Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of History and Politics


It is a curious fact that Brudenell White remains one of the least known and least analysed of Australia's military commanders. It is curious because White had a profound influence not only on the organisational culture of the First AIF but on the organisational history of the Australian military. This thesis examines White's influence from the perspective of organisational culture theory.

According to Peters and Waterman founders create both the tangible aspects of an organisation, such as structure and technology, as well as the symbols, deologies, language, and beliefs that embody the organisation's culture. The founder provides the momentum that gets the organisation moving and chooses the original core members. As the organisation takes form the founder's responses to organisational problems create new values, beliefs and procedures to be followed by the group which are accepted as the way of doing things. In the First Australian Imperial Force this task fell largely to White.

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 White was a relatively junior Major, but was fulfilling the extremely important functions of both Director of Military Operations and Chief of the General Staff. It was White who shouldered the very large responsibility of advising the Government and organising Australia's initial military contribution which later became known as the Australian Imperial Force. It was his ideology and world view that shaped the new organisation and from that point on. White became a key figure in the development of the Australian Imperial Force.

White was appointed Chief of Staff, the most senior staff officer in the Australian Imperial Force. Under General Birdwood, White's inherent aptitude for administrative and operational matters was recognised and consequently White became the de facto commander of the Australian Imperial Force. During this period White plarmed and directed the two most successful Australian operations. The first, a tactical operation, resulted in the withdrawal of Australian troops from Gallipoli, an operation that was achieved with only two minor casualties. The second operation was administrative and resulted in the expansion and restructuring of the AIF fi-om two divisions to four divisions.

Whilst in Egypt White began to construct the administrative machinery that would lead to the administrative self-government of the Australian Imperial Force. This process began with the formation of an intermediate administrative base in Cairo. In France this was expanded when White successfully pressed for the establishment of an Australian Administrative Headquarters. White designed the principles upon which it would operate.

At Gallipoli and in France White quickly demonstrated his tactical aptitude. In the early operations White established tactical principles that guided the operational development of the Australian Imperial Force. Over time even British commanders came to regard White as the driving force behind the Australian Imperial Force. Hamel is often seen as the ultimate example of Australian expertise in the art of war. Although Monash gained the credit the original plans for the operation were prepared by White.

Throughout the war White played a major role in every facet of the development of the organisational culture of the Australian Imperial Force and protected what he had built by marginalising Australian officers he believed represented a threat to the First AIF. The beliefs, values and principles that were established during this period became the foundations upon which Australian military culture later developed. White established himself as the champion of Anzac and Australia's foremost soldier.

02Whole.pdf (5545 kB)



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.