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Bertie Vandeleur Stacy (1886–1971)

by Merrilyn Lincoln and D. E. Lloyd

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Valentine Osborne Stacy

Valentine Osborne Stacy (1882-1929), soldier and medical practitioner, and Bertie Vandeleur Stacy (1886-1971), soldier and judge, were sons of Beauchamp Stacy, bank manager, and his wife Fannie Augusta Devenish, née Meares, and grandsons of John Edward Stacy. Both were born at Mudgee, New South Wales, Valentine on 7 March 1882 and Bertie on 7 December 1886, and attended the local grammar school.

Valentine was a schoolboy trumpeter with the district's light horse company and tried to enlist in the Australian Light Horse during the South African War, but his parents insisted that he study medicine at the University of Sydney. He graduated M.B. in 1908 and served for a time as a ship's doctor. By 1911 he was in practice at Boulder, Western Australia. Next year he was commissioned in the Australian Army Medical Corps and allotted to the 1st Battalion, Goldfields Regiment. Appointed to the Australian Imperial Force as a captain with the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital on 19 October 1914, he embarked for Egypt in December. The hospital was posted to Lemnos and Stacy served on troop-ships which carried wounded from there, and from Gallipoli, to Egypt. From November 1915 he was officer commanding the 2nd A.S.H., but late that month was invalided to England. Resuming duty in March 1916, he was promoted major in June, evacuated sick in July, and posted to No.1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station in France on 1 November. Promoted temporary lieutenant-colonel in November 1917, he commanded No.2 A.C.C.S. for the rest of the war and was confirmed in rank in November 1918.

In August 1919 Stacy returned to Western Australia and was demobilized in November. For his war service he was appointed O.B.E. (1919), awarded the French Croix de Guerre and twice mentioned in dispatches. Of his war service, which had seriously impaired his health, a colleague recalled: 'He was a martyr to duty … never sparing himself on … whatever task was set him. It is related that on one occasion 3000 Australian wounded men passed through his hands … within 24 hours'. Stacy resumed medical practice at Kalgoorlie in partnership with Dr Vere Arkle whom he later bought out; he was also A.A.M.C. area medical officer in 1920-26.

His genial and generous disposition and his meticulous professionalism made him a popular and prominent goldfields figure. On 15 January 1923 at St James's Anglican Church, Moora, he married Eileen Dorcas O'Brien.

Survived by his wife and two infant sons, Stacy died at Kalgoorlie on 11 May 1929. A coronial inquiry concluded that his death was due to 'an overdose of morphia injected by himself, accidentally'. He was buried with full military honours in Kalgoorlie cemetery after a memorial service in St John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral. The 'large public assemblage of all ranks of citizens of the goldfields' showed the esteem in which he was held. A friend described him simply as 'small in stature and colossal in heart'.

Bertie Stacy began his military career as a sergeant in the School Cadets 4th Rifle Corps at Mudgee. He joined the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney in 1903 and worked until 1909 at various city and country branches. In 1908-09 he also studied arts at the University of Sydney, becoming a full-time student in 1910 and graduating B.A. in 1911. He was then articled to Dibbs, Parker & Parker; in 1914 he graduated LL.B. and was admitted as a solicitor. On the outbreak of World War I he joined the A.I.F. as a private on 6 August 1914 and was commissioned second lieutenant, 4th Battalion, on 14 September.

The 4th Battalion took part in the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915 and Stacy, who was promoted lieutenant on 25 May, was wounded in action on 11 July. Resuming duty, he was promoted temporary captain on 17 October and confirmed in rank in January 1916; promotion to major followed in March. In France he remained with the 4th Battalion through the 1916 fighting on the Somme and until March 1917 when he was promoted lieutenant-colonel commanding the 1st Battalion, a post he held until the end of the war. On 4 October 1917, at Broodseinde, Belgium, he was wounded by a bomb thrown from a blockhouse and was out of action until early November. In 1915-19 he was mentioned in dispatches six times, awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and appointed C.M.G. Part of the citation for his Bar illustrates his soldiering style: 'for conspicuous bravery in the attack on Chuignolles and Chuignes on 23 August 1918. He established his head quarters close behind the fighting troops … By personal reconnaissance he was able to direct the fire of the heavy artillery on the numerous field-guns and machine-guns which were causing casualties. Owing to his splendid leadership his battalion made an advance of nearly three miles and captured several hundred prisoners'. He returned to Australia in July 1919 and his A.I.F. appointment ended in September. While his apparent austerity and dogged determination to see a task through had sometimes made him unpopular, he was certainly respected by his troops. During World War II he commanded the Sydney University Regiment.

On 31 October 1919 Stacy had been admitted to the New South Wales Bar. On 15 September 1920 at St James's Anglican Church, Sydney, he married Mary Graham Lloyd; they were to have two daughters and a son. He practised as a barrister, mainly in common law, until 1925 when he became a crown prosecutor. Appointed to the District Court bench in 1939, he retired in 1956. As a judge, he was noted for his strictness of procedure and behaviour. A man of vigour and strength, he saw that his court was run with dignity, precision and punctuality. He disliked flowery speech and over-subtle argument, and would tolerate no nonsense. His lithe and agile figure, penetrating voice and piercing eyes gave him a commanding presence. Predeceased by his wife and survived by his children, he died at Darlinghurst, Sydney, on 6 December 1971 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • A. G. Butler (ed), Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vol 1 (Melb, 1938), vol 2 (Canb, 1940)
  • G. E. Hall and A. Cousins (eds), Book of Remembrance of the University of Sydney in the War 1914-1918 (Syd, 1939)
  • H. T. E. Holt, A Court Rises (Syd, 1976)
  • London Gazette, 5 Nov 1915, 2 Jan, 1 June 1917, 28 May, 6 Nov, 31 Dec 1918, 1 Jan, 1 Feb, 3 June, 11 July 1919
  • Listening Post, 24 May 1929
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Aug 1917, 28 Oct 1919, 14 Apr 1938, 23 Mar 1939, 21 Nov, 8 Dec 1956, 7 Dec 1971
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 13, 14 May 1929
  • war diaries, 1st and 4th Battalions, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • embarkation roll, 2nd ASH, 1914 (Australian War Memorial)
  • Lloyd family papers (privately held)
  • Stacy family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Merrilyn Lincoln and D. E. Lloyd, 'Stacy, Bertie Vandeleur (1886–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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