchinson Wyse of the Australian Army Nursing Service; they had no children. While in England he made a comprehensive tour of railway networks. In January 1919 he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and returned to Sydney where his A.I.F. appointment ended in July. Reverting to his pre-war rank, he was promoted captain and brevet major in the Australian Military Forces.

Promoted substantive major, A.A.S.C., in September 1920, Milne remained active in the militia. He filled staff appointments on the headquarters of the 2nd Division and with the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps before being given command of army service corps troops of 2nd Division in July 1928; he was promoted lieutenant-colonel in April 1929. In civil employment he was outdoor superintendent in the chief traffic manager's branch, general manager of the Metropolitan and Newcastle Transport Trusts in 1930-32, then superintendent of passenger transportation with the government railways. In June 1937 he was appointed commanding officer of the 34th Battalion (Illawarra Regiment).

Seconded to the 2nd A.I.F. in November 1939, Milne proceeded on active service as assistant adjutant and quartermaster general and was appointed O.B.E. in 1940. In August he was placed in command of the Australian Port Detachment on the Suez Canal and in December was promoted colonel and appointed to the staff of the 7th Division until May 1941. Returning to Australia, he became assistant quartermaster general at Headquarters, Home Forces. In 1942-44 he was controller of docks on the staff of land headquarters and helped to reduce serious delays at the port of Melbourne. In November 1944 he was transferred to part-time duty with the Volunteer Defence Corps and was placed on the retired list in 1946. He retired from the New South Wales railways in 1951.

A foundation member of the Legacy Club in Sydney, Milne was president in 1950-51 and was also involved in managing Legacy's war veterans home from 1938. He was active in the Returned Services League for forty-four years, especially as councillor and metropolitan vice-president; he was also marshal of the Sydney Anzac Day march until his death. A member and sometime chairman of the State executive committee of the Institute of Transport, he belonged to twelve Masonic lodges, was director of the anti-tuberculosis association, chairman of the Burwood branch of the Liberal Party, and honorary secretary of the Forestry Advisory Council of New South Wales.

Survived by his wife, he died at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, on 11 April 1963 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • R. McNicoll, The Royal Australian Engineers, 1919 to 1945 (Canb, 1982)
  • London Gazette, 2 June, 11 July 1916, 2 Jan, 25 Dec 1917, 31 Dec 1918, 7 Jan 1919
  • Reveille (Sydney), Sept 1935, Oct 1937, Jan 1940
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Aug 1915, 24, 25 Aug 1917, 5 June, 10 Dec 1928, 27 July 1929, 12 Dec 1939, 11 July 1940, 16 Feb 1946, 19 Nov 1952, 24 Nov 1954, 8 Oct 1962, 13 Apr 1963
  • valedictory address by Colonel W. Wood, 17 Apr 1963 (National Library of Australia)
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Milne, Edmund Osborn (1886–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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