Charles Groves Wright Anderson

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Charles Anderson

Charles G W Anderson 100636.JPG
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Hume
In office
10 December 1949 28 April 1951
Preceded by Arthur Fuller
Succeeded byArthur Fuller
In office
10 December 1955 9 December 1961
Preceded by Arthur Fuller
Succeeded byArthur Fuller
Personal details
Born(1897-02-12)12 February 1897
Cape Town, South Africa
Died11 November 1988(1988-11-11) (aged 91)
Red Hill, Australian Capital Territory
Political party Australian Country Party
OccupationFarmer, soldier, politician
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/service British Army (1914–19)
Australian Army (1939–45)
Years of service1914–19
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Commands 2/19th Battalion (1941–42)
Battles/wars First World War

Second World War

Awards Victoria Cross
Military Cross

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson, VC, MC (12 February 1897 – 11 November 1988) was a South African-born soldier, Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, a member of the Australian House of Representatives, and a farmer. After growing up in Africa and being schooled in England, Anderson served as an officer during the East African campaign against the Germans during the First World War, reaching the rank of captain and being awarded the Military Cross.

Victoria Cross highest military decoration awarded for valour in armed forces of various Commonwealth countries

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for gallantry "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command although no civilian has received the award since 1879. Since the first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857, two-thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.

Military Cross third-level military decoration of the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth officers

The Military Cross (MC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces, and formerly awarded to officers of other Commonwealth countries.

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European, Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.


After the war, Anderson settled as a farmer in Kenya. In the early 1930s, he married an Australian woman and later moved to Australia, where he became a grazier. In 1939, he joined the Militia, Australia's part-time military force, before volunteering for overseas service after the outbreak of the Second World War. In early 1941, he was deployed to Malaya as part of the 8th Division, where he rose to command the 2/19th Battalion against the Japanese following their invasion of Malaya in December of that year. For his actions around Muar in January 1942, he was awarded the Victoria Cross before being captured at the end of the fighting on Singapore. He spent over three years in Japanese captivity, before being released at the end of the war.

Kenya republic in East Africa

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa with 47 semiautonomous counties governed by elected governors. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by total area. With a population of more than 52.2 million people, Kenya is the 27th most populous country. Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi while its oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret.

Australian Army Reserve military reserve force of Australia

The Australian Army Reserve is a collective name given to the reserve units of the Australian Army. Since the Federation of Australia in 1901, the reserve military force has been known by many names, including the Citizens Forces, the Citizen Military Forces, the Militia and, unofficially, the Australian Military Forces. In 1980, however, the current name—Australian Army Reserve—was officially adopted, and it now consists of a number of components based around the level of commitment and training obligation that its members are required to meet.

8th Division (Australia) Former infantry division of the Australian Army

The 8th Division was an infantry division of the Australian Army, formed during World War II as part of the all-volunteer Second Australian Imperial Force. The 8th Division was raised from volunteers for overseas service from July 1940 onwards. Consisting of three infantry brigades, the intention had been to deploy the division to the Middle East to join the other Australian divisions, but as war with Japan loomed in 1941, the division was divided into four separate forces, which were deployed in different parts of the Asia-Pacific region. All of these formations were destroyed as fighting forces by the end of February 1942 during the fighting for Singapore, and in Rabaul, Ambon, and Timor. Most members of the division became prisoners of war, waiting until the war ended in late 1945 to be liberated. One in three died in captivity.

In the post war years, Anderson returned to farming and served as a federal parliamentarian, representing the Division of Hume twice between 1949 and 1961, before retiring. He died in Canberra at the age of 91.

Division of Hume Australian federal electoral division

The Division of Hume is an Australian electoral division in the state of New South Wales. The division was proclaimed in 1900, and was one of the original 65 divisions to be contested at the first federal election. The division was named after Hamilton Hume, one of the first Europeans to travel through the area.

Canberra capital city of Australia

Canberra is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the federation of the colonies of Australia as the seat of government for the new nation, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory; 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne.

Early life

Anderson was born on 12 February 1897 in Cape Town, South Africa, to Scottish parents. [1] His father, Alfred Gerald Wright Anderson, an auditor and newspaper editor, had been born in England, while his mother, Emma (Maïa) Louise Antoinette, née Trossaert had been born in Belgium. [2] The middle child of five, when Anderson was three the family moved to Nairobi in Kenya, where his father began farming. He attended a local school until 1907, when his parents sent him to England. He lived with family members until 1910, when he was accepted to attend St Brendan's College in Bristol as a boarder. [2]

Cape Town Capital city of the Western Cape province and legislative capital of South Africa

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, colloquially named the Mother City. It is the legislative capital of South Africa and primate city of the Western Cape province. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

Nairobi Capital city in Nairobi County, Kenya

Nairobi is the capital and the largest city of Kenya. The name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cool water", a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. The city proper had a population of 3,138,369 in the 2009 census, while the metropolitan area has a population of 6,547,547. The city is popularly referred to as the Green City in the Sun.

He remained in England until the outbreak of the First World War. Returning to Kenya, in November 1914, Anderson enlisted as a soldier in the local forces, before later being allocated to the Calcutta Volunteer Battalion as a gunner. [3] On 13 October 1916, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the King's African Rifles. He fought with the regiment's 3rd Battalion in the East African campaign against the Askari soldiers of the German colonial forces. Anderson was awarded the Military Cross for his service in this campaign. [4]

Kings African Rifles

The King's African Rifles (KAR) was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from Britain's various possessions in East Africa from 1902 until independence in the 1960s. It performed both military and internal security functions within the colonial territory, and served outside these territories during the World Wars. The rank and file (askaris) were drawn from native inhabitants, while most of the officers were seconded from the British Army. When the KAR was first raised there were some Sudanese officers in the battalions raised in Uganda, and native officers were commissioned towards the end of British colonial rule.

East African Campaign (World War I) 1914-1918 series of battles fought in East Africa as part of World War I

The East African Campaign in World War I was a series of battles and guerrilla actions, which started in German East Africa (GEA) and spread to portions of Portuguese Mozambique, Northern Rhodesia, British East Africa, the Uganda Protectorate, and the Belgian Congo. The campaign all but ended in German East Africa in November 1917 when the Germans entered Portuguese Mozambique and continued the campaign living off Portuguese supplies.

Askari local soldier serving in the armies of the European colonial powers in Africa

An askari was a local soldier serving in the armies of the European colonial powers in Africa, particularly in the African Great Lakes, Northeast Africa and Central Africa. The word is used in this sense in English, as well as in German, Italian, Urdu and Portuguese. In French, the word is used only in reference to native troops outside the French colonial empire. The designation is still in occasional use today to informally describe police, gendarmerie and security guards.

Following the war, having reached the rank of temporary captain, Anderson was demobilised in February 1919 and lived the life of a gentleman farmer in Kenya, marrying Edith Tout, an Australian, [1] in February 1931. He remained active as a part-time soldier and was promoted to substantive captain in 1932. Two years later the couple moved to Australia where they purchased a grazing property near Young, New South Wales. He joined the Citizens Military Forces in March 1939, being appointed to the 56th Infantry Battalion as a captain. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Anderson was temporarily promoted to the rank of major in October 1939. In June 1940, he volunteered for overseas service by joining the Second Australian Imperial Force. [2] [4]

Young, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Young is a town in the South West Slopes region of New South Wales, Australia and the largest town in the Hilltops Region. The "Lambing Flat" Post Office opened on 1 March 1861 and was renamed "Young" in 1863.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.

56th Battalion (Australia)

The 56th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was originally raised in 1916 for service during the World War I and took part in the fighting in the trenches of the Western Front in France and Belgium before being amalgamated with the 54th Battalion in late 1918 following the German Spring Offensive reduced the numbers in both battalions. After the war, the battalion was re-raised as a part-time unit in New South Wales. During World War II the battalion was mobilised and undertook garrison duties in Australia until it was disbanded in 1944. It was briefly re-raised in 1956, but was disbanded the following year and its personnel used to re-raise the 4th Battalion, which later became part of the Royal New South Wales Regiment.

Second World War

Anderson in Thailand, 14 September 1945 Anderson-117350-crop.jpg
Anderson in Thailand, 14 September 1945

In July 1940, Anderson was assigned to the newly formed 2/19th Infantry Battalion, part of the 22nd Brigade, of the 8th Division. [5] Recruited from New South Wales, after training around Ingleburn and then Bathurst, in February 1941 the 22nd Brigade was deployed to Malaya to bolster the garrison there amidst concerns about Japanese intentions in the region. [6]

Holding the rank of major, Anderson was appointed second-in-command of the battalion and due to his experience in jungle warfare, he was placed in charge of training the battalion's soldiers to use the jungle as a "friend". [5] In August he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and took over as commanding officer of the 2/19th. The war in the Pacific began on 7 December 1941 when Japanese landed on the north-east coast of Malaya around Kota Bahru and launched thrusts along the western coast of the Malay Peninsula from Thailand. [7] Initially the 2/19th was not committed to the fighting, but in mid-January, after the Japanese advance had pushed the British Commonwealth troops back to Johore, the 2/19th was detached from the 22nd Brigade and sent to the west coast to support the hard-pressed battalions of 'Westforce', an ad hoc formation consisting of Australian and Indian troops. [8]

During the period of 18–22 January 1942 in the Battle of Muar near the Muar River, the 44-year-old Anderson was in command of a small force which destroyed ten enemy tanks. When they were later cut off, Anderson led his force through fifteen miles (24 km) of enemy-occupied territory, being attacked by air and ground forces all the way. Many times in the journey from Muar to Parit Sulong, Anderson had to lead bayonet charges and hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese. [9]

Anderson is famous for leading the Allied attack in Parit Sulong against the Japanese when the Allies were retreating to Yong Peng to meet up with the main force heading for Singapore. Upon reaching the small town of Parit Sulong on the way, they discovered their way blocked because the main bridge was already in Japanese hands with a Japanese machine gun defending the bridge. They were surrounded and a heavy battle ensued for several days in Parit Sulong. The Allied troops at Yong Peng under Gordon Bennett unsuccessfully attempted to break through the Japanese lines to reinforce Anderson's men, but without reinforcements, Anderson and his troops had to try many times to recapture the bridge but was unable to do so. Heavily outnumbered, Anderson's Australian and Indian troops were attacked and harassed continuously by Japanese tanks, machine gun, mortar and air attacks and suffered heavy casualties. Yet they held their position for several days and refused to surrender. [9] During the battle, Anderson had tried to evacuate the wounded by using an ambulance, but the Japanese would not let the vehicles pass the bridge. [10]

Although the detachment attempted to fight its way through another eight miles (13 km) of enemy-occupied territory to Yong Peng, this proved impossible, and Anderson had to destroy his equipment and attempted to work his way around the enemy. Anderson then ordered every able man to escape through the jungle to link up with the retreating main force in Yong Peng heading for Singapore. They had no choice but to leave the wounded to be cared for by the enemy, assuming the Japanese would take care of the wounded. But unfortunately, the Japanese unit at Parit Sulong later executed the approximately 150 wounded Australian soldiers and Indian soldiers next to the bridge of Parit Sulong, in the Parit Sulong Massacre. [9]

For his brave actions and leadership in Muar and the difficult retreat from Muar to Parit Sulong and the subsequent difficult battle at Parit Sulong led by Anderson, he was awarded the highest and most prestigious decoration for gallantry in the face of the enemy that could be awarded to British Commonwealth forces. [3]

His VC citation, as listed in the London Gazette on 13 February 1942, states: "...for setting a magnificent example of brave leadership, determination and outstanding courage. He not only showed fighting qualities of very high order but throughout exposed himself to danger without any regard for his own personal safety". [1] [11]

Following the action around Muar and Parit Sulong, Anderson went to Singapore, as the Allies withdrew across the Causeway to prepare a line of defence. Shortly afterwards he was hospitalised and, as a result, missed the majority of the fighting following the Japanese landings on 8 February 1942. As the situation became desperate, on 13 February, Anderson discharged himself and returned to the heavily-mauled 2/19th, by then down to just 180 men from its authorised strength of 900. He led them until the surrender was announced two days later. [5]

Anderson was captured and for the next three years was held as a prisoner of war. He was the chief staff officer under Brigadier Arthur Varley of the 22nd Brigade in A Force – the first contingent of POWs at Changi to voluntarily avail themselves of a Japanese "offer" to move to a new location where they were told there would be abundant food and a healthy climate. In reality the group of 3,000 were shipped to Burma and were used as slave labour to build the 415 km railway link between Nong Pladuk in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Burma. [1] Throughout his time in captivity, Anderson worked to mitigate the hardships of other prisoners, leading by personal example and maintaining morale. [2] At the end of the war, Anderson was repatriated back to Australia. His appointment in the army was terminated on 21 December 1945 and he returned to his property in New South Wales. [4]

Later life

Charles Anderson entered politics in 1949, winning the Division of Hume in the House of Representatives for the Country Party, with an 18.8% swing. He lost his seat in the 1951 federal election and unsuccessfully stood for Hume at the subsequent 1954 election. However, he regained the seat at the 1955 election and remained in parliament until his defeat at the 1961 election. [4] While in parliament Anderson served as a member of both the joint committee on the Australian Capital Territory and the joint committee on foreign affairs. [2]

Between 1957 and 1960, although he was retired from active military service, Anderson fulfilled the role of honorary colonel of the 4th and 56th Battalions. [2] Anderson owned farming properties around Young, New South Wales, and following his retirement from politics in 1961, moved permanently to Red Hill in Canberra, where he died in 1988. [4] He was survived by three of his four children. [2] There is a memorial stone and plaque for Anderson at Norwood Crematorium, Australian Capital Territory. [12] His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia. [13]

Honours and awards

Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Military Cross ribbon.png

1914-15 Star ribbon.jpg BWM ribbon.jpg Victory medal (UK) ribbon.png 1939-45 Star.png

Pacific Star.gif Defence Medal ribbon.png War Medal 1939-1945 (UK) ribbon.png Australian Service Medal 1939-45 ribbon.jpg

Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross (VC) [4] (1942)
Military Cross ribbon.png Military Cross (MC) [4] (1916)
1914-15 Star ribbon.jpg 1914–15 Star [14] [15]
BWM ribbon.jpg British War Medal [14]
Victory medal (UK) ribbon.png Victory Medal [14]
39-45 Star BAR.svg 1939–1945 Star [16]
Pacific Star.gif Pacific Star [16]
Defence Medal ribbon.png Defence Medal [14]
War Medal 1939-1945 (UK) ribbon.png War Medal 1939–1945 [16]
Australian Service Medal 1939-45 ribbon.jpg Australia Service Medal 1939–45 [16]

In addition to the decorations and war service medals noted above, in common with other Victoria Cross and George Cross recipients living at the time, Anderson received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953) and then the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977). Both of these medals form part of his medal set, which is held by the Australian War Memorial. [17]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Thompson, Peter (2008). Pacific Fury. Sydney: William Heinemann. p. 227
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 'Anderson, Charles Groves Wright (1897–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, Melbourne University Press, pp 16–18.
  3. 1 2 "Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson, VC, MC". Australian Military Units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson, VC, MC". Who's who in Australian Military History. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 5 July 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  5. 1 2 3 Moremon, John (2002). A Bitter Fate: Australians in Malaya & Singapore. Canberra: Department of Veterans' Affairs. pp. 79–80.
  6. Wigmore, Lionel (1957). The Japanese Thrust. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1—Army. Volume IV. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial. p. 52. OCLC   3134219.
  7. Moremon 2002, p. 33
  8. Thompson 2008, pp. 225228
  9. 1 2 3 Morgan, Joseph (2013). "A Burning Legacy: The 'Broken' 8th Division". Sabretache. Garran, Australian Capital Territory: Military Historical Society of Australia. LIV (3): 4–14. ISSN   0048-8933.
  10. Wigmore 1957, pp. 243244.
  11. "No. 35456". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 February 1942. p. 749.
  12. "VC burials in Australia". Archived from the original on 12 September 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  13. "Australian War Memorial". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  14. 1 2 3 4 "Charles Anderson's Medals". Army Rugby. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  15. "ART31764 – Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson, painting by John Barclay Godson, 1956". Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  16. 1 2 3 4 "Anderson, Charles Groves Wright". World War 2 Awards. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  17. "Victoria Cross: Lieutenant Colonel C G W Anderson, 2/19 Battalion, AIF". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Arthur Fuller
Member for Hume
Succeeded by
Arthur Fuller

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