Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Carl Rudolph Speckman (1893–1958)

by W. H. Edwards

This article was published:

Carl Rudolph Speckman (1893-1958), army officer, was born on 30 July 1893 at Paddington, Sydney, only child of Rudolph Speckman, a musician from Germany, and his Queensland-born wife Annie Henrietta Frances Dorothea, née Michaelson. Educated at Paddington Superior Public School, Fort Street Model School and Sydney Technical College, Carl became a fitter and turner. On 6 June 1912 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Engineers. He transferred to the 1st Field Company, R.A.E., Australian Imperial Force, on 2 September 1914. One week later at St George's Church of England, Hurstville, he married Ethel Annie Godfrey, a photographer's assistant, aged 30. In the following month he embarked for Egypt as quartermaster sergeant.

From June to September 1915 Speckman served at Gallipoli before being admitted to hospital and taken to Egypt. In March 1916 he joined the 1st Pioneer Battalion. That month he was commissioned and sent to France. At Pozières on 25-26 July he displayed 'great coolness and courage' in directing the clearing and deepening of a captured enemy trench while under fire; he was awarded the Military Cross and promoted captain. A further advancement, to major, followed in August 1917, as did a mention in dispatches in May 1918. Based in London in 1919-20 as a staff officer with the Australian Department of Repatriation and Demobilization, he helped to acquire equipment for the postwar army.

After his A.I.F. appointment terminated in Australia on 16 April 1921, Speckman served as adjutant and quartermaster to Militia engineer units in New South Wales (1922-31) and Queensland (1931-36). In 1936 he was posted to Army Headquarters, Melbourne. He worked in the quartermaster-general's branch and (from 1938) as deputy assistant director of mechanization. Having been secretary of the inventions board, 1st Military District (Queensland), in 1932-36, he performed the same role at Army Headquarters in 1936-40. In 1939 he was appointed M.B.E.

On 1 May 1940 Speckman joined the Australian Army Ordnance Corps, A.I.F., in command of the 2nd/1st Ordnance Stores Company. He was elevated to lieutenant colonel in July and transferred to 7th Division headquarters in August as deputy assistant director of ordnance services. In October he sailed for the Middle East. Recalled to Australia in January 1942—shortly before his eldest son Charles was taken prisoner at Singapore—he was promoted colonel in April and subsequently held senior ordnance posts with I Corps and New Guinea Force, in the Queensland Lines of Communication Area, and at Land Headquarters and Advanced Land Headquarters. He was twice mentioned in dispatches in World War II.

In August 1945 Speckman was appointed assistant-director of army disposals. He became director in February 1946, with the temporary rank of brigadier from June. The disposal of surplus stores was a crucial task, realizing over £54 million from September 1944 to July 1949. Speckman had few interests outside the army. An intelligent, forthright and capable officer, with the ability to get things done, he was frank, unpretentious, and considerate towards his staff. Retiring from the army in December 1949, he subsequently managed the sewage-disposal farm at Werribee, Victoria. He died suddenly of a coronary occlusion on 13 May 1958 at Sorrento and was cremated; his wife, and their three sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916 (Syd, 1929)
  • R. McNicoll, The Royal Australian Engineers 1902-1919 (Canb, 1979)
  • J. D. Tilbrook, To the Warrior his Arms (Canb, 1989)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 1939, 27 Jan 1942
  • AWM 76, items A20 and B458, AWM 119, item 147A pt 1, AWM 183, item 43, AWM 256, item 17/1/85 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

W. H. Edwards, 'Speckman, Carl Rudolph (1893–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 6 December 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]


30 July, 1893
Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


13 May, 1958 (aged 64)
Sorrento, Victoria, Australia

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