Blackburn VC

Arthur Seaforth Blackburn born 25 Nov 1892 Woodville, was the youngest child of the Rev Thomas Blackburn and his second wife Margaret Harriette Stewart, née Browne. Arthur was educated at Pulteney Grammar School, then St Peter's College and graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1913 and he was admitted as a legal practitioner in 1913.

Although not a sturdy youth, Blackburn managed to pass the enlistment as a private in the 10th Battalion AIF. He was amongst the first men landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Charles Bean, the War Historian, maintained that Blackburn and another private that day reached a point further inland than any other Australian soldier achieved in the whole campaign. Blackburn himself never confirmed this. He was commissioned second lieutenant in August, and served throughout the Gallipoli campaign and in France in 1916. On 23 July, at Pozières, he commanded a party of men that overwhelmed an enemy point and captured nearly 400 yards of German trench in the face of fierce opposition. For his efforts in leading the bombing parties, many members of which were killed, Blackburn was awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery.

Invalided to Adelaide, Blackburn married Rose Ada Kelly in St Peter's College chapel on on 22 March 1917 and was shortly afterwards discharged from the Army on medical grounds. In 1918-21 he was the Nationalist member for Sturt in the South Australian House of Assembly. He was a founding member of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League in South Australia [RSL] and was the South Australian president from 1917 to 1921.

In 1940 Blackburn was appointed to command the 2nd/3rd Australian Machine-Gun Battalion that fought under his command in Syria in 1941. Blackburn, the senior Allied officer present, accepted the surrender of Damascus on 21 June. In February 1942, the growing Japanese threat saw a small Australian force including Blackburn's battalion reallocated to Java to assist the Dutch forces. After three weeks of resistance against overwhelming numbers, the Allied forces surrendered and Blackburn was a prisoner of war until September 1945 in Japan.

He died at Crafers 24 November 1960 and was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. He was buried with full military honours in West Terrace Cemetery.

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