Antill, J M (1866-1937) Brigadier-General
GOC Infantry Brigade CB CMG
Sydney Grammar School AIF

brigadier_general_john_antillJohn Macquarie Antill was born in Picton, New South Wales, the second surviving son of J M Antill, grazier. After leaving school Jack Antill qualified as a surveyor, but military blood ran in his veins (his grandfather had been a British Regular and ADC to Governor MacQuarie). He joined the local militia in 1887, at the age of 21, and two years later he raised and commanded a squadron of mounted infantry (the Picton Squadron). This attracted the notice of Major-General E T H ‘Curly' Hutton, the GOC NSW Military Forces, and a key figure in pre-war Australian military history. Hutton arranged for Antill to spend part of 1893-4 with the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment and 2nd Dragoon Guards in India.

On his return to Australia, Antill was commissioned in the Permanent Military Forces of New South Wales, with the rank of captain. He served in the South African War with ‘A' Squadron, New South Wales Mounted Rifles, being described as ‘a dashing and capable leader in action and remarkably cool under fire'. These words summarise the pre-war British Army's ideal of military virtue and there is no doubt that Antill both aspired to and achieved this ideal. He was aloof, stern and courageous, as spare with words as he was in body. His personality earned him the nickname ‘Bull' and like the other ‘Bull', Sir Edmund Allenby, he could be brutally tactless.

After the end of the South African War, Antill joined the instructional staff of the NSW Permanent Military Forces (1902-4) but, after two years as ADC to the Governor-General, Lord Northcote (1904-6), he gave up soldiering to become a grazier. He rejoined the active list in 1911 as Commandant Special School of Instruction at Albury.

Antill did not join the AIF until October 1914, when he was appointed Brigade Major, 3rd Light Horse Brigade. He went with this formation, first to Egypt and then to Gallipoli. It was on Gallipoli, at the Nek on 7 August 1915, that Antill refused to call off the tragic and notorious third charge of the 10th Light Horse Regiment. His reputation has never recovered from this decision.

He later commanded 3rd Light Horse Brigade in Egypt in operations to defend the Suez Canal. Antill did not distinguish himself in Egypt and it was something of a surprise when he was summoned to France, where he took command of 2nd Australian Brigade in September 1916. His command did not last long. His health broke down in November and he was evacuated to England. He never saw active service again and returned to Australia in September 1917.

Dr John Bourne


Image courtesy Wikipedia/AWM


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