Commander George Hermon Gill

George Hermon Gill , mariner, journalist, naval officer and war historian, was born on 8 March 1895 at Fulham, London, son of William Hermon Gill, printer's compositor, and his wife Alice, née Clark. He was educated in London and at Scarborough, Yorkshire and in April 1910 George went to sea as an apprentice with George Thompson & Co Ltd's Aberdeen Line. In 1914 he obtained his second-mate's certificate and in December that year came to Australia in the SS Themistocles which on her return voyage carried Australian troops, of the second contingent of the Australian Imperial Force, to Egypt. Gill served at sea with the Aberdeen Line throughout World War I and rose to second officer; in 1921 he gained his master mariner's certificate.

Emigrating to Melbourne in 1922, he joined the shore staff of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. On 2 June 1923 he married Esther Paterson (1892-1971) with Presbyterian forms at her Middle Park home; they were to remain childless. Gill resigned his post in 1929 and took Esther on a visit to England. On return to Australia George turned his hand to freelance journalism, specialising in sea stories and nautical matters. From October 1933 he was employed as a newspaper reporter for the Star. With Frederick Howard, in 1934 he won a prize of £250 for the film scenario they based on Howard's novel, The Emigrant. Gill's 'Walter and Hermon' series of 'breathlessly unpunctuated sketches' in the Star, and later the Argus, were popular for their 'well observed, gentle ribbing of middle class suburbia in the 1930s'.

Gill had been appointed a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1927. He was promoted lieutenant commander in June 1936 and was mobilised for war service on 4 September 1939 and sent to Newcastle, New South Wales, for duty with the Examination and Naval Control Services. In February 1940 he was posted to Navy Office, Melbourne. As the Publicity Censorship Liaison Officer in the Naval Intelligence Division, he established cordial relations with the press. In 1943 he was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for distinguished service in Navy Office during the war. He jointly edited the series of books, HMAS (produced annually during 1942-45), took charge of the Directorate of Naval Intelligence naval historical records section and in 1944 was chosen to write the naval volumes of the proposed Official History of Australia in World War II. After visiting England in 1945, he ceased full-time service on 14 November 1945. Promoted commander in June 1947, he was transferred to the retired list in 1953.

In 1947 Gill became editor of the journal, Navy. From the early 1950s he also edited the South Melbourne Record, an independent suburban weekly. He also wrote Three Decades (1949), a history of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. Meanwhile, he worked on his two volumes of the official history and, as G. Hermon Gill, published Royal Australian Navy 1939-1942 and Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945 (Canberra, 1957 & 1968). The books were favourably reviewed, and he was praised for the balance and clarity of his narrative which set detailed descriptions of the RAN's operations against the wider backdrop of the war. They remain the definitive history of the RAN during World War II. In 1981 Michael Montgomery, and members of the Sydney Research Group, used circumstantial evidence to challenge Gill's account (in his first volume) of the loss of the cruiser, HMAS Sydney, but their criticisms have not overturned his general conclusions.

Standing 5 foot 9 1/2 inches (177 cm) tall and of medium build, Gill had fair, curly hair and a florid complexion. As a historian, he was meticulous and avoided pedantry. Nor did he stand on formality. He was highly regarded in naval circles for his knowledge of the RAN, and his friends appreciated his kindly demeanour and the warmth of his personality.

John Gill died on 27 February 1973 in East Melbourne and was cremated with Anglican rites.