Rear Admiral Geoffrey Vernon Gladstone

Deputy Chief of Navy (1974 - 1975)

Commander Australian Fleet (1975 - 1977)

Rear Admiral Geoffrey Gladstone

Geoffrey Vernon Gladstone was born on 27 January 1921 at Wagin, WA the son of Rupert Gladstone (Public Accountant) and Myra Constance Victoria Gladstone (née Jefferson). He entered the Royal Australian Naval College as a Cadet Midshipman in 1935 and was made a Cadet Captain and also gained his sporting colours for cricket. On passing out from the college, in 1938, he was awarded the King’s Medal for the Cadet who displayed the most exemplary conduct, performance of duties and good influence amongst their fellow Cadets.

He was promoted Midshipman on 1 January 1939 and joined the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra for further training followed by an appointment to the heavy cruiser HMS Sussex in June of that year. He was still serving in Sussex when war broke out in September 1939 and the ship saw active service, as part of Force H, in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans searching for the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. Sussex was part of the British Home Fleet during the Norwegian campaign in April 1940 and then spent May-August undergoing maintenance.

Gladstone was promoted Sub Lieutenant in September 1940 and commenced his Sub Lieutenants’ courses in Britain. These consisted of training and assessment in seamanship, signals, pilotage and navigation, torpedoes and gunnery. He gained first class certificates in seamanship, signals and torpedoes and later chose to specialise as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. In December 1940 he was appointed to the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia then in refit at Liverpool. The cruiser sailed from Britain in early 1941 escorting a troop convoy to the Middle East via South Africa. This long route was followed as a direct voyage across the Mediterranean was considered too dangerous but the convoy needed a heavy escort due to the possibility of attack by German warships, particularly the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer which was active in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean.

Off Mombasa, Australia handed over the convoy and then returned to Australia; reaching Sydney in late March 1941. In April 1941 Australia proceeded to Singapore to embark Admiral Sir Ragnor Colvin (1st Naval Member) and his staff who had been attending a conference there and returned to Sydney via Darwin and Torres Strait. The cruiser then conducted convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean and Australian/New Zealand waters for the remainder of 1941.

In November 1941, Australia steamed to the remote and uninhabited Kerguelen Island, in the Southern Indian Ocean, to lay mines as there was the possibility that German raiders were using the anchorage there; by December she was back in Sydney Harbour. By now Japan had entered the war and in the early months of 1942 the cruiser patrolled off the Australian east coast and escorted convoys to Port Moresby, Noumea, Fiji and New Zealand. Sub Lieutenant Gladstone left the ship in early March 1942 and embarked in a troopship bound for Britain.

In May 1942 Geoffrey Gladstone arrived in Britain as part of the commissioning crew of the new destroyer HMAS Quickmatch then being built at the J Samuel White and Company Limited shipyard at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Quickmatch was commissioned on 14 September 1942 with the newly promoted Lieutenant Gladstone as her Gunnery Officer. Following sea trials the destroyer operated briefly in the North Atlantic and English Channel before proceeding to the South Atlantic, in November, for convoy escort duties. Geoffrey Gladstone did find time in the ships busy program to marry Charmian Margaret Prendergast of Hayford Hall, Buckfastleigh, Devon on 8 November 1942; they later had two sons.

While en route to the South Atlantic Quickmatch captured the Italian blockade runner Cortelazzo. She operated as a convoy escort in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean throughout 1943 and early 1944 before being allocated to the British Eastern Fleet, based at Ceylon, in May 1944 and subsequently escorted British aircraft carriers during attacks on Japanese bases at Surabaya (Netherlands East Indies) and Port Blair (Andaman Islands). On 25 July 1944 Quickmatch took part in the close range bombardment of Japanese port facilities at Sabang in northern Sumatra.

As a result of this action Lieutenant Gladstone was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). The award was gazetted on 31 October 1944 and the citation read “For outstanding courage, skill and determination in pressing home a successful attack by HMAS Quickmatch on the Japanese Naval Base at Sabang. He carried out the duties of Principal Control Officer during the bombardment on 25 July 1944. His calm manner and efficient execution of his duties was an inspiring example to the ship's company which consists largely of young officers and ratings who have not previously been in action. The excellent performance of gun's crews and lack of any materiel failures during the action were largely due to the conscientious work of this officer in his capacity at Gunnery Officer of the ship”.

In October 1944 Quickmatch arrived in Australia for a refit and Gladstone departed the ship and sailed to Britain to undertake training to specialise as an Anti-submarine Warfare Officer. His training took place at the anti-submarine warfare school at HMS Osprey at Portland, Dorset. After completing his training he served on exchange with the Royal Navy as a member of the training staff at Osprey from October 1945 until August 1947. Gladstone moved to HMS Vernon at Portsmouth following the merger of the Torpedo and the Anti-Submarines branches in the Royal Navy. Upon returning to Australia, in June 1948, he served as an instructor at the RAN Torpedo and Anti-Submarine School (HMAS Ruchcutter) in Sydney.

In June 1949 Geoffrey Gladstone joined the destroyer HMAS Warramunga as her Executive Officer and was promoted Lieutenant Commander in June 1950. Also that month the Korean War broke out and on 6 August 1950 the destroyer sailed from Sydney for service with the United Nations forces attempting to stem the North Korean advance. By September Warramunga was conducting operations off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula. For his service in Warramunga he was awarded a bar to his DSC “for distinguished service in Korean waters and zeal above average”. He was also awarded the United States of America Bronze Star, with combat distinguishing device, for his work assisting US mine clearance forces at Chinnampo plotting enemy minefields and voluntarily navigating small vessels into the minefields to help clear them.

Warramunga returned to Australia after nearly 13 months of war service and Gladstone left the ship in October 1951. He proceeded to Britain where he served in the Australian High Commission on the Joint Service Staff and as Naval Liaison Officer. He completed the Royal Navy Staff Course in 1954 and was promoted commander in December of that year.

Gladstone remained in Britain completing an Atomic, Biological and Chemical Defence (ABCD) course in late 1954 and then undertaking the Joint Services Staff Course in 1955. Upon his return to Australia in mid-1955 he was appointed as the Commander (Executive Officer) of the RAN College then located at HMAS Cerberus. Gladstone was highly respected by the Cadet Midshipman at the college and also skippered the college yacht Tam O'Shanter in the 1955 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

In August 1957 Commander Gladstone was appointed as the naval member in the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) Military Planning Office in Bangkok, Thailand. This was a busy period with substantial work required to plan the many SEATO exercises undertaken. He returned to Australia in early 1959 and took up the position of Executive Officer at the Naval Air Station - HMAS Albatross. Gladstone was promoted Acting Captain in September 1960 and posted to Navy Office, in Canberra, as the Director of Manning in Training. He was confirmed in the rank of Captain in June 1961.

At this point in his career Gladstone feared his seagoing days were over but in May 1962 he was appointed to command the RAN tanker HMAS Tide Austral then completing its loan service to the Royal Navy. He joined the tanker in England and she was commissioned as HMAS Supply on 7 September 1962 and soon after sailed for Australia in company with six ex-Royal Navy Ton Class minesweepers that had also been purchased for use by the RAN. Supply operated in Australian and Southeast Asian waters during 1963-64 supporting RAN exercises and ship deployments.

Gladstone relinquished command of the tanker in late 1964 and took up his next appointment in the Australian High Commission in London as the Assistant Head of the Joint Services Staff. He returned to Australia in early 1967 and was appointed in charge of the officer structure and training working party; as part of the Chief of Naval Personnel branch in Navy Office. With this review completed he was appointed to the Sydney shore depot HMAS Kuttabul, in late 1967, in order to become the Commanding Officer of the new escort maintenance ship Stalwart being built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.

HMAS Stalwart was commissioned in Sydney on 8 February 1968 with Captain Gladstone as her first Commanding Officer. Stalwart took part in her initial workups in Australian waters and was involved in Exercise CORAL SANDS in September 1968. She was awarded the 1968 Duke of Gloucester’s Cup as the most efficient ship in the RAN. After relinquishing command of Stalwart Geoffrey Gladstone proceed to Britain to study at the Imperial Defence College in London during 1969.

He returned to Australia in late 1969 and in January 1970 took command of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, his third ‘big ship’ command in eight years. Melbourne operated in Australian waters and also deployed to Asia for various exercises and port visits to Subic Bay, Manila, Sattahip (Thailand), Hong Kong, Osaka, Kobe and Singapore. Captain Gladstone handed over command of Melbourne in February 1971 and returned to Britain to become the Head of the Australian Defence Staff and Defence Advisor to the Australian High Commissioner in London. He was promoted Rear Admiral on 1 June 1971.

After returning to Australia, Rear Admiral Gladstone was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff in January 1974 and held this position until November 1975 during which time the RAN began the long road towards integration as part of the Australian Defence Force following the 1973 Tange Review. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in June 1975 for his “distinguished service in several responsible positions”. Gladstone was then appointed as the Fleet Commander based in Sydney and at times embarked in the aircraft carrier Melbourne. His final task as Fleet Commander was embarking in Melbourne as the senior officer for her deployment to Britain, along with the destroyer HMAS Brisbane and frigate HMNZS Canterbury, for the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee celebrations and the fleet review at Spithead. Upon return to Australia, in October 1977, he retired from the RAN after 42 years of service and he and Charmian resided in Canberra where he became the local representative for the French aircraft firm UTA Ltd. In 1990 he attended the decommissioning ceremony for Stalwart in Sydney.

Rear Admiral Gladstone died on 7 September 1999 and his funeral took place at the Garden Island Dockyard Chapel.