Stanley Goble

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Stanley James (Jimmy) Goble
Portrait of man in dark military uniform with pilot's wings on chest, wearing peaked cap with two rows of braid
Official RAAF portrait of Air Vice Marshal Stanley Goble
Born21 August 1891
Croydon, Victoria
Died24 July 1948(1948-07-24) (aged 56)
Heidelberg, Victoria
Service/branchRoyal Australian Air Force
Years of service1915–46
RankAir Vice Marshal
UnitNo. 8 Squadron RNAS (1916–17)
Commands heldNo. 5 Squadron RNAS (1917–18)
Chief of the Air Staff
(1922–25, 1932–34, 1939–40)
No. 2 Group RAF (1936–37)
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsCommander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Croix de guerre (France)

Air Vice Marshal Stanley James (Jimmy) Goble, CBE, DSO, DSC (21 August 1891 – 24 July 1948) was a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He served three terms as Chief of the Air Staff, alternating with Wing Commander (later Air Marshal Sir) Richard Williams. Goble came to national attention in 1924 when he and fellow RAAF pilot Ivor McIntyre became the first men to circumnavigate Australia by air, journeying 8,450 miles (13,600 km) in a single-engined floatplane.

During World War I, Goble flew fighters on the Western Front with the British Royal Naval Air Service. He became an ace with ten victories, commanded No. 5 Squadron (later No. 205 Squadron RAF), and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Service Cross. Returning to Australia, Goble assisted in the formation of the RAAF as an independent branch of the Australian armed forces. On an exchange posting to Britain in the 1930s, he led No. 2 (Bomber) Group RAF.

As Chief of the Air Staff at the onset of World War II, Goble clashed with the Federal Government over implementation of the Empire Air Training Scheme, which he believed would be detrimental to the defence of Australia. He stepped down as leader of the RAAF in early 1940, and spent the rest of the war in Ottawa as Air Liaison Officer to Canada. Goble died in 1948 at the age of fifty-six, two years after retiring from the military.

Early career

Born in Croydon, Victoria, Stanley James Goble was one of four sons to an Australian father, George, and an English mother, Ann.[1][2] He apparently received little schooling, and began his working life as a clerk with the Victorian Railways at the age of sixteen. By twenty-three he was, like his father, a stationmaster,[1][3] and a footballer with Brunswick in the Victorian Football Association.[4]

Goble was prevented from joining the Australian Imperial Force at the beginning of World War I after failing the stringent medical criteria; he wrote later that "only applicants of the finest physiques were considered suitable for the first contingent of Australian troops".[5] With his three brothers already on active service, he decided to travel to England at his own expense and enlist in the British armed forces.[1]

World War I

Goble was accepted for flying training with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in July 1915. After graduating as a flight sub-lieutenant on 20 October 1915, he became a test pilot and undertook anti-submarine patrols out of Dover.[1] Goble commenced operations with only three hours' solo flying experience.[5] Towards the end of the year he was posted across the Channel to Dunkirk, flying Caudron reconnaissance-bombers and Sopwith Pup fighters.[1][5]

... I was detailed to carry out what was termed a fighting patrol in a twin-engined Caudron. My armament was a Very pistol and my gunner was supplied with a rifle ... I discovered that my gunner had never been in the air, had never fired a rifle in his life ... I had not seen a twin-engined Caudron until after dark on the previous evening and could not even obtain a map of the front ... Fortunately this highly efficient fighting combination found nothing to fight.

Goble on his introduction to operations at the Western Front, 1915[5]

Goble was a founding member of No. 8 Squadron RNAS in 1916, during the latter part of the Battle of the Somme, where he flew both Pups and Nieuport fighters.[1] He earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 24 September 1916 when he engaged two enemy fighters near Ghistelles in West Flanders, "and brought one of them down on fire in a spiral nose-dive".[6] This victory was the first confirmed "kill" achieved by an Allied pilot flying the Pup.[7][8] Goble was promoted to flight lieutenant on 1 October, and won the French Croix de guerre later that month.[1][9]

On 17 February 1917, Goble was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his "conspicuous bravery and skill" in three separate actions while operating with No. 8 Squadron: on 7 November 1916 when he forced a hostile fighter down in a field, where it crashed attempting to land; on 27 November when he engaged four enemy aircraft, destroying one; and on 4 December when, in repeated combats while escorting Allied bombers, he helped drive off attacking fighters and shot down one of them.[10] The same month that he was awarded the DSO, Goble was posted to No. 5 Squadron RNAS at Petite-Synthe near the Franco-Belgian border, flying Airco DH.4 two-seat light bombers.[1]

Goble was promoted twice in 1917, to flight commander in June,[11] then squadron commander in December.[12] He led No. 5 Squadron for the latter part of the year and into 1918.[13][14] His unit supported the British Fifth Army as it bore the brunt of the German Spring Offensive, and he had to evacuate his airfield when it was shelled by advancing enemy artillery.[1] Relocating twice to other landing grounds, he kept his squadron on the attack, and was subsequently recognised by a commendation circulated to all RNAS combat units.[15] When the RNAS merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps on 1 April 1918, Goble became a major in the newly formed Royal Air Force.[9] Twice mentioned in despatches,[1] he finished the war an ace, with ten victories.[16][17][18] Although himself forced to crash land on two occasions, he had avoided any injury during his active service.[1]

Inter-war years

Establishment of the Royal Australian Air Force

Formal portrait of five men, three seated and wearing military uniforms with peaked caps, two standing and wearing civilian clothes and hats
RAAF Air Board in 1928: Group Captain Goble, Director of Personnel and Training (front, left), with Air Commodore Williams, Chief of the Air Staff (front, centre)

Goble returned to Australia on HT Gaika in November 1918.[19] He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 New Year Honours,[20] and made an acting lieutenant colonel in May that year.[21] He received a permanent commission as a squadron leader and honorary wing commander in the RAF on 1 August 1919, and was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy.[1][22]

When a temporary Air Board was set up to examine the feasibility of an Australian Air Force (AAF), Goble was assigned as a Navy representative, with Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams, an Australian Flying Corps veteran of World War I, acting as an Army spokesman. The permanent Australian Air Board was established on 9 November 1920, and recommended creation of the AAF as an independent branch of the armed services.[23] The AAF came into being on 31 March 1921—the 'Royal' prefix being granted five months later—and Goble resigned his commission in the RAF the same day to transfer to the new service as a wing commander.[23][24]

The Navy had nominated Goble as First Air Member (later Chief of the Air Staff), but Williams took the post and Goble became Second Air Member and Director of Personnel and Training.[23][25] Williams and Goble would serve as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) three times each between 1922 and 1940. One motive suggested for the rotation was a ploy by Army and Navy interests to limit Williams' autonomy.[26] Instead, according to RAAF historian Alan Stephens, the arrangement "almost inevitably fostered an unproductive rivalry" between the two officers,[23] which was "exacerbated by the personality differences between the pedantic, autocratic Williams and the cheerful, easy-going Goble".[27] Although in a legal sense the Air Board led the RAAF rather than the CAS alone, Williams dominated the board to such an extent that Goble would later complain that his colleague appeared to consider the Air Force his personal command.[28]

Chief of the Air Staff

The rivalry between Goble and Williams was such that it was later alleged that government practice was to ensure that they were never in the country at the same time.[29] In October 1921, Goble was posted to Britain for a naval co-operation course; his place on the Air Board was taken by Squadron Leader Bill Anderson.[30] Goble married Kathleen Wodehouse in London on Anzac Day, 1922, and returned to Australia later that year.[1] His first term as CAS began when Williams left the country in December 1922 for study in England. Goble developed a plan to establish a small seaplane base at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney, but Williams cancelled this shortly after he returned to Australia in February 1925 to resume the position of CAS.[31] Goble's suggestion of a separate Fleet Air Arm fostered suspicions that he was too closely aligned with naval interests.[9] He departed for England to undertake study at the British Army Staff College in Camberley and RAF Staff College, Andover, as Williams had done two years before. Goble also served as Air Liaison Officer with the Australian High Commission in London from May 1926 to September 1927. He was promoted to group captain on 1 April 1928.[1]

Raised to temporary air commodore, Goble took over as CAS for the second time between December 1932 and June 1934, while Williams attended the Imperial Defence College in London.[1][32] On secondment to the RAF from 1935 to 1937, Goble was attached to the British Air Ministry as Deputy Director of Air Operations.[1] In this capacity he attended a conference in 1936 to examine a Commonwealth-wide air training plan, a concept that would be revived in World War II as the Empire Air Training Scheme.[33] Continuing his exchange posting, on 1 September Goble took over as Air Officer Commanding No. 2 (Bomber) Group, based in Hampshire. The group comprised fifteen squadrons, putting him in charge of a force stronger than the entire RAAF.[34] On 28 February 1937, Goble was raised to temporary air vice marshal.[1] He succeeded Williams as Chief of the Air Staff for the last time in February 1939, when the latter was dismissed from his position in the aftermath of the Ellington Report criticising the standards of training and air safety observed by the RAAF.[35][36] When he replaced Williams, Goble was Air Member for Personnel and might therefore have been considered more closely responsible for such standards; he maintained that Williams had personally overseen the service's air training since 1934.[1][36]

Circumnavigation of Australia

Single-engined biplane with floats, parked on water, with one crewman on float and another on lower wing
Fairey IIID seaplane flown by Wing Commander Goble and Flying Officer McIntyre on their 1924 circumnavigation of Australia

The young air force was a small, close-knit organisation comparable to a flying club, although several pioneering flights were undertaken by its members.[37] One of the most notable was made by Goble and Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Ivor McIntyre in 1924, when they became the first men to circumnavigate Australia by air, in a single-engined Fairey IIID floatplane. The English-born McIntyre, who was lead pilot while Goble acted as commander and navigator, was also a World War I veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service.[2] The purpose of the flight was to survey the northern coastline of Australia for defence planning, and to test the capabilities of the Fairey IIID.[38]

Goble and McIntyre took off from Point Cook, Victoria, on 6 April 1924 and flew 8,450 miles (13,600 km) in 44 days, in often arduous conditions. Though well-prepared with fuel stocks and spare parts pre-positioned along the intended route, they had to contend with illness and tropical storms, as well as mid-air engine trouble and fuel leaks.[1][2] Their journey took them anticlockwise around the continent, along the Eastern Australian coast through Sydney, Southport, Townsville and Thursday Island, crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria to Darwin, and then continuing along the coast through Broome, Carnarvon, Perth, Albany and Port Lincoln, before arriving back in Victoria.[38] As they flew above Point Cook, twelve RAAF aircraft took to the air to escort them to their landing place at St Kilda Beach, where they were welcomed by a crowd of 10,000 people.[2]

Two men being chaired by a crowd of people
Goble (left) and McIntyre on St Kilda Beach

Prime Minister Stanley Bruce called the expedition "one of the most wonderful accomplishments in the history of aviation", his government presenting Goble with a gift of £500, and £250 to McIntyre.[38] The British Royal Aero Club awarded them the annual Britannia Trophy, and they were appointed Commanders of the Order of the British Empire in the King's Birthday Honours.[2][39] Though the flight is still acknowledged as one of the most important in Australian aviation, the necessity for the Air Force chief to personally command such a journey has been questioned, suggesting that it was motivated by the one-upmanship that characterised the Williams-Goble relationship.[2] Two years later Williams would make a three-month, 10,000-mile (16,000 km) round trip from Point Cook to the Pacific Islands, the first international flight undertaken by an RAAF plane and crew, amid similar suspicions.[2][40]

World War II

Three men in light-coloured military uniforms with peaked caps
Air Vice Marshal Goble (left) as Air Liaison Officer to Canada, 1941

As Chief of the Air Staff at the outbreak of World War II, Goble planned the expansion and decentralisation of the RAAF to meet the needs of home defence and Australia's obligations in Europe, which included the transfer of No. 10 Squadron to Britain.[29] The Federal Government abandoned his concept of an autonomous Air Expeditionary Force in favour of full commitment to the Empire Air Training Scheme, which Goble considered detrimental to local defence.[35] His proposal to organise the RAAF along functional lines, with Home Defence, Training, and Maintenance Commands, would similarly be rejected.[41][42] He also came into conflict with his deputy, Air Commodore John Russell, an RAF officer on exchange in Australia.[29] These issues led to Goble tendering his resignation as CAS, which took effect in January 1940. The Argus in Melbourne reported that "Goble wishes to resign 'on a matter of high principle'. It is known that he has been dissatisfied for some time with his relations with the Federal Government."[43]

Prime Minister Robert Menzies had in any case been looking for a British officer to head the RAAF and confided to the UK High Commissioner, Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, that Goble's resignation was "undoubtedly very convenient".[44] Following the interim appointment of Air Commodore Anderson, the Royal Air Force's Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Burnett became Chief of the Air Staff; among other things, Burnett proceeded to reorganise the Air Force into a geographically based "area" system of command and control.[35][45] Goble had offered to submit his resignation from the RAAF as well as from the position of CAS, and was considering a return to Britain for service with the RAF. Menzies persuaded him to remain and take on the role of Australian Air Liaison Officer to Canada, based in Ottawa.[35][43] Raised to substantive air vice marshal, Goble stayed at this post for the duration of the war and was the RAAF's representative at the Ottawa Conference in May–June 1942 that negotiated the Joint Commonwealth Air Training Plan.[46][47]

Retirement and legacy

Half portrait of man in dark military uniform with pilot's wings on chest
Jimmy Goble in 1943

In January 1946, Goble presided over the court-martial of Australia's top-scoring fighter ace, Group Captain Clive Caldwell.[48] Charged with alcohol trafficking on the island of Morotai in 1945, Caldwell was found guilty and reduced to the rank of flight lieutenant; he left the Air Force soon after.[49] Goble was himself forced into retirement in February 1946, despite being five years below the mandatory age of sixty.[50] The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal George Jones, in recommending Goble's dismissal, wrote that "this officer has a sound Service knowledge and an alert mind, but suffers from certain nervous characteristics which make continuous application to a task impossible".[51] Other senior RAAF commanders who were veterans of World War I, including Richard Williams, were also retired at this time, ostensibly to make way for the advancement of younger officers.[50]

Goble suffered from hypertensive cerebrovascular disease and died in Heidelberg, Victoria, on 24 July 1948. He was cremated, leaving his wife Kathleen, and three sons.[1] His son John (born 1923) joined the Royal Australian Navy and qualified as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, rising to the rank of commodore and commanding 817 Squadron, the naval air station HMAS Albatross, and the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.[52][53] Goble Street in Hughes, Australian Capital Territory, was named for Jimmy Goble.[54] In 1994 he and Ivor McIntyre were honoured with the issue of a postage stamp by Australia Post, in a series depicting Australian aviators that also included Freda Thompson, Lawrence Hargrave, and Sir Keith and Sir Ross Macpherson Smith.[55]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t McCarthy, "Goble, Stanley James (1891–1948)"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 39–41
  3. ^ Stephens, Australia's Air Chiefs, p. 25
  4. ^ "Distinguished Brunswick Footballer". Brunswick and Coburg Leader. Victoria, Australia. 22 October 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 6 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ a b c d Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 10
  6. ^ "No. 29799". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 October 1916. p. 10362.
  7. ^ Cardillo, Teena (27 March 2003). "Aircraft's return is in the bag". Air Force. Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  8. ^ Franks, Sopwith Pup Aces of World War I, p. 8
  9. ^ a b c Dennis et al., The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p. 270
  10. ^ "No. 29947". The London Gazette. 16 February 1917. p. 1648.
  11. ^ "No. 30156". The London Gazette. 29 June 1917. pp. 6413–6414.
  12. ^ "No. 30451". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1917. pp. 87–88.
  13. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 7 Archived 7 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. xxvi
  15. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, pp. 28–29
  16. ^ Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 49
  17. ^ Franks, Sopwith Pup Aces of World War 1, p. 86
  18. ^ Newton, Australian Air Aces, pp. 36, 60
  19. ^ "Goble, S.J. (Major) – Royal Air Force". National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 28 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  20. ^ "No. 31098". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1918. pp. 92–93.
  21. ^ "No. 31332". The London Gazette. 9 May 1919. p. 5800.
  22. ^ "No. 32009". The London Gazette. 6 August 1920. p. 8183.
  23. ^ a b c d Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 26–31
  24. ^ "No. 32767". The London Gazette. 14 November 1922. p. 8039.
  25. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 15–16 Archived 7 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Stephens, Going Solo, pp. 20–23
  27. ^ Stephens, High Fliers, p. 33
  28. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 52–53
  29. ^ a b c Helson, Ten Years at the Top, pp. 29–33
  30. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 37
  31. ^ Roylance, Air Base Richmond, p. 19
  32. ^ "Former Chiefs of the Air Force". Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  33. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 79
  34. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, p. 93
  35. ^ a b c d Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 66–67, 113–116
  36. ^ a b Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, pp. 347–348
  37. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 36–37
  38. ^ a b c Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p. 25 Archived 7 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ "No. 32941". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 May 1924. p. 4414.
  40. ^ Wilson, The Eagle and the Albatross, pp. 24–25
  41. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 90–91 Archived 13 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ Ashworth, How Not to Run an Air Force, pp. 24–28
  43. ^ a b Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 75–77 Archived 3 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother, pp. 462–463
  45. ^ Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 91–92
  46. ^ Herington, Air War Against Germany and Italy, pp. 530–545
  47. ^ Ashworth, How Not to Run an Air Force, p. 20
  48. ^ Watson, Killer Caldwell, pp. 228–239
  49. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 123–124
  50. ^ a b Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 180
  51. ^ Helson, Ten Years at the Top, p. 232
  52. ^ Legge, Who's Who in Australia 1971, p. 391
  53. ^ Goble, John (December 2005). "Storm Ashore: A Worm's Eye View of D-Day" (PDF). Goorangai. Royal Australian Naval Reserve. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  54. ^ "Hughes Neighbourhood Watch Group" (PDF). ACT Neighbourhood Watch Inc. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2014.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  55. ^ "Aviation Feats, Australia Post". Powerhouse Museum. Retrieved 26 September 2014.


External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Richard Williams
Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
Richard Williams
Preceded by
Richard Williams
Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
Richard Williams
Preceded by
William Anderson
Air Member for Personnel
Succeeded by
Hazelton Nicholl
Preceded by
Bertine Sutton
Air Officer Commanding No. 2 Group RAF
Succeeded by
Charles Blount
Preceded by
Hazelton Nicholl
Air Member for Personnel
Succeeded by
John Russell
Preceded by
Richard Williams
Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
William Anderson

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