Categories: Australian Army, World War II | 2AIF - 2/10th Battalion | Australian Army, Korean War | Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire | Companions of the Order of the Bath | Distinguished Service Order | Mentioned in Despatches | Officers of the Legion of Merit | Australian Army Generals | Australian Army Generals, Chiefs of Army | Australian Notables | Notables.
Lieutenant General Sir Tom Daly KBE CB DSO was a senior Australian Army officer, whose career culminated with his appointment as Chief of the General Staff during the fiercest years of the Vietnam War (1966-71). Daly is noted for his strong sense of commitment to Australia. His concern for the ordinary soldier and his welfare made him the quintessential ‘soldier’s soldier’; being heard often to say that he felt a "deep sense of personal loss when[-ever] he heard that an Australian serviceman had been killed in Vietnam".
Initially desiring to study to become a medical doctor but not gaining sufficient marks for university entrance, Daly followed in his father's footsteps. He entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1930; graduating as top cadet in 1933 and subsequently being commissioned into the 4th Light Horse Regiment. He went on to serve with the British Army, on promotion to Captain, on India's North-West Frontier in 1938.
When the Second World War broke out, Daly joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (enlisted on 23rd October 1939), being posted as adjutant of the 2/10th Australian Infantry Battalion, 18th Brigade, 9th Division. He was mentioned in despatches in 30th December 1941. He served with the battalion and as Brigade Major of Major-General Sir George Wootten’s outstanding 18th Brigade in North Africa, becoming one of the Rats of Tobruk. Over the years, he more than fulfilled the ‘big future’ General Wooten predicted for him. Later in the war Daly was appointed commanding officer of the 2/10th Battalion, leading it in the invasion of Balikpapan in Borneo. He emerged, in the words of official war historian, Gavin Long, "with full marks – the outstanding CO of the [Borneo] campaign". He was appointed Companion to the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), as well as being once more mentioned in despatches.
His DSO citation read: "Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Joseph Daly commanded 2/10th Australian Infantry Battalion during the assault landing at Balikpapan on 1st July 1945, and during subsequent operations. This battalion was an assaulting battalion and had been given the vital role of capturing as quickly as possible a ridge which completely dominated the landing beaches and was the key to the capture of the main town and dock area. This feature was known to contain extensive and well prepared defences including a number of heavy coast AA guns. Prior to embarkation Lt Col. Daly had skilfully prepared from aerial photographs and other information an outline plan of attack which he initiated on landing. The attack succeeded after several hours of hard fighting during which Lt Col. Daly's vigorous and capable direction was most apparent. Subsequent exploitation by 2/10th Australian Infantry Battalion, including the capture of another ridge directly overlooking the town, was also vigorously and efficiently carried out. The successes of this battalion on the day of the landing were decisive and were due in no small measure to the courage, initiative and brilliant leadership of the Commanding Officer." His OBE citation read: "For distinguished service and marked devotion to duty, during operations in New Guinea. As GSO.I 5th Australian Division, this officer has constantly carried out his duties with vigour and exceptional ability. By his energy and tact he has imbued his staff with a team spirit and has obtained the best from all who have worked with him. His sound judgement, attention to detail, and lively foresight have proved invaluable to his commander. He is an active, versatile and outstanding officer."
After the war, Daly's military service continued with staff appointments and a period as an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley. He attended the Joint Services Staff College (UK), followed by a posting to Duntroon.
In June 1952 Daly took command of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade – a formation comprising two British and two Australian battalions – then fighting in Korea. He was the first Australian to hold this command. Dalye was credited by the Commonwealth divisional commander, Major General James Cassells (later Field Marshal, Sir James) with having helped to make the 28th the best of his three brigades and having "led [it] with skill and style". Such was his service in Korea that he was was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and Officer of the Legion of Merit from the United States of America.
Daly was promoted to Major General in 1959 and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1965.
Promoted to Lieutenant General in 1966, Daly was appointed Chief of the General Staff and appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) the following year. The Army’s striking power was multiplied under Daly's watch after he argued successfully for the acquisition by the RAAF of heavy troop-carrying helicopters, thus improving the air mobility of infantry units. He successfully fought for the creation of the position of Vice-Chief of the General Staff and functional commands to replace the old geographical districts. He envisaged these moves as the first steps in an ongoing process that would see the Army, in the post-Vietnam period, adopt new training methods, not only in field operations, but also in logistics and administration. His overriding concern was to ensure that Australia had a highly trained, completely professional army that, though small, could rank with any other regular army in the Western world. He was a keen supporter of national service, believing that exposing civilians to the military was beneficial to the services and to society. Along with General Sir John Wilton, Daly is regarded as the most notable of the post-war Chiefs of the General Staff.
In retirement, from 9th July 1971, Daly devoted his time to the Australian War Memorial. He held the office of chairman of its council from 1974 to 1982. Throughout this time, he supported his director, Noel Flanagan, in breathing new life into the memorial and laying the foundations for it becoming the dynamic institution it is today. He was also invited onto several company directorships.
Sir Tom Daly passed away, aged 90 years, on 5th January 2004 in Sydney. He was survived by his wife of 57 years, Lady Heather Daly nee Fitzgerald, and their three daughters, Betty-Ann, Susan and Edwina.
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