Stanley Gordon Savige (1890-1954)
by Legatee Brian Armstrong of Melbourne Legacy
the Opening of the 26th Annual Conference of Legacy Clubs of Australia,
the 15th of May this year Legacy learned to its enduring sorrow of the
death of Lieut. General Sir Stanley George Savige, K.B.E., C.B., C.B.E.,
D.S.O., M.C., E.D., for more than 30 years affectionately known to us
all as Legatee Stan Savige. He was the embodiment of all those things
for which Legacy stands, and each one of us who knew him and worked with
him feels a great and abiding sense of personal loss. By reason of his
life and work it is proper that those of us at this Conference, the
first after his passing, representative of Legacy throughout the
Commonwealth, and comprising so many who were his friends, so many who
knew the depth of his love for Legacy, should offer our tribute to his
memory and ensure, so far as we may, that the inspiration of his life
and work in this Cause shall not be lost to those who follow after.
was not ordained that Stanley George Savige should enjoy a long life,
but it was to prove a life of outstanding service. Born at Morwell in
Victoria some 63 years ago, he received, with his brothers and sisters,
such education as was then available to a lad in a mining district. He
had no particular opportunities of advancement, but from his early days
he cherished a strong ambition to make a success of his life, and with
this in view he lost no opportunity of adding to his knowledge.
a lover of the open country, a good bushman and a fine shot he became as
a young man, a Scoutmaster with a keen following of boys. Even in those
early days he attracted youth, and showed undoubted promise of the
quality of leadership which later was to make him famous.
came with the First World War, and he took his place as a private
soldier in the original 24th Battalion A.I.F. Followed Gallipoli and
Anzac where his marksmanship and bush craft stood him in good stead.
Conscious that his early training was not sufficient to secure the
promotion he desired, he set himself to enlarge it. Only a man of fine
fibre and rare determination could apply himself to study on that war
torn Peninsula, where our men, hitherto untested, suffered every known
hardship, and no man knew, from hour to hour, whether he would survive.
But Savige achieved it. Himself then a Corporal, he found another
Corporal who was a former Schoolmaster and learned from him all that he
had to teach. Savige was on his way. He was commissioned on the Field
and allotted the heroic task
of leading the last party off that desperate coast during the famous
France he became Adjutant of his Battalion and one of the best known
officers in the 6th Brigade. He won the Military Cross and was Mentioned
in Despatches. Early in 1918 he received a signal distinction. He was included in
a small but distinguished band of Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers
from the British and Dominion Forces most carefully selected for
individual courage and proved qualities of leadership, and was sent to
Persia, under the command of Major-General Dunsterville, Kipling's
famous Stalky, to assist and mobilize the friendly tribes with a view to
protecting the road to India, left wide open by the withdrawal of
Russia. The story of the Dunster Force, its sufferings and achievements
in the face of incredible hardships and difficulties, was later to be
told by Savige in his book "Stalky's
emerged, finally, unscathed, despite his active participation in several
of the bloodiest battles of all time, with rank of Captain and a D.S.O.
and M.C. to his credit, to say nothing of three Mentions in Despatches.
later years, further decorations were to be conferred upon him but I
believe he valued none of these so highly as his awards for outstanding
personal bravery won in the Field when he was an Officer of
comparatively junior rank.
was the man who in August 1923, at the instance of his former Commander,
Major-General Sir John Gellibrand gathered round him a handful of men
who had fought and laughed with him over four well remembered years.
This small band adopted the name of "Legacy", but its purpose
then was, in the main, to assist in safeguarding the interests of
ex-servicemen in this country. Worthy although the cause undoubtedly
was, the conception and ideal which were to distinguish Legacy from all
kindred post-war movements, did not emerge until two years later. The
torch had not been lit. Legacy had not yet found its soul.
has been achieved since then is known to you all. The Legacy ideal,
unique in its conception, with no known counterpart elsewhere, is now
accepted, welcomed and honored throughout the Commonwealth and abroad.
But in those early days the achievements of the Founder of the first of
the Legacy Clubs as we know them, in the face of all manner of
difficulties and frustrations are worthy of our lasting memory and
thankfulness. As the source of every river lies in the hills, so must
the inspiration from which stems a great conception of service to one's
fellow men be lofty and above reproach.
was the embodiment of this new expression of comradeship, as he was the
central figure and driving force of the little Group that sponsored it.
But for his zeal, his faith and determination, it is likely that the
flame, newly kindled, might have flickered and died. The idea of men
returned from active service pledging, for the sake only of their former
comradeship, their personal assistance to the widows and above all, to
the children of those who had fought beside them and paid the full price
of war, was so completely new and unexpected that it was by no means
were no funds, no precedents to guide the new adventurers, only the
clear bright flame of an ideal just envisaged, and the conviction that
the Cause was unassailable. Nor were there lacking many who said the community held no place
for Legacy, that it was born of sentiment only, and would quickly pass.
The scoffers are gone and long since forgotten, but the torch remains
and burns brighter than ever.
the years of Legacy there are many names deserving of honor, men from
all States and of all stations of life, but no name stands out in such
clear and bold relief as does the name of the man we now remember. By
his works you shall know him. He was, in my belief, the Soul of Legacy.
He sought no office and preferred to work as one of the team.
years went by before he accepted the presidency of Melbourne Club, and
then only because his fellows would brook no further delay. "The
Spirit of Legacy is Service" - so runs the Charter, and that was
Savige's Creed. By virtue of his attainments he was called upon to take
a prominent part in the administration of Legacy, first within his own
Club and later, as Chairman of the Co-ordinating Council of Legacy in
Australia. But always it was the essentially human character of the work
which enthralled and upheld him, and the tasks which gave him most joy
were those which brought him into close personal contact with the
youngsters and their home life.
their elders they recognised his goodwill and his leadership and
responded to it. It was Savige who made possible the first camps held
for the boys and girls by Melbourne, his own Club. These were erected on
his own seaside property, and originally conducted under his personal
direction and largely with the aid of funds he had collected. There was
hardly an important post in his own Club that Savige did not at some
time occupy and adorn. He was happiest in the company of those men with
whom he had served in the field, and cherished always the comradeship
born of active service which is of the essence of Legacy.
was a man of strong convictions but attentive always to another's point
of view. As a Legatee he played a leading part in bringing hope and
encouragement to many a mother on whom the whole responsibility of a
young family had been suddenly and tragically laid; in the attainment of
the ambitions of many an orphan child, which not so long since had
seemed to him or to her to be mere dreams, impossible of realization.
Comfort for the bereaved, new hope for the children's physical and
educational welfare, assistance with the home, aid for the sick, money
for the needy and a new courage to face a future that hitherto had held
no promise, all these facets of our present endeavour combine to present
a living and enduring memorial to the man who held together the little
band which was Legacy's beginning.
the two World Wars in addition to establishing himself successfully in
civilian life and answering the constant calls of Legacy on his energy
and time, Savige maintained an active association with the Army. He was
convinced that a Second A.I.F. would one day be urgently called upon,
and as a Battalion Commander he spared no effort to train the Officers
under his charge during the uneasy years of peace for the trial that he
felt must come. These men have all subsequently had distinguished
military careers, their names are well known and many of them serve in
the second crisis came, Savige himself was one of the first to offer,
and although his youth was spent, he proudly carried the number VX 13
throughout the terrible years that followed. This time he was to
command, first the 17th Australian Infantry Brigade in the first action
of the Second A.I.F. against the enemy at Bardia, and subsequently at
Tobruk and Derna - all famous names now. It was his patrols which gave
the warning - unheeded at the time - that Rommel's reinforcements were
reaching North Africa far earlier than was expected.
followed the grim days of Greece and Crete when the fine qualities of
his leadership were put to the uttermost test. I have been told by those
closest to him, it was typical of Savige that when his convoys were on
the move back and were being blasted from the air by the unopposed
Luftwaffe, he should sit by the side of the open road, wearing his red
banded cap, to steady the morale of men who had then no chance of
hitting back at the enemy. Unorthodox no doubt, but here was a man
the whole campaign and later when he commanded the 3rd Division in New
Guinea, and later still when with the rank of Lieutenant-General he
became Corps Commander in New Guinea and Bougainville, it was at all
times characteristic of him that he should see for himself the situation
in the forward areas. He dealt personally with his sub-ordinate
commanders whenever it was possible to do so. No one, says his G.1.,
understood better than he did the importance of front line troops seeing
their G.O.C. frequently, and knowing that he was aware of, and prepared
to share, their hardships and dangers, he took many risks that he should
not have taken, exhausted himself physically and mentally times without
number, and considered himself not at all in order to secure the success
of his operations. Finally in Bougainville, he brought his campaign to a
victorious conclusion and accepted the personal surrender of the
is known as one of Australia's most human military leaders, but let no
one believe that he did not ask, and receive, the utmost of his men. He
trained them in a hard school but was ever conscious of their needs and
observant and thoughtful of their welfare. Fearless and untiring under
conditions which brought younger men down, he asked nothing that he was
not himself prepared to give and do.
close of the Second World War left him with the same brave heart, but a
vitality greatly impaired. He was called upon again and again to perform
important national tasks, notably that of Co-ordinator of Demobilization
and Dispersal. But his interest in Legacy never flagged - it was, in
fact, more personal than ever, for under his command many Junior
Legatees, sons of former comrades had proved themselves worthy of their
fathers in war and in peace. In the bearing and achievements of the
young men of the Second A.I.F. he took a particular and justifiable
applied himself to the Extension of Legacy to areas in Victoria, where
it had not previously been practicable to operate. His record of service
and close personal contact with the men of both wars made him a most
welcome pioneer, and many new Clubs and Groups resulted from his
efforts. He founded, and I doubt whether any one else could have done
so, the Club in the great Capital of our Empire. His reputation and
obvious sincerity surmounted obstacles that might well have daunted
lesser men. Legacy's debt to him visibly increased.
he was ever a simple man, with a great love and understanding of his
fellow men, and a true Legatee at heart. Much that he did will never be
known or recognised, save by those who benefited. His service in Legacy
ranged from the humble kitchen of cottage and farm to our
representation in Westminster Abbey itself in the Coronation year. A
knighthood set the seal upon an outstanding career.
the less when upon the death of Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey,
Lieut.-General Sir Stanley Savige became the Patron of the Melbourne
Club, he retained at his own express desire, the title of Legatee
Savige, and when on that final day we bade him farewell, when the flags
he had served so faithfully were lowered, and the guns which had formed
a grim background to so many of his years, crashed out in their final
salute, it was apparent to all who had eyes to see that this great and
simple man had won such a place in the hearts and affection of his
fellow countrymen as is given to few men indeed. From the packed
Cathedral, escorted by his fellow Generals, borne and followed by men of
his own Units, by Legatees, and a great company of others who had cause
to honor and esteem him, he made his last journey.
that is not the end. His voice and presence are lost to us but his
memory and inspiration must ever remain. As he has bequeathed to the
National War Memorial yonder his diaries, records and battle plans, so
he has bequeathed to us, his fellow Legatees, his share and his trust in
Legacy itself. Never was the Torch passed by worthier hands. Ours it is
to hold it high. Whatever material memorial the future may hold for him,
Legacy owes this great Legatee a livelier recompense. It is within our
power to implement what I believe to be his greatest wish, that Legacy
and its ideal of comradeship and service shall flourish and endure. Let
each one of us then resolve that we shall, within our several Clubs, in
all tasks to which we are assigned, both great and small, keep in our
minds the life and spirit of Stanley George Savige, so that his
inspiration may uphold us in our endeavours, so that we may be proud at
all times to say of Legacy to those who follow after -
you would see his memorial - look around you.