Title: Sir James Whiteside McCay – A Turbulent Life
Author: Wray, Christopher
Edition: 1st Edition
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2002
Cover: Hard Cover with Dust Jacket – 280 pages
Comments: Biography of Major-General Sir James Whiteside McCay.
Lieutenant General Sir James Whiteside McCay KCMG, KBE, CB, VD (21 December 1864 – 1 October 1930) was an Australian general and politician. A graduate of the University of Melbourne, where he earned Master of Arts and Master of Laws degrees, he established a successful legal practice, McCay & Thwaites. He was a member of the Victorian Parliament from 1895 to 1899, where he was a champion of women’s suffrage and federation. He lost his seat in 1899 but became a member of the first Australian Federal Parliament in 1901. He was Minister for Defence from 1904 to 1905, during which he implemented long-lasting reforms, including the creation of the Military Board.
As a soldier, McCay commanded the 2nd Infantry Brigade in the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, during the Gallipoli Campaign of the Great War. He was later wounded in the Second Battle of Krithia and invalided to Australia, but returned to command the 5th Division, which he led in the Battle of Fromelles in 1916, dubbed “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history.”
His failures in difficult military operations made him a controversial figure who earned the disfavour of his superiors, while his efforts to succeed in the face of insurmountable obstacles earned him the odium of troops under his command, who blamed him for high casualties. In the latter part of the war he commanded the AIF Depots in the United Kingdom.
After the war, McCay resumed his old job as Deputy Chairman of the State Bank of Victoria and also served on a panel that deliberated on the future structure of the Army. He was chairman of the Fair Profits Commission, the War Service Homes Scheme of the Repatriation Commission, and the Repatriation Commission’s Disposals Board. He commanded the Special Constabulary Force during the 1923 Victorian Police strike.