Major Blair Anderson Wark VC, DSO
Major Blair Anderson Wark, VC, DSO
Studio portrait of Blair Wark, 31 May 1919.
Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial, No. P01046_001
Fromelles, France, 19 July 1916
Soldiers waiting to take part in the battle of Fromelles, 'the worst 24 hours in Australian history', with 5053 casualties in a single night.
Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial, No. H16396.
Unit: 32nd Battalion
Over the course of three days, from 29 September to 1 October 1918, Major Wark led from the front in a series of advances from Bellicourt to Joncourt, France. While commanding the 32nd Battalion, passing tanks and gathering under his command 200 leaderless Americans, Wark swept through Nauroy. This was followed up by Wark and a few men rushing and capturing four guns and crew, which were causing heavy casualties. Pushing forward, and with the support of just two non-commissioned officers, he surprised and captured fifty Germans near Magny-la-Fosse. The next day he was involved in further attacks and advances, often without regard for personal risk.
At the time of this incident, Wark was 24 years of age. Major Wark survived World War 1, dying on 13 June 1941.
Life before and during the war
Blair Wark demonstrates a more middle class kind of war experience.
He was born at Bathurst in New South Wales on 27 July 1894, and received a Grammar School and Technical College education. Showing interest in the military, he served as a senior cadet from July 1911 to July 1912, reaching the rank of sergeant. When war broke out he was on fulltime duty defending the port of Sydney, as a member of the 18th North Sydney Infantry. He enlisted in the AIF on 5 August 1915 and was posted as a lieutenant to the 30th Battalion.
His instructor from an officer training course he took in March 1918 referred to Wark as:
"A cheerful, determined and reliable officer with lots of energy and drive. He is tactful and has very considerable ability and power of application. He learns quickly and thoroughly and is good at imparting knowledge. He has considerable initiative and handles troops well, and has done very well during the Course".
Wark arrived in France in June 1916 with the 30th Battalion and was wounded in the infamous battle of Fromelles. He was lucky to survive. Fromelles has been described as "Australia's worst ever military disaster" with 5053 Australian casualties in one night. Following his recovery from his wounds, on 18 November 1916, he joined the 32nd Battalion.