The Principles of War Podcast
13 Black Jack Galleghan and the ambush at Gemas

13 – Black Jack Galleghan and the ambush at Gemas

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As we transition to look at some vignettes of Leadership in Malaya, we pause to look at the composition of the 8th Division.

The Commander, Bennett, was a CMF soldier, as were the 3 BDE COMDs.  In Malaya, only LT COL Boyes, CO of the 2/26th Bn was PMF.   The 8th had more regular officers than the 6th Division, which was the first 2 AIF Division to be raised.

We look at Walter Brown VC.  He was awarded his VC at Villers-Bretonneux and rejoined the Army to serve in WW2.

We discuss the 8 Bn COs to look at the differences between the COs and how that affected each of the Bns.  We ponder the difference between authority and leadership.

The story of LT COL ‘Black Jack’ Galleghan

LT COL Black Jack Galleghan was given command of the 2/30th after 4 previous attempts to get a Bn to command.  Was it a case of 5th time lucky or was there a dearth of talent in the officer pool?

Was he a martinet?  How did he deal with a mutiny across the entire Battalion?

He expected unwavering loyalty from below but was scant in offering to his superiors.

The role of the 2IC, Gentleman George Ramsay, and the role he played in managing Galleghan.

The Ambush at the Gemencheh Bridge

We moved onto the conduct of the ambush at Gemas.  How were the Japanese shaped into playing into the ambush?

B Coy was chosen by lot to conduct the ambush.  What actions did Galleghan take that minimised the impact of the ambush?

Was Galleghan hamstrung by the lack of training in combined arms?

We look at his moral courage in his inability to engage the Japanese with Artillery at Gemas.  Why was this and is it fair?

Galleghan had abandoned his wireless equipment!  Why did he do this?

He certainly was a colourful character.  When he ‘requisitioned’ telephone cable from a passing Indian Signals SGT, he told the SGT that it had been taken by ‘Colonel Ned Kelly of Australia.’

Galleghan came into his own as the Commander of Australian troops at Changi.  This is an interesting example of how a leadership style’s effectiveness is set in the context of the situation of where it is exercised.

Gemencheh Bridge looking towards the ambush site.
The ambush site is just past the bridge. This is the side the Japanese would have been approaching from.
Japanese troops advancing Gemas.
Gemas, Malaya, January 14. Japanese troops on the advance.
Fred Galleghan
LT COL Fred Galleghan outside the CP at Gemas with SGT Heckendorf.

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