Fredrick Gallagher Galleghan By Janka Reynders

An Australian WWII Battalion Commander, Major-General Fredrick Gallagher Galleghan was an army veteran who led his troops through Japanese imprisonment. Known as "Black Jack" for his dark complexion and colouring, he had the natural air of an authoritative leader. Although he was based predominately in Malaysia at the start of the war, Galleghan's real story occurred during his years of imprisonment at the Changi Prisoner of War Camps, located in Singapore.

"He is possessed of great physical and moral courage and his example has been an inspiration to all" -Major Cecil Arthur Callaghan (1945)

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, Galleghan began his military career fighting on the Western Front during World War I. He was injured twice, the second time so seriously he was discharged in 1919, receiving a commission later in the year. During the inter-war period Galleghan served in the Australian militia, eventually reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel, commanding various battalions. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Galleghan rejoined the AIF in 1940.

A young Galleghan Enlists for the "Adventure of a lifetime"; The First World war
"One officer wrote 'We were more frightened of BJ [Black Jack] than of the Japanese'"- David Griffin (1996)

Commissioned as the commander of the 2/20th Battalion, Galleghan served in Malaysia, eventually retreating to Singapore with the advance of the Japanese Imperial Army. However, when Singapore fell on the 15th of February 1942, he was captured and taken to the Changi Imprisonment Camp as an Australian Prisoner of War. As the leader of captured troops, Galleghan realised that the key to survival was dependent on the morale of the men, the basis of which was discipline. He drilled his troops and this strategy saved many lives. Black Jack developed in his troops the will to continue. Due to his leadership, they were able to fight on and survive their ordeal.

His calmness during this period played a very important part in maintaining the morale of his troops
"Throughout the ensuing battle he personally directed operations and by personal example, cool and quick decisions at a time when the fate of his battalion was in the balance, he not only withheld and determined attempt by the enemy to force a withdrawal, but inflicted very serve casualties. His calmness during this period played a very important part in maintaining the morale of his troops, in spite of continued heavy dive bombing attacks on the areas from which he directed his operation. At no time was any portion of his unit out of control and when forced by a forces far behind the [unreadable] he again conceived and carried out a plan which enabled the whole battalion to break contact with the enemy and re-establish a solid front. Again his courage was exemplary, as he saw each Coy. out of its contact and remained until the last to ensure the safety of his men." - Comment on Distinguished Service Order.(1945)

After the liberation of the Japanese Prisoner of War Camps in September 1945, Galleghan returned home to Australia. Upon arrival, he refused association with Prisoner of War Organisations, maintaining the view neither he nor his troops were ever prisoners. Galleghan should be recognised in Australian culture due to his bravery and leadership during adversity. Without the dependable Galleghan, many Australian men would have been lost and for such a service Galleghan was rewarded with a knighthood and plaque dedication.

Frederick Galleghan embodied the saying "You've got to be cruel to be kind". Although exhausting and harsh on the surface, his strenuous drills are what kept his troops alive. Without him, many more Australian men would have died of sheer hopelessness. His ideologies mirror the idea of the classic Aussie battler, a heroic figure in Australian folklore who perseveres despite hardship.

Galleghan's individual experiences are important to the Australian story, as he embodies our fundamental values. In my opinion, Galleghan was a character whose leadership led a great number of young men out of horrific conditions at the Prisoner of War Camps in Singapore. He embodies the great Aussie battler, a quintessential image representing Australian spirit during troubled times.


• Australian War Memorial (2016) Changi. Australian War Memorial. [Online] Accessed 19/12/2016 from

• Australian War Memorial (2016). Major General Cecil Arthur Callaghan. Australian War Memorial. [Online]. Accessed 15/12/2016 from

• Australian War Memorial. (2016). Major General Frederick Gallagher 'Black Jack' Galleghan. Australian War Memorial. [Online]. Accessed 15/12/2016 from

• Griffin, David (1996). Galleghan, Sir Fredrick Gallagher. Australian Dictionary of Biography. [Online] Accessed 15/12/2016 from

• Griffin, Murray (1945) Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Galleghan. Oil on canvas painting. [Online] Accessed 15/12/2015 from

• Harrower, David (1916) Sergeant: 432 Frederick Gallagher GALLEGHAN. Enlistment photograph World War One. [Online] Accessed 15/12/2016 from

• Johnston, Dr Mark (2014) Australians in the Pacific War: The Japanese Advance. Department of Veteran Affairs; Canberra. Accessed 17/12/2016

• Monument Australia (1995) Brigadier Frederick Galleghan. Plaque commemorating General Major Galleghan. [Online] Accessed 15/12/2016 from

• Moremon, Dr John; Reid, Dr Richard, et al. (2014). Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war. Department of Veteran Affairs; Australia. Accessed 17/12/2016.

• Nelson, Prof Hank (2014) Australians in the Pacific War: Australian Prisoners of War. Department of Veteran Affairs; Canberra. Accessed 16/12/2016

• Official Military Forms (1940-1945) Officer Record of Service. Statement regarding Galleghan conduct during battle. [Online] Accessed 15/12/216 from

• Official Military Forms (1946) Special Immediate Awards. A recommendation from Major General Callaghan. Accessed 16/12/2015 from


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