Rear Admiral Alec Broughton Doyle

Alec Broughton Doyle was born on 5 October 1888 at his family’s property, Invermien, near Scone, New South Wales, the youngest of five children of James Henry Doyle, grazier, and his wife Rebekah Doyle (née McDonald). Alec was educated at Scone Grammar School and at The King’s School, Parramatta, where he excelled at sport and was school captain in 1907. At the University of Sydney he studied engineering and graduated in 1911 with a Bachelors degree in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. He also took part in sports including boxing and rowing and played cricket and Rugby. He then went to England to gain further industry experience.

On 23 March 1912 Doyle was commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy. After training in Britain, he returned home in 1913 as an engineer lieutenant in the new battle-cruiser HMAS Australia. When World War I broke out in August 1914, he was engineer officer of the destroyer HMAS Parramatta. The ship sailed immediately to German New Guinea, then patrolled Southeast Asian waters. During the deployment Doyle became bored by inactivity and disdainful of his superiors’ competence. He was senior engineer of the light cruiser HMAS Encounter (1917-18) and Australia (1919-20) before being appointed as engineer officer of Williamstown Naval Depot, Melbourne. He married Charlotte Madge Lillies on 18 December 1917 at St George’s Church of England, Malvern and they later had two sons. Much of their married life was spent in naval lodgings, though in 1950 the couple settled at Vaucluse, Sydney.

As Doyle’s career flourished he spent most of his time ashore in shipbuilding and repair installations. In December 1923 he became engineer commander at the refit and repair establishment on Garden Island, Sydney Harbour. Later he worked at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, where he was overseer for the building of the sea-plane carrier HMAS Albatross, in which he served as engineer officer during 1929. Having been fleet engineer officer in HMAS Sydney in 1925, he was squadron engineer officer in the new heavy cruisers HMA Ships Australia and Canberra in 1929-32. From 1933 he was engineer manager at Garden Island. He was promoted captain in 1934 and appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1937. On the night of 31 May 1942, when Japanese midget submarines penetrated Sydney Harbour, he was awakened at his married quarter, on Garden Island, by gunfire from the cruiser USS Chicago. A Japanese torpedo later ran aground, without exploding, on a small beach beneath the bedroom in which his wife remained sleeping.

In September 1942 Doyle was appointed to Navy Office, Melbourne, as Director of Engineering (Naval). Twelve months later he was promoted rear admiral and named Third Naval Member of the Naval Board and Chief of Construction. He retired from the Navy on 5 October 1948.

In December 1950 he was appointed to a Commonwealth Government manpower allocation committee. The Institution of Engineers, Australia, awarded him the (Sir) Peter Nicol Russell medal in 1953. After he retired, Doyle’s many projects included the family pastoral company, Dr Barnardo’s Homes (Dr Barnardo’s in Australia), the Royal Society of St George, and the Institution of Engineers, Australia. He served as chairman of the Scone branch of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales and delegate to the district council.

Rear Admiral Alec Doyle passed away on 30 June 1984.