Rear Admiral George Dunbar Moore

RADM George Dunbar Moore

George Dunbar Moore was born at Springsure, Queensland (765km north west of Brisbane) on 10 October 1893, the son of John Irwin Moore (medical practitioner) and Susan Moore (née Moore). He was educated at Southport High School and then at Brisbane Grammar before proceeding to England for training as a Merchant Navy officer in the training ship HMS Conway, moored in the Mersey River. He graduated from HMS Conway in August 1912 and was awarded the King's Gold Medal for exhibiting exemplary conduct, high performance of duty and displaying good influence amongst his peers. He became a Midshipman in the Royal Navy Reserve upon graduation.

On 1 July 1913 he transferred to the RAN with the rank of Midshipman and was appointed to the armoured cruiser HMS Duke of Edinburgh where he undertook his initial naval training. His elder brother, John Irwin Moore had also joined the Royal Navy, in 1905, as an Engineering Officer and later served on exchange with the RAN during 1919-1922 and 1924-1926 but never transferred to the RAN.

George Moore joined the armoured cruiser HMS Defence on 16 February 1914 and was promoted to Sub Lieutenant on 1 July 1914. When war with Germany was declared on 4 August 1914, Defence was stationed in the Mediterranean and was part of the ill-fated British Squadron that attempted to intercept the German warships Goeben and Breslau which escaped through the Dardanelles and became part of the Turkish Navy

In September 1914 Defence was sent to the South Atlantic to join the RN Squadron which was operating there searching for Von Spee’s East Asian Squadron. It was correctly believed that Von Spee’s ships were making an attempt to round Cape Horn and return to Germany. Defence operated in the South Atlantic for several months, but was not present at the Battle of the Falklands Islands on 8 December 1914 when Von Spee’s squadron was destroyed.

Moore was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 March 1916 and two weeks later joined the Australian cruiser HMAS Melbourne which was then serving in the Caribbean. It was opportune that George Moore was to leave HMS Defence as on 31 May 1916 the cruiser took part in the Battle of Jutland. The cruiser was struck by several German shells, blew up and sank with the loss of her entire crew.

Melbourne had been operating in the Caribbean and off the east coast of the United States and Canada since early 1915 keeping a watchful eye on German merchant ships hiding in neutral ports. The cruiser was involved in the salvage of the Steam Ship Taff which had run aground on the island of St Lucia, on 7 April 1916. In July 1916 Melbourne was dispatched to England to join the Grand Fleet for operations in the North Sea. The cruiser arrived in Devonport in August and was soon serving in the North Sea on patrols searching for the elusive German High Seas Fleet. Lieutenant Moore served in Melbourne for over three years during which time the cruiser underwent a six month refit at Birkenhead (January-June 1917) and several patrols in the North Sea. 

Following the Armistice Melbourne was part of the escort for the German High Seas Fleet when it surrendered at Scapa Flow on 21 November 1918. In early March 1919 the cruiser departed England for the return to Australia and arrived in Sydney on 21 May 1919. For George Moore it was a return to his homeland after an absence of at least eight years. Melbourne was paid off into Reserve on 5 August 1919 and George Moore was temporarily posted to the boys' training ship HMAS Tingira, moored in Rose Bay, for six weeks. He was then posted for service in the battle cruiser HMAS Australia from September 1919 until December 1921.

During his time in Australia, the battle cruiser operated in Australian waters and was the flagship of the Australian Squadron. In 1920 she was escort ship for the visit of HRH The Prince of Wales during his visit to Australia in HMS Renown. After this she was stationed at Flinders Naval Depot as the RAN training ship and conducted training cruises to Melbourne and other major ports in South Eastern Australia. Australia was decommissioned in December 1921 and remained in Reserve until scuttled in 1924 under the terms of the Washington Treaty, of 1922, which limited fleet sizes.

On 12 December 1921, Lieutenant Moore was appointed to Tingira as the Physical and Recreation Training Officer, overseeing much of the onboard training for the 14-16 year old boy seaman. He was briefly in command of Tingira for two weeks in late 1922. George Moore married 27 year old Doretta Ziele Russell at St Mark's at Darling Point, Woollahra, NSW on 10 January 1923. St Mark's has always been a popular and fashionable church for society weddings, for both Darling Point residents and Sydney's aspiring social set. Doretta was the daughter of Harry Ambrose Russell (solicitor), who was the only son of the former NSW Government Astronomer Henry Chamberlain Russell, and Gertrude Helena Russell (née Ziele). 

Lieutenant Moore completed his service in Tingira in January 1923 and then proceeded overseas to England for training courses with the Royal Navy. From April 1923 until October 1924 George Moore conducted various training courses in Royal Navy shore bases including HMS President, Excellent and Ganges and then served in the gunnery training ships Centurion and Thunderer. Moore was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on 1 March 1924 and completed his service with the RN in late 1924. He obtained a First Class Certificate for Gunnery and two Second Class Certificates for Navigation and Torpedoes. He was then appointed to the cruiser HMAS Adelaide, in October 1924, as the First Lieutenant. Adelaide had just arrived in England for six months exchange service with the Royal Navy. 

Adelaide returned to Australia via the Suez Canal and Singapore in late April 1925. Moore continued to serve in Adelaide until November 1925 and then transferred to the cruiser HMAS Brisbane and served in her as the Executive Officer (second in command) until October 1926. During his time in Brisbane the ship was based at Flinders Naval Depot in Victoria as the RAN’s training cruiser. The cruiser was paid off into Reserve in October 1926.

In late 1926, the Moores returned to England and Lieutenant Commander Moore was posted to the elderly battleship HMS Emperor of India from December 1926 until the ship was decommissioned in January 1929. The Moore’s only child, Barbara, was born in England in 1927. On 31 December 1928 George Moore was promoted to Commander. Before returning to Australia in mid-February 1929 he served briefly in the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, in order to gain experience for his next posting which was as the Executive Officer (second in command) of the seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross which he joined in late April 1929.   

During his service in Albatross the ship operated off the Queensland coast in May/June 1929 (the annual winter cruise to warmer waters) and then in July/August carried the Governor-General (Lord Stonehaven) and his entourage on a visit to New Guinea waters including visits to Rabaul and Madang. In March 1930 the seaplane carrier proceeded to Tasmania for the standard summer cruise and Hobart Regatta. During this visit one of her Seagull aircraft crashed in Norfolk Bay and one of the aircrew was killed and the other two badly injured. Moore left Albatross in late July 1930 and he and his wife returned once again to England. The Moores were to be away from Australia for nearly four years while George undertook training and exchange duties with the Royal Navy.

Moore’s first appointment was to HMS Victory, the depot ship at Portsmouth, for a tactical training course during September-December 1930. He then served for a year (December 1930-November 1931) as Executive Officer in the mine laying cruiser HMS Adventure which was part of the Atlantic Fleet. Moore was then posted to the Admiralty (HMS President), in London from November 1931 until February 1932 as part of the staff in the Directorate of Training and Staff Duties (DTSD).

On 15 February 1932 he took command of the old Hunt Class minesweeper HMS Dunoon and was her Commanding Officer for nearly two years before relinquishing command on 14 January 1934. During his time in command of Dunoon the ship operated as part of the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla, based in British waters, and operated mainly from Portland and Plymouth. Commander Moore then undertook a variety of short technical courses, while attached to Victory at Portsmouth, until March 1934 after which he and his family returned to Sydney. 

In May 1934 he was appointed to HMAS Penguin (depot ship in Sydney) as the Deputy Superintendent - Sydney and Officer in Command of Ships in Reserve. Commander Moore had avoided the worst of the Depression in Australia, during the early 1930s, but had returned to Australia to find more ships in Reserve then were actually in the Fleet. From June 1934 until December 1935 Moore was also the honorary Aide-de-camp to the Governor-General and was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935.

On 31 December 1935 George Moore was promoted to Captain and became Commanding Officer of the new Grimsby class sloop HMAS Yarra. Moore commissioned Yarra on 21 January 1936 at Sydney. Yarra’s main duties were to conduct mine-sweeping, gunnery and seamanship training for RAN Reserve officers and sailors in the various port divisions in southern Australia. 

Moore later stated ‘After taking three or four drafts from Melbourne and finding the Mine Sweeping officers knew little or nothing about the job, and that war was even then not far off, I felt I must warn Navy Office of the true state of affairs and sent a very scathing report on the lack of knowledge of these officers’.

Yarra was also required to be the towing vessel for the Battle Practice Target (BPT) for Fleet gunnery exercises. Moore wrote on one occasion ‘I can well remember getting under way from a buoy off Bradley’s Head with the BPT in tow on a Sunday afternoon in January (1937) with the harbour alive with yachts, all very interested in what we were doing. My megaphone and a certain amount of bad language eventually got us room to maneuver’.

Captain Moore relinquished command of Yarra in mid-August 1937 and then became the Commanding Officer of the destroyer HMAS Stuart and Captain ‘D’ (commanding the Destroyer Flotilla) on 21 August 1937. In 1937 Captain Moore was awarded the King George VI Coronation Medal. During his time in Stuart the Flotilla conducted a northern cruise to Gladstone, Townsville and Cairns and then returned to Sydney in late September 1937. A southern cruise was then undertaken to Melbourne and Geelong before arriving back in Sydney for the Christmas leave period.

In February 1938 Stuart visited Tasmanian waters including visits to Port Arthur, Bull Bay and North West Bay. She arrived back in Sydney in late March and was then paid off into E Class Reserve on 1 June 1938. Moore and his wife Doretta then proceeded to England, again, for George to undertake further exchange service with the RN. After arriving in England he was posted to Victory to undertake the Senior Officers Technical Course (August-October 1938) followed by the Senior Officers War Course (October 1938-February 1939) while attached to HMS President. With these courses completed he was posted in command of the light cruiser HMS Curacoa (February-June 1939) before assuming command of the light cruiser HMS Dauntless on 30 June 1939.

Dauntless was an elderly Danae Class light cruiser commissioned in 1918. At the outbreak of the war, Dauntless was part of the 9th Cruiser Squadron serving in the South Atlantic. In December 1939, the squadron, including Dauntless, was transferred to the China Station and in March 1940 Dauntless operated as a unit of the British Malaya Force in the Indian Ocean. She operated mainly off the Netherlands East Indies (then still neutral) keeping watch on German merchant ships in the Dutch East Indies ports. Once Holland entered the war these merchant ships were seized by the Dutch. 

On 15 June 1941, Dauntless collided with the light cruiser HMS Emerald off Malacca and Dauntless had to put into Singapore for repairs (these repairs were eventually completed on 15 August). Moore handed over command of Dauntless at Singapore on 31 July 1941, and embarked in a merchant ship bound for Mombasa, Kenya where he was to take command of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. On 14 August 1941 Captain George Moore became the first Australian Commanding Officer of Australia (all his predecessors were RN officers on exchange service with the RAN).

For the next four months Australia was based mainly out of Durban, South Africa and operated in the Indian Ocean. She conducted patrols searching for an elusive Vichy French convoy bound for Madagascar, escorted Allied convoys to Aden, searched for the German raider Kormoran, which was then active in the Indian Ocean and in late October 1941 was dispatched to remote Kerguelen and Crozet Islands (French Territory) to search for German raiders and to also lay magnetic mines off the harbour at Kerguelen Island.

The weather in the southern Indian Ocean was particularly cold after the ship's last six months in the warmer waters of South Africa and Aden. Soon snow began to fall on the ship and Moore wrote in his Night Order Book 'Ship is now in the possible iceberg region and temperatures and barometer are to be logged hourly until further orders'. After laying mines at Kerguelen on 1 November 1941, Australia conducted a reconnaissance of Crozet Island without result. The cruiser then returned to the port of East London, South Africa for a maintenance period. On 5 December Australia departed Simonstown, South Africa and returned to Sydney, via Fremantle, where she arrived on 21 December 1941. By now Japan had entered the war after the surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor and South East Asia.

Captain George Moore handed over command of Australia to Captain Harold Farncomb, RAN on the 23rd December 1941. The very next day, 24 December, Moore took command of the RAN’s other heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra. This was in fact a straight swap with Farncomb who had been in command of Canberra since June 1940. On 28 December 1941 Canberra sailed on convoy escort duties to Port Moresby. Three troopships carrying over 4000 soldiers were safely delivered to Port Moresby and then Canberra proceeded to Fremantle; via Sydney.  

The cruiser arrived at Fremantle on 15 January 1942 and the next day escorted the troopship Aquitania to South East Asian waters. The cruiser handed over the escort some 100 miles south of Singapore on 22 January and then proceeded to Tanjong Priok, the port for Batavia (Jakarta) to refuel and then returned to Fremantle on 29 January 1942. Canberra had remained closed up at actions stations for much of her time in Dutch East Indies waters due to the threat from Japanese air and submarine attack.

Her time in port was cut short as the next day, 30 January 1942, Canberra sailed from Fremantle with a convoy of seven tankers, and four cargo ships, bound for Palembang in southern Sumatra to load up with oil before Japanese forces captured the port. On 4 February Canberra sighted a Japanese submarine on the surface, which soon crash dived, and the cruiser made a depth charge attack without result. The next day she turned over the convoy, in the vicinity of Christmas Island, to other escorts and then proceeded to Sydney for a refit which commenced on 17 February.

Canberra’s refit concluded in mid-May and thus she missed the Battle of the Coral Sea which took place during 1-5 May 1942. On the night of 31 May/1 June 1942, Canberra was at number 1 Buoy Farm Cove, in Sydney Harbour, when the Japanese midget submarine attack on the harbour took place. Canberra did not take an active part the actions that night and did her best to keep out of the way. Moore later wrote '...two thirds of our ship's company was on night leave. We were able to raise steam for slow speed and kept the ship's head pointed so as not to be silhouetted against the shore lights'. 

On 1 June 1942, Canberra sailed from Sydney as part of Task Force 44 for working up exercises in Queensland waters. Moore handed over command of Canberra to Captain Frank Getting, RAN on 16 June 1942. Yet again George Moore cheated death as Getting was killed onboard Canberra at the Battle of Savo Island (Solomon Islands) less then two months later on the night of 8/9 August 1942. 

George Moore had served at sea continuously since February 1939 and was now promoted to the rank of Commodore 2nd Class and posted to Navy Office, in Melbourne, as the 2nd Naval Member (taking over from Captain JW Durnford, RN). The 2nd Naval Member of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board (ACNB) was responsible for all personnel matters (both permanent and reserves members), discipline, naval stores, victualing and medical care. Commodore 2nd Class George Moore was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Years Honours List 1944 'For distinguished service as Second Naval Member of the Naval Board.'

On 13 September 1944 he was promoted to Acting Rear Admiral and became Naval Officer in Command (NOIC) - Sydney. The Brisbane Courier Mail described him at the time as 'the first Royal Australian Naval officer to be appointed a Rear Admiral, and standing at least 6 foot and of athletic bearing, he brings to his task a strong fund of energy and an invaluable capacity for detail.'

He was also Acting Second Naval Member until 14 November 1944 while he awaited the return to Australia of Captain Harry Showers, RAN who had relinquished command of HMAS Shropshire in late September 1944. As NOIC - Sydney he effectively controlled all Allied shipping on the east coast of Australia; particularly the arrival and departures for the key port of Sydney. 

Moore was closely involved in rerouting merchant shipping and the search for the German U-862 which sank the merchant ship Robert J Walker, 160 miles south east of Sydney on 24 December 1944. At least one author latter criticised Moore for complacency and a lack of forethought in organising anti-submarine hunter-killer groups on the east coast of Australia. As NOIC - Sydney, Moore was also significantly involved in the arrival of the British Pacific Fleet in Australian waters in early 1945 and with Sydney as the fleet’s home port.

Rear Admiral Moore was made Acting First Naval Member on 2 August 1945 and held the position until 20 September 1945, thus technically becoming the first Australian to command the RAN. His short time as First Naval Member was caused by the severe illness of Vice Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton, KCB, DSO, RN. Hamilton had taken over as First Naval Member from Admiral Sir Guy Royle, KCB, CMG, RN on 29 June 1945 but became ill and was unable to carry out his duties in late July and Moore stepped into the breach. Commodore Farncomb took over as NOIC - Sydney during this period.

On 15 August 1945, Moore sent out the following order from Navy Office 'Japan has surrendered. Cease offensive action. Take all wartime precautions for self defence'. Shortly after Moore flew to Manila and embarked in the transport ship USS General SD Sturgis to take passage to Tokyo as one of the Australian representatives to witness the formal surrender of Japan, signed onboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. General Sir Thomas Blamey signed the surrender document on behalf of Australia; the official Australian party consisted of eight Australian officers with Moore and Commodore John Collins representing the RAN.


Acting Rear Admiral George Dunbar Moore, CBE, RAN (seated front row left) with other senior Australian officers onboard USS Missouri at the Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay 2 September 1945.  Commodore John Collins, CB, RAN stands in back row far right. 

Following the signing of Japanese surrender, Moore returned to Australia and on 20 September relinquished his position as First Naval Member. He returned to his duties as NOIC - Sydney. In late July 1946 the Norwegian Government contacted the Australian High Commissioner in London requesting if it would be appropriate to present Norwegian decorations to ten RAN officers for service to Norway during war-time. The services referred to were connected with the armament and operation of Norwegian Merchant Marine in Australian waters during the war. The awards, one of which was to be awarded to Rear Admiral Moore, were rejected by the Prime Minister's Department, and the Department of External Affairs, in late September 1946. The awards were classified as being for non-operational service, and the acceptance of such awards was contrary to Australian Government policy at the time.

In October 1947 the position of NOIC - Sydney was renamed Flag Officer in Command New South Wales (FOIC - NSW) with the additional duties of Admiral Superintendent at Sydney and RAN Sea Transport Officer. As FOIC - NSW, Moore was responsible for the Garden Island Naval Dockyard, HMAS Penguin, HMAS Watson, HMAS Rushcutter, all the smaller depots in the Sydney area as well as all ships in Reserve. During his time as FOIC - NSW he and his wife resided at the Navy official residence, Tresco, in Elizabeth Bay. Moore was placed on the Emergency List on 10 October 1949 (aged 55) but retained for temporary service until formally demobilised from the RAN on 9 June 1950 aged 56.  

Moore had already been appointed, a few weeks earlier on 19 May 1950, as the first Australian Minister to the Philippines. This was announced by Sir Percy Spender who was the Minister for External Affairs who noted that Rear Admiral Moore had a distinguished career in the Australian Navy and served in both world wars.

In 1950 the Australian Consulate in Manila, the Philippines, had been upgraded to a legation (this was a reciprocal arrangement with the Philippines Government who dispatched Minister Regala to Sydney as the Philippines Ambassador in November 1949). Moore was Australia’s first Minister (Ambassador) to the Philippines and served there during the period 1950-1955. Rear Admiral Moore was formally placed on the RAN Retired List on 10 October 1953 aged 60, but remained as the minister in the Philippines. In 1953 he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal for civil service.

Moore found himself in the press in September 1954 when it was claimed that during a South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) meeting held in Manila that he had insulted the Philippines Government. The External Affairs Minister, Richard Casey, was staying at Moore’s residence in Manila and the Philippine Government had placed additional security elements outside the house. On the night of 6 September 1954 the Filipino guards approached the household staff asking for food as they had not eaten since lunch time. When advised of this Moore confronted the guards and is alleged to have yelled at them to go away. 

Moore later stated 'I said we had not asked for a guard, having our own’ and added ‘If the Philippines Government sends you here in spite of this, I can not be responsible for feeding you’. Moore went on to say ‘he had been pretty terse’ and ‘his manner may have got under their skins’. Allegedly the Filipino guards were instructed to stay at the residence but to keep away from Rear Admiral Moore. 

Rear Admiral Moore retired from his role as Minister to the Philippines in mid-1955 and returned to Australia where he resided in Darling Point, Sydney and then later at Double Bay. He was the Federal Secretary of the Navy League of Australia in 1957 and later Director of the Old Peoples Welfare Council in 1957-58. In retirement he was able to spend more time playing golf and was a member of the Royal Sydney Golf Club as well as a member of the United Services Club.

George Dunbar Moore was 85 years old when he died at St Luke's Hospital, Darlinghurst, on 27 July 1979 as a result of a ruptured aortic aneurism. He was cremated on 31 July 1979 at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium. Moore was survived by his wife Doretta and daughter Barbara.