Chief of Army (Australia)

Chief of Army
Australian Army Emblem.svg
Flag of the Chief of the Australian Army.svg
Maj. Gen. Rick Burr, USARPAC.jpg
Richard Burr

since 2 July 2018
Australian Army
StyleLieutenant General
Member ofAustralian Defence Force
Reports toChief of the Defence Force
Term lengthFour years
Formation29 January 1902
First holderMajor General Sir Edward Hutton
DeputyDeputy Chief of Army
WebsiteOfficial website

The Chief of Army is the most senior appointment in the Australian Army, responsible to both the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) and the Secretary, Department of Defence (SECDEF). The rank associated with the position is lieutenant general (3-star).

Lieutenant General Richard Burr, the incumbent Chief of Army, has held the post since 2 July 2018.


The first Commander of the Australian Army was titled General Officer Commanding, Australian Military Forces, in line with the usual British practice of the time.[1] Experience soon showed that the position concentrated more power than the Ministers for Defence—of whom there were twelve in as many years in 1901–1913—liked.[2] Moreover, the British Army had encountered administrative problems in the Second Boer War which led to the abolition of the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Forces there in 1904, and its replacement by an Army Board.[3]

In 1904, Minister for Defence Anderson Dawson commissioned a report which recommended a similar system for Australia, with a Military Board consisting of four military members, the minister, and a finance member. This was implemented by his successor, James Whiteside McCay. However instead of creating a Chief of the General Staff as per the report, McCay's Military Board consisted of only three military members, the Deputy Adjutant General, the Chief of Ordnance, and the Chief of Intelligence.[4]

The post of Chief of the General Staff was finally created by the new Minister of Defence, George Pearce, in 1909, with Colonel William Bridges becoming the first Chief of the General Staff. The military members of the Military Board then became the Chief of the General Staff, Adjutant General, Chief of Ordnance, and Quartermaster General.[5]

During the Second World War, the threat of invasion led to a reversion to the old system. A Commander in Chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey, was appointed, and the Military Board was suspended, with its powers being transferred to the Commander in Chief. The post of Chief of the General Staff remained, but was now subordinate to the Commander in Chief.[6]

This was successful from a military point of view but the problem of a concentration of power recurred and, after the war ended, the government decided to re-form the Military Board. Blamey was replaced by Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee in 1945 and the next year the post of Commander in Chief was again abolished, with Sturdee becoming Chief of the General Staff.[7]

The system continued until the reforms of Arthur Tange in 1973. The three services were unified under the Department of Defence. The Military Board was abolished and the Chief of the General Staff became subordinate to the Chief of the Defence Force Staff and the Secretary of Defence.[8] Reflecting this change from a staff to a command role, the post was renamed Chief of Army in 1997.[9]


The following table lists all those who have held the post of Chief of Army or its preceding positions. Ranks and honours are as at the completion of their tenure.[10]

No.PortraitNameTook officeLeft officeTime in office
General Officer Commanding Australian Military Forces
Sir Edward Hutton KCB, KCMG
Hutton, EdwardMajor General
Sir Edward Hutton KCB, KCMG
29 January 190210 November 19041 year, 285 days
Harry Finn CB, DCM
Finn, HarryMajor General
Harry Finn CB, DCM
11 November 190412 January 190562 days
Chief of the General Staff
William Bridges CMG
Bridges, WilliamColonel
William Bridges CMG
1 January 190925 May 1909144 days
Sir John Hoad KCMG
Hoad, JohnMajor General
Sir John Hoad KCMG
26 May 190930 May 19112 years, 4 days
Francis Adrian Wilson DSO
Wilson, FrancisLieutenant Colonel
Francis Adrian Wilson DSO
1 June 191110 May 1912344 days
Joseph Maria Gordon CB
Gordon, JosephBrigadier General
Joseph Maria Gordon CB
11 May 191231 July 19142 years, 81 days
James Gordon Legge CMG
Legge, JamesColonel
James Gordon Legge CMG
1 August 191423 May 1915295 days
Godfrey Irving CMG
Irving, GodfreyColonel
Godfrey Irving CMG
24 May 191531 December 1915221 days
Hubert Foster
Foster, HubertColonel
Hubert Foster
1 January 191630 September 19171 year, 272 days
James Gordon Legge CB, CMG
Legge, JamesMajor General
James Gordon Legge CB, CMG
1 October 191731 May 19202 years, 243 days
Sir Brudenell White KCMG, KCVO, CB, DSO
White, BrudenellLieutenant General
Sir Brudenell White KCMG, KCVO, CB, DSO
1 June 192010 June 19233 years, 9 days
Sir Harry Chauvel GCMG, KCB
Chauvel, HarryGeneral
Sir Harry Chauvel GCMG, KCB
11 June 192315 April 19306 years, 308 days
Walter Coxen CB, CMG, DSO
Chauvel, HarryMajor General
Walter Coxen CB, CMG, DSO
16 April 193030 September 19311 year, 167 days
Sir Julius Bruche KCB, CMG
Bruche, JuliusMajor General
Sir Julius Bruche KCB, CMG
1 October 193120 April 19353 years, 201 days
John Lavarack CB, CMG, DSO
Lavarack, JohnMajor General
John Lavarack CB, CMG, DSO
21 April 193512 October 19394 years, 174 days
Ernest Squires CB, DSO, MC
Squires, ErnestLieutenant General
Ernest Squires CB, DSO, MC
13 October 193926 January 1940105 days
John Northcott CB
Northcott, JohnMajor General
John Northcott CB
27 January 194017 March 194050 days
Sir Brudenell White KCB, KCMG, KCVO, DSO
White, BrudenellGeneral
Sir Brudenell White KCB, KCMG, KCVO, DSO
18 March 194013 August 1940148 days
Vernon Sturdee CBE, DSO
Sturdee, VernonLieutenant General
Vernon Sturdee CBE, DSO
14 August 19409 September 19422 years, 26 days
John Northcott CB
Northcott, JohnLieutenant General
John Northcott CB
10 September 194230 November 19453 years, 81 days
Sir Vernon Sturdee KBE, CB, DSO
Sturdee, VernonLieutenant General
Sir Vernon Sturdee KBE, CB, DSO
1 December 194516 April 19504 years, 136 days
Sir Sydney Rowell KBE, CB
Rowell, SydneyLieutenant General
Sir Sydney Rowell KBE, CB
17 April 195015 December 19544 years, 242 days
Sir Henry Wells KBE, CB, DSO
Rowell, SydneyLieutenant General
Sir Henry Wells KBE, CB, DSO
16 December 195422 March 19583 years, 96 days
Sir Ragnar Garrett KBE, CB
Garrett, RagnarLieutenant General
Sir Ragnar Garrett KBE, CB
23 March 195830 June 19602 years, 99 days
Sir Reg Pollard KBE, CB, DSO
Pollard, RegLieutenant General
Sir Reg Pollard KBE, CB, DSO
1 July 196020 January 19632 years, 203 days
Sir John Wilton KBE, CB, DSO
Wilton, JohnLieutenant General
Sir John Wilton KBE, CB, DSO
21 January 196318 May 19663 years, 117 days
Sir Thomas Daly KBE, CB, DSO
Daly, ThomasLieutenant General
Sir Thomas Daly KBE, CB, DSO
19 May 196618 May 19714 years, 364 days
Sir Mervyn Brogan KBE, CB
Brogan, MervynLieutenant General
Sir Mervyn Brogan KBE, CB
19 May 197119 November 19732 years, 184 days
Frank Hassett AC, CB, CBE, DSO, LVO
Hassett, FrankLieutenant General
Frank Hassett AC, CB, CBE, DSO, LVO
20 November 197323 November 19752 years, 3 days
Arthur MacDonald CB, OBE
MacDonald, ArthurLieutenant General
Arthur MacDonald CB, OBE
24 November 197520 April 19771 year, 147 days
Sir Donald Dunstan KBE, CB
MacDonald, ArthurLieutenant General
Sir Donald Dunstan KBE, CB
21 April 197714 February 19824 years, 304 days
Sir Phillip Bennett KBE, AO, DSO
Bennett, PhillipLieutenant General
Sir Phillip Bennett KBE, AO, DSO
(born 1928)
15 February 198212 February 19841 year, 362 days
Peter Gration AO, OBE
Bennett, PhillipLieutenant General
Peter Gration AO, OBE
(born 1932)
13 February 198412 April 19873 years, 58 days
Lawrence O'Donnell AC
O'Donnell, LawrenceLieutenant General
Lawrence O'Donnell AC
(born 1933)
13 April 198712 April 19902 years, 364 days
John Coates AC, MBE
Coates, JohnLieutenant General
John Coates AC, MBE
13 April 199030 April 19922 years, 17 days
John Grey AC
Grey, JohnLieutenant General
John Grey AC
(born 1939)
1 May 19927 July 19953 years, 67 days
John Sanderson AC
Sanderson, JohnLieutenant General
John Sanderson AC
(born 1940)
8 July 199518 February 19971 year, 225 days
Chief of Army
John Sanderson AC
Sanderson, JohnLieutenant General
John Sanderson AC
(born 1940)
19 February 199723 June 19981 year, 124 days
Frank Hickling AO, CSC
Hickling, FrankLieutenant General
Frank Hickling AO, CSC
(born 1941)
24 June 199815 July 20002 years, 21 days
Peter Cosgrove AC, MC
Cosgrove, PeterLieutenant General
Peter Cosgrove AC, MC
(born 1947)
16 July 200027 June 20021 year, 346 days
Peter Leahy AC
Leahy, PeterLieutenant General
Peter Leahy AC
(born 1952)
28 June 20023 July 20086 years, 5 days
37Gillespie, KenLieutenant General
Ken Gillespie AC, DSC, CSM
(born 1952)
4 July 200824 June 20112 years, 355 days
David Morrison AO
Morrison, DavidLieutenant General
David Morrison AO
(born 1956)
25 June 201115 May 20153 years, 324 days
Angus Campbell AO, DSC
Campbell, AngusLieutenant General
Angus Campbell AO, DSC
16 May 20152 July 20183 years, 47 days
Rick Burr AO, DSC, MVO
Burr, RickLieutenant General
Rick Burr AO, DSC, MVO
(born 1964)
2 July 2018Incumbent3 years, 271 days

See also



  1. ^ Wood 2006, p. 13
  2. ^ Wood 2006, pp. 50–51
  3. ^ Wood 2006, pp. xv–xxi
  4. ^ Wood 2006, pp. 54–59
  5. ^ Wood 2006, p. 66
  6. ^ Palazzo 2001, p. 66
  7. ^ Palazzo 2001, pp. 221–222
  8. ^ Palazzo 2001, pp. 316–318
  9. ^ Palazzo 2001, p. 323
  10. ^ Beaumont 2001, pp. 75–76


  • Beaumont, Joan (2001), Australian Defence: Sources and Statistics, South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-554118-9
  • Palazzo, Albert (2001), The Australian Army: A History of Its Organisation 1901–2001, South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-551506-4
  • Wood, James (2006), Chiefs of the Australian army: Higher Command of the Australian Military Forces 1901–1914, Loftus, New South Wales: Australian Military History Publications, ISBN 1-876439-40-8

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Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor-General of Australia
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Major General Henry Finn c1906
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Australian Army Major General Richard "Rick" Burr, Deputy Commanding General (Operations) of U.S. Army Pacific.
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Portrait of VX63396 Lieutenant General John Northcott CB MVO, Chief of General Staff, Australian Military Forces.
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Studio portrait of Lieutenant General S. F. (Sydney) Rowell in uniform.
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Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell poses for a photo in front of an MV-22b Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 on the flight line on U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 12, 2017. Lieutenant General Campbell flew with VMM-363 to visit the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) to receive a tour and view the capabilities of the ship. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tia Dufour/Released)
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AWM caption : Korea. Senior Australian Army Officers in Korea 1953.

Left to right:

  • Lieutenant Colonel A.I. Macdonald, CO 3RAR; (Subsequently General Sir Arthur Leslie MacDonald, KBE, CB)
  • Lieutenant General Sir Sydney Rowell, CGS;
  • Brigadier J.G.N. Wilton, Commander, 28th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade;
  • Lieutenant General H. Wells, Commander-In-Chief BCF Korea;
  • Lieutenant Colonel G.F. Larkin, C.O. 2RAR.
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"GEN Sir Phillip Bennett, royal governor of Tasmania, prepares to place a wreath at a memorial during a service, part of ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea."
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Major General Sir Julius Henry Bruche KCB, CMG when Commandant, Royal Military College, Duntroon 1931.
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Gen. Edward Thomas Henry Hutton in uniform, date c.1898 - 1900

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Portrait of Major General (later Lieutenant General) James Gordon Legge, of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG). Major General Legge organised the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), Commanding 1st Division Australian Infantry Force, and later 2nd Division Australian Infantry Force, on the Western Front.
Mervyn Brogan.jpg
Major General Mervyn Francis Brogan OBE, BE, AMIE, General Officer Commanding Australian Northern Command
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Portrait of Brigadier Henry Wells CBE DSO, who was later to achieve the rank of lieutenant general and become the first Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Commitee; the professional head of the Australian Military.
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Lieutenant General Sir John Dudley Lavarack, Governor of Queensland from 1 October 1946 until 4 December 1957.
Francis Hassett AWM HOBJ2314.jpg
Prior to taking off from an airfield somewhere in Korea to take over his new command, the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), Lieutenant Colonel F. G. Hassett OBE chats with Major General A. J. H. Cassels CBE CBE DSO General Officer Commanding (GOC) Commonwealth Division, United Nations Forces in Korea. Hassett had a distinguished record as a soldier. He was a Lieutenant Colonel at 23 years of age in World War II, and received his OBE for his services. He gained the DSO for his handling of 3RAR in recent battles against the Communists Forces. In the background is a Douglas C47 Dakota RAAF transport plane.
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Portrait of Australian Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges KCB CMG (1861–1915).
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Group portrait of Commonwealth Headquarters Staff. Identified left to right, back row: Captain P N Buckley; Mr Petherbridge; Surgeon General W D C Williams; Mr F Savage. Front row: Colonel H Le Mesurie; Colonel Hoad; Colonel McCay, Minister of Defence; Colonel W T Bridges, Mr J A Thompson.
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Flag of the Chief of the Australian Army
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Portrait of Brigadier (later Lieutenant General Sir) Ragnar Garrett, Brigadier General Staff I Australian Corps Headquarters in Queensland Australia
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Colonel Godfrey Irving, Camp Commandant of South Australia (on right), with Major C.H. Brand at Keswick Barracks, South Australia. See also PRG 280/1/14/120.
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Portrait of Major General Thomas Daly.
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British Brigadier General Joseph M. Gordon (1856-1929)

General británico José María Gordon (1856-1929), nacido en Jerez de la Frontera
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w:John Coates (general), cropped from DA-SC-90-07037. A US Army captain explains the functions of a training device to Australian Defence Attache Major General H.J. Coates during a tour to the US Army Armor Center in 1985. Location: FORT KNOX
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Morotai. Colonel J. G. N. Wilton DSO, General Staff Officer, Advanced Land Headquarters