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BLACKWOOD, Alan Ferguson MC (1921-2015 )

BLACKWOOD, Alan Ferguson MC (1921-2015)

Alan Ferguson Blackwood, athlete, soldier and teacher, was born on 7 August 1921 at Elsternwick, the son of the Reverend William Edgar Blackwood and Martha Elsie May nee Colquhoun.

Alan F Blackwood (Rowing 1940).

Alan F Blackwood (Rowing 1940).

Alan F Blackwood, WW II (P Blackwood)

Alan F Blackwood, WW II (P Blackwood)

He was enrolled as a boarder at Geelong College on 8 February 1938 continuing at the School to December 1940. At the time of his enrolment the family address was St Andrew's, Mildura. He had previously been a student at Ballarat College.

Alan Blackwood's school record documents his outstanding sporting prowess and leadership. He excelled in sport. He was in the Athletics Teams of 1938-1940 and Team Captain in 1940, a member of the 1st Football XVIII from 1938 to 1940 and rowed in the 1st VIII in 1939 and 1940. He capped these sporting achievements by also winning the Geelong College Cup in 1938. In 1940 at the Associated Public Schools Sports carnival Alan ran the 440 yards into a head wind in record time.

Alan Blackwood was a School Prefect in 1939 and Senior Prefect in 1940 as well as a Sergeant in the College Cadet Corps. In 1939 he was awarded the Fen and Roy Pillow Bursary and in 1940 the Argus Prize.

During World War II, he enlisted (No. VX62679) in the AIF on 29 August 1941, and served with the 2/4th Infantry Battalion. After a period of training in Palestine, the 2/4th joined the force garrisoning Syria. It completed this duty in mid-January 1942, then embarked for Australia on 12 February, and arrived at Adelaide on 27 March. In June, the 19 Brigade was deployed to defend Darwin and the 2/4th remained there for what became a boring and frustrating year. The brigade rejoined the rest of the 6th Division training in northern Queensland in June 1943 but another 18 months would pass before it saw action again.

The 2/4th landed at Aitape in New Guulea on 2 November 1944 to undertake its only campaign against the Japanese. Its most intense effort took place between April and July. Landed at But, the battalion advanced along the coast, captured Wewak on 10 May, and then Swung inland to clear the foothills of the Prince Alexander Range. For his actions during the attack on Wirui Mission on 14 May, Pte Edward Kenna, a member of the unit, was awarded the Victoria Cross. Following the Japanese surrender on 15 August, drafts of 2/4th men began returning to Australia for discharge. The remainder of the battalion itself arrived home on 26 October and disbanded at Chermside in Queensland on 12 November 1945.

Alan Blackwood was awarded the Military Cross on 24 August 1945:
'For meritorious service in New Guinea. For a considerable time he had charge of two platoons besides his own, as the other officers were casualties. At Wewak Lt Blackwood commanded a rifle platoon and at all times displayed outstanding leadership and personal bravery. In the battle for Koigin he led the final attack and, despite aimed machine-gun fire, he remained exposed to enemy fire and led his troops in a determined assault. The boldness and vigour with which the attack was conducted rapidly disorganised the enemy and the feature was captured with minor losses to our troops.'

As noted in the battalion history, White Over Green:
'The attack was a complete success and for his aggressive leadership shown on this and previous occasions, Lt Alan Blackwood, the platoon commander, was awarded the Military Cross. It was all over by 1630 hours and 10 and 11 Platoons were moved up to hold the position, 13 Platoon returning to C Company.'

Alan F Blackwood by Derek Carroll  (P Blackwood)

Alan F Blackwood by Derek Carroll
(P Blackwood)

Following his discharge from the army on 27 September 1946, Alan completed a Diploma of Physical Education. On 2 February 1948 he married Margaret Griffin, of Melbourne.

Alan joined the teaching staff of Christ Church Grammar School in Perth in 1949 and remained on the staff until his retirement in 1983. For most of that time he was Deputy Headmaster. Alan taught maths and physical education, was a boarding house master and coached the 1st XI cricket, the 1st XVIII football and the Athletics Team. From 1951 he was Officer Commanding the School Cadet Unit. Alan was also field judge at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956. In 1960 he served two terms teaching at ‘The Free Grammar School of King Edward VI' of Giggleswick in North Yorkshire, founded in 1512. He continued his interest in athletics and was Co-ordinator of Officials for the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games. At Christ Church Grammar School he is remembered as one of the major builders of the school. While at Christ Church his portrait was painted by Derek Carroll, an old boy of Christ Church Grammar in Perth.

Alan, age 93, of Shoalwater, Western Australia died on 2 February 2015.

Alan's brother, Rev. Ronald Alister Blackwood (1919-2017) was also educated at Geelong College.

Sources: The Age (Melb) 5 Feb 2015; Rev Dr P Blackwood; Geelong Collegians at the Second World War pp126-127 (citing The Pegasus; Australian War Memorial; National Archives; Unit History Editorial Committee, White Over Green: The 2/4th Battalion and reference to the 4th Battalion). OGC 1937.
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