Blair Anderson WARK (DSO, VC)

Blair Anderson Wark, army officer and quantity surveyor was born on 27 July 1894 at Bathurst, New South Wales, the fourth child of Alexander Wark, a gas engineer from Scotland, and his native-born wife Blanche Adelaide Maria, née Forde. Educated at Fairleigh Grammar, Bathurst, St Leonards Superior Public School (North Sydney), and Sydney Technical College, Blair worked as a quantity surveyor while pursuing his military interests. A senior cadet in 1911-12, he enlisted in the 18th (North Sydney) Infantry, Australian Military Forces, and was provisionally commissioned in 1913.

On 5 August 1915 Wark was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force and embarked for Egypt with the 30th Battalion in November. A captain from 20 February 1916 and a company commander, he reached the Western Front in June.

At Fromelles in July 1916, Major Wark, with his position being heavily shelled for two days, Wark displayed great gallantry and devotion to duty where he continued to direct and inspire his company after being seriously wounded. For his efforts, Wark was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

From 29 September to 1st October 1918, Wark led his company in operations against the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt, coming under heavy artillery attack. Wark, along with a few of his soldiers, rushed a battery of 77mm guns, capturing them along with the crew. They moved further forward and captured about 50 German soldiers. The following day Wark, and some of his company again showed fearless courage and determination to attack and silence enemy machine gun posts which were causing heavy causalities to the allies. For these actions, Wark was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Major Wark’s three brothers served in the war. Lieut. Keith Wark was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Private A. Wark served as a soldier, and Mr. Lance Wark as the second officer on a transport.

On demobilisation Wark resumed business as a quantity surveyor in Sydney, later becoming a principal of Thompson & Wark, quantity surveyors. In June 1920, he was in charge of ten fellow Victoria Cross recipients introduced to the Prince of Wales at Government House, during the latter’s visit to Australia. Wark became a respected member of Australian society, holding several honorary public positions, including director of the Royal North Shore Hospital, life governor of the New South Wales Benevolent Society, and a councilor of the National Roads and Motorists’ Association of New South Wales. He was a committee member of the Hawkesbury River Race Club, as well as holding directorships in insurance and petroleum companies.

In 1922, Wark and Phyllis divorced; five years later, on 10 December 1927, he married Catherine Mary Davis at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney. The couple had one son and two daughters. On 17 April 1940, Wark returned to active duty in the Second World War and was appointed to the 1st Battalion (City of Sydney’s Own Regiment) as a major. On 26 July, he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and assumed command of the battalion. While bivouacked at Puckapunyal Camp, Victoria, he died suddenly of coronary heart disease on 13 June 1941.

Wark was cremated on 16 June at Eastern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney, after a full military funeral.

Source: TROVE, National Library of Australia Newspaper Collection
Source: AIF Project, Australian Defence Force Academy
Source: Australian Virtual War Memorial
Source: Australian War Memorial